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Fantasy Forecast: New Orleans Saints

Hoping to make a 4th straight playoff appearance, the @Saints should have plenty of fantasy relevant players this season. @FF_MarvinE evaluates what to expect at each position going into 2020!

2019 Recap

The New Orleans Saints entered the 2019 season as one of the most balanced teams, boasting the 14th ranked defense in points allowed and 3rd best offense in points scored in 2018. As a result, they were touted by many as early season favorites to make the Super Bowl. However, their season would prove to be more challenging due to multiple injuries to key players. Drew Brees suffered a thumb injury in their second regular-season game, causing him to miss most of week two and the following five games. In addition to losing their franchise QB early in the season, Alvin Kamara and Von Bell would suffer injuries, missing two and three games, respectively.

Even in the face of adversity, the Saints would finish with an impressive 13-3 regular-season record. Teddy Bridgewater would fill in adequately guiding the team to a 5-1 record while Brees was injured. They would finish the season off strong heading into the 2019 playoffs as the 3rd seed, facing the Vikings in the NFC wild-card round. Unfortunately, similar to their last playoff matchup with Minnesota, this game would end in a disappointing nail biter. With only four minutes into overtime, Kirk Cousins would throw a 4-yard TD pass to Kyle Rudolph to end the matchup. And even though many viewers were convinced that Rudolph committed offensive pass interference, the officials disagreed and awarded the Vikings the playoff win.

Despite the disappointing loss in the 2019 playoffs, their impressive season should not be discounted. The Saints have continuously provided us with several fantasy relevant players year after year. That trend should continue in 2020 as Drew Brees, and Sean Payton are determined to make another run at a Super Bowl championship. Let’s dive into some of the key players at each position!

Quarterback

Source: Chicago Tribune

Drew Brees

After signing a two-year deal with New Orleans, Drew Brees will return for his 20th season to lead this Saints offense. In 2019, Brees missed the majority of the first half of the season. So while his fantasy point total had him pegged as the QB22, his points per game (20.8) had him ranked as the QB8 in 2019. To no one’s surprise, Brees was once again extremely efficient. Per PlayerProfiler, if we removed unpressured throwaways and dropped passes, Brees led the league in true completion percentage with 79.6%. In addition, Brees was 4th in CPOE (completion % over expected) with a +5.5 percentage point differential. If we go back even further and take a look at the last five seasons, Brees ranks 3rd overall in CPOE (+4.0) among all QBs only behind Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson.

Going into 2020, Brees is currently going off the board as the QB9 in redraft leagues. In dynasty leagues, his value is quite a bit lower, being drafted as the QB24 in startup drafts. Due to his age (41), I would hesitate to draft Brees in dynasty as he will likely only be around for a few more seasons. Nevertheless, he is a great late-round acquisition if you have a younger option to fill in once he retires. His lower dynasty value does present a potential buy-low opportunity for contenders, especially in SuperFlex leagues. Despite his age, he would be an outstanding QB2 and a rock-solid, short-term option at QB1. Capitalize on the discount if it helps you win a championship this season. Specifically, for 2020, with the plethora of weapons on this offense, I fully believe that he will again be a QB1, making him an excellent mid-round target in your redraft leagues.

The Handcuff(s)

Unlike most teams where there is only one relevant handcuff, the Saints have both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Hill will have some standalone value as he is frequently used as a Swiss army knife in this offense, being involved as a receiver, rusher, and passer. However, if Brees were to, unfortunately, miss some time, Winston should be the primary QB to lead this offense. If we once again take a look at the graph above, you will find Winston in the top right quadrant with the 11th best CPOE (+1.1) since 2015. If you have Brees on your dynasty team, I would make an effort to acquire Winston as he is one of the more valuable QB handcuffs in fantasy.

Running Back

Source: Fox8Live.com

Alvin Kamara

Similar to Brees, Kamara would miss some time dealing with both an ankle and knee injury in 2019. In the tweet below, he confirms that he was hampered last season. And despite only playing 14 games due to injuries, he still finished as an RB1 in PPR leagues while finishing 8th among RBs in PPR points per game (17.8). Like his first two seasons in the league, he was one of the most productive receiving RBs, compiling the 3rd most receptions (81) and the 5th most targets (97) in 2019. The biggest difference between his first two seasons and the 2019 season was his red zone efficiency.

