2015 Fantasy Recap
Last year the Saints were absolutely awful on defense. They were either 31st or 32nd in every major category. However, regarding fantasy football standards, that is not always a bad thing. Bad defenses tend to create a lot of garbage time. For those of you that do not know what that is, it is when a team is losing and running out of time so the revert to being a one-dimensional passing team. The Saints are historically a passing team, so when garbage time hits you know Drew Brees is going to put up some nice numbers. As a result, Brees, Brandin Cooks, Benjamin Watson, and even Mark Ingram all finished has tier 1 players at their respective positions. I do not expect much of that to change this season either.
Key Additions and Losses
QuarterBack Fantasy Outlook
On more than one occasion I have mentioned how hard the NFC South’s nondivision schedule is, and the Saints are no different. Drew Brees has been an elite QB for many years now and you don’t get to that status without being able to produce in big games against some of the toughest defenses. I do think a top 5 finish is going to be very hard for him, though. I still consider Brees a QB1, but you might have to accept some games just might not be that good. One thing I would like to point out though regarding Brees is that his playoff schedule could be very favorable. You have week 14 at Tampa Bay, week 15 at Arizona, and week 16 home against Tampa Bay. The 2 games against Tampa Bay’s week pass defense could be what an owner needs to bring home the ship. Even if you play into week 17 when they play at Atlanta you still have a good matchup. Keep in mind that if you don’t get Brees in your draft, you might be able to trade for him around week 8 after the Saints play Carolina, KC, and Seattle in consecutive weeks. Whoever has Brees might be pretty frustrated with him around then and if they do not look down the road you might get him for a steal.
Running Back Fantasy Outlook
Over the years, whenever Mark Ingram was healthy he was usually a solid running back, and going into last year he was one dimensional, which limited his appeal. Well, last year Ingram caught a career-high 50 passes, and to put that in perspective, in the previous 4 years combined he caught 53. Becoming a weapon in the passing game has elevated Ingram to RB1 status. Out of all the players that played at least 8 games, Ingram had the second highest PPG average. Despite injury history, I still consider him an RB1 and would draft him appropriately, but because of his injury history, though, I would make sure I targeted Tim Hightower later in the draft. Hightower only has value if Ingram goes down, and that value is just as good as a healthy Ingram so if I owned Ingram I would not let Hightower sit in free agency. I would not risk trying to get Hightower after Ingram gets hurt, you would have too much to lose. Another back to keep an eye on going into preseason is CJ Spiller. As of right now, I am not targeting him at all, but if he becomes a member of the passing game he could make his way to a zero running back option, but I need to see some signs of that happening before I consider it.
Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook
Last year was the first year since 2010 that the leading receiver for the Saints was an actual wide receiver. While the Saints do like to air it out, they are usually very good about spreading the ball out to many different receivers, including tight ends and running backs. That usually makes owning Saints receivers pretty frustrating. That all changed last year with the emergence of Brandin Cooks. The Saints in Cooks have a legitimate WR1 and should be drafted accordingly. To be clear here, I do not see him as top ten lock, but top 15 for sure with an upside of slipping into the top ten. Another WR worth owning on the Saints is Willie Snead. As an undrafted rookie, he burst on the scene in NO posting a slash of 69/984/3. The TD’s leave a little to be desired, but I think matching those numbers from last year should be reasonable expectations. Many people are down on Snead this year because of the Saints second round pick of Michael Thomas. Thomas is clearly a talent at WR and as the season progresses he could steal some targets, but I think there is enough to go around for 3 WR’s. Dynasty teams should certainly be targeting Thomas, but outside of that, he is on the edge of draftable. Brandon Coleman was a popular sleeper pick last season, but he never panned out. As of right now, he remains off the board, but he is someone I would certainly keep an eye on. He has great size and showed some promise late last season.
Tight End Fantasy Outlook
When Coby Fleener was drafted many people predicted great numbers for him. After all, he staying with his college teammate and number 1 pick in the same draft Andrew Luck. Over the years in Indy Fleener played well and was a decent spot starter, but he never lived up to the expectations the fantasy world had for him. His time in Indy is now over and this offseason he signed with the Saints, who just lost their top TE for two years in a row. I am not going to compare Fleener to Jimmy Graham, but I will compare him to Benjamin Watson. Watson finished 6th last year in TE scoring with a slash line of 74/825/6 on 110 targets. If Fleener gets those same 110 targets those numbers are easily duplicatable, which puts him right smack in the middle of the top 10 TEs. Given the age, size and speed difference that Fleener has on Watson, if he does get the same targets he should actually be able to improve on it and make a push for the top 5. This is all assuming, of course, he gets the same number of targets, and that is no guarantee. I would draft him as a top 10 TE, but I would not draft him as a top 5 TE despite the potential to finish there. One quick note on the other TE in NO, Josh Hill. The resurrection of a 35-year-old Watson and the big signing of Fleener should be all the writing on the wall you need to know about Hill. There is clearly no faith that he can produce as a number 1 TE on the team. No need to even consider drafting.
Defensive Fantasy Outlook
Good news regarding the Saints defense, it is almost mathematically impossible to be worse than they were last year. Last in points and second to last in total yards, passing yards, and rushing yards. They were so bad on D last year that there would have been times I would have elected to not start a D over starting them. There is no way they can improve enough this year to make it into consideration for even spot starting duty, so I am not going to waste any more time on them. As of right now do not draft them. They have to show something before any consideration can be given.
Article originally posted on Going For 2 on July 18th, 2016.