When Saints starting tight end Coby Fleener's 2017 season ended 5 games earlier than expected due to a concussion that he suffered during a Week #13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, it was a disappointing finish to Fleener's 2nd season after the team signed him to a 5-year, $36 million contract back in 2016 NFL Free Agency.
However, Fleener's production wasn’t really all that impressive even before he was lost for the year, as he only made 22 receptions for 295 yards. Fleener is set to count $8 million against the cap in the 2018 season, with a $6.3 million salary.
There is almost no chance (as in ZERO percent) that Fleener sticks around at those numbers, and while a pay cut is possible, it is more likely the Saints cut him outright. Doing so would save New Orleans $3.2 million against the salary cap, which could be used elsewhere.
As New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill observed last week: the rest of the Saints tight end group wasn’t much better — at least in the receiving game — as they collectively totaled 472 yards on 44 receptions. It was the lowest yardage total New Orleans received from the position since 2006, when Mark Campbell, Billy Miller and a handful of other players combined for 411 yards. The next lowest figure was 711 yards, set in 2007.
Underhill adds that the evaporation of the tight end position within the Saints offense in 2017 wasn’t for lack of opportunities. Drew Brees attempted 108 passes with two or more tight ends on the field. 23 of those targets went to tight ends, which was 21% of the time or every 5th pass.
Underhill then cautions that if the Saints are going to continue to be a team that relies on the running game and uses heavy sets, it will need to find a way to get tight ends who demand a bigger piece of the pie. New Orleans just needs to find the right players to take advantage.
Which brings us this morning to the one player perhaps best suited to cure whatever woes that the Saints are currently experiencing with the tight end position: the #1 ranked tight end in the 2018 NFL Draft Class, South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert.
Goedert — the "e" is silent, so his last name is pronounced GOD-ert — has evolved into a projected first rounder on at least two boards. Both Bleacher Report and SB Nation have the Britton, South Dakota native going in round one to (you guessed it) the New Orleans Saints, with the 27th overall pick.
During his time at South Dakota State, the 6-foot-4, 260 pound Goedert had nearly 200 catches for almost 3,000 yards; and many Draft experts are now comparing him to current Philadelphia Eagles (and new World Champion) tight end Zach Ertz.
In fact: Pro Football Focus says that Goedert has shown that he can be used quite similarly to Ertz, as the Jackrabbits lined him up in-line, in the slot and out wide in order to take advantage of different coverage defenders. Goedert was so versatile that he was used in the Jackrabbits’ screen game at WR and even given some carries as a RB.
Despite the fact that he played at a smaller school, Goedert obviously became a certifiable "weapon" at South Dakota State; although the biggest question that will follow him is can he make the step up to the next level of competition in the professional ranks.
Goedert had a standout career for the Jackrabbits, with 198 receptions for 2,945 yards and 21 touchdowns. He caught a whopping 169 passes for 2,361 yards and 17 touchdowns during his last two seasons alone. Essentially, he's as big as an O-Lineman but with WR skills.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay says that Goedert is an underrated talent who has dominated his small-school competition, has the athletic ability to give linebackers issues, and his size is (and will be) trouble for CB's. But McShay cautions: the off-season process of these next few months will be big for him, to prove that he belongs in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus NFL Draft Analyst Jordan Plocher says that Goedert boasts a 79″ 5/8′ wingspan with massive 10″ 1/8′ hands, which automatically gives him an advantage as he is essentially larger than any NFL coverage defender.
If a team puts a smaller quicker coverage player like a cornerback on Goedert, then he can use his basketball background to box out the smaller man and come down with the ball and quite often also break a tackle with his strength or powerful stiff arm.
Plocher also observes that Goedert is an incredible red-zone threat, with his ability to use his frame to box out smaller defenders and his huge catching radius. Goedert also possesses rare ability to pluck the ball out of the air with just one of his massive hands while keeping a defender at bay with the other arm.
Plocher adds that Goedert excels at jumping and getting the ball at a higher point than the defender can. His long arms, explosive leaping ability and soft hands present a huge and reliable target area for his quarterback and often result in "highlight-reel" catches.
Plocher notes that Goedert is one of the premier offensive mismatch weapons in the class, as he is too fast for linebackers to cover and too powerful for defensive backs to handle alone. Goedert’s size and unique ability make it possible for quarterbacks to just throw it up to him in the red zone with great success.
Plocher believes that Goedert should be an immediate starter at tight end in the NFL and can be highly productive if paired with a creative offensive coordinator who will use him in a myriad of ways.
Clearly, there isn't any doubt whatsoever how well Goedert would fit in the Saints offense under Sean Payton, which is the reason why so many current Mock Drafts have Goedert being selected by New Orleans with the #27 overall pick.
The fact that Goedert told reporters at the Senior Bowl last month that the Saints were the very first team that he interviewed with during his time in Mobile (Goedert didn't play in the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring injury that he suffered during practice for the game that week) has led to further speculation about the chance of him being selected by New Orleans.
"Playing with a great quarterback like that (with Drew Brees), that'd always be fun," he said.
Fun times, indeed. Getting a player with the talent that Goedert possesses no doubt would provide a huge boost to the Saints passing game,, and definitely would "revitalize" the tight end position within the Saints offensive scheme.
The only thing that would seem to prevent Goedert from coming to NOLA at this point would either be another team ahead of the Saints deciding to take Goedert for themselves; or if the Saints feel that there's some other player still available at that point that is better-suited towards their team needs.
But given that the tight end position SCREAMS OUT to be addressed within these next months, the likelihood that Goedert could become a member of the Black and Gold in a few months from now, would seem to be a very strong possibility.