7/24/21, 12:20 AM
Michael Thomas having ankle surgery late into the offseason is a definite red flag, but there is still reason for optimism. Expected return to play is ~Week 5-7. The risk of not being cleared as expected in October is real, but this is the less likely outcome. He will have an elevated ankle re-injury risk going forward, but it is reasonable to believe he can return to peak form by the last third of the season - right in time for the fantasy playoffs. Don’t sleep on Michael Thomas, he may become a draft day steal.
2021 - ankle ligament (high and low), treated surgically (June)
2020 - “broken hand” (Jan; no games missed)
2016 - foot sprain (Dec; 1 game missed)
2015 - sports hernia, treated with surgery (no games missed)
2020 - 7/16
2019 - 16/16
2018 - 16/16
2017 - 16/16
2016 - 15/16
Return to Play:
Ian Rapoport reported a 4 month timeline from his June surgery. This would place him in ~Week 5-6 of the upcoming season. That timeline is consistent with return to play from ligament injury to the ankle, though it leans towards the conservative side (which suggests higher injury severity).
Players who come back with healed ankle ligament injuries - both high and low - do consistently return to their pre-injury production levels. This may take extra time for Thomas, since the injury has been lingering since September 2020.
However, if he can heal successfully - which is still the most likely outcome - we would expect him to reach his pre-injury productivity levels after a few games to re-acclimate.
Thomas being cleared in October is not a guarantee, but it is most likely. When he does come back, he’s going to do so with a risk of re-injury that is elevated compared to other WRs.
This ankle injury originally came up 10 months ago, and the fact that he had surgery so far into the offseason suggests that (1) it didn’t heal as expected or (2) it got re-injured. Either way, the timing of surgery and the reported recovery timeline do suggest that the ankle is at moderately higher risk for causing problems down the road.
Image Source: Tammy Anthony Baker, CC-BY-2.0