Predicting who will lead the New Orleans Saints in receiving touchdowns in 2022

Saints. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Saints. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /

Who will lead the New Orleans Saints in receiving touchdowns in 2022? It’s a tough call between Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry.

Thomas has that special “it” factor he flashed all throughout the 2019 season. Landry has eight years of NFL experience and stayed productive even on teams with middling quarterbacks.

But if we had to pick one, our money would be on rookie Chris Olave leading the black and gold with the most scores this season.

Perhaps the more obvious pick is Michael Thomas given the 2019 OPOY’s pure talent and class, yet Thomas is two years removed from his last NFL game. Even if he stays healthy throughout the season and regains his form, he’ll be swarmed by defenders as the No. 1 wideout on the Saints.

Landry, too, has proven how nifty he can be in the slot and will force opposing defenses to account for him. By contrast, Olave is more or less a blank slate — he has a huge amount of upside and also holds an element of surprise as NOLA’s most unpredictable weapon.

With Thomas and Landry starting alongside him, Olave may face the third-best defensive back of any given opposing team, and he could find space more easily than his peers and get more open looks as he did against the Packers in preseason.

Saints could see a breakout season from rookie Chris Olave in 2022

NOLA traded a king’s ransom to nab Olave as the 11th overall pick in the draft, and the Ohio State product will get his share of opportunities under the arm of Jameis Winston. Olave recorded a career-high 13 touchdowns in his final collegiate year, so who’s to say he can’t translate that production in the big leagues?

Assuming Winston doesn’t regress to his old form, he possesses a cannon of an arm that can feed Olave deep balls when the defense is least suspecting it. Earlier this summer, an NFL pundit predicted that Olave would record 79 catches, 1,100 yards, and seven touchdowns in Year 1, which could be good enough to make him the team leader in yards and scores.

Olave brings to the table a clean bill of health, exceptional route-running abilities, and a potential picture-perfect scheme fit in which he seamlessly slides into the No. 2 receiver role.

Landry may turn into more of a third-down guy and help sustain offensive drives rather than making plays in the end zone — the former Browns wideout recorded just five touchdowns in his last two seasons, after all.

Thomas could be expected to double his numbers from 2020 and post roughly 800 yards and a handful of touchdowns, but he probably won’t get that close to his record-breaking campaign. That nagging ankle injury and those absentee years will take a toll.

It’s a high-risk, high-reward game to bet on a rookie leading his team in total scores, but Olave may soon prove he’s not just any rookie.

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For better or for worse, he’s the future of the Saints’ wide receiving corps, and we’re tentatively placing our trust in him to develop into the prolific wideout and dynamic game-changer the team needs him to be in 2022.