Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Analyzing Saints' crowded WR battle
By Mike Triplett
The New Orleans Saints' wide receiver position is suddenly overloaded with talent. Not only did the Saints add dynamic receiver Brandin Cooks with their first-round draft pick, but they also added intriguing prospect Brandon Coleman as an undrafted free agent.
In other words, some good players won't make the cut this year.
The Saints now have at least eight candidates with a legitimate shot to make the active roster this year -- and they'll probably be battling for only five or six roster spots.
Typically, only four receivers are active on game days, unless another is called up in a specific special teams role (like Courtney Roby in years past). And the Saints usually keep a fifth and possibly sixth receiver around in "redshirt” roles based on their future potential.
Undrafted rookie free agent Brandon Coleman could make his way onto the Saints final 53-man roster.
A veteran like Robert Meachem, for example, will need to earn one of those top four spots to make the roster. A rookie like Coleman, however, could stick around as a sixth receiver if the Saints don't want to risk losing him.
Here's a look at the Saints' current depth chart, ranked in order of how likely I think they are to make the 53-man roster:
4. Nick Toon. After those three, I think Toon has the best chance to make the roster. The Saints are still high on Toon's potential, even though he failed to take advantage of his midseason opportunity for playing time while Lance Moore was injured last year. And I don't believe Toon was in the "doghouse” when he got benched during the second half of the season. He was the fifth receiver, and the Saints typically keep only four active on game days.
However, Toon will have to make sure he proves in training camp that he's ready to step up into a greater role -- and that he indeed could be an eventual successor to fellow big man Colston. Otherwise, the Saints might turn their attention toward someone like Coleman in that "redshirt” role.
5. Robert Meachem. I think Meachem has at least a 50-50 chance of making the roster. But like I said above, he must earn one of the top four spots and be considered essential on game days. That's possible, since Meachem is the best blocker on the Saints' roster and a savvy veteran who knows the offense. But if someone like Toon or Morgan proves just as useful during the preseason, Meachem's job could be in jeopardy.
6. Joe Morgan. Morgan, meanwhile, probably needs to beat out Meachem to make the team since they play similar roles. The addition of Cooks might have hurt Morgan more than anybody, since Morgan's best asset is his deep speed (he averaged a whopping 37.9 yards per catch on 10 catches in 2012!). Morgan is now on a one-year, veteran minimum deal after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
Morgan still has great potential (at this time last year, he looked like a lock to win the Saints' No. 3 receiver job). He's just facing much stiffer competition now.
7. Brandon Coleman. Among the youngsters, I think Coleman has the best chance of sneaking onto the 53-man roster -- or definitely landing on the practice squad -- because of his unique size and high upside. He'll have to prove he's worth the investment it in camp, though.
8. Andy Tanner. Tanner was also hurt by the arrival of Cooks. A reliable possession receiver with deceptive speed, Tanner actually cracked the active roster in Week 1 last year before he was quickly demoted back to the practice squad. When the Saints released Moore, it looked like Tanner might have an opportunity. But now it might require an injury to create an opening.
And unfortunately, Tanner, who is extremely popular among teammates and coaches, is no longer eligible for the practice squad.
9-11. Chris Givens, Charles Hawkins, Seantavius Jones. All three will likely be competing for practice squad jobs. But you never know. The Saints have given plenty of opportunities to relative unknown receivers and running backs in the past.