We’re less than four months away from the beginning of the NFL’s regular season, which means fantasy football is right around the corner. I know. Many of you cringe, but most of you who have played in this steadily growing industry are very excited. Whether you are going to start-up a brand new league, carry over keepers, or continue a dynasty, you know that the New Orleans Saints players and league’s top ranked offense from a year ago can help you out.
So, what players on the New Orleans Saints roster should you eye the most in your drafts? Let’s take a look.
Let’s start with the cream of the crop. Personal feelings aside, Drew Brees is still an elite quarterback in the NFL, and he still shined last year. Brees was 48 yards shy of his fourth consecutive 5,000-yard season, which is something no other player in NFL history has flirted with. Unfortunately, Brees isn’t favored by everyone heading into this year, and who could blame them? He lost Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, after all. ESPN’s Matthew Berry has pegged Brees as his fifth overall quarterback, and 39th highest fantasy player.
Last Year: 456/659, 4,952 yards, 33 TD, 17 INT
Projected: 400/553, 4,147 yards, 30 TD, 13 INT
Realistically, the Saints should be looking to use more of a ground attack in 2015. At least that’s where the signs are pointing. It seems like the days of Drew Brees having to go into gunslinger mode are over, assuming this formula works. The Saints invested heavily in their offensive line this offseason, and they must keep Brees upright. Over the past two years, Brees has been sacked 66 times, which is one shy of his combined total in his first four years with the black and gold. Giving Brees time in the pocket is lethal, and if that protection is restored, then Brees could easily finish as a top three quarterback this season. You should look for Brees to heat up in the red zone, and is one of the two players you must target in your fantasy draft.
When the New Orleans Saints locked up Mark Ingram to a four-year contract, it assured us how much the team valued his 2014 production. The Saints finished out with the 13th best rushing attack, and it was largely in part because of Ingram.
Last Year: 964 rush yards, 29 receptions, 145 yards, 9 TD
Projected: 1,108 rush yards, 35 receptions, 200 yards, 13 TD
Ingram nearly became the first running back since Deuce McAllister (2006) to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, but fell just short. This season, Ingram figures to be the workhorse for the Saints offense, and could easily see 300 touches on offense. If you’re in a two running back league where they dominant the points, you have to look his way as a solid RB2. The only drawback to Ingram is that the team has a hydra attack of Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, and Khiry Robinson.
As the Obi-Wan to a very young wide receiver corps, Marques Colston‘s best days may be behind him. Colston, or the Quiet Storm, still made many memorable plays last season. I often found myself saying that there was no other Saints wide receiver that could have made that catch, especially his touchdown grabs. He is easily Brees’ primary target when all else fails.
Last Year: 59 receptions, 902 yards, 5 TD
Projected: 68 receptions, 847 yards, 6 TD
This season figures to see a heavy dose of Colston in the mix, but trying to figure out how big his impact will be is a bit perplexing. If you’re searching for a WR3 or flex option, that’s a perfect place to tab him. However, there’s another Saints wide receiver that is your better option.
Without the services of Jimmy Graham, it’s the Josh Hill show. Graham led the team in touchdown receptions with 10, but right behind him was Hill and Colston. Brees certainly had some comfort with Hill, finding him primarily in the red zone.
Last Year: 14 receptions, 176 yards, 5 TD
Projected: 64 receptions, 735 yards, 8 TD
Expecting Jimmy Graham-like production out of Josh Hill’s first year in a full-time role may be a bit excessive. The Saints tend to spread the ball out, which means that it’s highly unlikely to peg a consistent week in and week out player. Why draft Josh Hill? Sean Payton loves his potential.
"“When you look at his runs, jumps, height, weight, speed, you look at his measurables — and he didn’t go to the Combine, thank God.”"
Also, the Saints did not draft a tight end with one of their nine picks, even when they had the chance to take Maxx Williams. This further speaks to how high the team is on Josh Hill, and he could very well blow out all expectations that many have.
There’s a lot to love about the pairing of C.J. Spiller and the New Orleans Saints. Let Sean Payton set the tone for why you should have Spiller on your radar:
"“When you watch his film you think of a lot of things he can do.”"
