The New Orleans Saints defense was excellent once again last season. The team finished fourth in points against (19.7/g). They would also finish in the top ten of the NFL in total yards allowed (seventh), passing touchdowns allowed (third), and rushing touchdowns allowed (sixth). Dennis Allen has done an outstanding job with this New Orleans defense over the past few years. The Saints’ defense has been led by a good mix of veteran and younger upside players in recent years. This is the same strategy most IDP managers have when drafting in a startup. Allen will take over as head coach this season with Sean Payton retiring. His defense will look to continue its success as one of the most balanced units in the NFL.
The New Orleans Saints finished 9-8 last season and came up short of the playoffs. The Saints’ were second in the NFC South Division due to inconsistency at the QB position. They couldn’t keep pace with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saints, once again, will turn to Jameis Winston to lead their offense in 2022. This will require the defense to continue to be one of the better units in the NFL.
2021 IDP Review
The New Orleans defense was above league average (59%) in four-man fronts at 70%. They played over 700 snaps from this front but managed to play over 250 from odd fronts. The luxury Allen has to create pressure with his defensive front from multiple looks is a big reason the Saints have remained successful.
Like most of the NFL, the Saints spend three-quarters of their snaps with two linebackers on the field. The New Orleans linebackers are versatile, allowing the defense to switch between odd and even fronts seamlessly. The Saints had three different linebackers blitz over 10% of the time last season.
The secondary was very dynamic in 2021, the team finished with the sixth most interceptions (18), and the seventh most passes defended (81). The Saints secondary played at least 200 snaps in nickel, big nickel, and big dime. I don’t expect this to change with the addition of Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye in free agency.
Jordan has been a critical player for the New Orleans Saints over his 11-year career. He has been the leader along the Saints’ front four. Jordan has posted double-digit sacks in six of his last nine seasons. He has aged like fine wine, posting 60.5 sacks over his previous five seasons. Jordan’s 12.5 sacks in 2021 accounted for 27% of the Saints’ total production. An impressive number considering the Saints ranked eighth in the NFL in sacks (46) last season. The Saints veteran pass rusher was the tenth overall graded EDGE defender last season, receiving an overall grade of 84.3.
Dynasty managers can’t help but wonder just how much Jordan has left in the tank; he turned 33 this summer. You don’t ruin a good thing at this point and keep starting Jordan as long as he’s still putting up big numbers. Over the last three weeks of the season, Jordan had 7.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He averaged 30.3 fantasy points per game over that stretch. Jordan is at the point of his career that you will never feel you get fair value for him as a dynasty manager. It’s best to hang onto him as long as you believe you have a chance to contend. If you’re in a rebuild, it’s a no-brainer you take what you can get for him.
As a dynasty manager, there are very few things more aggravating than waiting on a player to break out. Those IDP managers who drafted Davenport are still waiting as he heads into his fifth and likely final year with the Saints. New Orleans drafted the former UTSA product as a project player, and it’s been four-plus years. Davenport has yet to play more than 13 games in a single season. Davenport has been productive despite struggling with injuries throughout his first four seasons. He has recorded 21 sacks in 23 career starts while registering 52 quarterback hits.
Davenport had his best season as a pro last year. He started the season with a double-digit performance before missing the next four games with injury. Davenport had a very good stretch from Weeks 9-11, scoring 71.5 fantasy points. He had 19 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and a forced fumble during those games. The Saints pass rusher finished 14th in the NFL with an 82.0 PFF pass rush grade. Dynasty managers must be willing to deal with the availability issues and inconsistent play. Davenport is coming off a career-high nine sacks last season, so all signs are pointing up for him to have a big year if he can find a way to remain healthy this season.
Granderson is an excellent rotational defensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints. He has appeared in 30 games over the past two seasons despite just starting one game. He has 26 pressures over his last two seasons and continues to improve as he carves out his role on one of the NFL’s most consistent defenses.
Carl Granderson is not a player I see regularly playing over 400 snaps as he did in 2021. IDP managers should be looking at him as a player they can use in a tough spot with bye weeks and injuries piling up. If he draws a matchup against a weak offensive line, he could be a sneaky waiver wire pickup that gives you production in your lineup for free.
The New Orleans Saints have a habit of drafting upside project players at the DL position. Turner is the latest case; he was drafted 28th overall in the 2021 NFL draft. Turner averaged just over a sack a game over his past two seasons at the University of Houston. He played in just five games as a rookie collecting 12 tackles and a sack.
He scored just 32 fantasy points on the season and didn’t register a snap after week 8. Payton Turner is a rotational player at best and one that is not on many IDP manager radars for a good reason. If you are carrying deep rosters, you can stash Turner in hopes he steps into a more significant role after this season with the likely departure of Marcus Davenport. I wouldn’t put much stock into that scenario, for what it’s worth.
Davis is the veteran leader at the second level of the New Orleans defense. The veteran linebacker has spent the last four seasons with the Saints; he’s averaged 111.25 tackles per season and has finished first or second-team All-Pro in the previous three seasons. He was the LB19 in 2021 and was a tackle-dependent fantasy scorer. Davis registered 220 fantasy points last season, with 175 coming from his tackling production. 79.54% of his fantasy production came from his ability to make tackles. This is no surprise to dynasty managers; Davis has recorded at least 90 stops in the last nine seasons, including over 100 stops in five straight seasons.
In recent memory, the former Arkansas St. LB has had one of the better careers from a fantasy production standpoint. Like his teammate Jordan, Davis turned 33 years old this season. Despite his age, he continues to prove the doubters wrong and remains a top 24 LB. As I stated above, in the case of Jordan, it’s unlikely you will get the value from Davis that you would require as a contender. You should be looking to unload Davison those rebuilding teams if you have yet to do so. He will only continue to help you win games you aren’t actively trying to.
