I decided to break out this week’s most popular New Orleans Saints mailbag question into its own post, as the wide receiver depth has been a hot topic following the draft.
The Saints’ WR depth was identified as their biggest roster weakness in this post by Football Outsiders on Friday (which requires Insider access). And it influenced New Orleans’ fantasy rankings, which I also broke down Friday.
As always, thanks for submitting your questions to me on Twitter. Send ‘em anytime @MikeTriplett. And stay tuned for Part 2 of this week’s mailbag.
@MikeTriplett Are the Saints WRs good enough or will they fail to produce adequate numbers?
— John Aiken (@johnaiken97) May 22, 2015
@MikeTriplett what are ur thoughts on the current batch of Saints WRs?
— Zarelli (@Zarelli) May 22, 2015
@MikeTriplett: The wide receiver and tight end depth is obviously a concern -- especially if the top guys get injured, as Football Outsiders pointed out. The Saints traded away Jimmy Graham, who led the team with 85 receptions and 10 touchdowns last year, and receiver Kenny Stills, who led the team with 931 receiving yards. And they didn’t add much to replace them outside of veteran backup Josh Morgan.
But I believe in the Saints' guiding philosophy that they can manufacture a top offense even without top stars. The Saints have had one of the NFL’s top four passing offenses in every season since Sean Payton and Drew Brees first arrived in 2006. And they’ve done it with and without Graham – who is the only Saints pass-catcher to make a Pro Bowl during that span.
I wrote about 2008 as a good reason for optimism in my fantasy breakdown. That year, Brees’ top target, Marques Colston, was injured for much of the season. Yet Brees still threw for 5,069 yards and 34 touchdowns. New Orleans’ leading receiver that year was Lance Moore, with 79 catches for 928 yards. No one else had more than 52 catches (Reggie Bush) or 793 yards (Devery Henderson).
This is a quarterback and offense that knows how to spread it around and locate the open man.
And it’s not like the Saints’ cupboard is completely bare. I’m very high on second-year receiver Brandin Cooks’ potential. Colston should still be good for his usual 900-plus yards and five TDs. And I think new running back C.J. Spiller will be a big part of the passing game.
The third receiver is a much bigger question mark. A lot will depend on whether fourth-year pro Nick Toon can take advantage of his first big opportunity. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound receiver showed signs of being able to do so with 17 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown in the final six weeks last year. But he’s battled some inconsistency and he’ll need to prove he can handle a big step up.
Payton has also been very high on the potential of second-year undrafted receivers Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman, who will battled Josh Morgan, Joe Morgan and others for the fourth and fifth receiver jobs.
Likewise, Payton has been very high on the potential of third-year undrafted tight end Josh Hill, who caught five TD passes in a limited role last year. I don't expect a major breakout from Hill, who had only 14 catches last season overall and benefitted from being ignored by defenses on a lot of those TDs. But Hill will obviously have a great opportunity to build on his potential.
I’m not quite as optimistic as the always-optimistic Brees, who said he’s excited about the chance all these young guys will get. But as Brees said, sometimes all these unheralded guys need is an opportunity – and now they’ve got it.