The New Orleans Saints didn’t have much at wide receiver in 2018 beyond Michael Thomas. In 2019, it doesn’t look to be much better. There’s an aging Ted Ginn Jr., an injury concern (to say the least) in Cam Meredith, and a pair of second-year receivers who failed to sustain production last year in Keith Kirkwood and Tre’Quan Smith.
But, if you broaden the term “wide receiver” to be “pass catchers,” now you’re opening it up to tight ends - and arguably running backs as well. At tight end, the Saints have made a noticeable improvement from 2019, replacing the ancient Ben Watson with Pro Bowler Jared Cook.
Considering the edition of Cook, Bleacher Report was able to rank the New Orleans Saints with the fifth best receiving corps in the NFL:
Receivers: Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Austin Carr, Cameron Meredith, Travin Dural, Simmie Cobbs, Keith Kirkwood, Cyril Grayson Jr., Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
Tight Ends: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Dan Arnold, Garrett Griffin, Alize Mack
”Can’t guard Mike” isn’t just a witty Twitter handle; NFL defenses can’t guard Thomas.
The New Orleans Saints’ top target led the league last season with 125 receptions. Two traits make Thomas so effective. First, the receiver rarely drops balls. Second, he creates after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus, Thomas forced the third-most (17) missed tackles among wide receivers last season.
The offense’s secondary options are questionable. Smith is an interesting developmental receiver, while Ginn enters his 13th season. Cook’s free-agent acquisition makes all the difference after the tight end made his first career Pro Bowl in 2018.
”I think he gives us a threat opposite of Mike,” head coach Sean Payton said of Cook, per ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett.
”I think he can run. I think he’s a really good receiver in space. I think he does a good job with his yards after the catch.”
Of note, while 5th in the entire 32 teams of the NFL sounds good, the Saints’ mark is also 3rd out of 4 in the division. The Atlanta Falcons, led by Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu, top the list, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Mike Evans, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate, are sandwiched between the Saints and Falcons at 3rd overall.
Personally, I’d take the Saints offensive skill players over the Buccaneers, especially if you include the pass-catchers out of the backfield, but to each his own.