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New Orleans Saints: Nick Toon still favorite for No. 3 gig

 

New Orleans Saints: Nick Toon still favorite for No. 3 gig

Nov 30, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Nick Toon (88) fights off Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) to score an eleven yard touchdown during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Saints won 35-32. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 After confirming that the New Orleans Saints would use a committee approach to replace the production lost after Jimmy Graham‘s trade to the Seattle Seahawks, ESPN NFL Nation’s Mike Triplett wrote in his latest mailbag piece that fourth-year pro Nick Toon has the “slight edge” for No. 3 wide receiver duties.It’s clear that ascending second-year Oregon State product Brandin Cooks will be the No. 1 guy with a serious chance at flirting with 100 targets, while veteran Marques Colston will return as the No. 2 guy, though he could receive less targets than explosive pass-catching back C.J. Spiller.

Triplett’s decision to stick with naming Toon as the leader of the pack at this stage isn’t a surprise, but it is worth noting that back in June, he wrote that the former Wisconsin star is “still the strong front-runner” as the No. 3 guy despite hype for Seantavius Jonesand big Rutgers product Brandon Coleman.

It’s unclear if those two have simply closed the gap on Toon, or if he’s just being more conservative. Deep threat Joe Morgan and chain-moving veteran Josh Morgan are also lurking on the Saints wide receiver depth chart, but Coleman and Jones look like Toon’s biggest threats.

Triplett writes that Jones “has actually been slightly ahead” of Coleman this offseason, but I think the huge Rutgers wideout has more upside and would play a more interesting role as a big deep threat. He’s earned positive reviews this offseason, and he’s both strong (21 bench press reps at the Combine) and fast (4.56 forty time), so I can’t wait to see him in the preseason.

There will be some heated competition at every wide receiver spot after Cooks and Colston in training camp, but it’s safe to say that the smart money is on Toon due to his experience and athletic tools as a 6’4″, 218-pound WR with decent speed and solid intermediate route-running.

New Orleans Saints

He’s long been a training camp stud, and this could be the year that he turns camp performances into regular season stats after catching just 17 receptions for 215 yards last season (30.7 yards per game) with the lone touchdown of his career. That said, he did average 9.3 yards per target with a 73.9% catch rate, per Advanced Football Analytics, and we all know that Drew Brees has the ability to make intermediate targets with above-average physical tools real assets in an offense, as Brees’s elite accuracy seems to fit Toon’s playing style very well.

Coleman and Jones, though, are definitely players to watch this August, and both wideouts seem to be more exciting than Toon on the surface. But Toon has more polish and intermediate ability, even if Coleman has a mouth-watering size-speed combo with Jones bringing some size and athletic ability to the table.

I wasn’t initially high on Jones, but he has to be on the radar after beat writers like Triplett have praised him in pad-less practices, especially since the 2014 UDFA out of Valdosta State is, again, running ahead of the more touted/hyped Coleman. That said, barring any huge jumps, I think those guys are competing for the No. 4 gig with some competition from Josh and Joe Morgan.