After a huge rookie season, Michael Thomas’ role with the Saints should only increase.

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Thomas had the second-most catches by a rookie receiver in NFL history, behind only Anquan Boldin’s 101 in 2003. And he had six touchdowns over his final eight games as his role continued to increase.

New Orleans Saints fans — and ’ fantasy owners — can relax. The standout receiver was back on the practice field for the portion open to the media Thursday after being held out of drills Wednesday with a knee injury.

As always, Michael Thomas was a steady force in the volume department. He’s hit double-digit targets in four of his last five games. The lack of touchdowns is the only troubling part of his fantasy story in 2017. Thomas hasn’t found the end zone since Week 4 against the Dolphins and has just two scores on the year.

Thomas remains a must-start player for fantasy leagues, even though Sunday’s opponents, the Chicago Bears, have been playing great defense. Thomas still leads the Saints with 35 catches and 403 receiving yards despite all the attention he has been receiving from defenses — though his total of two touchdowns is surprisingly low for such a dangerous red zone target.

Obviously Thomas’ status will mean a great deal to the Saints’ offense. The second-year pro has quickly established himself as their No. 1 receiver — and he has been a focal point of opposing defenses all year. He leads the team with 35 catches and 403 yards, and is tied for second on the team with two touchdowns.

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Thomas had the second-most catches by a rookie receiver in NFL history, behind only Anquan Boldin’s 101 in 2003. And he had six touchdowns over his final eight games as his role continued to increase.

Nike Saints #13 Michael Thomas Black Men's Stitched NFL Limited 2016 Salute To Service Jersey
Nike Saints #13 Michael Thomas Black Men’s Stitched NFL Limited 2016 Salute To Service Jersey

Unfortunately for the Broncos, this remains a team that lacks options outside of the aforementioned and Demaryius Thomas, who caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. Even on Thomas’ touchdown, Butler was flagged for holding Sanders after the receiver gained an advantage while he was running toward the opposite side of the field. The route cleared space for Thomas in the middle, resulting in the touchdown.

Reid told ESPN that Jenkins had conversations with the NFL without him or Michael Thomas being involved. Reid also claims Jenkins told the cheap NFL jerseys the players would end demonstrations if money was donated by the league to certain initiatives.

I’m not saying that expectations for Thomas should definitely be higher than they were for Colston in his prime. Colston is one of the most underrated receivers of his era, if not all time. Like Thomas, he had great size, hands and the range to get to balls thrown all around his area.

Michael Thomas finally hit big. The team-level volume had been there all season, but the big games just weren’t coming. Thomas inhaled over 40 percent of the team’s targets on the day. He and Brandon Coleman were the only non-running backs to get more than one target.

“I was surrounded by a lot of dominant guys on offense, so you kind of have to earn your keep,” Thomas said. “You can’t really ask for the ball at this level. You gotta kind of just show with your play. Obviously Snead will become more important if Thomas is unable to play. Otherwise he’ll have to battle for touches along with receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon Coleman, who have been off to solid starts this year.

It didn’t take long for Thomas to earn Brees’ trust last year. One moment that stood out came in Week 4 at San Diego, when Brees threw an interception over Thomas’ head after Thomas lost track of the ball in the sun. Brees chased down Thomas and told him if he got the chance, he would throw the ball harder and lower in the same situation. And sure enough, they connected for a clutch touchdown on fourth-and-2 late in the fourth quarter.