Bucs should target Marques Colston


The needs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers range from secondary help, linebacker, retooling of the offensive line, helping out the passing game, and adding another running back. The Bucs have plenty of money to add key pieces to their roster, and one of those pieces will surely be a receiver. About a week ago, it was first reported that the Bucs were close to signing Mario Manningham. Afterwards, things moved on from being 50-50 odds to a rumor that lost its wheels.

Last month, I wrote an article explaining why Mario Manningham is not the best option for the Tampa Bay Bucs. While my stance on Manningham has not changed, my opinion on the receiver that the Bucs should target has.

After examining the roster, it’s obvious that this team shouldn’t be toying around and signing No. 2 or 3 receivers. They already have Mike Williams as a No. 2 receiver, and can chose from Arrelious Benn, Preston Parker, or Dezmon Briscoe at No. 3. All three of those receivers have upside, so they can just choose whichever one is best and line them up once they have a clear idea of their skills.

However, none of those four receivers is a No. 1 wideout, and therein lies the problem; the Buccaneers need a No. 1 wideout. They can go Williams, Parker, Benn, and Briscoe at 2, 3, 4, and 5; but they need to find that sure-fire guy who can help out Josh Freeman. All of the receivers who are currently on the roster are inconsistent, and the Bucs are also lacking a deep threat.

The good news is that this year’s free agent class is loaded at wide receiver, and there are two star wideouts in particular who can help the Bucs fill one of their biggest needs.

Brandon Lloyd will not be given the franchise tag by the St. Louis Rams, and while he will be 31 years old at the start of the season, Lloyd is one of the best receivers on the free agent market and is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He would be a big upgrade for the Bucs at receiver and has the ability to make extremely difficult catches with his incredible body control and sure hands. Lloyd runs smart routes, and that makes up for his lack of speed. The uncertainty that the last two seasons were legitimate is a negative factor, but Brandon Lloyd is a worthy option for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is a clutch receiver who can help Freeman in so many ways, and he can bail out a young quarterback and can still make catches even when heavily guarded and targeted. Lloyd, unlike a few receivers currently on the Bucs, rarely ever drops a pass.

The other receiver who the Bucs should target is in the NFC South, and the concerns associated with him are different. With the Drew Brees contract situation looming in New Orleans and star guard Carl Nicks set to hit free agency, the Saints might not be able to re-sign Marques Colston. If that happens, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could have a gem on their hands in Colston. The Saints will most likely let Nicks walk, but it will be impossible for them to re-sign both of their soon-to-be free agent receivers in Colston and Robert Meachem.

Right now, the Saints No. 1 receiver is among the top five free agents at his position and a top 20 FA overall. His size (6’4″) is extremely difficult to match up against, and he also has the ability to get separation. However, the problem with Marques Colston is that he is frequently injured and has had many surgeries in his career. Age is not a major issue with Colston (29 to start the season).

As with Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston is one of the most sure-handed receivers in the game. In fact, he had the second lowest drop percentage last season according to the Pro Football Focus. While he does not average many yards after the catch, neither does Brandon Lloyd, but both still manage to stretch the opposition downfield. If Colston was a No. 1 with the Saints, then he can certainly be the feature guy for the Buccaneers.

Both of these wide receivers would fit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive system perfectly, and their ability to be a consistent receiving threat who almost never drops a pass is something that this team sorely needs. Lloyd averaged 13.4 yards per reception last season, while Colston averaged 14.3, so both receivers can stretch the field and haul in long passes. The Bucs can’t go wrong with either receiver, and Josh Freeman’s production will be closer to the heights he achieved in 2010 with one of these two marquee wideouts on the roster.

While Marques Colston is the better receiver, Brandon Lloyd will also be cheaper and is less injury prone. By the same token, some aren’t sold that Lloyd can succeed outside of Josh McDaniels offense and is a little fluky. Neither of those two thoughts hold true, because McDaniels system had no effect on Lloyd’s ability to not drop the football. It actually hurt his rate statistics, because he was getting targeted so often. One thing to note is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Josh’s brother Ben McDaniels to be an offensive assistant.

If Colston is available, the Bucs should sign him and not cut corners. They need to add a star receiver who had an insane 70% Success Rate and is as reliable as it gets in the NFL. He is their dream receiver, but the Bucs should also be happy with Lloyd if they cannot get Colston. However, signing the former Saints receiver is the optimal upgrade for this football team. Just look at the mind-blowing stats below. WPA is wins added and EPA is points added. He is the most reliable receiver in the league, because he catches nearly everything thrown at him and is among the most valuable wideouts in the NFL. He is consistent, never drops the ball, and is underrated. People don’t value consistency as much as they should, which is why Marques Colston is overlooked by some fans. We know he is a big-name free agent, but some people just don’t get how good he’s been. The numbers will fall with Tampa, but the consistency and catching ability won’t.

Marques Colston stats in 14 games (amazing stuff from 2011): 70% Success rate (1st in NFL), 2.4% Drop Rate (2nd in NFL), 2.4 WPA (4th in NFL, 2nd WPA per game at .17), 85.8 EPA (3rd in NFL), 74.8% Catch Rate (1st in NFL) (completion percentage when targeting him), 10.7 yards per target (7th in NFL) (yards per attempt of quarterback when targeting him).

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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