The New Orleans Saints signed veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders last year to a two-year deal to help Drew Brees pursue his second world championship. Sanders was supposed to provide an elite-level wide receiver to pair with Michael Thomas. In his sole year with the Saints, Sanders had 61 receptions for 726 yards and 5 touchdowns. It was a good season, but not what many hoped for.
Sanders's circumstances with the Saints were odd and always changing. In Week 1, Michael Thomas suffered what could have been a season-ending ankle injury but fought through it the rest of the year. With Thomas being sidelined many weeks and not playing at 100%, that made Sanders the top pass-catcher in an offense that relies so much on Thomas.
Sanders also was forced to find chemistry with backup quarterback Taysom Hill after Brees was sidelined for multiple weeks as well. On top of all of that, Sanders tested positive for COVID-19 in the middle of the year, and he said it hit him pretty hard and it took him a while to get back into the groove of things. With all of this adversity, Sanders still mustered 700+ yards and 60+ receptions. He was released by New Orleans as a cap casualty and later signed with the Buffalo Bills.
The New Orleans Saints have now been left with a large hole at the wide receiver position. Who should the Saints try to replace Sanders?
Golden Tate, free agent
Golden Tate is a savvy veteran who has had a ton of success in the NFL, especially against the Saints. Tate was most recently with the New York Giants where he had 35 receptions for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns in only 12 games. Tate could excel with an elite coach and system with the Saints. Whether Jameis Winston is the starter week or not, they could use another receiver that can play in the slot or on the outside.
Tate didn’t have great numbers last season, but he was put in an offense without Saquan Barkley and a struggling Daniel Jones with first-year head coach Joe Judge. Sean Payton would be able to find packages to give Tate mismatches all over the field, and a West Coast offense with a new and improved Jameis Winston could give the Saints another great receiving option outside of Michael Thomas.
Marquez Callaway, in-house
Marquez Callaway showed flashes of being another amazing UDFA pick-up for the New Orleans Saints last season. Callaway started the season as a gunner on special teams but was thrown into action early with Michael Thomas out and Sanders missing two weeks with COVID. When Callaway was given a larger role in the offense he flourished, running great routes and making big-time catches.
Callaway only had 21 receptions for 213 yards, but what he put on film was very encouraging. He could have a Marques Colston-like impact in year two if given the opportunity, as a gem that turns into a rising star. If the Saints believe he could be the next guy up they should give him every shot, but adding another receiver via the draft or free agency would still be likely.
Terrace Marshall Jr, draft
Former LSU national champion wide receiver Terrace Marshall, Jr. is one of many names the Saints could look to the 2021 NFL Draft. Day 1 is looking like a likely landing place for Marshall after becoming a high riser after his pro day, but if the Saints could land Marshall on Day 2, they should run the card to the podium as fast as they can.
Whether it's Marshall or any other of this year's loaded class of receivers, the Saints could find their Sanders replacement in this year’s draft. The most likely scenario would be to draft a receiver in day two or three for the Saints to pair with the above-mentioned Callaway. Some other potential names for Day 2 could be Ronald Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Rashod Bateman, Tylan Wallace, Kadarius Toney, among many other options.
WR Terrace Marshall “elite ceiling” must be considered after Pro Day reminder he is a legit “Alpha WR” with phenomenal athleticism + big frame.— EliteDrafters (@EliteDrafters) March 31, 2021
6'3" and 205-pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.38 pic.twitter.com/CH1sluPCYD
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