Do the New Orleans Saints need to draft a wide receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft?
That’s a tricky question. I’m actually not going to answer that question in this article. Instead, I’m going to go with the assumption that they in fact do need to draft another young playmaker (in my next article later this week, I’ll answer that question more fully).
With that in mind, I am going to quickly rank the receivers in the upcoming draft, based on best fit for the Saints based on scheme fit, possible draft slot and superficial things—you know things like does that players’ name sound like one you’d expect to see in a Saints uniform?
I do not support the Saints taking a receiver first in the draft for two primary reasons:
1) We’ve seen in the Sean Payton/Mickey Loomis-era that first round skill players do not live up to their potential (Reggie Bush, Robert Meachem, Mark Ingram, etc). None of them have been absolute busts, and each has had their moment in the sun while wearing the black and gold; still, none compare to the excellence on display from late rounders and undrafted free agents – a la Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore.
2) In my opinion, the Saints’ biggest need this offseason is adding a physical, man-to-man corner to place opposite the underrated Keenan Lewis.
For these two reasons, Sammy Watkins will not be mentioned beyond this sentence. Sure, he’s a great talent, but there’s quite literally zero chance he’s wearing black and gold next year. There are a few other receivers it’s hard to imagine ending up in black and gold via the draft. A few will be highlighted here, based on the slight chance the Saints defy logic and go receiver with the 27th overall pick – or even trade up to get “their guy”.
5. Mike Evans, Texas A&M, Redshirt Sophomore
While most analysts list Clemson’s Watkins as the number one receiver in this class, Evans is the guy who gets my heart racing a bit. The 6-foot-5, 225 lbs. redshirt sophomore has room to grow into his body. He currently has a build very reminiscent of the Buccaneers’ Vincent Jackson.
He shares one other similarity with V-Jax – an insatiable competitiveness that sometimes borders on wild anger when things don’t go his way. Part of me thinks that sort of attitude might be good for the Saints’ passing game. Only Jimmy Graham has an inkling of that within his personality, but it doesn’t come out often enough.
But it’s not as if Evans is just a hot head with very little ability. In fact, his ability is second to none. He high points the football better than any player in this class. Frankly, he does better than all but two or three guys in the league today. Imagine adding another high pointer to a receiving corps that includes Marques Colston and Graham. It literally wouldn’t matter who is playing quarterback, all they’d have to do is get the ball in the general vicinity. Donovan McNabb could succeed with those three.
The other comparison that came to mind with Evans is Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. One reason is his aforementioned ability to leap high above defenders – often more than one – to catch jump balls. The other is his run-after-catch ability. He has great vision, cutting ability and burst to run past defenders. Likely because of his height and long strides, he doesn’t look like he’s running that fast, but he pulls away from defenders like they’re stuck in quicksand. The only detriment to his game in terms of scheme fit in Payton’s offense is that he has shown little versatility in where he lines up. Almost every snap he took at A&M was from the right side as the most outside receiver.
Still, the Saints might view him in a similar manner to the way Thomas Dimitroff viewed Julio Jones a few springs past – a guy who is a game-changer, who takes the offense from very good to great. They might even deem him worthy of trading up in the draft and giving up future picks, or additional picks in this draft.
And though I believe the Saints have larger needs than the wide receiver spot, I actually think for once I’d support that kind of move. Evans is a rare specimen and an almost guaranteed superstar in the making.