All three New Orleans Saints receivers have an even greater opportunity to play increased roles this year after the Saints didn’t add any receivers through free agency or the draft.
Coach Sean Payton talked up those young receivers in March after the Saints traded away tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Kenny Stills. But his words rang even more true on Saturday night when New Orleans didn’t draft anyone to supplant them in the pecking order.
It almost happened. Payton said the Saints considered drafting a receiver in Round 1, and they envisioned doing so in some of the mock “scenarios” they went through before the draft.
“There was a receiver or two that we valued a lot,” Payton said. “But it didn’t unfold that way, so we didn’t approach it like we had to get a receiver.
“The trade of Kenny (Stills) probably doesn’t happen if we didn’t have that same confidence about some of the younger guys on the roster.”
For now, Toon appears to be penciled in as the Saints’ No. 3 receiver behind starters Marques Colston and Brandin Cooks. Jones, Coleman and Joe Morgan are currently the leading candidates for the No. 4 and 5 jobs. Jalen Saunders has a chance to remain on the roster as a kick returner and backup receiver.
Jones and Coleman both signed with the Saints as undrafted free agents following last year’s draft -- Jones, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Valdosta State and Coleman a hard-to-miss, 6-6, 225-pounder from Rutgers.
Coleman got more attention last summer because of his size and because he was more well-known in the pre-draft process. He struggled with drops early in camp but bounced back nicely. Jones, meanwhile, slipped a little further under the radar. But both players made the practice squad, and Jones actually got promoted to the active roster first (in Week 15) before Coleman joined him in Week 17. Neither appeared in a game, though.
Payton referenced Jones and Coleman three times Saturday during a lengthy answer on his confidence in the current receiving corps, at one point saying, “I think we’re going to hear a lot of good things from Seantavius Jones and Brandon Coleman.”
Payton also singled out Toon, a fourth-year pro who finally started to make an impact last year after the early part of his career was plagued by injuries, inconsistency and lack of opportunity above all else.
“We think Nick Toon’s developing. A lot of the snaps last year toward the end of the year we started seeing him make some plays. He’s a tremendous worker who’s got size,” Payton said of the 6-4, 218-pounder, who didn’t catch a pass until Week 12 but finished with 17 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown over the final six games.
And Payton also mentioned Morgan, who was re-signed last month -- somewhat surprisingly -- after he had been cut late last season. I wrote more about Morgan’s return here.