Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Saints Fantasy Preview

Friday, July 14, 2017


Saints Offensive Profile Under Sean Payton

2013-2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 4th, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd
2013-2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 26th, 19th, 20th, 19th
2013-2016 Play Volume Rank: 9th, 3rd, 4th, 1st
2013-2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 143 (12th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 139 (7th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Mark Ingram
WR: Michael Thomas
WR: Willie Snead
WR: Ted Ginn
TE: Coby Fleener
LT: Ryan Ramczyk
LG: Andrus Peat
C: Max Unger
RG: Larry Warford
RT: Zach Strief

Passing Game Outlook

Despite facing the NFL’s third-hardest pass-defense schedule, Drew Brees emerged from 2016 with his 11th straight top-six fantasy quarterback finish. He was outscored by only Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan in cumulative fantasy points and only Rodgers, Ryan, and Tom Brady in per-game scoring. Brees has led the league in passing yards in five of the past six years and has topped 30 touchdown passes in nine straight seasons. Even if his arm strength has decreased slightly at age 38, Brees remains an elite vertical passer with unparalleled ball placement and precision. Per PFF’s charting, Brees finished fourth among quarterbacks in completions on throws traveling 20-plus yards in the air (34) and third in completion rate (56.1%) on such attempts. Brees’ road looks much softer this season against a schedule of enemy defenses Rotoworld SOS analyst Warren Sharp has rated fifth easiest in football. The 2017 Saints play ten games indoors with just one potential cold-weather game on the entire slate: November 12 (Week 10) in Buffalo. Brees is priced appropriately as the QB3 behind Rodgers and Brady in FF Calculator’s ADP. He is the QB4 in MFL10 best-ball leagues, where Brees should not be going behind Andrew Luck.

Although the NFL let Michael Thomas slip to the 47th overall pick in last April’s draft, it became clear very early on that Thomas would out-produce even his most ardent supporters’ pre-draft expectations. Immediately inserted with the Saints’ first-team offense at minicamp and OTAs, Thomas formed an instant in-practice bond with Brees and ripped up training camp, according to countless beat writer reports. At one point, coach Sean Payton publicly recommended fantasy leaguers should draft Thomas. Thomas went on to surpass Brandin Cooks as Brees’ favorite weapon, pacing the Saints in targets (121), catches (92), and red-zone targets (19) en route to WR7 (PPR) and WR9 (non-PPR) fantasy finishes. Initially billed as Marques Colston’s “big slot” replacement, Thomas wound up playing 88% of his snaps on the perimeter and operated as a true No. 1 wide receiver. While Thomas is now certain to command tougher defensive coverage, his volume has room for growth with Cooks’ 117-target departure. Even for Thomas’ biggest detractors, he is hard to poke holes in as a rock-solid second-round fantasy pick.

Career overachiever Willie Snead enters year three as a Saints starter with to-date receiving averages of 71/940/3.5, good for PPR WR32 (2015) and WR30 (2016) finishes. Thomas’ 2016 emergence transitioned Snead into a full-time slot role, where Snead logged 76% of his snaps. Per PFF’s Scott Barrett, this year’s Saints have the NFL’s third-softest schedule for slot receivers, and New Orleans is missing the NFL’s 12th-most targets (143) from last year. Albeit neither big (5’11/195) nor fast (4.62), Snead is a reliable weapon whose 1.89 yards-per-route-run average in 2016 ranked No. 9 among 54 qualified slot men in PFF’s grades. As the WR30 in ADP, Snead is presently priced at his floor. Especially in PPR leagues where fickle touchdowns matter less, Snead is a cinch fifth-/sixth-round fantasy pick.

Having faced him six times over the past four years, the Saints respected Ted Ginn enough to sign him away from division-rival Carolina to a three-year, $11 million deal. Albeit almost certainly without nearly as much target volume, Ginn is slated for the old Brandin Cooks role as Brees’ No. 2 perimeter wideout who clears out for others and stretches the field vertically. Blossoming late in his career yet still widely slept on, Ginn has placed 35th/96 (2016) and 28th/85 (2015) in PFF’s yards-per-route-run metric the past two seasons. A still-dominant deep threat now playing with by-far the best downfield passer of his career, Ginn is an easy target at his WR53 (MFL10s) and WR68 (FF Calc) ADPs.

