The New Orleans Saints receiving corps has many questions going into the 2021-22 regular season. Those questions have PFF ranking the squad near the bottom in the NFL.
But is it a fair ranking for the Saints' receivers?
New Orleans has Michael Thomas, but he cannot be the only receiving threat for Sean Payton's offense this season.
Michael Thomas had his challenges on and off the field in 2020 after a record-setting 2019.
A lingering injury from Week 1, an altercation with Gardner-Johson, and subsequent suspension from Coach Payton prevented the 2019 Offensive Player of the Year from defending his throne as the best wideout in the NFL.
Thomas may no longer be limping into 2021, but the mysteries at wide receiver remain for New Orleans.
The primary concern is the No. 2 spot to bookend with Michael Thomas. Tre'Quan Smith is the most likely candidate, but critics point to an on-field performance inconsistency from the UCF alum.
The lineup after Smith is just as questionable, but not without great potential.
SAINTS' SEARCH FOR NUMBER TWO
It has been written about, poked, and repeatedly analyzed that after the release of Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, the Saints are without a valid number two wideout.
Michael Thomas, Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris may be roster locks, still, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Juwan Johnson, Jake Lampman, Jalen McCleskey, Kawaan Baker, and Eason Winston will battle to earn a spot on New Orleans' 53-man roster. Don't be surprised if the Saints choose to sign a free-agent veteran receiver at some point this summer.
SAINTS PFF WIDE RECEIVER RANKING
PFF ranks the Saints receiving unit at No. 27 out of the 32 teams in the National Football League.
According to their analyst Steve Palazzolo, the roster "remains strong across the board, wide receiver and tight end are two of the biggest question marks on the team, and they need multiple options to step up to complement Thomas."
In addition, New Orleans is without a proven tight end. The team's cap constraints forced general manager Mickey Loomis to jettison veteran tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill.
Cook signed with the Chargers and Hill with the Lions, but only to choose retirement last month.
Today, second-year player Adam Trautman will become the focal point of the tight ends.
There is a significant dropoff after Trautman with Nick Vannett, Garrett Griffin, Ethan Wolf, and Dylan Soehner filling out the tight end room.
Vannett is a solid blocker with 75 career receptions, but the other members have only one receiving catch in the NFL.
The Saints receivers may not cast fear into the hearts of most opposing defenses, but the entire host of pass-catchers could surprise teams with either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at quarterback.
My theory is that Smith or Callaway will evolve as the No. 2 receiver, but don't sleep on McCleskey or Baker from turning heads during training camp.
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