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Spotlight: Marques Colston

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 4th


Jason Wood's thoughts

To say the New Orleans Saints had a tumultuous offseason would be the understatement of a lifetime. The bounty scandal rocked the Saints to their core, culminating in the suspensions of head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt. And although the Drew Brees contract situation had a happy ending, it too served as an unwelcome reason to keep the Saints in the headlines. As the Saints get back to work and set their sights on contending for another Super Bowl, Marques Colston's presence is one of the key reasons why New Orleans is unlikely to miss a beat without its head coach.

Marques Colston is a great American success story. Playing in obscurity at Hofstra University, Colston caught scouts attention with a strong series of camps and postseason workouts, leading the Saints to draft him late in the 7th round of the 2006 draft. Not only did he earn a place on the team, he immediately stepped into a starring role, and has been one of the Saints most productive receivers for six seasons and counting.

Consistency Thy Name is Colston...

Year G Tgts Recs Yards YPR TDs FPTs Rank Catch% Tgt/Game Yds/Game
2006 14 115 70 1,038 14.8 8 152 14 60.9% 8.2 74.1
2007 16 143 98 1,202 12.3 11 186 8 68.5% 8.9 75.1
2008 11 88 47 760 16.2 5 106 35 53.4% 8.0 69.1
2009 16 106 70 1,074 15.3 9 162 13 66.0% 6.6 67.1
2010 15 130 84 1,022 12.2 7 144 19 64.6% 8.7 68.1
2011 14 128 80 1,143 14.3 8 162 11 62.5% 9.1 81.6
TOT 86 710 449 6,239 13.9 48 912 x 63.2% 8.3 72.5

I challenge you to find another receiver with this kind of consistency - there are few, if any. On a per game basis, Colston can be counted on for 8-9 targets, a 60%+ catch rate and 70-80 yards receiving. As you can see, he's also always been an effective TD producer. What's most remarkable about Colston's productivity is that his supporting cast has undergone constant change. As a rookie, Colston had the likes of Reggie Bush (88 catches) and Deuce McAllister (244 carries) lined up with him, and there were no other major receiving threats. In 2007, Bush was still catching passes (73) but the running game was virtually non-existent and the likes of Eric Johnson and David Patten were "threats" for opposing defenses. In the 2009 Super Bowl season, Drew Brees spread the ball around with six players catching between 35 and 51 receptions, yet Colston was there yet again leading the way (70 receptions). Fast forward to 2011 when Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham were establishing themselves as elite playmakers at their respective positions, and yet - just like clockwork - Colston got his numbers.

Making a Mountain out of a Microfracture...

It wasn't long ago that the word "microfracture" sent chills down players' spines, as it was thought to be career-ending. But advances in medical technology have dramatically altered the prognosis for such procedures, with Marques Colston the poster boy for the improved outcomes. Colston has had not one, but two microfracture procedures on his knees - yet as we've already seen, it hasn't cost him one iota of effectiveness.

Lots of Options, but Lots of Targets, Too...

The Saints have a deep bench of offensive playmakers, which has some wondering whether the team is going to spread the ball around too much and frustrate Colston's fantasy prospects. Yet, as we've shown already, Colston always gets his targets. Drew Brees trusts him implicitly. And most importantly, this is a pass happy team. Drew Brees is coming off a record-setting season where he shattered Dan Marino's record for passing yards, and there's no reason to think the run/pass ratio is going to change anytime soon. Most teams couldn't support three elite fantasy receivers consistently, but the Saints absolutely can - we've seen them do so time and time again.

Money Talks, Meachem Walks...

It took the Saints a lot of time and public pressure to finally come to terms with Drew Brees on his new $100 million contract. But the Saints quietly and quickly re-signed Colston this offseason to a 5-year $40 million contract with $19 million guaranteed. New Orleans prioritized Colston and gave him as much money as any receiver in free agency - which speaks to his importance and continued starring role. Meanwhile the team let Robert Meachem leave in free agency, in spite of Meachem being two years younger.

No Payton = No Worries...

I can't sit here and tell you the Saints are going to execute flawlessly without Sean Payton for the season. We don't have much in the history books to use as reference. But I am confident that the Saints offensive productivity will not suffer. Yes, Payton is the architect of the offense and usually called the plays, but all is not lost for the following reasons:

1) Drew Brees is so experienced that he is effectively a coach on the field
2) Colston and most of the other key offensive cogs are veterans of the system
3) OC Peter Carmichael called plays during a stretch of games in 2011 and the team didn't falter one bit

Positives

  • Colston has been amazingly consistent -- regardless of who else is in the lineup
  • Drew Brees is among the most accurate and prolific passers in the NFL, adn Colston is one of his trusted and regular targets
  • Colston is coming off his best season, and was rewarded with a long-term extension that should put to rest any concerns about his knees breaking down

Negatives

  • Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles are both viable options to catch 80-100 receptions in their own right, that's going to mean some down weeks for Colston when he's more of a decoy
  • Colston has missed a game or two in most seasons

Final thoughts

Marques Colston is 29 years old, has had two microfracture surgeries, and may only finish 3rd on his team in receptions behind RB Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham. None of that matters; at least, it shouldn't. Colston has been a model of consistency during his storied career, and the Saints wouldn't have doled out $19mm in guarantees to keep him around if they saw a reduction in his role for the 2012 season and beyond. Drew Brees trusts him implicitly, and we know that as long as they're both on the field -- Colston is a fringe fantasy WR1 and a stellar fantasy WR2. That remains the case, and yet you can draft Colston a round or two later than others in his tier.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Sweet Love said:

Colston is an interesting prospect. You are now dealing with an aging (body-wise) WR who has only played a full slate twice in his career. With that said, he tends to only miss a couple of games and his numbers while not "elite" would be on target if he could play the full-tilt. He tends to get his TDs (his lowest is 7 over a 14+ game season) and he is usually good for 70+ receptions and 1000+ yards. In PPR, you are already at 210+ points and that seems to be a floor, if healthy.

Modog814 said:

Colston has several things in his favor:

1) A potent passing attack.
2) A nose of for the end zone.
3) And perhaps most importantly. The biggest drawback to picking any Saints player (or Packer or Patriot really too) is that they have so many weapons there's always that chance that the player just doesn't get his normal amount of targets in a week. With Colston, he's so sure handed that even if he only gets 5 targets you still have a good shot at getting 4 receptions out of it.

saintfool said:

i'm very confident the saints defense will be much improved. they've overhauled their LB corps across the board with lofton anchoring the middle, for starters. they've got to get some improved play along the DL but those LBs are a vast improvement over the past few years.

colston is colston. i expect he'll have another 75/1100/6 td type of season. i think teams will forget about him some as they try to neutralize sproles and graham. he'll be good again but this might be his last truly vital season on the saints. age either erodes the skills or the body. henderson and moore all have their roles. no surprises there.


Marques Colston projections

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Jason Wood751080700
Message board consensus851164800