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Saints Need Receiving Threats

By: Nick Ducote

Coach Sean Payton is one of the most unique minds in the NFL today. His offense is also one of the most intricate playbooks in the coaching fold. He comes from a lineage of coaches that have won multiple Super Bowls. Payton was the offensive coordinator in Dallas for years under coach Bill Parcels before he became the coach of the who dat’s. After becoming the head coach of the saints, he perfected his offense in training camp. The New Orleans crowd that year saw an electric offense that almost scored at will. Paired with a “do-it-all” offensive line and a rushing attack that had speed and power, the Saint’s looked like a contender. The new quarterback, Drew Brees, was also a huge factor, since we hadn’t had a “smart armed” player of his sorts since Bobby Hebert was throwing the ball around. The NFL was scared of the Saints, and rarely stopped them from achieving multiple touchdowns. They came up short in the playoffs to Chicago that year, but it left a bad taste in many of the coaching staff mouths. The tweaks and changes to the offense made them a stronger one every season.

The stereotypical Sean Payton offense came to life in 2009 when they won a Super Bowl. The offensive line was great at pushing every game and winning in the trenches. The core of players on that offense was a diverse group of receivers, a speed and a power running-back, and some great protection for Drew Brees. The fact that the quarterback had immense time to distribute the ball wherever he wanted was unheard of. The last time someone achieved that was Tom Brady during the Patriot’s dynasty. Players like Devery Henderson had “LSU Speed,” and found ways to get open. While Robert Meachem had finesse and made big plays happen. The always-reliable receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore were the guys who no one thought would get the ball, but would hurt defenses when they did.

That encompassed the way Sean Payton wanted his offense to run. The key players are there today with a steady stable of receivers. The only thing that is missing is that speed receiver that the Saints need. This year the Saints have brought in several college receivers for personal interviews and work outs that have speed and can contribute from day one if they are drafted. Here are a couple of players Saints fans should get to know before the draft starts in the May.

Marquise Lee/ University of Southern California

Lee is the player that the Saints have brought in twice now for one on one interviews. The Saints will most likely pick him in the first round of the draft. Since the top three receivers in the draft will automatically go to some other team, he is the next best guy that can produce for us. Marquise Lee is one player most teams are sleeping on. He had a tremendous sophomore year when he won the Biletnikoff award, which goes to the best receiver in college football. He has been the main player in USC’s gridiron resurgence in the recent years.

Lee is one of the most explosive college football players in the past five years. He has great speed and agility. He can get great separation from defenders, which is something the Saints are aching for. The guy is dangerous after he catches the ball. He flourished in punt returns and kick offs, which helped boost his draft portfolio.  Since the release of Darren Sproles, the Saints need a good return man.

He can fill in for two players immediately and give a jolt to the game, if he stays healthy. He can be the guy the Saint’s pick up in the first round to make a serious run to the Super Bowl. The reason why he has slid down low on many teams draft charts is because he struggled with injuries this season. He has been a solid player for the Trojans for the past three years, but this year was rough for him. He can become that x-factor that the Saints need at receiver. He has gotten healthy and all of his surgeries went well. So that is one thing off of the checklist of worries NFL teams have for him.

 

Donte Moncrief/ Ole Miss

The Ole Miss prospect is another one of those receivers that many teams are overlooking. Moncreif is a deceptive player who has become a great threat for the rebels. He single handedly beat LSU this year, and was the main reason Ole Miss moved the chains this year. The Rebels stalled on offense on more than one occasion this season. He was the player who immediately did something to get his team down the field.

He had a great game against Alabama, where he made several NFL defensive prospects look silly. His speed and ability to run with the ball around defenses is rare. He and only a few other players in this draft have the knack for making plays happen. The only thing that is holding him back from being from being the best receiver in the draft is his speed which comes and goes. He will blow defenders out of the water on some routes, but then his speed shortens on other routes. Its an odd weakness, but he’ll run harder on certain plays and then not on the other. He’s a great athlete, but he needs to address his route running. He can become a starter for the Saints if drafted; hopefully he fixes this one issue.

 

Odell Beckham Jr./ LSU

He is the hometown kid that everyone is rooting for the Saints to pick up. Beckham is one of the top receivers in the draft, and most likely won’t be there when it’s the Saints chance to pick someone. If he is there, then don’t be surprised if Mickey Loomis picks him up over another player the Saints might need.