Coby Fleener flopped in his 2016 Saints debut, finishing as the TE16 in PPR leagues and TE12 in non-PPR with a four-year low in receptions (50). He reached 60 yards in just 3-of-16 games. Due primarily to blocking deficiencies, Fleener lost significant playing time to Josh Hill before Hill fractured his fibula in Week 13. Fleener finished a disappointing 29th among 40 qualified tight ends in Pro Football Focus’ yards per route run (1.33) and 26th among 46 qualifiers in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. While it’s evident at this point that Fleener simply isn’t a very good football player, he remains an elite athlete at the position whose attachment to Brees in a high-octane offense gives Fleener fantasy upside, particularly at his severely reduced draft cost. Last year’s TE6 in preseason ADP, Fleener has fallen all the way to TE14 in MFL10s and TE16 on FF Calculator. Although Fleener is far from a good re-draft bet, he maintains best-ball and matchup-specific DFS tournament appeal facing the NFL’s fifth-softest tight end schedule based on 2016 fantasy points allowed in a passing game missing the 12th-most targets from last year’s team.

Running Game Outlook

Even as the Saints’ refusal to use Mark Ingram as more than a tandem back with Tim Hightower and Travaris Cadet made him a frustrating 2016 fantasy player to own, Ingram established career bests in rushing yards (1,043), yards per carry (5.09), yards from scrimmage (1,362), and all-purpose touchdowns (10) en route to RB8 (PPR) and RB10 (non-PPR) finishes. Sean Payton went so far as to bench Ingram for losing a fumble in Week 8 versus Seattle, only to watch Ingram erupt for 171 total yards and two scores the next week in San Francisco. Although there is a feeling in the fantasy community that Payton “hates” Ingram, his all-purpose effectiveness should ensure Ingram maintains a fantasy-friendly 2017 role, albeit in another RBBC with Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara. Ingram has finished top 15 among NFL running backs in receptions in consecutive years and is easily the Saints’ best pass-blocking back. As a probable 13-16 touch-per-game player in a high-scoring offense with elite line play, Ingram is at worst a viable RB2/flex every week. Yet the Peterson signing and Kamara draft pick sent Ingram’s ADP tumbling to an RB24 draft slot in MFL10 best-ball leagues and RB31 on FF Calculator. Ingram now looks like a screaming value with league-winning potential in the not-improbable event 32-year-old Peterson breaks down.

Joining the high-octane Saints on a humbling, two-year, $7 million deal, Adrian Peterson will play in the best offense of his career behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines in New Orleans. Last year’s Saints front five ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Line Yards and No. 8 in Pro Football Focus’ yards created before contact per attempt, before adding 332-pound mauler RG Larry Warford in free agency. Although LT Terron Armstead’s shoulder surgery stings, bear in mind Armstead played just 34.6% of last year’s offensive snaps, and New Orleans added first-round insurance in Wisconsin LT Ryan Ramczyk. The Saints have finished top five in running back receptions each year since Brees joined the team, so an expanded receiving role for Peterson should be anticipated, even if it has been scoffed at by the fantasy community. Peterson was an injured bust with the 2016 Vikings, but he led the NFL in rushing yards (1,485) the season prior and now carries the lowest fantasy football Average Draft Position of his career. In PPR leagues, these were Peterson’s ADPs from 2010-2016: 1.02; 1.01; 2.06; 1.01; 1.05; 1.01; 1.11. In 2017 PPR drafts, All Day is going at pick 5.04 on Fantasy Football Calculator and 6.11 in best-ball MFL10s.

The Saints were so smitten with rookie Alvin Kamara that they sent a 2018 second-rounder to the 49ers for the 67th pick, where they drafted a running back who never reached 20 carries in a college game and shared time with non-NFL-prospect plodder Jalen Hurd for the 2016 Tennessee Volunteers. A rich man’s Kenyan Drake, Kamara does offer plus size (5’10/214) and was the No. 2 SPARQ-rated back drafted in this year’s class, behind only UTEP’s Aaron Jones (Packers). Kamara’s NFL readiness remains in question, but beat writers believe he’s ticketed for a Reggie Bush/Darren Sproles role, and reports the Saints tried to trade passing-down specialist Travaris Cadet suggest Kamara will be a factor sooner rather than later. Still, it would take a big camp/preseason performance to make Kamara a truly attractive re-draft target.

2017 Vegas Win Total

Last year’s Saints finished dead even with their preseason Win Total of 7.0 games, playing in a whopping 12 one-score games in which they went a frustrating 5-7. They pretty severely undershot their 8.3-8.4 Pythagorean Win Expectation with a brutal schedule and look like a logical bounce-back candidate with a far weaker slate. Unfortunately, the Saints’ 2017 Win Total is up to 8.0 games, their defense remains a severe weakness further damaged by DT Nick Fairley’s loss, and New Orleans has topped eight victories just once in the last five years. I am genuinely conflicted on where to go with this team. I want to like them, but I just can’t. I’m going under on the basis I think they are likelier to win seven games than nine.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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