The New Orleans Saints had it. All they needed to do was ride out a single play, a single, solitary play to close the book on the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. We all know what happened. The Vikings completed a miracle pass that went for a TD that ended the Saints' playoff run.
The play had nothing to do with the Saints offense. But, the Saints' D wouldn't have been in that position to stop the Vikings if not for New Orleans' offense. In fact, it's doubtful New Orleans would have gotten close to the playoffs without their offense.
NFL: Previewing the New Orleans Saints Offense
Let's study the Saints' QB, RB, and WR positions before talking some about their defense.
Saints QB Drew Brees
Before last season, I wrote that Brees wouldn't throw for as many passing yards this season as he did last season. I had the feeling that the Saints wanted to protect Brees by rushing the football more. That's exactly what coach Sean Payton did. He rushed the ball about as well as any team in the NFL.
Brees still posted decent numbers. Drew threw for 4,333 yards. He threw 23 TD passes. He only threw 8 picks. He also completed 72% of his passes.
Like I wrote, decent numbers. They aren't mind blowing, though. The thing about Brees and any season long fantasy drafts is that due to his reputation, Brees will automatically be a Top 5 QB drafted. I'm not sure he warrants such enthusiasm. Drew's a great QB. He could lead the Saints to a Super Bowl win this season. But, he doesn't have to pass the ball as much.
He will if Payton needs him to. He doesn't have to. That makes Drew Brees a fifth round QB pick up, not a Round 4 or lower QB pick up.
Saints Running Backs
Last season, the Saints averaged 129.4 rushing yards per game. That ranked fifth int he NFL. How could an offense that relied almost solely on the passing game suddenly turn into one of the best offenses in the NFL at rushing the football? Commitment. Oh, and the Saints have a couple of strong rushers that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
Check out the Top 3 runners listed on the Saints' depth chart:
Mark Ingram – Ingram has become the Saints' Mr. Consistent. In the 2017 NFL Season, Ingram rushed for a fantastic 1,124 yards from 230 carries. He scored 12 rushing TDs. Ingram also caught 58 passes for 416 yards. That's 7.2 yards per catch.
The problem for Mark Ingram in 2018 is that he must sit out the first 4 New Orleans Saints games. That could be either bad news or good news for season long fantasy players. The bad news is if you have Ingram in any keeper leagues, you could suffer in those first 4 games. The good news is if you plan on drafting Ingram, you can probably get him in Round 4 or later.
Alvin Kamara – Kamara had one of the very best rookie seasons for a running back in league history. He caught an awesome 81 passes that he turned into 826 yards. 5 of the passes he caught turned into TDs. Kamara also rushed for 728 yards from 120 attempts. That's 6 yards per carry. He rushed for 8 TDs.
Payton said that even though Ingram is out for those first 4 games, Kamara's workload won't change. That makes sense because Payton preaches the system. Only Drew Brees is counted on to win games. Even though Alvin shouldn't receive any more carries than he normally does, who cares? He'll get the most touches that could turn into TDs. Alvin scored 14 combined TDs last season. He'll get at least that many this season.
That makes Kamara a Top 10 pick.
Trey Edmunds – Right now, Trey Edmunds is listed as the RB3 on the depth chart. He might, or might not, be the guy that backs up Kamara. If Payton does stick to his guns and utilizes Alvin Kamara the same way he always does while Ingram rides out the 4 game suspension, Edmunds could pay big dividends for a few games if he is the guy.
That's the problem. We don't know who the guy is that will pick up Ingram's carries. Right now, Danny Lasco, Terrance West, Boston Scott, Zach Line, and Jonathan Williams are all listed as RBs on New Orleans roster. Who gets cut and who doesn't is up in the air.
Saints Wide Receivers
Michael Thomas – Thomas is New Orleans' unquestioned WR1. Thomas broke out last season catching 104 passes for 1,245 yards. But, he only caught 5 TD passes. He's the quintessential example of how Sean Payton expects everyone to work within the system. Only Drew Brees is allowed to have an ego.
Thomas doesn't care. He knows that the offensive coaches in New Orleans will call plenty of plays for him this season. He could eclipse the 5 TDs he had in 2017. He also catches a ton of passes. Thomas is a great Round 2 pick in points per catch leagues. If you don't get a point for each pass caught, he might be a nice Round 3 or Round 4 pick.
Ted Ginn Jr. – Coach Payton is in love with Ginn's speed. Ginn Jr. caught 4 TD passes last season. There's also always a chance he can break a kick return or punt return for a TD. Ginn Jr. had a decent 53 catches for 887 yards last season. If he repeats that, he'll be a decent flex player or WR3. I wouldn't expect anything more from him.
Diamond in the Rough WR – Cameron Meredith
Before getting injured, Cameron Meredith was an electrifying up and coming wide receiver. Indications are that he's bounced back from the injury that derailed his career in Chicago. If Meredith has indeed bounced back, he could be the wide receiver that Sean Payton's been looking for.
Payton wants a consistent WR opposite Michael Thomas. Ted Ginn Jr. is more of a specialized wide receiver that coach Payton wants to unleash at specific times during a game. The Saints need someone to play opposite Thomas who can carry the load. That player could be Meredith.
I'd take a flyer on Meredith in Round 6 or 7.
The Saints defense improved from one of the worst units in the NFL to one of the better units in the NFL. Because of what the Saints did during the offseason, drafting DE Marcus Davenport, signing LB Demario Davis and CB Patrick Robinson, New Orleans D could end up a Top 5 unit this season.
Keep that in mind in the later rounds of your NFL Fantasy Drafts.