It’s worth debating in certain circles if Drew Brees has had a better career than, say, Joe Montana. The stats favor Brees by a pretty wide margin, but some fans are suckers for Super Bowl rings, and Montana has more of those (4:1). By that logic, though, does that mean Trent Dilfer was superior to Dan Marino? Uh-oh, no way, nope. Championships therefore don’t account for everything and in further defense of Drew, he never had a Hall of Fame wideout like Jerry Rice to catch his passes. Heck, he didn’t even have many John Taylor-level guys in his arsenal. It’s safe to say that #9 is a genuine overachiever, as few quarterbacks have done more with less.
As for those players of lesser talent who helped to emphasize the overachieving ways of this undersized QB, that long list of receivers that never reminded anyone of Jerry Rice, “worst” is a harsh word to use. But the game of football is harsher (Plus, “Serviceable” and “Middling” just don’t have the same pop). Respect goes out to Joe Horn and Marques “Respect the Longevity” Colston for being alpha dogs and earning 90+ ratings in Madden games. Now let’s cover the other guys in this countdown of Drew’s receivers who were sometimes notable for making fans say, “Wow…that’s some quarterback.”
15. Lance Moore
Lance Moore was either hurt or hobbled for most of New Orleans’ triumphant 2009 season, which is a shame because that was the only year he could not stay healthy as a Saint. He has other strange blips on the radar: The numbers show he only started seven games in 2012 and yet, unlike the guys who sometimes started in his place, Moore was able to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. Other seasons reflect this trend: Despite getting a little less playing time than some of his fellow wideouts, he posted slightly better numbers than they did.
As a capable receiver in a pass-happy offense, Moore was targeted a staggering 121 times in 2008, which he converted into a stat line of 79/928/10. Drew targeted him 100+ times in 2012 as well and Moore reeled in 65. Constantly having a supporting role to a good but not great receiver like Marques Colston gives some perspective on his career though and for years, he was always vying with the next two players on the list to be the real second banana split wide for the Saints.
14. Devery Henderson
His speed could trouble secondaries and take the top off of defenses, but when it comes to assessing his all-around skills as a receiver, the Devery is in the details. With that pun we can’t unread behind us forever, let’s break down those details: Henderson was a pretty a one-dimensional deep threat who never excelled as a route-runner. From 2006-2008, he averaged over 20 yards a catch and that’s impressive, but he never topped 800 yards in any of those seasons.
The Louisiana native got a scholarship to LSU due to his prowess in football as well as track. At the ’04 Combine, he ran a remarkable 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. Blazing speed was a given with Henderson, but he was never going to be the total package at wide receiver. Like Moore before him and the next pass-catcher on the list, he complimented the reliable Colston and gave Brees a decent upgrade at receiver compared to what he had in San Diego.
13. Robert Meachem
By the virtue of being a fixture in a potent offense and winning a Super Bowl ring, it seems that Robert Meachem had a pretty solid run, but a closer look at his numbers reveals he was below-average as a complementary receiver in his seven-year career. The Tennessee alum never topped 50 catches, nor 750 yards, in a season. Unsurprisingly, his career peak came in 2009 for the Saints’ Championship run when he caught 45 balls and nine touchdowns.
As a sign of how much he benefited from Brees, consider his lone season in San Diego, with Pro Bowler Philip Rivers as his quarterback: 14 receptions in 15 games, with a dreadful 43.8% catch rate (receptions divided by targets). He returned to New Orleans the next year in 2013, but his days of averaging 43 catches and 660 yards were finished. He played his final game for Who Dat Nation in 2014, marking the end of an era for Brees WRs (Excluding Colston. Respect the longevity!).
12. David Patten
One of the few receivers to catch passes from Tom Brady (’01-’04) and Drew Brees (’07-’08), Patten was unspectacular for both future Hall of Famers. He went undrafted in 1996, started in the Arena Football League and worked hard to earn a contract in the NFL, so give him credit for lasting over a decade in pro football. But don’t give him credit for being a great receiver.
During his surprisingly long career, Patten averaged just over two touchdowns per season. He never tallied more than 824 receiving yards in a season and in that year, he barely managed to snag over half of his targets (61 out of 120). His catch rates were usually middling, but get this: his career high in that category (62.1%) came in 2007, after the prime of his career, when Brees (not Brady) was slinging him the pigskin. This very minor piece of evidence suggests that maybe, just maybe Brees is a tad more accurate than Brady. But that’s a debate for another day.