Last Year: 300 rush yards, 19 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD
Projected: 443 rush yards, 77 receptions, 684 yards, 8 TD
Spiller only saw action in nine games for the Buffalo Bills in 2014, which is cause for concern if you’re banking on him as a RB2, but he figures to be best utilized as a Flex. In the prior two seasons to last year, Spiller saw roughly 250 touches per season. Expect Sean Payton to have Spiller in often, especially as the third down back. Spiller’s previous career high in receptions was 43 (2012), so to say he won’t double that number this season isn’t off base. Remember Darren Sproles? In his three years with the Saints, he had 86, 75, and 71 receptions. Spiller is one to target in your drafts, but understand that his production week in and week out might frustrate you.
Sadly, an injury cut Brandin Cooks‘ season short last year. He was on pace to be up there with the rest of the 2014 wide receiver class, and left an impact on many. Set to turn 22 in September, Cooks has his best years ahead of him.
Last Year: 53 receptions, 550 yards, 4 TD
Projected: 92 receptions, 1,105 yards, 9 TD
Cooks should be your primary target for a Saints wide receiver, and should be considered a low tier WR1 or high tier WR2. He had a really good chemistry going with Drew Brees prior to his injury. This is one guy that Sean Payton loves to get involved in the offense, and he is likely to be the primary beneficiary from Kenny Stills and Jimmy Graham’s departure.
Not every league has a D/ST format, and I’d personally implore you to look for IDP leagues. Those are quite fun. At any rate, if you are still in a league that utilizes this position, you would likely not think of having the Saints defense and special teams in the mix.
Last Year: 424 PA, 1,010 TKLS, 34 SK, 5 FR, 12 INT, 2 SAF, 0 TD
Projected: 371 PA, 945 TKLS, 42 SK, 9 FR, 17 INT, 1 SAF, 3 TD
Quite honestly, you’d have a better time finding stronger D/ST for your lineup. Even in 2013 when the Saints had the fourth ranked defense, they were still middle of the road in terms of fantasy rankings and points. If this team can start generating turnovers and getting after the quarterback, which is something they addressed during the offseason, then you can put them on your sleeper list. No one will draft this squad, given the inconsistencies.
As for special teams? The Saints haven’t had a return since the 2011 season opener by Darren Sproles. It’s been that long. Jalen Saunders nearly had one last year against the Falcons to start the game, and has been a flashy returner. However, they don’t give you any boost right now.
- Khiry Robinson – If you’re going to draft Mark Ingram, then keep a close watch on Robinson. He’ll likely be ‘the closer’ in games, assuming Ingram doesn’t see more touches late. Robinson had some flashes of brilliance last year when called upon.
- Joe Morgan – After a shaky couple of years, Morgan could easily find himself as a favored target of Drew Brees. Sean Payton used him last season in a variety of ways, and he had a very strong performance against the Baltimore Ravens. His attitude will likely dictate how he performs.
- Brandon Coleman/Seantavius Jones – Sean Payton said that he’s expecting a lot out of the two former practice squad players. Both have a lot of upside, and could see increased work in the Saints offense. They’ll have to prove themselves first, but merit consideration if you’re in deep dynasty leagues.
- Garrett Grayson – If you’re in a dynasty league, then you want to look at stashing Grayson on your roster. He may not be the Saints starting quarterback for a while, but should something happen, understand that this guy is a Sean Payton system guy.
Do Not Draft
- Nick Toon – I’d give the edge to Joe Morgan before Nick Toon. There’s no guarantee that Toon will even emerge from training camp as the team’s fourth of fifth option. He’s truly a ‘wait and see’, and even then, he’ll be inconsistent.
- Benjamin Watson – Watson hauled in a pair of touchdowns last season, and looks to be a bigger factor in the offense upon first glance. However, he’s going to be the run blocking tight end first, and periodically see targets. Hill is your best bet.
- Erik Lorig – I really like Austin Johnson’s play better, and honestly, when’s the last time you ever considered drafting a fullback for your roster?
- Andy Tanner – Injuries have prevented Tanner from seeing action, and despite him being a fan favorite in New Orleans, he likely will not make the roster.
- Shayne Graham – Wait until you find out if he’s going to be the kicker for the Saints this season. Dustin Hopkins could very well challenge Graham for his spot.