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Most prototypical New Orleans Saints wide receiver options in the 2021 NFL Draft

The Saints have a type, here are three receivers who fit the mold, and one who can break all the tendencies.

BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State v Notre Dame Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

When it comes to drafting at the wide receiver position, the New Orleans Saints have a type. Since 2006, the Saints have selected only nine wideouts in the NFL Draft. Of those receivers only one was under the six-foot mark and only two weighed less than 200 pounds.

To get a look at which receivers in the 2021 draft may fit the Saints’ preferred physical profile, I averaged out some key factors that could be used to pinpoint an ideal fit.

The most obvious components to consider were height (listed below in inches) and weight as referenced above. But to add a bit more detail, I also took a look at two advanced metrics that are often considered in evaluation processes by analysts, Dominator Rating and Target Share.

While the NFL’s scouts are not looking specifically and solely at these numbers, the percentages tell a story. The Dominator Rating for instance is the percentage of individual contribution to a team’s receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Target Share puts on display how often a player was thrown to compared to the rest of the pass-catchers around him. In both cases the higher the number, the larger the contribution.

Not very many players have come into the NFL with a Dominator Rating less than 20% on substantial playing time and proved successful. The biggest exceptions being Tyreek Hill and Percy Harvin. The issue with this rating is knowing when it’s most helpful and it’s less necessary. Simply put, Dominator Ratings predict lack of production at the next level more effectively than it does success. Not every player with a +20% rating is successful, but most players who score below that threshold don’t go on to total more than 800 receiving yards in a season in the pros.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Target Share: it’s a simple metric used to measure the go-to role (or lack thereof) that player served in their offense. This number can be skewed in certain instances. In case of Purdue receiver Rondale Moore, he appeared in only three games of the 2020 season after opting out to start and also appeared in only four games during the 2019 season because of injury. Missed time very much has to be taken into account.

To start, we’ll take a look at the receivers drafted in the Sean Payton era. Some player’s dominator and/or target shares were unable to be found via Player Profiler due to small school or date range attended.

Drafted Saints Receiver Mold

Year Name Round Pick Dominator Target Share Height (inches) Weight
Year Name Round Pick Dominator Target Share Height (inches) Weight
2018 Tre'Quan Smith 3 91 33.00% 23.60% 74 210
2017 Michael Thomas 2 47 39.60% 25.90% 75 212
2014 Brandin Cooks 1 20 38.90% 26.90% 70 183
2013 Kenny Stills 4 144 29.30% 21.60% 73 202
2012 Nick Toon 4 122 31.20% 27.20% 74 215
2008 Adrian Arrington 7 237 -- -- 74 185
2007 Robert Meachem 1 27 41.80% 27.50% 74 214
2006 Mike Hass 6 171 -- -- 73 210
2007 Marques Colston 7 252 34.60% -- 76 225
Averages 123.4 35.49% 25.45% 73.7 206.2

Based on these averages, we can pretty easily find a few players that match the preferential profile often pursued by New Orleans.

Here are three draft-eligible receivers that fit the mold, one from each day of the draft according to their present draft projections.

Day One: Rashad Bateman, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Dominator: 43.7%
Target Share: 30.4%
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 210

Day Two: Austin Watkins, UAB Blazers

Dominator: 34.4%
Target Share: 27.8%
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 207

Day Three: Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois Illini

Dominator: 47.9%
Target Share: 22.7%
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 220

The most interesting part of this will be whether or not that prototype changes in 2021 if there is a change at quarterback as expected. Going from a 6’ pocket passer with elite ball placement, anticipation, and accuracy abilities to a taller, younger, and more down-field focused passer may necessitate a shift in the mold.

If that’s the case, the Saints could repeat their 2014 draft decision and break their tendencies. Who better to do so with than a receiver that matches the same profile as Brandin Cooks nearly to perfection.

The Tendency-Breaker: Rondale Moore, Purdue Boilermakers

Dominator: 36.7%
Target Share: 29.7%
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 180

With a plus-2.2% shift in Dominator and a minus-2.1% difference in Target Share, Moore’s numbers are nearly identical to those of Cooks. Similar size, similar college production (despite playing fewer games), and similar athletic profile as well. Cooks’s 4.33 40-yard dash was a part of what lead New Orleans to break the mold and trade up for him in 2014. Moore ran an identical 40-time coming into college. He also added a 42.7” vertical leap reported by ESPN, which tops Cooks’s 36” jump at the NFL Combine.

What also sets Moore apart was his role at Purdue. He was asked to be a possession/YAC slot receiver as opposed to a deep threat. However, he has the deep speed to add that to his game while remaining electrifying with the ball in his hands.

If it was world-class speed and explosiveness that lead to Cooks being selected despite not matching the prototype New Orleans had drafted leading up to him or since, Moore packs the same athleticism (while squatting 600 pounds) to set him apart and position him to be the Saints’ first-round selection. But if New Orleans wants to stick with the build they’ve consistently found success in when it comes to rookie receivers, they’ll have a plethora of options throughout the draft.

Which of these receivers would you like to see the Saints take? Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, on Instagram @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel.