The New Orleans Saints have used the past two offseasons to restock the shelf at wide receiver.
We've already pegged first-round pick Brandin Cooks as a lead candidate to top all rookie pass-catchers in yardage this season. He's also an ideal complement to deep threat Kenny Stills, the subject of our latest Game Rewind study.
Watching every Stills target from last season, I came away encouraged over what the former Oklahoma star can bring to a New Orleans scheme that has waved goodbye to both Lance Moore and Darren Sproles.
Stills doesn't boast the size to dominate physically, but he consistently displayed the concentration to win one-on-one matchups from the preseason on. Check out the embedded clip from last summer's exhibition tilt against the Texans: Draped by Houston cover man Kareem Jackson, Stills maintains upper body control and keeps his feet in bounds for the clutch third-down conversion.
When Chris Wesseling took a look at Cleveland's Jordan Cameron this week, he noted journeyman Jason Campbell's reluctance to target the athletic tight end in traffic. A shame, considering Cameron's ability to win matchups. That wasn't a problem in New Orleans, where the risk-taking Drew Brees trusted Stills to make plays from wire to wire.
The quarterback and rookie developed an instant connection: Brees -- who calls Stills "Lance Moore 2.0" -- chalked up a passer rating of 139.3 on throws to Stills, 10-plus points higher than any other passer-receiver combination in 2013, per Pro Football Focus.
The wideout's 4.35 40 speed brought a dangerous element to the passing game. Serving as a deep target for Brees, Stills finished his rookie campaign leading all NFL receivers with 20 yards per catch. He also ranked 13th in the league with a 69.6 percent catch rate, a figure that looks more impressive with Pro Football Focus' Mike Clay pointing out that 15 of his 50 targets came at least 20 yards downfield.
His yards per catch average will dip this season, but only because we expect Stills to be much more ingrained in the pass attack as a viable No. 2 option. He played a prominent role during offseason practices with Jimmy Graham floating in the abyss. Beat writers noticed Stills' rare athleticism and ability to adjust to off-kilter throws.
Opponents caught hell last year when they attempted to match slower defenders against Stills. Buffalo made the dire mistake of dropping defensive lineman Jerry Hughes into coverage against the burner. Easy touchdown for the rookie, who isn't likely to be taken so lightly come September.
Situationally, Stills couldn't be in a better spot. Coach Sean Payton consistently dialed up creative slot combinations and route concepts to free up his young pass-catcher, who ran a heavy dose of go routes but also won his share of contests over the middle.
After years of familiar faces at receiver, Cooks and Stills -- and don't ignore Nick Toon -- give the Saints a new cast of playmakers. This newfound versatility makes New Orleans a tantalizing option for the "2014 Team of ATL."