Why the Saints will or won’t draft a receiver early

Kristen Wong
Jameson Williams #1 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jameson Williams #1 of the Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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The New Orleans Saints have two first-round picks to spend on at least one wide receiver prospect in the 2022 draft. But is there a chance they don’t address the position early?

Yes — in the same way there’s a chance Drew Brees will come back to play quarterback.

Most NFL pundits agree the best-case scenario for NOLA in the draft is to take an elite receiver prospect at No. 16 or No. 19, whether that name on the board is Jameson Williams, Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, or Drake London.

Yet former Saints head coach Sean Payton recently said the team shouldn’t feel compelled to pick a wide receiver in the first round, disagreeing with nearly every mock draft released that had the team taking a wideout with one of its two first-round picks.

Part of his reasoning was this year offers a deep class of wide receivers, so New Orleans could reasonably get starting-caliber talent in the second round without sacrificing their early selections.

Call Payton a stubborn man, his thinking likely also has to do with the fact that taking a first-round wide receiver goes against the Saints’ norm.

New Orleans Saints would be crazy to pass on wide receiver in the first round

The Saints have used a first-round pick on a wide receiver seven times in their franchise history and just once in the past decade (Brandin Cooks in 2014). No one would deny that Michael Thomas is the best receiver the team has drafted in recent years, and he was the 47th overall pick in 2016.

Draft position doesn’t always equate to success in the NFL. Everybody knows that.

But the Saints have an even more substantial reason to select a first-round receiver based on which teams pick after them.

This offseason saw the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Dallas Cowboys all lose top wide receivers, and combined those three teams hold five picks between the Saints’ No. 19 pick and No. 49 pick.

The New York Jets and Chicago Bears could also reasonably take a wideout off the board early in the second round, so that’s three more picks — or three fewer wide receivers left in the 2022 draft class.

Why play the fickle game of risk, waiting to see which receivers remain at pick No. 49, when the Saints can nab a bonafide starter with a first-round selection?

Let’s all agree Michael Thomas was an outlier, and few expected him to turn into the record-breaking star receiver he has since become. Despite missing roughly the last two seasons, Thomas remains the only Saints wideout to eclipse 800 single-season receiving yards in the last five years; before Thomas, Brandin Cooks racked up 1,173 yards in 2016.

Saints fans have suffered through enough wide receiver turnover in recent history, and the position absolutely will be addressed in the draft this week.

Next. 3 free agents that the Saints will regret not signing in 2022. dark

Contrary to what Sean Payton believes, the earlier the better.

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