Decorated 21st-century poet Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. once famously mused, “Real G’s move in silence like lasagna.”
It’s a fitting line by the New Orleans native because there hasn’t been a lot of hype surrounding this New Orleans Saints offense heading into 2022, but Dennis Allen and the front office have quietly assembled a group capable of making defenses wheezy all season, pleasing fantasy managers in the process.
Let’s take a look at the Saints, position-by-position from a dynasty perspective in our latest Big Easy edition of the 2022 Fantasy Focus series.
Sean Payton is now gone, and mercifully the Taysom Hill Experiment (as a full-ish time quarterback) has come to an end. It’s Jameis Winston’s show now.
The former first overall pick in 2015 has been much-maligned over his career. Whether it’s been stolen crab legs, eating “W’s” or (far more serious in nature) being accused of sexual misconduct, it seems like drama has followed Winston wherever he has gone.
But now at 28 years old, with multiple 4,000-yard seasons and a 5,100-yard season on his resume, there seems to be a certain calmness around Winston in New Orleans. He is married and has two sons. It’s too early to say he has matured, not to mention I don’t know the guy personally, but from afar, Winston has largely done and said all the right things since joining the Saints.
Winston was steady but unspectacular in 2021 before tearing his ACL and MCL in Week 8. Before the injury, Winston’s fantasy production was decent but not elite. He was on pace to throw for 2,841 yards and 34 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
2022 offers a great career opportunity for Winston as he is surrounded by a solid collection of skill position talent. From a dynasty perspective, Winston and his managers have a lot riding on this season.
He is signed through 2023, but his cap hit is not massive next season ($15.6 against the cap in 2023) and the Saints could easily justify keeping Winston as a backup if not cutting ties entirely after 2022.
Behind Winston lurks the Red Rifle himself, Andy Dalton. This is relevant because Dalton is still a decent enough quarterback to produce if Winston were to go down with an injury, which is entirely possible since Winston has missed games in four of the past five seasons and already has had an ankle scare at training camp.
Beyond Winston and Dalton, former Notre Dame standout Ian Book and Tysom Hill are the Saints’ depth options. Hill may or may not take snaps as a quarterback this season, but by all accounts, Allen and the coaching staff aren’t planning for Hill to get a ton of work under center.
All eyes are on Kamara and his legal situation. His hearing for the February 6 battery case he faces has been delayed a third time, this time until September 29, so needless to say, the situation remains murky when it comes to Kamara’s availability in 2022. He could eventually face suspension under the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
For now, it looks like Kamara and the Saints are operating in training camp normally, and any suspension likely wouldn’t be a season-long thing. The problem for Kamara dynasty managers is that even if there’s a shorter suspension in 2022, it still possibly derails Kamara’s age-27 season, which might be one of his last as an elite talent.
If you are someone who believes the chances of a 2022 suspension are slim, Kamara looks poised for another elite season. He has finished as a top-ten PPR running back in all five seasons he has been in the league, and he is just one season removed from finishing as the overall RB1. The overall quality of the Saints 2022 offense looks promising, so opportunities should be plentiful this season for Kamara to score a ton of fantasy points if he’s available.
Behind Kamara, the situation is worth monitoring. Last season, Kamara carried the ball a career-high 240 times. His previous season-high was 194 carries in 2018, so it’s possible that the team tries to scale back Kamara’s work on the ground if they have a worthy backup plan in 2022.
Mark Ingram is back for what seems like his twentieth season for New Orleans. He was largely ineffective in 2021, carrying the ball 160 times for 554 yards (a 3.46 average). Ingram will turn 33 before the season ends, and it’s very likely that he has already passed the point of being a useful player even if Kamara misses time.
Dwayne Washington and Tony Jones Jr. are prime “JAG” status runners and would not be exciting options either if forced into action. Washington hasn’t taken more than 30 carries in a season since 2016. And Jones, who did strum up a little fantasy buzz this time last year, disappointed with 54 carries for just 142 yards (2.63 average) and zero touchdowns.