He is has been an astounding player for coach Les Miles and LSU. He is a smooth runner that has great separation and agility. Beckham has done well after the catch, that’s where he hurts defenses. He has great vision and can run the ball well on trick plays. Many of his big plays came against Alabama and Texas A&M, who are oozing with defensive talent. The LSU product can be a star in the NFL, if he can find the end zone. He is a great player but has only scored twelve times in 34 starts in college. He gets a ton of yards after the catch, but when it comes to getting open in the end zone to score he can’t get separation from defenders and he can’t get open.

His speed has been called into question since LSU’s loss to Ole Miss. He can become a big-time player in the NFL, he just needs to start working on those three flaws. The guy can be coached to work through those weakness and flourish, given the time. However, the Saints need someone to be complete now and ready to “go to war.” It’s a debacle the Saints aren’t sure they want to take on. There are many other prospects that have an abundant touchdown record compared to Beckham’s. Do the Saints take him, or do they draft a defensive player instead? We’ll only know on draft day; Loomis usually drafts unexpected players, but it’s players we usually need.

 

Brandin Cooks/ Oregon State University

The receiver that is the complete opposite of Odell Beckham Jr. in the right way is Bradin Cooks. He won the Biletnikoff Award this year, and broke OSU’s receiving touchdown record (24) by several scores. He also led the Pac 12 conference in receiving yards, touchdowns, and receptions. Cooks returned punts and kick offs this season for the first time and burned defenses. He is an explosive athlete who has a spring in his step. He has great body control and can swoop and swerve out of defensive players grasps easily. The beaver product has a great stutter step and has quick feet. The best and worst thing about him is that he is short. Listed at 5’8, he has made his career off of getting open and finding small holes in defenses to make a big catch or a touchdown.

The problem the NFL and scouts haven’t figured out yet is that size for certain positions doesn’t mean anything. The culture in the NFL hasn’t come to conclusion yet that most of the recent draft picks that are less than six feet tall have won Super Bowls in the past ten years. Cooks is one of those enigmas, and the NFL will see him dominate. He will line up in the slot position at receiver and many defenses will overlook him. He could catch the ball for an average of twelve yards a carry. He did this in college, and again, changed the perception of many defensive minds on how to properly defend an athlete of his caliber. He looks like Darren Sproles with a longer body and faster legs. Sadly for the Saints, the secret is out on Cooks and he’s the third ranked best receiver in the draft this year. If he does fall to the Saints don’t be surprised if they don’t hesitate to pick Cooks. He can become a key figure to push a team to win immediately.

 

Jarvis Landry/ LSU

The in-state prospect that has many scouts raving is Jarvis Landry. His fluid and smooth running ability can make your jaw drop. The other thing that stands out for Landry is that he is a physical player with a good catch-and-go technique.

He had a great season for the tigers making acrobatic touchdowns whenever they needed him to. The receiver has a solid frame with no health concerns. He has been a solid contributor on special teams and kick offs. He had the knack to lay some big hits on players when supporting his teammate during kickoffs.

Landry is that physical threat that many NFL teams look for in a player when in the playoffs. He can be the key factor on a team when they need a tough yard or two when playing a great defense. He did great this year against SEC defensive talent.

Georgia and Texas A&M dreaded playing him, because he outmaneuvered their defenses to score several times. The only knock scouts can put on him is that he takes a while to get to his top speed. He has the speed, but it takes him a couple more steps in his stride to reach his top speed. He also struggled in press coverage against some teams. He’ll need to address that come training camp, but it shouldn’t be anything that will scare teams from drafting him in the first or second round of the draft.

 

Allen Robinson/ Penn State

The wide receiver is viewed as one of the best athletes to come out of Penn State in years. Though State hasn’t had anyone stand out in the NFL in recent years, he is making it look hard for teams not to like him. He has long strides and is a tall prospect that can make great moves to run through a defense. He has a long frame and can still add some muscle mass to his body.

Robinson does great fighting for the ball when facing a physical defense. He played against good defenses that fought him throughout games, and he won the battle a majority of the time. He has a great jump catch techniques; his jump ball was one of the best in college football. He has one of the largest catch radiuses in the NCAA.

The weaknesses that stand out for Robinson is that he has average speed. He has a great running ability with great strides, but its not considered “speed.” His focus can run hot and cold sometimes. He also can tip off defenders on his routes. He didn’t sell his routes good enough sometimes, which led to him not being open, or the defender he was playing against red the play well. Robinson is a top talent athlete, but he needs to seriously consider working on his speed if he is to flourish in the NFL. He needs to work on this before the draft, because several teams have dropped him from their draft boards because he doesn’t see it as a problem.

 

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