Werner has been identified as a breakout candidate in 2022 amongst IDP analysts. The Ohio State LB was drafted 60th overall in the 2021 NFL draft. According to pro football reference, he appeared in fifteen games, starting eight, and collected 62 tackles while only missing one. Werner finished the season with a 79.9 overall PFF grade; fifth among all linebackers in 2021 and second among rookie LBs only to Micah Parsons, who graded as the best LB (89.7).
Werner exceeded expectations for dynasty managers last season after being drafted late in rookie drafts. He will need to increase his impact plays this season to be considered a reliable starter. Werner had zero impact plays and only surpassed double-digit points in three games last season. The Saints finished top ten in both sacks and interceptions last season, so naturally, it would make sense those impact plays will be available to be made. Werner is the most sought-after IDP on the Saints defense; he appears to be ready to take a bulk of the snaps alongside Davis this season.
Baun is entering his third season with the New Orleans Saints. I, for one, have never been a big fan and did not buy into the hype. I don’t think Baun was a very good fit for the NFL. He had 19.5 sacks in his final season with Wisconsin but has yet to record an NFL sack. I included Baun here to tell IDP managers to stop wasting a roster spot on him. His usage combined with his on-the-field production should make dynasty owners fade him in all formats.
It’s only fitting that Mathieu returns home to play football in front of his hometown fans of New Orleans, Louisiana. He made his name playing at LSU wearing the coveted number seven jersey. He joins the Saints in his tenth NFL season playing for his fourth team. Mathieu has always been an impact play-dependent DB for fantasy football; he has averaged 67.7 tackles per year over the past nine seasons. In his last three seasons with Kansas City, he’s recorded 13 interceptions, two touchdowns, four fumble recoveries, and three sacks. Mathieu has been utilized as a versatile defender lining up as a deep safety, slot CB, box safety, and outside corner. He will be tasked with filling the void left by Marcus Williams, who played most of the deep safety snaps for the Saints’ defense last season.
The biggest issue Saints fans will have with Mathieu is that he brought Daniel Sorensen with him for some reason. All kidding aside, Mathieu is a dynamic safety who can still make a huge impact on a football game. He has registered at least 159 fantasy points in five straight seasons while recording at least two interceptions in each of those years. Mathieu’s ability to be used at multiple levels of the defense gives him more opportunities to score fantasy points. As long as he is still used in that capacity in New Orleans, he will continue to be a valuable IDP asset.
Maye joined the New Orleans Saints in free agency after spending his first five seasons with the New York Jets. He could only play in six games in 2021 but collected 46 tackles and a sack in those games. The former Florida Gator is coming off an Achilles injury last season, forcing him to play in only six contests for the second time in his five-year career. Maye has played 16 games in three of his five NFL seasons and registered over 117 fantasy points in each of those seasons.
Maye likely assumes the void left by an aging Malcolm Jenkins, who was an IDP stud for most of his career. I would expect Maye to see a good amount of box safety snaps in 2022 as the Saints are likely to rotate in P.J. Williams was their third safety often as they did last season. The Saints gave Maye a big contract, so I expect him to have one of his better seasons from a fantasy scoring standpoint if he remains healthy. In the most recent startup draft, Maye went off the board at 33.10, almost two full rounds after Mathieu. I’d argue Maye could outscore him this season, so that is excellent value.
Firstly, a name like Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will always be a fan favorite. I’m an avid college football fan, and he embodies everything in a Florida Gators DB. He’s aggressive and plays with the confidence and swag you want in a great DB. However, Gardner-Johnson is not all that good. Luckily, his mistakes sometimes get masked by the fact he plays on an excellent defense. He has registered over 100 fantasy points in his first three seasons. Gardner-Johnson played many of his snaps from the slot last season and didn’t fare particularly well. He would finish with a 62.2 PFF coverage grade which was 59th among qualifying cornerbacks.
The Saints’ main slot CB from last season will need to improve in coverage if he continues to keep that role. Gardner-Johnson has to improve as a tackler as well. According to profootballreference.com, he posted the highest missed tackle rate of his career (16.4%). New Orleans will likely turn to him again in 2022 as the slot corner. His dynasty value should remain unaffected. If he were to be listed as a cornerback, at least for CB-required formats, he would get a boost in value. For now, he remains a safety who you can add late in a startup draft or on the waiver wire and still get decent production from.
As a Miami Hurricanes fan, being forced to break down two Florida Gators and now a Florida State Seminole, I feel like I’m being punished. Williams posted a 70.1 overall PFF grade last season. He’s been a big depth piece for the Saints over the past few seasons. He recorded four double-digit weeks in 2021 despite just starting five games. Williams had career-highs in interceptions (three) and sacks (two).
Overall, Williams is a much better real football player than he is for IDP leagues. However, he did post his first 120+ point season since 2018. He is used mainly in ‘big nickel’ packages, and I don’t expect that to change much. Dynasty managers are unlikely to target Williams, given his current situation. Still, he will be a top waiver wire add if he takes over the slot CB role or an injury happens at the safety position.
Veterans will again lead the 2022 New Orleans Saints defense at all three levels of their defense. Despite having some new faces, they are still very polished. This well-coached unit will make life difficult on opposing quarterbacks. The Saints had a very strong off-season. They will play just one team with a winning record in their first five games. Dynasty managers should feel comfortable trusting a majority of these IDPs in this breakdown as consistent starters in their lineups as they have been for the past few seasons.
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