In his first two years in the league, he converted 56 touches inside the ten into 19 TDs (33.93%); in 2019, those numbers dropped to three TDs on 19 touches (15.8%). The decline in efficiency and overall production can likely be attributed to his injuries. If he can stay healthy in 2020, he should return to top tier RB status. In dynasty drafts, he is currently being drafted as the RB4, which is a price I will gladly pay. However, it is important to note that Kamara could be playing for a new team in 2021 if the Saints do not extend him. For 2020, he should remain productive and involved in this offense, making him a very safe pick at RB5 in redraft leagues.

Latavius Murray

One of the more valuable handcuffs in the league, Latavius Murray, is a must-own if you have Kamara in your dynasty leagues. In redraft leagues, considering the concern with COVID-19, I would absolutely invest a later round pick drafting Murray. To give you an idea of his value, just take a look at weeks seven and eight in 2019. While Kamara was injured, Murray was the RB1 in those two weeks averaging 34.4 PPR points per game.

Wide Receiver

Source: KSLA.com

Michael Thomas

Thomas had a historic 2019 season, breaking the single-season receptions record with 149 receptions. Not only would Thomas lead all WRs with 23.4 PPR points per game. He would also finish 1st in several categories, such as target share (33.2%), completed air yards (1725), and red zone receptions (20). To put his historic season into perspective, we can use one of the more predictive statistics for continued NFL success – receiving yards per team pass attempt. In the last ten years, Thomas’ 2019 season ranks 5th among all WR seasons with 2.97 yards per team pass attempt.

Thomas had a truly dominant season, finishing as a WR1 in 62.5% of his games. In addition, he was also one of the more consistent receivers finishing as a top 24 WR 87.5% of the time. Going into 2020, Thomas is being drafted 7th overall (WR1) in redraft leagues and 4th overall in dynasty startups (WR1). In most drafts, we usually see the top RBs go off the board first. But in the middle of the first round, especially in dynasty, Michael Thomas is one of the safest picks available. Do not hesitate to draft him for 2020 and beyond.

Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders has signed with the Saints after spending the majority of the last six seasons with the Broncos. He would only average about 11.2 PPR points per game in 2019, which was 46th best among WRs. In 2020, Sanders will play with the best QB he has had since Peyton Manning retired. In addition, while the Broncos and 49ers were in the bottom 10 in pass play frequency in 2019, the Saints ranked 12th in the league, running a passing play 58.9% of the time (per FFToday). A higher-powered passing offense should make Sanders a valuable WR3 for your fantasy teams. He could absolutely be a value in redraft leagues, coming off the board as the WR42. In dynasty, he is less appealing as the WR66 in startup drafts. He is a solid depth piece that will likely only provide another year or two of flex worthy production.

Tre’Quan Smith

With the number of weapons on the Saints offense, there is likely not enough volume to sustain a 3rd fantasy relevant WR. Tre’Quan Smith is a name to keep an eye on, though, as we saw his snaps increase after their bye week in 2019. In week 17, he hauled in 5 receptions for 56 yards and 1 TD.

Tight End

Source: Newsbreak.com

Jared Cook

Over the last four seasons, Cook has quietly been one of the more productive TEs in the league. Since 2016 among TEs, he is 9th in receptions (195), 4th in total receiving yards (2666), 7th in receiving yards per game (47.6), and 9th in PPR points per game (10.1). In 2019, he would lead all TEs in yards per reception (16.4) and yards per target (10.8), while finishing 7th in yards per pass route (2.42). He should once again be heavily involved in 2020, despite the added competition for targets with Emmanuel Sanders and Adam Trautman joining the team.

He is a solid pick as the TE10 in the 9th round of your redraft leagues. However, a few TEs are going after Cook that are just as appealing, such as T.J. Hockenson, Dallas Goedert, or even Hayden Hurst. If you can stock up on WR and RB in the first nine rounds, going after a later round TE would be a great strategy as well. In dynasty, Cook is being drafted as the TE24 and should be viewed as a short term option. It is important to note that he has no guaranteed dollars beyond the 2020 season. The future at TE for the Saints could very well be Adam Trautman.

