Now the the draft and schedule release are in the rear-view mirror, New Orleans Saints fans can begin to look ahead at the 2020 season with greater precision. What are the toughest stretches for the Saints? Which are easiest? How much travel is in store? Lots to consider.
In this series, Saints fans can also begin to consider the talent New Orleans will face at some key position groups throughout the upcoming NFL season. Starting with wide receiver, as New Orleans will play in one of, if not the most receiver-talented divisions in the NFL. The list below only examines the wide receiver groups proper, not including other pass-catchers along the offense. These groups will present some of the most immediate tests for a secondary that looks primed to improve in 2020. But if they do not, it can be a bumpy road.
5. Denver Broncos, Week 12
Top WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and K.J. Hamler
The Eagles almost took this spot with Jeffrey, Jackson, and now Reagor in the facility. But if any team with a rookie top receiver is making this list, it has to be the Denver Broncos. Sutton went for over 1,000 yards last season with six touchdowns, building a lot of comfort with young gun Drew Lock. The addition of Jerry Jeudy is massive as a complement to Sutton. The guy that was in that WR1 conversation in this year’s draft along with CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys) and Henry Ruggs III (Raiders). Jeudy brings polished route-running and great hands to the mix.
One word that sticks after watching #Broncos WR Courtland Sutton this offseason - PHYSICAL!— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 13, 2020
Finished w/ 72 receptions for 1100yds, 6 TDs - catching passes from 3 different QBs
I'm excited for the future of this offense with Lock, Gordon, Lindsey, Fant, Albert O, Jeudy, Hamler! pic.twitter.com/87y3t0Vy2t
Meanwhile, they also add K.J. Hamler later on who will be an excellent option in the slot. He has some hands issues that bring concern, but when he ends up being the third option at the position, the worry diminishes. This is a unit that could be a surprise to many who are not watching the Broncos more closely this season.
Vikings could have found there way here, but with the Broncos having an intriguing third option, Minnesota falls short.
4. Los Angeles Chargers, Week 5
Top WRs: Keenan Allen and Mike Williams
While Chargers fans may wish their team had a viable third option, this top two is pretty good. Many seem not to realize that both topped the 1,000 yard receiving mark in 2019. Mike Williams in an underrated big-bodied receiver with an game that extends beyond just doing big-guy things. Meanwhile, Keenan Allen is one of the league’s best and has proven to stay healthy of late. Allen has caught 97 or more passes for more than 1,100 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons and reeled in 18 total touchdowns in that time.
What could hold this receiver core back in 2020 is simply play at the quarterback position. Tyrod Taylor has proven to be an adequate passer in the NFL, but will likely be bypassed by sixth overall selection Justin Herbert at some point next year. Then comes the question, how good can Herbert be if that ends up being the case? It is a wait-and-see game at signal caller, but the wide receiver room is led by a pair of fantastic options.
Top 2 WR Duo heading into the 2020 season.— ً (@NasirSZN) March 10, 2020
2 TD’s pic.twitter.com/XZ4PCS7EkW
3. Atlanta Falcons, Weeks 11 and 13
Top WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Laquan Treadwell
The mention of Treadwell here is more about reminding you that the Falcons actually signed Laquan Treadwell. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that Julio Jones is still one of the best WRs in the league. Ridley has been an adequate number two opposite Jones, doing enough to land the team in the top three of this list. Including 90+ receiving yards in three of his four games against the Saints along with four touchdowns, thee in one game (Thanks P.J. Williams).
Thankfully, the team seems to be lacking a third receiver option after years of Mohamed Sanu being just enough of a headache for the Saints defense.
2. Kansas City Chiefs, Week 15
Top WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, and Demarcus Robinson
Should be no surprise here. The fact of the matter is that this unit is bolstered by quarterback play, but even without that, these guys could be a 1, 2, or 3 on many other teams in the NFL. They are that good. This is likely to be the most challenging test for the Saints’ secondary due to the fact that this is not a matchup that happens twice a season. There is an unknown factor or at least an unfamiliarity in this matchup for the Saints than the number one team on this list.
However, while they maybe the most challenging group, the question is which group is the best. For that, Kansas City falls just short of the top grade, although you can make compelling arguments for a few of the teams on and off of this list. What sets them apart? If Tyreek Hill remains healthy in 2020, he will almost certainly put up another 1,000 yard season. Behind thing, though, are a list of very effective receivers that are unlikely to top last year’s production individually as targets will be also be spread about to the likes of Travis Kelce and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The ball can only go to one pass-catcher at a time and the weapons on this offense are likely knock down some of the production by the receivers behind Hill.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Weeks 1 and 9
Top WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson
The Bucs wrapped up the 2019 season with two receivers that topped 1,000 yards despite both of their seasons ending early with injury. Godwin topped 1,300 in 14 games while Mike Evans brought in 1,159 in just 13. These two alone scored just three fewer touchdowns than Kansas City’s four receivers listed above combined.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both over 1,000 receiving yards this season.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 24, 2019
Special duo in Tampa Bay. pic.twitter.com/ekt7YX6ncS
Scotty Miller has to be on the list here as he did come on a bit after the top two guys were injured, but he is likely to be surpassed in the slot by the rookie WR out of Minnesota, Tyler Johnson. Johnson was a fan favorite for the Saints draft, so obviously he was destined to end up on a rival roster. Johnson can be an effective addition to the slot and a great running mate for Evans and Godwin. Oh and there is some new quarterback in Tampa Bay that will look to take advantage of all of this, of course.
Somehow not surprising is that the Saints will have four games against three of these teams coinciding or immediately in sequence with their three-game road trip Weeks 12-14. They will face the Falcons Week 11, Denver Week 12, the Falcons again in Week 13, and the Chiefs in week 15. The teams in Weeks 14 and 16 were both mentioned as teams also highly considered for this list in the Philadelphia Eagles and and Minnesota Vikings respectively. That stretch of the NFL season heading into the playoffs continues to gather more interest, assuming that these units shake out, stay healthy, and produce as expected at this point before even training camp opens.
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