Cam Meredith had somewhat of a breakout year in 2016, and was a popular late round pick in 2017 fantasy drafts until he tore his ACL in the third preseason game prior to the beginning of the season. With Alshon Jeffery in and out of the lineup in 2016, Meredith ended up leading the Bears in targets, receiving yards and receiving TDs. He showed great improvement and ability in his route running as far as his route tree and execution of those routes, was versatile enough to line up all over the formation, and showed off an impressive catch radius. In the last 5 games of that season, Meredith averaged 6 catches for 88 yards. Well, the Bears didn’t think he was worth the investment, as they didn’t match the Saints restricted free agent offer. Now that the Saints have a new weapon, where does Meredith fit in?
Let’s first talk about his versatility. In 2016, Meredith caught almost an equal number of passes when he lined up in the slot compared to when he was on the outside. In the slot, he had 34 catches for 426 yards and a TD, and racked up 32 catches for 462 yards and 2 TDs while on the outside. His success rate on targets was higher than 50% in every single area of the field, from short left to deep right. He averaged 2.89 yards of separation per target while in the slot compared to 1.93 on the outside. When you put him in the slot, he’s bigger than most nickel corners, and gets out of his breaks quickly enough to be a mismatch against safeties. And that’s exactly where I expect the Saints to line him up on majority of snaps.
At the end of his career, Marques Colston was the Saints leader in receptions, receiving yards, and TDs. I think it would be an understatement to think that his role was a huge part of how Sean Payton and Drew Brees liked to attack defenses. Meredith can be placed in the slot and be that big receiver that can run up the seam that the Saints have lacked since Jimmy Graham and Colston. Not only that, but he provides quickness that neither of these players had, so coaches can use his mostly developed route tree to their advantage.
Michael Thomas is not used the same way Colston was. Thomas is purely an outside receiver, playing roughly 10 snaps from the slot per game, while Colston was the primarily slot receiver for Brees and the Saints. From 2006 all the way to 2014, Colston either reached 1000 yards or was on pace for it. I believe Meredith can provide solid PPR value as a WR3 floor with upside in a role that the Saints have always tried to fill, regardless of Michael Thomas. Does Thomas take a hit? Probably. The Saints have become a run-first team, and targets have to be taken from somewhere. Thomas is still the guy to own, and is still the #1.. I just wouldn’t pay for him at his ceiling price.
What do you guys think? Will Meredith make as much of an impact as I think he can make? Or will he not affect Michael Thomas much? Comment below!