The Saints have cleaned house the last two years, parting ways with long-time fixtures like Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, Darren Sproles and Devery Henderson. But thanks to some contract restructuring, the 32-year-old Colston is still around. Colston was actually plenty efficient last year, averaging 9.1 YPT on 99 looks, good for 13th among the league's 50 95-target WR, and that was despite dropping seven passes, too many for a receiver getting No. 2 volume. Besides the reduced overall usage, Colston saw only 13 targets in the red zone, down from 23 in 2012, his most recent healthy season. At 6-4, 225, with a 4.50 40 at the 2006 Combine, Colston's game has always been more size, strength and ball skills than speed, and that's even more the case these days. On the bright side, with Graham and Stills gone, and New Orleans not adding a single pass catcher in the draft, Colston is competing mainly with the small, quick Brandin Cooks for targets, and the rest of the Saints' depth, particularly the red-zone options (Nick Toon and Josh Hill), is unestablished and unproven.
Hampered by foot and knee injuries in the first half of the year, the 31-year old Colston failed to post 1,000 yards receiving and seven scores for the first time since 2008. Nonetheless, after missing Week 9, he caught 48 of his 70 targets for 601 yards and four scores in the season’s final eight games. Double that, and you get 96-1202-8, which isn’t far from his career norms. At 6-4, 225 and running a 4.5 40, Colston was one of the forebears of the modern No. 1 receiver – a big man with enough speed for his size. By now, he’s likely lost a step but is still the team’s clear No. 1 wideout – unless you count tight end Jimmy Graham who often lines up in the slot and out wide. Kenny Stills, who had a solid rookie year, will be used to stretch the field, and Brandin Cooks was drafted to fill the Lance Moore/Darren Sproles role, but a healthy Colston should still get his targets both in the middle of the field and the red zone for one of the league’s best offenses.
If you want a top-10 receiver, look elsewhere. But top-20? Colston's money in the bank.
Last year, he was No. 11, after posting the second-highest yardage and TD totals of his career, and in the six seasons (out of seven) since 2006 in which he played 14 or more games, Colston's never failed to crack 1,000 yards or score fewer than seven times. He's also never had more than 11 touchdowns or surpassed 1,202 yards.
Colston's not fast, but his size (6-4, 224) and status as the No. 1 target in one of the league’s best offenses make him a good bet for some easy scores. Last year, he was tied for second in red-zone looks (23) and converted those into 10 TDs.
Colston isn't much of a big-play threat (just two receptions of 40-plus), and he turned 30 in June, but with Sean Payton returning, and the Saints suddenly thin at receiver beyond Colston, Lance Moore and tight end Jimmy Graham, he's one of the safer players on the board.
If you need a top-20 receiver, Colston is money in the bank. Just don’t expect top-10 in a system that spreads the ball around so much. Colston actually had the most efficient season of his career in 2011, with 10.7 YPA (3rd) and 1,143 yards in just 14 games. Of course, Drew Brees set the all-time record for passing yards, so Colston’s numbers hardly jump out in that context. Colston also managed nine TDs last year but Brees threw 46, so he didn’t take a large proportion of the scoring strikes, either. In fact, Colston saw just 13 red-zone looks all year, while fellow wideout Lance Moore had 16 and 6-7 tight end Jimmy Graham had 28. At 6-4, 224, Colston isn’t fast, but he’s a big target and a good route runner who finds space to operate in the league’s most prolific offense. Colston’s been plagued by nagging injuries throughout his career and has had to have surgeries on his knee, wrist and thumb in recent years. But this past offseason, he’s had a clean bill of health, and the Saints rewarded him with a five-year deal with nearly $20 million guaranteed.
It's hard not to expect more from Drew Brees' No. 1 target, but Colston is routinely a top-20 receiver, even if he hasn't cracked the top-10 since 2007. At 6-4, 224, Colston isn't fast, but he's sure-handed and finds space to operate in an offense that features multiple weapons and is among the hardest in the NFL to read or defend. Colston saw 22 red-zone targets (tied for 5th), but brought in just seven touchdowns. It appears for now Lance Moore and Robert Meachem are still merely complementary pieces, and Colston should once again be Brees' top target in 2011. Of some concern is the emergence of 6-8 tight end Jimmy Graham who could steal some of Colston's red-zone looks. Colston had arthroscopic surgery on his knee and wrist this offseason, but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
You’d think being the Saints No. 1 wideout
would entail more than 106 targets (26th). But
Drew Brees spreads the ball around so much
that no one else in the offense is assured of
producing on any given week.