Someone I am intrigued to watch this preseason is Abram Smith, the undrafted rookie out of Baylor. Yes, the Saints have almost nothing invested in him, and so there’s no obligation to give him a chance, but at 6’0″ and 215 lbs., he has intriguing size and power. He has experience in a zone, one-cut scheme, and looks to finish runs with physicality. By skill-set, Smith appears to fit nicely with Kamara.
In 2021, the Saints’ top three receivers were Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris. Heading into this season, their top three receivers are Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Jarvis Landry. Needless to say, that’s a night and day difference in quality at the position this year.
Thomas is the headliner. Remember, it was only 2019 when he broke the NFL record for receptions with 149 on 185 targets. He is still not even 30 years old. Thomas appears healthy and happy heading into 2022. If he’s even a percentage of the player he was three seasons ago, he will put up solid numbers in this offense.
Olave, whom the Saints moved up in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft for, enters the fray as a perfect complement to Thomas. His deep speed, route-running, and playmaking ability down the field will fit nicely with Thomas operating over the middle of the field. Olave’s skill-set also fits very well with what Winston likes to do, which is throw the ball down the field. I would not be shocked at all if Olave ended 2022 as the Saints’ top receiver and he had a Pro Bowl/NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year type of season.
Landry joins after four seasons in Cleveland and four years in Miami before that. In his eight seasons in the NFL, Landry has established himself as one of the most dependable slot guys in the league. He’s topped 80 catches in six of his eight seasons. In the two seasons he failed to reach that mark in 2021 and 2020, Landry caught 72 and 52 passes but missed six games during that time.
Best of the Rest
Behind the top trio, Callaway, Harris (now Harty), and Smith remain, but as depth options this season, which is great news for the Saints in real life. In fantasy, none of these three will likely be relevant anymore unless there is a significant injury, but in totality, this should be good news for Winston and the offense as a whole.
Hill will enter 2022 on most fantasy platforms as a tight end. He likely won’t be on the field enough to make a difference for your fantasy teams at that spot, even if he has a multitude of duties on offense this year. He will run it, he will throw it some, and he will probably not have a large enough snap share to warrant much fantasy consideration this season.
“This isn’t necessarily the role I want, (but) it’s best for the team,” Hill said of the position change from quarterback to tight end.
Adam Trautman enters the preseason as the top traditional tight end on the team. It feels like we’ve been waiting for this guy to be something in fantasy for years. The 6’5″ and 250-pounder played in 13 games last season but only caught a 27/263/2 line.
Juwan Johnson and Nick Vannett are the options behind Trautman. There’s a faction of people who think Johnson is going to be a thing. Don’t waste your time. None of the tight ends are going to be elite fantasy options, especially not with the trio of wideouts in New Orleans and Winston’s propensity to sling the ball down the field.
Haha, just kidding. Don’t use kickers.
No, they don’t score fantasy points, but the offensive line quality a team has can help us feel better about our fantasy options from that team.
In New Orleans, the Saints face the unenviable task of contending for the playoffs while relying on a rookie left tackle after Terron Armstrong departed. Trevor Penning has been working on protecting Winston’s blindside in between repeated training camp fights with his teammates. Aside from the risk of relying on a rookie at that critical position, the Saints boast a decent amount of talent up front. LG Andrus Peat, C Erik McCoy and RT Ryan Ramczyk are all very good players.
Predictions for 2022
All in all, the 2022 New Orleans Saints seem destined to be better than last season when they were ranked 28th in total offense, 32nd in passing yards, 31st in average plays per drive, and 19th in total points scored. They have massively upgraded their receivers and if Kamara is available all season, they could be one of the best offenses in the league.
Here are my fantasy-related predictions for this team in 2022:
- Winston (assuming full health) will throw for around 4,000 yards, around 30 touchdowns, and just over double-digit interceptions. With Olave, Thomas, and Landry making things easier for Winston this season, I think his fantasy managers are in for a lot of tasty W’s this season.
- Kamara plays the entire season (not saying I think he should or should not be suspended) and balls out as the focal point of the Saints’ surprisingly powerful offense. I predict right around or just under 1,000 yards on the ground to go along with 100 targets in the passing game.
- Olave will break out immediately as a rookie with a 66/1000/8 season.
- Thomas will prove why rumors of his demise were premature. I see a 1,000-yard season with plenty of targets in his future as long as he can stay healthy.
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