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Michael Thomas aiming to avoid a sophomore slump

Michael Thomas is a stud.

The New Orleans Saints receiver spent his rookie season slicing up defensive backs to the tune of 92 receptions, 1,137 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Those are all Saints franchise rookie records and the second-most yards for a rookie wideout in NFL history.

Taken in the second round of the 2016 draft (the sixth receiver off the board), Thomas earned nearly double the yards of the next closest rookie receiver (Sterling Shepard, 683). The 6-foot-3 ball-snatcher wasn't just best in his class, but immediately shoved his name among the top receivers in the entire NFL. Thomas finished in the top 10 in receptions, yards and touchdowns for receivers in 2016. Oh, and he did that all while still missing one game.

Simple stats not enough for you? Fine. How about Next Gen Stats? As colleague Matt Harmon pointed out, Thomas finished seventh in the NFL on catches in tight coverage, with a 56 percent catch rate on balls with less than one yard of separation. The Saints receiver also finished seventh among No. 1 receivers in separation per target -- generating 2.38 yards of separation. Combine those stats and you can see that Thomas not only can make contested catches, but also can burn corners with crisp routes.

Thomas owns the complete package: size, speed after the catch, hands in tight coverage, high-point ability and route-running acumen.

Despite the accolades, adoring praise (like the gushing five paragraphs above), and adulation from Saints fans, Thomas intends to keep himself grounded entering his second season.

Speaking with Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday, Thomas said his goal is to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

"I'm doing a little bit of everything, and just staying honest and staying on my grind," he said. "I know there's a lot of receivers that have probably had good rookie years if you check the history and don't follow up with it, so I never want to be that guy."

The nephew of Keyshawn Johnson certainly knows his NFL history. The NFL is littered with bright flames that quickly sputtered out. In the early 2000s, players like Roy Williams, Antonio Bryant or Michael Clayton put up good rookie seasons only to struggle in their second year.

Players of Thomas' talents, however, are rarely subdued simply because defenses get more tape on them. Recent history tells us that a player putting up Michael Thomas-type rookie years (Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry) continue to produce.

Thomas' scorching play down the stretch (even though he missed Week 14 with a foot injury) is an indicator of his potential growth from Year 1 to Year 2.

"Once I start adding more value and getting more stuff on my plate, I just kept becoming more and more responsible, and just kept my head down at the end of the season. I was able to put up the numbers I did," Thomas said of his rookie season. "But also remember that I missed one game, so I just have to figure out to stay healthy all 16 games, then I probably could have a better season."

With Drew Brees still under center, the Saints will continue to sling the ball all over the field and Thomas will have plenty of chances to dash any worries of a sophomore slump.

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