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Michael Thomas Favored to Lead NFL in Receptions in 2019; Hopkins, Jones & Hill Given 6-1 Odds

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DeAndre Hopkins is among the favorites to lead the league in receptions in 2019. Photo by Jeffrey Beall (Wiki Commons) [CC License]
  • Michael Thomas led the NFL in receptions last season with 125
  • Antonio Brown is the only player to lead the NFL in receptions in consecutive seasons since 1993
  • There’s good value on the board with Antonio Brown at +800

Michael Thomas led the NFL with 125 receptions last season and is favored to do so again in 2019. However, only one player has finished atop the league in this category in back-to-back seasons over the last 26 years. Will Thomas buck the trend or will another player emerge as the top pass-catcher in 2019?

Odds to Lead NFL in Receptions in 2019

Player (Team) Receptions In 2018 (Rank) Odds at BetOnline
Michael Thomas (Saints) 125 (1st) +450
DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) 115 (3rd) +600
Julio Jones (Falcons) 113 (T4th) +600
Tyreek Hill (Chiefs) 87 (T15th) +600
Antonio Brown (Raiders) 104 (9th) +800
Davante Adams (Packers) 111 (T6th) +800
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers) 111 (T6th) +1000
Adam Thielen (Vikings) 113 (T4th) +1100
Zach Ertz (Eagles) 116 (2nd) +1100
Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) 107 (8th) +1200
Saquon Barkley (Giants) 91 (13th) +1400
Travis Kelce (Chiefs) 103 (10th) +1400
Odell Beckham Jr. (Browns) 77 (T22nd) +1800
Julian Edelman (Patriots) 74 (T28th) +2200
Keenan Allen (Chargers) 97 (12th) +2200

*Odds taken 08/07/19

Repeat Winners Rarely Happen

As mentioned, Michael Thomas faces tough odds of repeating simply because repeat winners rarely happen in this category. Brown did it in 2015 and 2014, but he tied for the league-lead in 2015. The last player to do it outright was Sterling Sharpe, who led the league with receptions in both 1992 and 1993.

We’ve seen a lot of great receivers in that time – guys like Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice and Cris Carter – and none of them did it in back-to-back seasons. Many of those players have played in electric offenses like Thomas too. That has to give you pause before betting Thomas.

Thomas Will Have More Competition for Targets

One of the reasons why Thomas is favored to win again is because his situation really hasn’t changed that much. The Saints have shifted to incorporate more running over the last couple of seasons but when they’ve passed, Thomas has been the top target. He had 1,405 receiving yards last season. No other receiver on the team had more than 427.

However, the Saints should have a few more passing weapons for Drew Brees to work with this season. Keith Kirkwood and Tre’Quan Smith were rookies last year and now are a year older. Ted Ginn Jr. only played in five games last season but he’s back. The team also added veteran Rishard Matthews and rookies Emmanuel Butler and Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

Also, remember that the Saints added a tight end (Jared Cook) in free agency and drafted one (Alize Mack). Thomas is still in good shape to lead the way but Brees will have more options to spread around the football. Thomas will finish with 100+ catches but not 125.

NFL’s Reception Leader in Each of Last Five Seasons

Year Player Receptions
2018 Michael Thomas 125
2017 Jarvis Landry 112
2016 Larry Fitzgerald 107
2015 Julio Jones/Antonio Brown 136
2014 Antonio Brown 129

Brown Should Lead the Way

Yes, Antonio Brown has some weird foot-frostbite issue right now but I’m still anticipating a huge year from him. He’s in a great position to put up a huge statistical season.

To start, he’s motivated after getting traded away from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Secondly, the Raiders are a bad defensive team, so they’re going to have to play in a lot of high-scoring affairs. Thirdly, I love his consistency as he’s always among the league leaders in this category. He averaged 6.9 receptions per game last season, 7.2 in 2017 and 7.1 in 2016.

Lastly, the Raiders don’t have a ton of great targets. Sure, Tyrell Williams is a decent piece, J.J. Nelson is a speedster, Hunter Renfrow is a nice-looking rookie and there’s a lot of hype around tight end Darren Waller. But if quarterback Derek Carr has any sense, he’ll be feeding Brown early and often.

What’s the Best Bet?

We’re mostly just taking fliers here but I’m avoiding Thomas, I’m avoiding Julio Jones (Calvin Ridley should pull away catches), DeAndre Hopkins (had 115 receptions last year but averaged 82.6 per year before that) and I’m avoiding Tyreek Hill (concerned about conduct issues).

At the same time, I like Brown’s situation – green feet and all – and I think he’ll finish atop the league in this category. I’ll take a shot with him at +800.

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