Michael Thomas is the NFL’s highest-paid receiver and he certainly played like it last year, leading the league in both yards (1,725) and catches (149), the latter of those marks breaking the single-season record established by Marvin Harrison in 2002. The four-year vet has plenty of believers in his stable, but one rival remains unconvinced.
DeVante Parker threw a bit of shade Thomas’ way Monday night, responding to an Instagram question posed by the NFL on Fox. Parker opined that catching a pass against reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore would be a harder challenge than defending a pass thrown to Thomas. The Saints Pro Bowler took offense to Parker’s slight, dismissing Parker for his relative lack of production. “Go run some numbers up. Then you can talk. I lapped you and you been in the league longer than me, first-rounder,” Thomas clapped back at the Dolphins wideout.
Parker didn’t back down though, implying that Thomas’ historic numbers were inflated by the huge volume he saw from quarterback Drew Brees. “Got some hard feeling there brotha??? Let me get targeted 300 times a game."
Parker presents a valid point—Thomas drew a whopping 185 targets last season, 28 more than Julio Jones, who ranked second in that category. But Thomas wasn’t having it. “They don't even put your name in the same sentence as me,” Thomas argued. “It took you six years and 17 weeks to have a good game."
“Can’t Guard” Mike is correct in his assertion that Parker was a late bloomer. But the 2015 first-rounder broke out in a big way last year, exploding for nine touchdowns—the same number he had in his first four seasons combined—and a career-high 1,202 yards, fifth-most behind Thomas, Jones, Chris Godwin and Travis Kelce.
Thomas was quantifiably excellent last year. He dropped just six balls—incredible considering the exhausting amount he was targeted—while grading as ProFootballFocus’ No. 2 pass-catcher behind Godwin (Parker tied Courtland Sutton for 12th). The 27-year-old wowed with his remarkable efficiency (he soaked up a league-high 82.8 percent of his targets), though it could also be argued that the passes he caught were of a lower degree of difficulty. Parker was by far the superior downfield threat last season, lapping Thomas in both average depth of target (14.0 to 8.0) and yards per reception (16.7 to 11.6 in Parker’s favor). And while Ryan Fitzpatrick performed admirably for the overachieving Fins in 2019, Fitzmagic isn’t in the same zip code as Brees, who stands as arguably the most accurate quarterback in league history.
No one is arguing that Parker, who had largely been a flop until last season, is better than Thomas. But compared to Parker, who slummed it on a 5-11 Dolphins team, Thomas achieved his impressive marks under far easier circumstances. Lost in this back and forth is Thomas’ outright dismissal of Gilmore, who allowed just one touchdown all of last season. Amusingly enough, Gilmore endured his worst game in Week 17, yielding a season-high 119 yards in a loss to Miami. Parker paced the Fins with eight grabs for 137 scoreless yards in that matchup.