One thing that is certain above all other possible outcomes for the Saints throughout Training Camp and the Pre-Season is this fact: the New Orleans Saints WILL NOT keep 7 WR’s on their 53-man final roster come the first week of September. However, they will be keeping six — but just who the last two of those six WR’s will be, is anybody’s guess. In all of my years following and now covering Saints football, this current group of Saints WR’s that are now practing daily at Greenbrier is easily the most talented in team history. However, with no less then potentially eight of them capable of being starting-caliber, something obviously has to give.
The top 3 spots are set Colston, Cooks, and Stills; and after the things that head coach Sean Payton has stated recently with regard to the stellar performance thus far about 3rd year man Nick Toon (the obvious heir apparent to Colston when he retires), I think he has made it to “set” status as well. Head coach Sean Payton and WR’s coach Henry Ellard will certainly have a very tough decision in the first week of September, as they determine who those last two receivers will be. With that in mind, here are a look at who I think the 6 Saints WR’s on the final 53-man roster for the 2014 regular season will be, and who will be the “odd man out”.
WR 1: Marques Colston, 9th Yr. ; 117 Games Played, 607 Receptions, 8,337 Yards, 63 TD’s
Simply stated, the greatest New Orleans Saints WR of all-time. I mean, what other superlatives can I possibly use to describe the famously-chosen 2006 7th Round draft choice out of Hofstra University (who no longer even fields a football team anymore). He has meant more to this franchise than anyone ever has, outside of Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson, and Drew Brees. An absolute lock for the top spot. And for those of you concerned that perhaps Colston may try to “hang on a little too long”, don’t be. He’ll know when it’s time, and he’ll bow out gracefully — but that time isn’t here just yet.
WR 2 Kenny Stills, 2nd Yr. ; 16 Games Played, 32 Receptions, 641 Yards, 5 TD’s
The 2nd year speedster out of Oklahoma has been slowed by a nagging quad injury that flared up on him in the very first practice session. However, there’s no danger in him losing his spot in what has bcome his rapid ascension into the No. 2 position behind Colston. I recently tabbed Stills to be a “breakout star” in 2014 (both in Fantasy and REAL football), and as long as the quad doesn’t hamper him any during the season (which I don’t anticipate anyway, that it will), that prediction should stand a good chance of coming to fruition.
WR3 Brandin Cooks, Rookie
The dynamic play-maker and 2013 Biletnekoff Trophy winner (the nation’s top WR) out of Oregon State will be (in my opinion) just what the doctor ordered for a Saints offense that I believe got a little predictable at times last year, which was because outside of a true deep weapon for Brees to throw to, teams were able to key in a bit on All-Pro TE Jimmy Graham. Back in March prior to the draft, I had shared the information (given to analyst Mike Detillier by an unamed NFC defensive coordinator) that teams in the League no longer FEARED Sean Payton and the Saints offense anymore like they had back in 2009 – 11; because they lacked a true “homerun threat” (who could stretch the field and force teams to change their coverages) in their offense. If teams aren’t careful in their defense of Cooks, he’ll look like the football version of Hank Aaron.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 28, 2014
WR4 Nick Toon, 3rd Yr. ; 8 Games Played, 4 Receptions, 68 Yards, 0 TD’s
No Saints WR has made more of an improvement in the off-season than 3rd year man Nick Toon out of the University of Wisconsin. Criticized heavily last season for his lack of energy and concentration, he was passed on the depth chart by rookie Kenny Stills and looked to be a prime candidate to be the “odd man out” of this very column, just several short weeks ago. But a magnificent peformance in Mini-Camp in June followed by a stellar first few days of Training Camp (hence the praise from Coach Payton); has shown that Toon has returned for Year 3 with the fire and passion that he originally came into the League with. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention that Toon committed himself in the off-season to refocusing and rededicating himself to the sport, and I think it will pay handsome dividends for the man who Saints officials privately view as the “heir” to Colston’s position when he retires.
WR5 Robert Meachem , 7th Yr. ; 92 Games Played, 171 Receptions, 2,800 Yards, 27 TD’s
Meachem returned to New Orleans in 2013 after a brief stint with the San Diego Chargers (via free-agency in 2012) and seemed to slowly transition back into his previous role within the Saints offense. He may have lost a step and isn’t the “burner” that he was initially as the Saints’ top pick in 2007 out of Tennessee, but he still is an effective weapon for Brees; and above all else with the coaching staff he is by far and away the best blocker of the entire bunch — which virtually guarantees him inclusion in this corps of receivers. Meachem has been bothered by an issue with a recurring stiffness in his back early in Training Camp, but I wouldn’t anticipate it being an issue as they get closer to the regular season.
WR6 Brandon Coleman, Rookie
Here is the final player whom I think will be part of the six man Saints WR corps on the 53-man final roster for the 2014 regular season: UDFA rookie WR Brandon Coleman, out of Rutgers University. There have been lingering questions about the status of Coleman’s knee injury that he suffered back in 2012 in his junior season with the Scarlet Knights. Some scouts felt that maybe he tried to come back a little early in 2013, and it severly damaged his draft stock. But make no mistake about it — a WR who stands 6’6 and can run a 4.5 40 yard dash is a “weapon” in an offense, any way you choose to slice it.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 25, 2014
He ‘s drawn comparisons to Calvin Johnson (the consensus top WR in the sport today with the Lions); and his knee appears now to be fully healed. Despite a shaky start in Mini-Camp with a case of the “dropsies”, he has looked great in the first few days of camp (another player Payton has singled out for his performance). If he indeed makes the roster as I am projecting him to here, I believe he can add yet another dimension to this rejuvenated offense (along with Cooks) that it hasn’t had in a long time — which certainly should make the rest of the League very nervous.
And so the “Odd Man Out” is…… Joe Morgan, 4th Yr. ; 14 Games Played, 10 Receptions, 379 Yards, 3 TD’s
Now entering his 4th year in the League, Morgan has actually only played in ONE season because of injuries, and even that year (2012) he was limited by injury. Some players in the past that have come into the League with the greatest of potential to be future superstars, have had their careers cut short by injuries before they could get etablished. I think that Morgan is the classic example of one of those type of players. Despite his best intentions at becoming a key contributor to the offense through his blazing-fast speed and at times circus-like catching ability, I think Morgan will indeed be the “odd man out“ …..