In 2017, the Saints displayed one of the most productive offenses in the NFL. Despite having a Hall of Fame QB, an offensive rookie of the year, and three more star studded pro bowlers, the team struggled on third down. The Saints finished 2017 ranked 22nd in third down conversion percentage, gaining first downs on just 36.49% of their third down attempts. Why does a team with such a talented offense manage to fail consistently on third? You can blame poor play calling, bad luck, or penalties, but the biggest problem is a lack of a slot receiver. Cam Meredith may just be the answer to this problem.
Before the 2017, PFF had ranked Willie Snead the fifth best slot receiver in the NFL. With Cooks being traded, Snead was the man who stepped up. However, in the 2017 season, we saw his production plummet. He finished the season with only 92 total yards, a stat he had broken in just one game in 2016. There are many reasons why Snead wasn’t succeeding, but the one thing that was clear was his presence on third down was missed. We’ve seen the slot dominated in the Payton era by smaller receivers, such as Saints hall of famer Lance Moore. However, Meredith’s size and play style mimics arguable the best wide receiver in Saints history, Marques Colston. Colston lined up both on the outside and in the slot for New Orleans, but spent a higher percentage of the time on the inside. Sean Payton was able to utilize his size to make him one of the greatest steals in NFL draft history.
The Saints brought in former Bears wide receiver Cam Meredith, on a two year deal to man the slot. If we can learn one thing from the past, it’s that slot receivers are made to succeed in New Orleans. Cam Meredith has the size to be a big target in the Big Easy, standing at 6’3″ and weighing around 200 pounds. Before tearing his ACL in 2017, Cam Meredith had a 888 yard and 4 TD season. That was just 7 yards less than where Snead finished. Even at Meredith’s size, he posses quick speed and crisp route running. Like Colston, Meredith is able to line up both on the outside or inside and make plays. However, despite his versatility, Meredith saw most of his success coming from within the slot. With Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, and newly drafted Tre’Quan Smith, the wide receiver corp is crowded. However, the only player that saw over 30% of snaps in the slot was Brandon Coleman. The slot position is a utilized position for Sean Payton, and Cameron Meredith has a chance to step up and fill that role.