When you look back at the 2022 season, it’s certainly no secret that the offense for the New Orleans Saints struggled. However, the position on that side with the brightest spots was the wide receiver corps. From rookies Chris Olave to Rashid Shaheed and great games by Michael Thomas to start the season, the Saints could have a nice group if they get the QB situation right.
Let’s take a look at each wideout:
The rookie out of Ohio State had a nice start to his NFL career (Saints always have good fortune with OSU guys). Olave caught 72 passes for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games for the Black & Gold, missing two due to a concussion.
Thinking about Chris Olave with improved and consistent QB play.— TheOGfantasyfootball (@TheOGfantasy) February 8, 2023
Potential WR1 numbers in Year Two. Baller. pic.twitter.com/Q4YHdAMfBp
Now, he had a nice season, but it wasn’t all perfect. He was targeted 119 times on the year and caught 72 (61%) and he also had two fumbles on the season. I know it sounds like I’m nitpicking here, but these issues are little things that can be fixed right away in camp, and they don’t become a long-term issue.
All in all, he had to step up and be WR1 after MT went down for the year (again) and I thought Olave did a great job in his first season on the bayou.
The Saints have found success from wide receivers selected later in the draft in the past. For example, Marques Colston is one of the top receivers in franchise history and he was picked in the seventh round from a school most of us didn’t know had a program.
Could Rashid Shaheed end up as the Saints' best UDFA find of the decade? pic.twitter.com/O6PdbSaE4K— NOF (@nofnetwork) January 24, 2023
In 2022, Rashid Shaheed signed a UDFA deal with the Saints out of Weber State (school put on the map by Damian Lillard). In the first few games, he didn’t see a lot of the field. Then, he started coming in and producing explosive plays, like the 53-yard touchdown catch against Arizona (his only catch of the night) or the long ball against Atlanta later in the year. Down the back stretch of 2022, Shaheed became a dependable option for Andy Dalton, racking up 488 yards and the two touchdowns we just talked about.
Obviously, the future of Michael Thomas with the Saints is still in jeopardy. But if the Black and Gold do move on, I think you have your WR2 right here in Shaheed.
Mike T has been a staple in the Saints offense since he was drafted in 2016. The three-time Pro Bowler currently holds the NFL record for receptions in a season (149) and was named the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year for his 1,725-yard season.
Since then, he’s battled numerous injuries and has played in 10 total games. He missed all of 2021 with an ankle injury that needed surgery and then only lasted three games in 2022. Looking at those games, however, he caught 16 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns. MT was off to a great start before turf toe/dislocated toe ended his season.
Now, New Orleans has a decision to make about his future with the team. His contract was restructured earlier this year to turn his salary into a roster bonus, making him a trade asset. But some Saints fans aren’t ready to give up on 13 because of the production he’s provided when healthy. Depending on the quarterback situation, I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides he wants to stay as a Saint for now.
Tre’Quan Smith and Jarvis Landry
Smith has been a disappointment from the moment he was drafted in the 3rd round out of UCF five years ago and has never really panned out into what Mickey Loomis wanted him to be, which was Mike’s right-hand man. Smith only had 19 receptions for 278 yards and a touchdown in 2022.
Jarvis Landry came home to New Orleans this season after many years with Miami and Cleveland. He was a consistent option in the slot early in the year, but he too battled injuries throughout the season. The Lutcher High and LSU product finished with 25 grabs for 272 yards and a touchdown.