Statistic Resume: Played at Wide Receiver from 2013-2015, 113 receptions, 1602 yards, 18 receiving touchdowns, apart of 2014 Big Ten Champion and 2014 National Champion team.
Nickname: “Can’t Guard Mike” (aka his Twitter handle)
Michigan St. was up 21-14. It was Ohio St.’s revenge game with the team that had ended their 24 game win streak less than 11 months ago. It was just a simple slant route on the first play of the drive. Michael Thomas caught that slant, evaded his defender, and burst down the field for an 80 yard touchdown that completely changed the outlook of the game.
Similar to Joey Bosa, watching Michael Thomas in Ohio St. uniform gave me great pleasure because I knew he would be a super star at the next level. There were just no holes in his game. He didn’t have sub 4.4 speed, but he was definitely quick enough to be explosive downfield. He doesn’t come to mind as a physical, red zone threat, but he’s so muscle bound that it felt like he was perpetually falling forward. His route running is flawless. And the hands … oh my goodness, I could go into a 20 minute tangent raving about how Michael never drops the football.
Speaking of greatness in the NFL, my appreciation for Thomas has grown due to his fantasy football proficiency. He’s carried several teams for me over the last two years, and was still the best player on one of my rosters last year even though the league used Standard rules instead of PPR, which robbed me of 125 points last season (and yes Trevor, I’m still mad about that).
Any Buckeye fans out there have probably noticed that three of the first four players on this list were key contributors on the 2014 National Championship team. That’s intentional. 2014-15 Ohio State is not only my favorite football team of all time, but my downright favorite sports team that I have rooted for. That play against Michigan State likely saved the championship hopes, but the Ohio State faithful knows the play that defined Thomas’s career. The Buckeyes trailed Alabama 21-13 but were only 18 yards away from the endzone and had 19 seconds to figure out how to get there. Tom Herman (the greatest offensive mind I’ve ever witnessed, IMO) drew up a trick play in which Cardale handed the ball to Jalin Marshall on the sweep, who then pitched the pigskin back to wide receiver Evan Spencer, setting up the trick play pass. One problem: the Alabama defense wasn’t fooled, as the corner stayed stride for stride with Michael Thomas, the intended receiver. Kudos to Evan Spencer for having the guts to throw such a tight pass, but kudos times infinity to Michael Thomas for the absurd catch. Mid-air, hovering over the out of bounds line, he first snares the ball with his glue-laden mitts, then somehow, someway, defied gravity and forced his left leg back in bounds. The replay of this catch is legitimately the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
Michael Thomas produced more signature moments in 2015, such as when he put a double move on Kendall Fuller, causing the future starting NFL cornerback’s knees to buckle in humiliating fashion. Unfortunately, similar to Cardale, his stats saw regression this year as he also fell victim to the malignant disease that went by the names of Tim Beck and Ed Warriner’s play calling.
Sometimes, my favorite players are just the best players. And if Michael Thomas isn’t the best wide receiver I’ve ever seen in an Ohio State uniform, then I don’t know who is. Spoiler alert, there are still a couple more receivers that will pop up on this list, so just being great isn’t the full criteria. Regardless, if anyone asks me who the best receiver in the NFL is right now, I’m saying Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints, and don’t think I won’t mention the pride I feel in the former Buckeye.