Saints’ 2022 undrafted free agent class may unearth a wide receiver diamond
By Kristen Wong
The New Orleans Saints’ undrafted free agent class may yield some of the team’s most promising talents in 2022 — you just have to know where to look.
Suffice to say, Sean Payton knew exactly where to look when he picked up Drew Brees as a free agent (though Brees was drafted in 2001) along with several other notable names in history like running back Pierre Thomas and defensive end Junior Galette.
Will Dennis Allen enjoy the same amount of success in 2022?
To date, the Saints have added 17 undrafted rookie free agents to their roster, including two wide receivers: Weber State’s Rashid Shaheed and Nicholls State’s Dai’Jean Dixon.
NOLA gave up a king’s ransom for No. 11 pick Chris Olave in this year’s draft and may not be able to invest so heavily in its wide receiver class for the foreseeable future (and if Olave turns into a bust, the entire Saints’ front office will feel an insane amount of heat).
A receiver of Olave’s caliber is rightfully considered a premium addition, but the undrafted free agent rookie class could produce a few gems that shine in their own right.
Of the UDFA wide receivers, Rashid Shaheed carries a surprising amount of value as both a rotational wideout and return specialist and seems to already have the early backing of those in Saints camp.
NOLA Saints may uncover a top receiving talent in their 2022 UDFA class
Shaheed’s closest comparison may be Deonte Harty who, like Shaheed, impressed the Saints as a return specialist in college. The three-year pro developed into a fantastic fit in the offensive scheme and recorded a career-high 570 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season.
Harty played at a Division II college and was (literally) overlooked in the draft due to his small 5-foot-6 frame despite serving as one of the most impressive return specialists in college football history. NOLA signed him in 2019 and Harty made an immediate impact on special teams, leading the league in punt return yardage and earning both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
Fast forward two years, and Harty has played his way to a fringe WR3 role, potentially sharing targets with fellow undrafted wideout Marquez Callaway.
The Saints made just five picks in the 2022 draft and could rely heavily on the undrafted free agent class to fill out the rest of their roster, as they have in years past.
Time will tell if Rashid Shaheed can carve out a significant role on NOLA’s offense, but he will have recent history working in his favor.
All we ask of the Saints is to put together a more talented wide receiver corps than the Hogan-Stills-Humphrey rotation of last season — we’ll take undrafted upside over stale production any day.