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On Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, and Nick Toon’s Quiet Storm Upside

nicktoon

Somewhere along the way, we all forgot that Nick Toon was a thing. To be quite honest with all of you, I sort of forgot he existed until the Saints first preseason game, where he played the lion’s share of snaps at right wide receiver (outside) for the team. I wrote this semi-lengthy piece about Toon last offseason, asking if he was the heir to Marques Colston’s WR1 Throne. Despite not playing much last season, only catching four passes for 68 yards, Toon is still someone to monitor in dynasty formats and redraft as no other WR on the Saints roster can fill the Colston role. Brandin Cooks will play a role, and Colston will start the season as a major cog for the Saints, but I’m not sure he stays there.

For a quick Toon refresher, he’s 6’2, runs a 4.42 40, converted 73 percent of his senior season red zone looks into touchdowns, and had a 0.30 Dominator Rating. The reason that I still think he’s a viable dynasty target and a guy to watch in redraft leagues is because of the inevitable cliff that Colston is approaching. His plot graph from the WR Sim Scores App does not paint a pretty picture.

Colstonsimscores

Colston, while a very good player in his career, has never been a player of the caliber of a Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens, or Andre Johnson. To make things even more enticing for Toon, the averaged games played for Colston’s N+1 comparables is 12.6, and Colston has been dealing with a plantar fascia injury for going on two seasons now.1 In general, I don’t bet on 31-year-old WRs. With Drew Brees as his quarterback, a ton of age-related decline can be mitigated by his QB’s skill, but if his efficiency declines enough, Toon becomes a viable option.

I’m not asserting that Colston is absolutely toast but I do think that Toon probably offers the best value out of any New Orleans pass catcher at this point. Much of the discussion surrounding New Orleans receiving options has focused on incoming rookie Brandin Cooks. Cooks is just undraftable in redraft leagues with his hefty price tag and the history of small rookie WRs. Take a look at what WRs his size–who were drafted in the first and second round–have done in their rookie seasons.

Player Year Tm Ht Wt G Rec Yds Y/R TD
DeSean Jackson 2008 PHI 05-10 178 16 62 912 14.71 2
Tavon Austin 2013 STL 05-09 174 13 40 418 10.45 4
Santana Moss 2001 NYJ 05-10 185 5 2 40 20 0
Santonio Holmes 2006 PIT 05-10 185 16 49 824 16.82 2
Dexter McCluster 2010 KAN 05-09 165 11 21 209 9.95 1
Eddie Royal 2008 DEN 05-10 182 15 91 980 10.77 5
Sinorice Moss 2006 NYG 05-08 185 6 5 25 5 0
Roscoe Parrish 2005 BUF 05-10 168 10 15 148 9.87 1
Dexter Jackson 2008 TAM 05-10 180 7 0 0 0
 

Now, Cooks is absolutely the best small WR prospect of the last decade, so using these seasons as a baseline is probably aiming a little too low. The reason for using first- and second-round draft picks as comps is to look at guys who would have commanded the same playing time as Cooks. T.Y Hilton was a smaller rookie, but didn’t fit in the same draft classification. What we do know that is guys that are Cooks’ weight and under six feet tall rarely have significant rookie performances. This list of comps averaged only 28.5 catches and 355.6 yards, which would leave a huge chunk of Brees’ non-Jimmy Graham and non-running back passing stats unaccounted for. Cooks will have some moments no doubt, but if he’s going to be inconsistent and Colston begins to slow down (as players his age have a tendency of doing), Toon becomes a player the Saints might need.

Is Toon a slam dunk? Of course not. According to reports from Saints camp, he’s off to a “good start” but it’s far from anything definitive. Sean Payton was quoted as saying “This year I definitely see him as someone who competes and factors in for not only playing time, but for touches.” Toon’s roster spot on the Saints 53-man roster should be secure, as he is fighting with the ancient Robert Meachem (who is already suffering from a back injury), and the undersized Joseph Morgan (who missed all of last season with a torn ACL). There seems to be fair amount of love for Kenny Stills in the fantasy community and I’m sure that most of it is warranted given his assumed role in the offense. To be ministerial for a second, Toon had the better college resume, is built like a WR1 (and eerily the same size as Marques Colston), and would fill a role that has provided consistent fantasy points in the past. The cost is quite literally non existent and he is the only free member of the New Orleans Saints offense. That alone makes him worth monitoring.

  1. Although camp reports suggest his foot is doing better.  (back)

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