New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas suffered an ankle injury in the 2020 season opener that would hamper the team's passing attack all season. Thomas, a four-time 1,000-yard receiver, three-time All-Pro, and holder of the NFL single-season reception record, played in only seven games and was not nearly at full strength all year.
Veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders stepped into the team's top receiving role in his first season with the Saints, but he’s more suitable as a number two wideout. Sanders was released this offseason because of salary cap reasons.
Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris have each shown great promise and will be counted on for bigger contributions going forward. The team also hopes to finally get consistent production from 2018 3rd round pick Tre'Quan Smith.
With the offseason retirement of legendary quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints will be starting a new signal caller for the first time since 2005. They could look to provide their new quarterback with additional weapons through the draft, even with a healthy Thomas back in the lineup.
New Orleans may use their early round draft picks to shore up defensive needs. There are several wideouts that will be available through the second and third days who look like they could be immediate contributors in the league.
Today's draft spotlight focuses on a player from a national powerhouse that has slipped under the draft radar.
AMARI RODGERS, WIDE RECEIVER (CLEMSON)
Pro Day 40m = 4.44
Pro Day Vertical Jump = 30.5”
Rodgers is the son of former University of Tennessee national champion quarterback and former NFL backup Tee Martin. He was a four-star recruit out of Knoxville Catholic High School in Tennessee. Instead of going to USC, where his father coached at the time, Rodgers chose Clemson. He caught 19 passes for 123 yards as a true freshman in 14 games of action as a reserve.
His all-purpose abilities earned Rodgers honorable mention All-ACC accolades in 2018. He had 55 receptions for 575 yards and 4 touchdowns that season, adding another score as a punt returner. Rodgers tore his ACL in a 2019 spring practice. He’d rebound to miss only one game that following season, catching 30 passes for 426 yards and 4 scores.
With several Clemson receivers moving on to the NFL, Rodgers finally emerged as the top receiving option for the Tigers in 2020. He gathered in 77 receptions for 1,020 yards and 7 touchdowns, earning 1st team All-ACC honors. In four years, Rodgers caught 181 passes for 2,144 yards, scored 16 offensive touchdowns, and averaged 7.8 yards per punt return with a touchdown.
Because of so much talent in the Clemson receiving corps, Rodgers was a primary target for just one season. Most of his biggest production came when he was lined up in the slot. His smaller frame might give him problems at the NFL level against bigger press corners as an outside receiver.
Capable of making spectacular catches, he was also prone to drops at times. Rodgers has difficulty maneuvering through high traffic areas in the middle of the field to get open. He has shorter arms, meaning a smaller catch radius for his quarterback.
Rodgers is a tough, competitive wideout with excellent work ethic. That was evidenced by his return to action so quickly after his torn ACL. He has sudden acceleration into his route off the snap and an outstanding second gear as a deep receiver.
A productive punt returner in college, Rodgers has the open field running ability to be a home-run threat on short throws or end around runs. He is terrific at finding the open lane in a defense and the explosion to take advantage.
Rodgers has shown the ability to set up corners with cleverly disguised double moves. He tracks the ball well in mid-air and has the hands to snatch a ball and secure it quickly. Rodgers adjusts well to off-target throws and has the toughness to win most contested balls.
Considering the amount of talent that Clemson has produced in the NFL over recent seasons, Amari Rodgers has slipped under the radar in a deep receiving class. He can be an immediate contributor as a slot receiver while also returning punts. Rodgers may not possess the ideal measurables, but as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick has the versatility to be a potential weapon all over the field.