Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener (82) drops a touchdown pass as Detroit Lions free safety Glover Quin (27) defends during the second quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
MOST UNPOPULAR / DISLIKED PLAYER: COBY FLEENER, TIGHT END
While we don’t like calling out a player unless it’s due to poor performance or unsportsmanlike conduct either on or off the field (like Brandon Browner or Junior Galette the past two years), this year’s most unpopular / disliked player isn’t that “disliked” or HATED as Galette and Browner were.
The choice of Fleener here is a response to the sheer dislike shown by Saints fans on message boards towards the 28 year old tight end.
Fleener was signed away from the Indianapolis Colts this past off season to a 5 year contract in the neighborhood of 35 million dollars. Statistically, the final numbers for the 5th year Fleener weren’t the worst in the world: 50 receptions for a career high 631 yards, 3 touchdowns and another TD rushing.
That simply just wasn’t enough for Saints fans who grew accustomed to the numbers put up by Jimmy Graham for three seasons and even Benjamin Watson last year, especially considering the salary that Fleener was paid to come in and produce.
One factor was the development of receivers Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead; changing the focus of the passing game away from the tight end position.
Fleener did seem to have trouble grasping the Saints offensive playbook early in the year, had struggles with dropped passes, and down the stretch of the season was completely irrelevant in the New Orleans passing game.
Due to the team’s other off season needs– edge rusher, linebacker, safety, and younger offensive linemen to name a few — it is highly unlikely that the team moves on from Fleener for the 2017 season.
Hopefully Fleener will work on better cohesion with quarterback Drew Brees and their offensive playbook this off season, and perhaps justify the New Orleans view of him when they added him to Brees’ stable of targets.