BEST EVER? 2016 Saints WR Corps Could Be Franchise’s Greatest


A few months back during the 2016 NFL Draft, most Saints fans were convinced that the team was all set to select Kansas State All-American offensive guard Cody Whitehair with the 47th overall pick.

And if not Whitehair, then certainly another player for their 31st ranked defense,

But then a funny thing happened as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped up to the podium.

“With the 47th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft…. The New Orleans Saints select… Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver, Ohio State.”


Why not Whitehair? Why not go defense? said many members of Who Dat Nation.

While I thought something similar when the pick first came in, I thought about it and said this on Twitter a few minutes later after the pick:

Despite the departure in the off-season of log-time veteran Marques Colston, the pick of Thomas still may have seemed to be a surprising pick for some because of the rise of last season of a player who many of Who Dat Nation had never heard of before 2015: Willie Snead.

The first year player and former UDFA out of Ball State University (in Indiana) ended the season with 69 receptions, 984 yards, and 3 TD’s.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Willie Snead (83) runs after a catch in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Snead soon became Brees’ “go-to” target on 3rd down situations, thanks to his flawless route running and reliable hands.

Snead then started to draw comparisons to former Saints wide-outs Lance Moore and Kenny Stills. And at times, Snead seemed to be better versions of them both.

Snead became a perfect complement for Drew Brees’ receiving corps as Saints fans saw Marques Colston’s game rapidly decline; and thus that ultimately lead to his release at the end of the season.

But even with Colston’s release, the Saints still had Brandon Coleman — a big 6-foot-6 target who showed flashes of what he could be for Drew Brees in the last two games of the regular season.

So why draft a receiver in Round 2?

The answer is Brandin Cooks.

Brandin Cooks was slow out the gate in 2015, only accounting for 1 touchdown in the first seven weeks of the season, but he ended the season on a tear.

Cooks from week eight on accounted for 49 receptions, 694 yards, and 8 TD’s, as we saw “The Archer” celebration again and again.

Dec 27, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) gestures after a catch in the second half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After week eight, something clicked on the offensive side of the ball for the Saints.

The ball was spread out more, more players got involved, and that opened up the field for Cooks and tight end Ben Watson.

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The Saints finished 2015 ranked 2nd overall in offense and Brees lead the league again in passing yards, though the problem still remained that there was not a “true” number one receiver, and no ‘game changer’ like Jimmy Graham was.

Addressing both in the following off-season in 2016 would open up a world of possibilities for the offense, and the Saints did just that.

The Saints addressed both problems by signing former Colts tight end Coby Fleener in Free Agency, and drafting wide receiver Michael Thomas from Ohio State.

Thomas has been an absolute stud thus far in the first week of Training Camp, and is quickly showing the type of playmaker he can be as a number one receiver, along with  showing off some nifty moves and catches over the past few weeks while proving to us he lives up to his Twitter handle “Can’t guard Mike” ( @cantguardmike ).

May 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) catches a pass during organized team activities at the New Orleans Saints Indoor Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Layne C.

Newly acquired free agent tight end Coby Fleener hasn’t disappointed, either. Fleener and Drew Brees have been on the same wave length since camp opened, connecting again and again in 7-on-7 drills.

The returning receivers have had a great camp as well. Cooks continues to dazzle fans and media with blazing speed and the ability to be a step ahead of the quarterback, leading to multiple deep touchdowns.

Potentially, this group is one for the ages, and arguably may be the best receiving corps in franchise history.

Willie Snead entered camp with a new hairdo with now long blonde hair popping out of his helmet, and has been his usual consistent self.

With Cooks, Thomas, Snead, Coleman all 24 years old or younger, Brandin Cooks vows that they will strive for greatness from day one.

Nov 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates with wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) after a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Giants 52-49. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

“We are young, yes. But this game, you can’t let your youth hold you back from being great,” Cooks said. “And that’s the way I think about it, and that’s the way we all feel about it in that room.”

Next: Saints Training Camp: 5 Best Players on Defense So Far

“We might be young, but darn it, we’re gonna make great plays and we’re gonna do big things. And we’re not gonna wait until our fifth, sixth year, we’re gonna do it now.”

Potentially, this group is one for the ages, and arguably may be the best receiving corps in franchise history.

And as far as Saints fans are concerned, it couldn’t be happening at a better time than right now…..