In the prime years of the Drew Brees-Sean Payton offense, the New Orleans Saints had pure firepower on offense. Drew Brees was obviously the quarterback. At running back, the Saints had players like Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Jimmy Graham was other-worldly at tight end. Marques Colston and Lance Moore headlined an above-average wide receiver corps.
Right before Marques Colston retired, the Saints drafted Brandin Cooks in the first round. Right before Cooks was traded to the New England Patriots, the Saints drafted future Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas. The Saints always had at least one high-end wide receiver.
Until last season.
With Michael Thomas out for the year due to injury, the Saints offensive struggled to find production at the wide receiver position. Deonte Harty was fine when healthy, but at only 5’6, his upside was limited. Marquez Callaway failed to consistently live up to his preseason hype.
This made wide receiver the first priority for the Saints to address this offseason after they figured out who was playing quarterback. But even after adding former Cleveland Browns Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry and Ohio State’s Chris Olave in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the good folks at Pro Football Focus think the Saints receiver corps is only a mid-tier group in the NFL:
Offseason additions Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry take the Saints’ receiving corps from one of the thinner groups across the NFL to one with promise, particularly if Michael Thomas returns at full strength.
New Orleans secured an excellent prospect-team fit by snagging Olave the first round, even if they paid a premium to move up and get him. He’s a polished route-runner who can separate downfield. That shows in his 12 touchdowns on throws 20-plus yards downfield across his final two seasons at Ohio State (fourth-most in the FBS). That profile is what New Orleans was missing at wide receiver in 2021.
The fourteenth spot was part of PFF’s second tier, “Strong Overall with a Weak Point or Two.” In the NFC South, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made PFF’s first tier, “Elite,” second in the NFL only behind the Cincinnati Bengals. The Carolina Panthers were 23rd, in PFF’s third tier, “Could be Strength of Weakness.” The Atlanta Falcons were ranked even worse, in PFF’s fourth and final tier, “Likely a Weakness,” 27th in the NFL. Atlanta was ranked ahead of only the Jaguars, Ravens, Texans, Packers, and Bears (in that order).
Odell Beckham, Jr. is still sitting out there as a free agent, so it will be interesting to see who he signs with and how that shakes up the NFL’s wide receiver rankings for 2022.