The New Orleans Saints recent signing of free agent wide receiver Cameron Meredith away from the Chicago Bears looks to be a big boost to a unit that struggled at times during the 2017 season. The exception to those struggles was second year wideout Michael Thomas, who had his second consecutive 1,000-yd. receiving season (1,245-yds.) on a team record 104 receptions, establishing himself as one of the top receivers in the league. Ted Ginn also had a solid year, catching 53 passes for 787 yards, but the rest of the Saints wide receivers were often not a factor. Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, and Tommylee Lewis combined for just 41 catches, 572 yards, and 4 scores. Several rumors have linked New Orleans to recently released Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, but today's draft profile takes a closer look at a different big Cowboys wideout.
Marcell Ateman, WR (Oklahoma State)
Ateman attended Wylie East High School near Dallas, TX, where he was a four-star recruit that decided to take his talents to Oklahoma State. After a combined 44 receptions in his first two seasons, Ateman made his mark in 2015, catching 45 passes for 766 yard and 5 scores. A foot injury got in the way of high expectations in 2016, forcing him to take a medical redshirt. Ateman returned with a vengeance last season, with 59 receptions for 1,156 yards and 8 touchdowns. He earned second team All-Big 12 honors, pairing with teammate James Washington to be a devasting 1-2 punch in the Cowboys' high octane offense. He struggled during drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, perhaps causing his draft stock to drop.
Ateman presents a big, physical target for his quarterback. He uses his height and reach advantage to go up and get the ball over defensive backs, and will snatch the ball out of the air with his strong hands. He has natural pass catching skills, bringing the ball into his body, and often using his frame well to shield off defenders. Ateman has great awareness and body control in his routes, and one of his greatest strengths is his ability to work along the sideline. Despite limited athleticism, Ateman gets a quick release off the ball and possesses smooth acceleration into his breaks. Once he gains separation, defenders have a difficult time making up ground due to his long stride. Oklahoma State's offensive system does not call for their receivers to run a number of different routes, so Ateman has limited experience in the full route tree, although he looks to have the versatility to be successful in various pass patterns. He tends to drift into his routes, rather than run them crisply, allowing defensive backs to crowd his route. Ateman doesn't have great athleticism, so must refine his patterns to gain better separation.
Nfl.com comparison: Brandon Coleman (Saints, current free agent)
Marcell Ateman is projected to be drafted around the 4th round, perhaps 5th, likely dropping because of his poor showing at the Combine. The easy comparison is to Coleman, because of his body type, but his play is more reminiscent of another big Saints wideout, Marques Colston. Ateman's athletic measurables won't jump off the chart, but he is a reliable receiver that has the proven ability to make plays on every level of the field. His height and reach make him a dangerous weapon near the goal line, and his tremendous work ethic was on display as he rehabbed his way back from a collegiate foot injury. Like Colston, a 7th round draft pick from Hofstra in 2006, Marcell Ateman may wind up being a mid-late round draft steal.