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New Orleans Saints 2016 Year in Review: WR Brandon Coleman

Maybe if Coleman's first name was spelt "Brandin" he would have had a better year.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints second-year Wide Receiver Brandon Coleman was entering into a very important year in 2016. He would be a restricted free agent in the offseason and arguably the greatest wide receiver in New Orleans Saints franchise history, Marques Colston, would no longer be with the team. This was going to be his year. This was going to be the year he finally took those massive steps forward to be the top-tier WR that his measurables indicate the potential for.

Then the Saints signed TE Coby Fleener, a pass-catching tight end, to a massive contract. Then the Saints drafted WR Michael Thomas in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. So now the question would be: what can we expect now in 2016 for Brandon Coleman? Will he push slot-receiver Willie Snead into irrelevance? Will he force the Saints to play it slow with rookie Michael Thomas?

Here's what we got in 2016:

To say Brandon Coleman had a disappointing 2016 would be an understatement. Coleman finished the year with 281 passing yards. The year. The entire season. To put that into perspective, both Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks individually topped that total in the final three games of the season alone (306 yards for Thomas and 303 yards for Cooks). Coleman's best games came in Week 3 versus the Atlanta Falcons, where he was able to haul in seven of eight targets for 78 yards. His second-best game came in Week 14 at Tampa Bay (when Michael Thomas missed the game due to injury), where he caught five of eight for 47 yards.

Coleman obviously saw a decrease in targets in 2016, but also experienced a drop in his yards per reception by over five yards per catch. One of the only statistics that showed any improvement in 2016 was his catch rate, as Coleman was notorious for not coming up with a that key catch on big drives in 2015. While his catch rate improved from 61.2% to 68.4%, this is more likely in response to Brees not targeting Coleman for as many deep passes (as shown by the drop in yards per reception), which are inherently riskier. Coleman actually had more drops (2 vs 1) in 2016 than in 2015, on fewer targets, which is never a good thing.

Surprisingly, there is one statistic where Coleman's improvement is at least worth mentioning: touchdowns. Even with the significant (22% decrease) drop-off in targets in 2016, Coleman's number of touchdowns actually increased from two to three. Coleman caught a touchdown pass in Week 7 at Kansas City, and then had back-to-back touchdown games in Weeks 11 & 12 versus the Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams.

So what does this suggest moving forward?

There's no guarantee that Coleman will still be a member of the New Orleans Saints in 2017, but it's definitely likely. The Saints have the three basic needs in a wide receiver filled with other players. Brandin Cooks is your speedy, homerun threat who can take the top of the defense. Willie Snead is your slot receiver with excellent hands who runs perfect routes for key catches on third down. Michael Thomas is your big-bodied hybrid receiver who can go up and get the ball in traffic down the sideline or in the middle of the field (a role many were expecting Coleman to eventually take over).

Brandon Coleman can still bring one thing to the table that the other trio of Saints receivers can't: size. At 6'6, Coleman is three inches taller than Michael Thomas (and roughly the same speed if not slightly faster as evident by their 40-yard dash times at the combine) and almost twenty pounds heavier. Coleman is the same height as Rob Gronkowski (but admittedly carrying a smaller frame than Gronk) and taller than both A.J. Green and Mike Evans, all three of which are big redzone threats. He presents a big body and a big target in the endzone for Drew Brees, and it appears as if Drew is starting to realize this and take advantage of it.

The pressure is off of Brandon Coleman moving forward. He no longer has to be the heir-apparent to Marques Colston - the Saints have found that in Michael Thomas. But because the Saints have Michael Thomas, Coleman needs to find his niche with the team - and it might not be in total yards, or total receptions... it just might be hauling in Drew Brees's touchdown passes.