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Marques Colston will be missed. He had a great career in New Orleans, and should eventually be voted into the Saints Hall of Fame. With all due respect to Marques: his 2015 productions, however, will not be missed. That is not to say he was not valuable to the Saints, because he absolutely was. It is just that his production is not irreplaceable. Colston finished 2015 with 520 receiving yards, good for 82nd across the NFL pass catchers. He also finished with a surprisingly-high 4.5% drop rate, dropping 3 of his 67 targets.
Other Saints pass catchers such as Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Benjamin Watson finished 14th, 28th, and 39th respectively. Young Wide Out Brandon Coleman finished 2015 with only 70 yards less than Colston with only two fewer TDs (2 to Colston's 4).
Brandin Cooks was obviously QB Drew Brees's favorite target, finishing 2015 with over 1,100 receiving yards and 9 TDs. Willie Snead burst onto the scene as a reliable, sure-handed slot receiver logging a 1% drop-rate (1 drop in 69 targets). Brandon Coleman showed sparks of his potential over the course of the season, with his final three games against NFC South rivals netting him 186 yards and 1 TD.
The loss of Colston this offseason hurt more in sentiment than in production. Whether it be to retirement or (heaven forbid) another team, Colston is moving on from the Saints, but the Saints were likewise ready to move forward. In the 2016 NFL Draft, Ohio State Wide Receiver Michael Thomas was selected in the 2nd Round (47th overall) to help fill that void. The Saints were also kind enough to sign veteran WR Vincent Brown before this write-up.
So here's why they're better in 2016:
Brandin Cooks avoided a sophomore slump, and is looking to build on a phenomenal second season. Cooks is a dynamic and speedy receiver who can line up anywhere in the formation.
Willie Snead will look to find similar success in his second season in New Orleans, and is the Lance Moore-esque slot receiver that always seems to thrive in this system. Between Cooks and Snead, though, both are small, quick receivers who rely on their ability to make plays on the ball with body-positioning rather than size and force to box out defenders. A bigger, more physical Wide Receiver is necessary to balance out the group. Enter Michael Thomas.
Michael Thomas, nephew of 3-time Pro Bowler Keyshawn Johnson, has similar size and height to Colston. He also comes with similar speed to Colston during the prime of Colston's career. While it would be a lot of pressure to expect Thomas to immediately light the world on fire in his first year, there is a reason some analysts viewed Thomas as the top Wide Out in the draft class. Tallying more receiving yards in his first year than Colston did in his last should not come as a huge surprise to anyone were it to happen.
Brandon Coleman is even bigger than Thomas and Colston, with size reminiscent of Calvin Johnson - though Coleman even has an inch on Megatron. The Saints would love Coleman to take a huge step forward in 2016, but with the additions of Thomas and Vincent Brown, there is not as much pressure on Coleman in 2016. He should now feel more relaxed and will be able to grow at his own rate.
Vincent Brown presents another new target to Drew Brees. He has similar size and speed to Willie Snead, and should finally receive a chance to show his potential. A former 3rd Round pick and 5-year veteran of the NFL, at worst, Brown brings a veteran presence to the locker room full of otherwise young receivers.
We all have seen what Brandin Cooks can do. Between Willie Snead and Vincent Brown, the Saints have a reliable slot receiver similar in style to Lance Moore. Coleman will have the opportunity to ease into his high expectations, and Michael Thomas is primed to be he next breakout Wide Receiver in New Orleans.