The New Orleans Saints wide receiver position has been one of the more stable positions on the team. This stability in tandem with the most stable position, quarterback, has allowed Sean Payton and company to boast a consistent, record breaking offense for the past 7 years. This year, however will require some new faces to step up at wide receiver and become household names in the Who Dat Nation.
For a while, wide receiver was the deepest position the Saints had with the likes of Joe Horn, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore. But with Henderson making his way to the Washington Redskins, Moore and Colston are the only guarantees, meaning the Saints are going to have to rely on some unknowns to fill the pivotal slot position. The good news is there are some options to choose from, and though they are competing for the same position, each candidate would bring a different skill set to the table.
Joe Morgan, the favorite to take the spot, played last year on a limited basis. Morgan is a quintessential deep threat with outstanding speed, much like Henderson. Though he only caught ten balls last season, he made the most of it averaging a whopping 38 yards per catch and scoring 3 touchdowns. Much like Henderson he has inconsistent hands and limited route running ability. Despite his lack of versatility, his straight line speed is his biggest asset. Morgan was the odds on favorite until he was arrested for a DUI at the end of May.
Morgan’s slip up might have opened to door for a young player like Nick Toon or Kenny Stills to take the spot. Toon, who was essentially redshirted his rookie season, is a 6’4” target out of Wisconsin and, in a way, is a poor man’s Colston with his size and wingspan. He is an above average route runner and can snag back shoulder throws very well, which is an absolute must in this offense. Due to his lack of explosion and speed, he is better suited as an outside possession receiver; however, he has the ability to play inside and has shown a good nose for the end zone scoring ten touchdowns in his senior season.
Stills, on the other hand, is a more prototypical slot receiver at 5’11” and 195 pounds. Though he clocked in at 4.38 in the forty, scouts say he doesn’t have elite speed, but has very good quickness. While Toon is more like Colston, Stills is very similar to Moore in the fact that he does very sure hands. One of the main knocks on Stills is his aversion to contact especially in the middle of the field. This is probably due to his diminutive stature. It will be interesting to see how Sean Payton uses him, if at all, because he has shown explosive capabilities at Oklahoma.
Each of these players have flaws in their game and are nowhere near a complete receiver, but all bring a different skill set which will allow Payton to be more versatile. A sleeper pick to watch is Andy Tanner, a rookie last year who competed hard for a roster spot and will again this year. Tanner doesn’t have Morgan’s speed, but he showed off his great hands in the preseason, which is why Payton kept him on the team. Though fans may be apprehensive about an unknown filling a big role, what they must remember is that the Saints are a team full of unknowns making impacts; whether it be Colston, Moore, Jimmy Graham, or Pierre Thomas, Payton has an act of just finding players and putting them in positions to succeed (and having Drew doesn’t hurt either). Despite the uncertainly, it will be exciting to see who the next unknown to make an impact will be.