Adam Trautman

Trautman was drafted with the 105th pick in the NFL Draft (3rd round) and will likely be Jared Cook’s successor in this Saints offense. At Dayton, he was very productive, totaling 2,295 receiving yards and 31 receiving TDs. That equated to an impressive 38.1% college dominator score (97th percentile) per PlayerProfiler. To go with his productive college career, Trautman also boasts tremendous athleticism, finishing as one of the top performers at the NFL combine. His 3-cone drill, specifically, was 3rd best among all participants at 6.78 seconds. Combining his quickness with his size (6’5” and 255 lbs) and solid route running, Trautman has the potential to be a productive TE in Sean Payton’s offense.

In dynasty leagues, Trautman is currently being drafted as the TE29 in startups and as the TE2 behind Cole Kmet in rookie drafts. If I am drafting or acquiring Jared Cook in a dynasty league, I would absolutely go after Trautman while his value is still relatively low. He can sit in your taxi squad for now but would provide insurance at the TE position if Cook were to sign elsewhere or retire in 2021. And unless Jared Cook suffers an injury, Trautman will likely be undraftable in all redraft leagues.

Individual Defensive Players (IDP)

Source: CBSSports.com

A big thank you goes out to Jeff Abercrombie (@thesofascout), Jordan Rains (@50shadesofdrunk), and Eric Herauf (@ejh1528), who helped me with the following player evaluations! Be sure to check out their IDP articles on the Dynasty Nerds site.

Cam Jordan

Jordan is approaching his 10th season in the league and is still a very productive DE despite his age. In 2019, he ranked as the DL6 in points per game (11) while playing all 16 games. In the last three seasons, Jordan has finished with at least 12 sacks, while also averaging 54.7 combined tackles per year. One aspect of his game that cannot be forgotten is his durability, never missing a game in his 9-year career. He should once again be a productive player for your fantasy team in 2020.

Marcus Davenport

After the Saints traded up to draft Marcus Davenport in the 2018 NFL draft, expectations to produce immediately were sky-high. Unfortunately, several injuries prevented Davenport from truly breaking out. In his rookie season, he would only play 13 games due to a turf toe injury, finishing with 4.5 sacks and 22 combined tackles. In 2019, we saw flashes of his high upside and potential until a lisfranc injury forced him to miss the last three games of the season. He would finish the year with an improved 6 sacks and 31 combined tackles. Davenport is absolutely a name to keep an eye on for redraft and dynasty!

Demario Davis

According to Jeff Abercrombie, Demario Davis is a player that could outproduce his current value. He was remarkably consistent in 2019, finishing as the LB15 with roughly 13.5 points per game. In his two seasons with the Saints, he has averaged 110.5 tackles and 4.5 sacks per year. We should once again see him heavily involved and productive in 2020.

Malcolm Jenkins

Vonn Bell would leave behind a significant void at safety after signing with the Cincinnati Bengals this past offseason. The Saints would then bring in former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins to help replace Bell’s production. In 2019, Jenkins was relatively productive, with 81 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Among all DBs in 2019 (minimum ten games played), he would finish as the DB21 with about 10.3 fantasy points per game. He is worth a gamble in redraft leagues and could be a solid depth player for your dynasty rosters.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

A potential sleeper on this Saints defense is DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. In 2019, he would only average 6.3 fantasy points per game, finishing the season with one INT and 49 combined tackles. While those numbers are not overwhelming, Gardner-Johnson could take a step forward in his sophomore season. In week 15 vs. the Titans, we saw some of his potential, finishing with eight tackles, one fumble recovered, and one tackle for a loss. Gardner-Johnson could be an excellent buy low in dynasty but is likely undraftable in your redraft leagues.

Conclusion

Source: NewOrleansSaints.com

Heading into 2020, the New Orleans Saints will have plenty of fantasy-relevant players both on offense and defense. After a few disappointing losses in the playoffs, Sean Payton and the Saints are determined to make another run for the Super Bowl. And with the addition of Sanders, this offense could take another step forward. Do not hesitate to draft Brees, Thomas, and Kamara as they will likely finish in the top 10 at their positions. And for your IDP leagues, Cam Jordan and Demario Davis should once again lead this defense.

If you have any additional fantasy football questions, feel free to reach out on twitter @FF_MarvinE. Make sure to follow @DynastyNerds for more dynasty content all year around. Thanks for reading!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. lonecedarlodge

    July 22, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    gardner johnson is listed as a safety on mfl, but they have been playing him at corner is what my idp expert told me…

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