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The Ceiling and the Floor: Exploring the Saints’ receiving unit in 2023

A healthy, well-utilized Saints receiving corps could be one of the league’s best in 2023.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

As has been the case for the past few seasons, the New Orleans Saints have a ton of questions about their receiving corps.

Will Michael Thomas be healthy? Will Chris Olave improve from year one? Will we see more of Rashid Shaheed? Can Bryan Edwards find a role? These are just a few of the many questions that surround this talented group of receivers.

There are so many scenarios for how this receiving corps will perform in 2023, but to make things simple, let’s take a look at the floor and the ceiling for the group in 2023.

The Ceiling:

  • Michael Thomas stays healthy and performs to the standard we know from 2019. It might be a little unrealistic for him to play in 17 games this season but getting 12 to 14 games from Thomas would still be incredible.

Ceiling stats: 100 receptions, 8 touchdowns, 1,300 yards

  • Chris Olave follows up on his impressive rookie year and identifies himself as one of the best WR2s in the league. Even if Thomas is healthy, Olave might be good enough to assume the role of Derek Carr’s primary target.

Ceiling stats: 90 receptions, 8 touchdowns, 1,200 yards

  • Pete Carmichael understands the generational speed of Rashid Shaheed and uses him primarily as a deep-ball threat that pairs excellently with a healthy Thomas and Olave. He is also used more in the run game, similar to a Deebo Samuel role in San Francisco.

Ceiling stats: 60 receptions, 6 touchdowns, 1,000 yards (REC), 3 touchdowns (RUSH), 200 yards (RUSH)

  • Bryan Edwards uses the chemistry formed in Vegas with Carr to earn a role on the team as the primary possession-skilled wide receiver. He can be used in specific packages and heavily utilized in the red zone.

Ceiling stats: 40 receptions, 4 touchdowns, 650 yards

  • AT Perry outperforms his sixth-round value and finds a solid spot on this team. His speed, strength, and route running create a great all-around rookie receiver similar to Michael Thomas in 2016.

Ceiling stats: 50 receptions, 4 touchdowns, 750 yards

The Floor:

  • Michael Thomas proves the narrative that he can not stay healthy and either re-aggravates his toe or injures something else. After not playing a full season since 2019, anything less than ten healthy games for Thomas is a huge, but not unlikely, bust.
  • Chris Olave shows no true progression from 2022 and struggles to connect with Carr. It’s also possible that with a healthy Thomas, a more utilized Shahid, and the emergence of other receivers, Olave could take a move backward to WR3. The worst-case scenario is a terrible injury, but besides that, there’s not a dramatically low ceiling for Olave.
  • Rashid Shaheed is used in a limited fashion and Pete Carmichael fails to further incorporate his speed into the offense. Perhaps he is given more snaps yet fails to produce and we realize that 2022 was a stroke of luck. If Shaheed underperforms in 2023, it will most likely be at the hands of Derek Carr and Pete Carmichael, not Shaheed.
  • Bryan Edwards, James Washington, and Trequan Smith fail to produce and are all but non-existent by the halfway point of the season. AT Perry fails to find a role on the team and also becomes non-existent. It’s likely that if these players fall off, then the starting three receivers have excelled, but even with an unhealthy and underperforming starting receiving core, these four receivers might not be cut out for the NFL anymore.

In summary, the ceiling for this receiving core begins with health. We saw how heavily injuries hurt this group last season, one that could have been one of the league’s best if healthy. It’s difficult to see now, but the starting WR lineup of Thomas, Olave, and Shahid could be one of the league’s absolute best groups through their skill diversity and chemistry.

Although his decision-making is questionable, there’s no question that Derek Carr can throw the rock. This team is stacked with short, medium, and long-passing threats that each bring something unique to the table. This could still be a great receiving group even if one major contributor gets hurt, but a fully healthy Saints receiving room could be really, really good.

Like the rest of the team, the receiving corps ceiling is crazy high, but the floor is crazy low.

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