For the second season in a row, the New Orleans Saints are going into the offseason with a solid roster that doesn’t feature many holes. The depth among the offensive line, a new number one tight end, and a consistent number 2 who can help take some of the pressure off of Michael Thomas in the receiving game are a few places the team may look to target via free agency or the NFL Draft.
Even though the Saints only have one pick in the top-100, this receiver class is deep in talent. This past week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl many of these late round draft prospects had the chance to show off their talent in front of NFL scouts. Here are a few receivers who stood out in Mobile this past week.
Samuel made a name for himself at South Carolina, breaking out in his senior season. He led the Gamecocks in all receiving categories with 62 receptions, 882 yards, and 11 touchdowns, after appearing in only three games the previous season due to a broken fibula.
One thing that stood out at the Senior Bowl, was Samuel’s footwork and how effective he was in and out of his cuts to sell his routes effectively.
My goodness, Deebo Samuel, you didn’t have to do him like THAT pic.twitter.com/7xLhwTXyJm— The Draft Network (@DraftNetworkLLC) January 24, 2019
Adding to Samuel’s draft appeal is his ability to return kicks. His senior season he gained 570 yards on 23 returns, but in his injury-derailed junior season, he had two touchdowns on two returns.
With how well he performed in Mobile, Samuel may have raised his stock too much for the Saints to snag him at 62. But pairing him up with Michael Thomas and a developing Tre’quan Smith would form a solid trio for whoever is a quarterback to throw to.
If Samuel doesn’t last to the Saint’s second round pick, Isabella is an option later in the draft. A smaller receiver (5’9”, 186 pounds) from a smaller school (UMASS), Isabella is crisp route runner, who has good change of direction ability to create separation at the top of his stems.
If you don't get your hands on Andy Isabella, you're toast pic.twitter.com/XGWMe3KVG6— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) January 24, 2019
Projected to mainly play the slot due to his size, he had some of the best production of any receiver in this year’s draft. In his senior season, he had 102 receptions for 1698 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has experience fielding punts and looked confident in Mobile when asked to do so.
Sean Payton tends to favor taller receivers, but TommyLee Lewis has stuck around on this team for 3 seasons, thanks in large part to Payton’s belief in his return abilities. Isabella could possibly fit that role and has more upside than Lewis.
The receiver who possibly improved his stock the most during the Senior Bowl, Renfrow shined in practice and followed it up with a strong performance in the bowl game. Another smaller receiver (5’10”, 187 pounds) that has impressive footwork and an ability to sell his routes, he could be another intriguing option in the slot.
No Saints draft would be complete without a possible player from the Ohio State pipeline making his way down to the big Easy, and 6’, 205-pound Terry McLaurin could be that guy. Prior to this week, I hadn’t heard much of him, but it didn’t take long into the first day of practice for him to grab attention.
He showed the ability to eat up cushion and get on top of the defender’s toes, and then the change of direction needed to beat his man and stack the defender. (“stacking” a defender is when the receiver will gain vertical leverage and force the defender to trail him.)
He also impressed as a gunner on punt returns, routinely avoiding blockers and being the first player to the ball during special teams portion of practice.
While his careers numbers don’t pop off the page ( 75 receptions for 1251 yards) he came down with 11 touchdowns his final year at Ohio State. For comparison, Michael Thomas had 113 receptions for 1602 yards and 18 touchdowns in his college career.
If the Saints intend to bolster their wide receiver room, the draft has many intriguing prospects who could contribute to the team in their first season.