11. Kenny Stills
As the Moore/ Henderson/ Meachem era neared its end, Stills was picked by New Orleans in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft. His rookie season was decent, as he caught 32 balls for 641 yards and five scores in support of beastly tight end Jimmy Graham and veteran possession receiver Marques Colston. The next season was his best so far, with a line of 85/931/3, but he was nonetheless deemed expendable.
In March of 2015, Stills was sent to Miami for a third-round pick and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, causing fans to scream, “Oh my God, they traded Kenny!” The emergence of fantasy stud Brandin Cooks no doubt factored into the decision. Since becoming a Dolphin, Stills is learning the hard way that Drew Brees > Ryan Tannehill. His catch rate plummeted from 75.9% to 42.9% the year after the trade. The 24-year-old might have found his way into receiver purgatory and it seems the Saints got the better end of the deal by unloading him.
10. David Boston
It seemed so unlikely that Boston would wind up on this list after the monster season he posted in 2001 with the Cardinals: 98/1,598/8. Those numbers are staggering. They’re Terrell Owens-like. But he’s still properly rated here when considering what transpired in 2003 and thereafter. Boston signed a seven-year deal with San Diego worth $47 million, had a pretty productive year, and then got traded to Miami due to his malignant attitude and poor work ethic. As a Dolphin, he tested positive for steroids and got suspended. He was out of the league by September of 2007.
Boston could have been the premier receiver Brees lacked during his time with San Diego. Instead, he became a cautionary tale. Once he got his mega-deal, he succumbed to arrogance, selfishness, and entitlement. After just one year, San Diego counted their losses and gave him up for a mere sixth-round draft pick. His departure was a sign of things to come for the Chargers at wide receiver.
9. Eric Parker
In 2005, Antonio Gates took the tight end position to another level and earned recognition as an All-Pro for the second time. Brees had another good season as rookie Philip Rivers watched from the sidelines. The Chargers had the best running back in the league, LaDainian Tomlinson, and they were also developing Michael Turner and Darren Sproles in their backfield. That’s incredible. Less notably, Eric Parker started nine games at wideout. He was overshadowed by an aging Keenan McCardell.
Parker was the prototype of Drew’s options at receiver during the San Diego years. The team’s talent at QB/RB/TE made their plight at WR seem even sorrier. In the two seasons after David Boston went bust, Parker averaged 52 receptions, 708 yards, and 3.5 TDs. Simply put, he was underwhelming. His last season in the NFL was Drew’s first with New Orleans in 2006. Parker fared even worse with Rivers as his quarterback, earning him a spot on our list of the worst receivers Philip Rivers has ever had.
8. Reche Caldwell
The receiving woes of the Lightning Bolts continue with Caldwell. From ’02-’05, he started when Brees was under center. This is in spite of the fact that in 2003, Caldwell was targeted 34 times for a meager eight catches. That’s a dreadful rate of 23.5%. There was nowhere to go but up in his next two seasons, but he averaged just 23/331/2 during that span.
Like the aforementioned David Patten, he caught some balls from both Brees and Brady. Unlike Patten, Caldwell had better luck with Brady en route to a line of 61/760/4 in 2006, a career year by his standards. The next season the Patriots felt the need to upgrade at wide receiver by acquiring Randy Moss and Wes Welker (Not a coincidence). As for Caldwell’s stint with Brees, it was even more forgettable. Drew has thrown to so many guys who cause football amnesia.
7. Tim Dwight
An All-American standout at the University of Iowa, this return man managed to play for a decade in the NFL even though his glory days as a Hawkeye were behind him. In addition to punt and kickoff return duties, the undersized Dwight chipped in as a fourth receiver, scoring 19 times through the air during his career.
He had a fellow Big Ten Conference competitor in Brees, a Purdue Boilermaker who set passing records and the two were teammates in San Diego from 2001-2004. In ’02, the duo made this state line happen: 50/623/2, with a catch rate of 53.8%. Not terrible, keeping in mind his peers, but that was his peak, by far, with #9 as his signal-caller. Though he was still valued for his skills as a returner, Dwight was phased out of the offense over the next few years.
6. Kassim Osgood
Like the previous entry, Kassim Osgood made an impact on special teams, excelling in punt and kickoff coverage so much so that he got Pro Bowl honors as a gunner on three occasions. As a wide receiver, though, he was a non-factor. Four of his five career touchdowns came during Drew’s stint in Southern California; he caught 15 balls in 2004. It was a career mark.