It’s not all bad, though. Colston still managed
1,074 yards and nine scores, thanks to a massive
10.1 yards per target (3rd) and 24 red-zone
looks (tied for 4th). At 6-3, 231, and with good
hands, Colston’s well suited for work around the
goal line, but despite his gaudy per-play average,
he’s not very fast. The Saints offense is so wide
open that he was able to make big plays — four
catches of 40 yards or more — but he’s not going
to blow by defenders like teammates Robert
Meachem and Devery Henderson.
The one concern heading into 2010 is
whether Meachem supplants Colston as Brees’
top read, but it’s a minor one as there should be
enough to go around, and in any event, being the
top dog in this diversified attack isn’t that important.
Colston’s upside is limited as a result, but so
is his floor.
Colston’s season-ending stats don’t look like much, but when you factor in five missed games due to a thumb injury, and two ineffective ones to shake off the rust, his per game numbers were roughly in line with what you’d expect.
What wasn’t expected was Colston massive spike in yards per catch (16.2 in 2008 from 12.3 in 2007). While Colston averaged 14.8 yards per catch during his rookie campaign in 2006, the Saints looked for him farther down the field last season, instead relying on Lance Moore to move the chains. In fact, Colston had three catches of 40-plus yards on just 88 targets. In 2007 he had just two 40-plus catches on 143.
Moreover, it was Moore and not Colston who saw the bulk of the red-zone looks, (25 to Colston’s nine). This is in stark contrast to 2007 when Colston saw 28 red-zone targets (3rd) and 12 goal-line targets (1st). The question is whether the Saints will continue to deploy Colston mostly as a downfield threat in the mold of Bernard Berrian or Santonio Holmes, or revert to using him how they did in 2007. We believe his receiving average will drop down at least to 2006 levels, and his red-zone looks will climb significantly. While Moore did a serviceable job when Colston went down, we suspect the team will once again take advantage of Colston’s ideal red-zone size (6-3, 231) and usually solid hands.
The bottom line, Colston will again return as the No. 1 receiver in the league’s most prolific passing offense. The key for him is merely to stay on the field, something that will be delayed until June following arthroscopic knee surgery this winter. Colston is expected to be 100 percent before the start of training camp, however.
Six games into his sophomore season, some
of us wondered whether George Clooney would
soon be starring in a movie called "Marques
Colston." But in Week 8, Universal canceled production on the "Michael Clayton" sequel as Colston tallied eight catches for 85 yards and three scores and followed that with three straight 100-yard games, proving his rookie year was no fluke. In fact, in the season's last 10 games, Colston had 72 catches for 939 yards and nine touchdowns, fantasy numbers surpassed only by Randy Moss over that span.
Colston's also a good route-runner with excellent
hands (he caught 69 percent of the passes
thrown his way, third among 100-target receivers),
and he benefits from playing with the accurate
Drew Brees in Sean Payton's pass-happy
system. Just don't expect a lot of big plays from
Colston as he managed just 14 catches of more
than 20 yards and two of 40-plus.
Well, that was a pretty good choice with the 252nd pick in the NFL draft.
Forget the fact that Colston became just the sixth rookie receiver since 1995 to have more than 1,000 yards in a season, and consider that while he missed two games outright, he essentially missed the better part of four since he sprained his ankle in the first quarter in Week 11 and then barely played in Week 17. Moreover, he was less than 100 percent in the three games in which he did play down the stretch. If we just take the nine games he played before the injury, and project them over a 16-game season, we get 96 catches for 1,544 yards and 12 touchdowns – the pace Colston was on before he got hurt.
Now there’s no guarantee a healthy Colston would have kept up that blistering pace, and even if he had, it’s far from a sure thing that Drew Brees and the Saints passing game will reprise their magical 2006 season. But that said, we’re optimistic about Colston for a number of reasons. First, his excellent size (6-4, 231) and good route-running make him a difficult matchup for opposing secondaries; secondly, his ability to find the soft spots in zone coverages and fight for the ball in traffic allowed him to catch 61 percent of the balls thrown his way; and third, the dynamic and pass happy nature of Sean Payton’s offense and Brees’ accurate arm create nearly ideal conditions for Colston to produce.
Colston’s big frame also paid dividends in the red zone – he had 14 looks there, four of which he hauled in for scores. He also saw five goal-line targets, scoring on one. And when you consider the time he missed, 14/5 is more like 18/7, and that puts him in the top-10. Given Colston’s size and skill set, the Saints might go to him even more in 2007.
With Joe Horn gone, and only Devery Henderson, Terrance Copper and rookie Robert Meachem around, Colston heads into 2007 as the Saints clear No. 1 option from the receiver position.
Colston certainly has the physical frame and speed to succeed in the NFL, but he'll likely spend his first year on the sideline - the adjustment from Division I-AA Hofstra to the NFL will take some time.