The New Orleans Saints have arguably the best wide receiver in the form of Michael Thomas and the addition of Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason provides them with a potent second option behind Thomas.
Michael Thomas is without doubt ‘The Man’ at the Superdome right now. He led the league with 1,725 yards last season, had 9 touchdowns and his 149 receptions broke the NFL record for receptions in a season. New Orleans will be expecting him to produce similiar numbers once again when football returns.
The Saints also managed to sign Emmanuel Sanders to a 2-year, $16-million contract and as a result, after seasons the team will have someone who can take some of the offensive burden off of Thomas’s shoulders. Despite being 33-years old, Sanders is still a talanted weapon for quarterback Drew Brees. Sanders has a route running ability that is considered as some of the best in the league.
Ted Ginn was the second best wide receiver the Saints had last season but even then he had just 30 receptions, 421 yards and 2 touchdowns. With him now out of the picture, having joined the Chicago Bears, they needed someone in the position that they can rely on.
Although Tre’Quan Smith had 5 receiving touchdowns last season, his general play was very disappointing. Smith recorded just 234 yards and 18 receptions, and clearly is not someone that a Super Bowl contender like the Saints could go into the season with as their WR2. Fortunately, that position will be filled by Emmanuel Sanders now.
Over the last 9 seasons, Sanders’ worst year was 2017 when he put up 555 yards, 47 receptions and 2 touchdowns for the Denver Broncos. That just goes on to show how much of an upgrade he is over Smith and the recently departed Ginn.
Expect Smith to be well behind Sanders in the pecking order. Despite being the second-most experienced wide receiver in coach Sean Payton’s system after Michael Thomas, his first couple of seasons in the league have not been very convincing and is coming off of an ankle injury as well.
He has had his bright spots though from time to time. He had excellent performances against the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, and has caught 46 of his 69 targets. Smith will being entering his third year in the league and while his sophomore campaign was supposed to be a “breakout” season, this season will be his “make or break” season. He will have to prove he belongs.
Beyond him the Saints have Deonte Harris, who is an open field weapon to say the least. Picked up as an undrafted free agent, he led the league in punt returns, combined returns and punt return yards. As a result, he became the first undrafted Saint ever to earn Pro Bowl honors in his rookie season.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Emmanuel Butler were also undrafted free agents who joined the Saints along with Harris back in 2019. Neither of them have seen much action last season but could feature more often this time around. Butler has been a player that many Saints fans believe should have been given a chance last year based on the receiving corps’ situation in 2019. Instead, Butler was never able to make his way off of the practice squad. He has the chance to once again turn heads in training camp this year and possibly convince the head shed to give him a shot.
The Saints did not draft a wide receiver this year as a result of signing Emmanuel Sanders but did sign two undrafted free agents in the form of Juwan Johnson and Marquez Callaway.
Finally, Austin Carr, Krishawn Hogan and Tommylee Lewis will also be returning next season, meaning New Orleans will have a wide array of weapons at wide receiver this time around. That’s an incredibly scary thought for the rest of the league.