To belabor a tired point about these Chargers, Osgood started seven games that year, managing a measly catch rate of 45.5%. The state of their receivers was dismal while the team had a window of opportunity due to the talents of Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates. With wideouts that were at least decent, perhaps San Diego could have challenged New England and Indianapolis for supremacy in the AFC. That never happened and Brees left for New Orleans to eventually make history.
5. Brandon Coleman
The first active Saint to make the list, it might be a bit dismissive to rank this third-year player out of Rutgers in this spot. But what is life without a little gambling? Furthermore, this guy was signed as an undrafted free agent, so apparently 31 NFL teams didn’t think much of him, either. Coleman has caught just three scores as of this writing and he’s averaging less than ten yards per catch thus far in 2016, and with cold truth such as that, people can’t help but assume you’re gonna have a lamer career than Kassim Osgood.
On the depth chart, Coleman ranks behind the most talented trio of receivers Brees has had in a long time: Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, and Michael Thomas. Saints fans would much rather see those three remain healthy and productive and not roll the dice on Coleman. If he plans to stay on New Orleans’ roster as a fourth or fifth receiver, it might help to contact Kassim Osgood on LinkedIn to get some tips on how to thrive as a special teamer.
4. Joe Morgan
He shares his name with a baseball legend, but it’s doubtful there will be a Joe Morgan inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in the foreseeable future. With three scores, he did find the end zone more often than Nick Toon did (foreshadowing) and incredibly, Morgan averaged 33.6 yards per catch in a small sample size. Honestly, this guy had real potential. He also rushed for 67 yards on a play in 2014, as anyone who started him that week in fantasy football will fondly recall with a twinkle in their eyes.
Now for the downside: Morgan has only caught 14 balls as a pro. In consecutive years, he had catch rates of 47.6% and 40%. He was plagued by recurrent and debilitating knee injuries. Morgan did make a few jaw-dropping plays worth a look on YouTube during his short stint in the league, but the Canton, Ohio, native will never know the joy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame in his hometown.
3. Terrance Copper
He’s not the first undrafted free agent on this countdown, nor is he unique for his ability to thrive in special teams coverage. For fourth, fifth, and sixth receivers, demonstrating value when the kickers and punters are on the field can be the difference between making a six-figure salary and scoping CareerBuilder. Glamorous or not, special teams are one of three vital phases of the game of football.
As for the reason we’re here, Copper’s skills as a wide receiver were lackluster. Look at this stat line: 84/1,018/6. That’s a very good season. Only, those are his career numbers, over nine years. His best campaign came when Drew Brees was his quarterback, as you might expect, in 2006, when he snared 23 receptions for 385 yards and three touchdowns. His catch rate was a dubious 54.8%. Don’t blame Drew.
2. Nick Toon
Was there a Big Ten connection? Yup, he might have made a friendly wager with Drew anytime the Badgers played the Boilermakers. NFL pedigree? You bet, his dad Al is the Jets’ best receiving threat in Tecmo Super Bowl. Productive pro career as a wide receiver? Ooh, two out of three for Nick.
*Nicholas Adam Toon never got his mojo working in the NFL. The fourth-rounder caught four of his 12 targets in 2013. He did follow that up with a career year, snagging 17 for 215 and a touchdown. That was the last season he caught a pass in the NFL. As a Ram in 2015, he was relegated to the practice squad–which spoke volumes, since the Rams were pretty desperate at that position. He has yet to officially retire and remains 30 touchdowns behind his dad for bragging rights at Toon family get-togethers.
1. Adrian Arrington
Before we get on with the snark and cynicism, it’s worth noting that Adrian Arrington was still a better wide receiver than me or well over 99% of the folks reading this article. The guy’s a playable character in Madden games, for God’s sake! Come on, how cool would it be to catch as a pass from Drew Brees as yourself in Madden football, let alone in real life? That is a thrill I will surely never know.
OK, so, the Saints treated Adrian Arrington like he was a cheap yo-yo as he got jettisoned between their practice squad and active roster. In 2012, they cut him on the day before the season opener, then re-added him two days later. Then he got hurt and placed on injured reserve, and that was the end of his career, in which he totaled nine catches for 110 yards. Where’s the touchdown?! Maybe those three words haunt Adrian Arrington to this day, causing him to fire up a copy of Madden 11 in a sad attempt to actually get that TD. Madden 11 has Drew Brees on the cover, by the way. He’s awesome… the complete opposite of Adrian Arrington.
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