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Mocking Subjective Unit Rankings: WR

In case you're just tuning in, ESPN renewed my Insider account against my wishes, so I am going to frequently share--and slightly less-frequently mock--their exclusive Insider content. As such, instead of presenting my own preview of each unit on the Saints roster, I am sharing Scouts Inc's, and giving them a "fair" assessment. I was once described as "edgy"; I would like to think I'm more of a rebel who casually toes the line of copyright infringement (though never crosses, because I'm not sharing the entire article, nor do I claim the material as my own). Viva la revolucion.

Today, in light of the news about Robert Meachem, I thought I would mock these here WR rankings. Scouts Inc ranks the Saints receiver corps twelfth:

  1. New Orleans Saints

The Saints' wide receiver group was very impressive last season, but they lost veteran Joe Horn. Horn will be replaced by first-round selection Robert Meachem. This is a very young group overall and 2006 rookie phenom Marques Colston will be leaned upon very heavily. Is he up to the challenge of performing with a bull's-eye on his chest as the No. 1 option? We have our doubts. He is a big, strong guy with glue hands, but he isn't very explosive. Devery Henderson and Meachem are both excellent speed guys who will stretch the field and open up the shorter throws for the other Saints' pass-catchers. Young receivers are risky, but this group will benefit from Drew Brees' outstanding accuracy, Reggie Bush's playmaking ability and Sean Payton's offensive scheme and play-calling.

I'm not expecting much out of Meachem this season: as noted in this study, in the past ten-years, thirty-nine receivers have been selected in the first round. Their average numbers are: 41.2 receptions, 577.8 receiving yards and 3.9 touchdowns (when extrapolated over a 16-game season). Meachem has exceptional physical gifts, and he won't be starting from behind, but I think 40 catches for 500 yards and 3 touchdowns would be a pretty positive season, especially given that he has already gone under-the-knife this summer.

But what of Marques Colston, you are asking. Didn't he, as a rookie, catch 70 balls for 1,038 yards and 8 touchdowns? He certainly did. His rookie season was memorable, it was special and it probably won't be duplicated by Meachem. Colston had some big games when Joe Horn was injured--particularly in weeks 10 and 11. But when Horn was injured, Colston's primary competition for catches was Devery Henderson, with Terrance Copper making the occasional appearance. Meachem will be forced to deal with Colston, Henderson, veteran receiver David Givens and Copper. And that's just among the receivers. Factor in Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister and free agend tight-end Eric Johnson, and it's easy to predict a slow season for Meachem.

Which brings us to another issue: although the Saints are ranked twelfth by Scouts Inc--a ranking that I think is pretty fair--their passing game is stacked. They have seven legitimate targets, and a viable running game that will probably be used for over 40% of the plays. What this means is that, barring injury, I would be surprised if anybody on the Saints equalled Colston's numbers from last season. The guy who has the best chance--at least in terms of catches and yards--is Bush. In 1999, Marshall Faulk caught 87 passes for 1,048 yards. Bush has a distinct advantge in the passing game--often he will be matched up against linebackers, against whom he has a distinct, pronounced speed advantage.

In terms of average yards-per-catch, I would expect all of the Saints receivers to put up great numbers. They are all big, athletic pass catching targets, working in an offense that lets them run down the field. But in terms of catches, total yards and touchdowns--the money statistics in contract negotiations--I wouldn't expect anybody to be in the "elite" category. But, with the depth that this unit has, the sum of the parts will be pretty impressive.

Here's why I think this assessment is fair: Although the Saints' passing-game is stacked, with seven legitimate weapons, I can't forsee anybody having a monster season. When Scouts Inc does these rankings, they are speaking more to the fantasy football player than the curious football fan. If nobody is going to have a monster season, then they can't recommend anybody from the receiving corps. Hence, the rankings are fair.