The Saints’ 2019 season is largely thought of within two distinct parameters: the King Kong season from Michael Thomas and the fantasy draft bust of Alvin Kamara. While Thomas posted a record-setting season, Kamara was hampered by ankle and knee injuries for more than half of the year. There is reason for optimism this season though, which are discussed below. Jared Cook now faces middle-of-the-field target competition from newly signed veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The Saints’ 2020 schedule indicates a bevvy of shootouts though, giving all aforementioned names opportunity to hit their fantasy ceilings.
- 10th toughest overall schedule
- 10th toughest in terms of the opponent’s overall defensive efficiency
- 4th toughest blend of pass defenses
- 6th toughest in terms of the opponent’s pass defense efficiency
- 2nd toughest blend of rush defenses
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent’s rush defense efficiency
- Mid-tier in terms of the opponent’s overall offensive efficiency
- 7th toughest in terms of the opponent’s offensive passing efficiency
- 9th softest in terms of the opponent’s offensive rushing efficiency
In the 4 years that Next Gen Stats has been tracking Completion Percentage Over Expected (2016-2019)—a statistic that determines how accurately raw completion percentage results portray accuracy by evaluating the difficulty or ease of the quarterback’s pass attempts—Drew Brees has finished with thunderously positive results. Posting 4.6% and 3.5% CPOE in 2016 and 2017 is excellent—the latter was league leading. Brees maintained his league lead in 2018 with an unholy 6.5% CPOE and took 2nd last year at 6.3% CPOE. Any concerns over Brees’ ability to deliver the football can be soundly put to rest. During the 2016-2019 stretch, Brees finished as a Top 8 fantasy scorer by average fantasy points per game 3 times, with an outlier No. 13 finish in 2017. That said, his 6.12, QB8 .5PPR ADP is far too rich. At that point, you’re drafting him at his absolute ceiling while passing on guys like A.J. Green, Kareem Hunt, Michael Gallup, and Marquise Brown.
Taysom Hill is not the NO QB of the future. He had exactly 6 passing attempts last year along with 27 carries and 22 targets.
Jameis Winston apparently had terrible eyesight up until this offseason when he got LASIK eye surgery. Given the success he had while unable to read road signs, it’s plausible that he suddenly becomes an accurate passer and eventually takes the torch from Drew Brees.
Update 9/1/20: Josina Anderson reports the team is “open to trading RB Alvin Kamara”. Latavius Murray needs to be rostered in all leagues at this point, regardless of if one drafted Kamara. Murray would immediately value to the RB1/2 fringe if Kamara were to be traded.
Update 8/31/20: Adam Schefter let the world know that Alvin Kamara is quietly engaged in a hold out for a new contract. He’s skipped 3 practices in a row. Hat tip to the Ringer’s Danny Kelly for rooting out Kamara’s foreshadowing tweet from 2 weeks ago (8/17/20) stating, “I’m sorry in advance”. Nick Underhill, founder of NewOrleans.Football, has evidently had inside info on this for some time. Underhill is a recommended Twitter-follow to monitor the saga. Latavius Murray is a now a “must draft”, regardless of if one selects Kamara.
What hurt Alvin Kamara most in 2019 was his touchdown-scoring. In his first and second seasons (2017-2018), Kamara averaged 15.5 touchdowns. Last year, he scored just six. It was evident by the eye test that Kamara’s early-season high-ankle sprain and torn MCL—injuries that typically keep players from the field for four to six weeks—sapped him of his explosiveness for a huge portion of the year. Both injuries are common in the NFL and heal fine with rest and rehab—no surgery necessary. Fully healthy, Kamara is ready to assume his 18+ touch per game role, alternating as the offense’s 1A/1B with Michael Thomas. Kamara’s passing game usage is reinforced by the slate of opposing passing offenses (TBx2, DET, CARx2, ATLx2, SF, PHI, KC, MIN) certain to push the pace. His 1.05, RB4 .5PPR ADP is appropriately priced.
Latavius Murray performed well in Kamara’s absence last year, smashing the box score in Weeks 7 and 8, overall he has not been given the once-expected “Mark Ingram role”. The presence of rushing QB Taysom Hill seems to be the biggest factor in rendering Murray a handcuff-only RB option. That said, he’s a premier piece in that category. Murray’s 10.01 RB43 .5PPR ADP is reasonable but may come at the cost of a player with standalone value.
Michael Thomas is unlikely to surpass his record-setting 2019 campaign. That doesn’t mean he can’t repeat as the top fantasy scoring wide receiver in 2020. Donkeys will knock him for his moderate Average Targeted Air Yards (how far past the line of scrimmage he is when the pass reaches him) but his low TAY didn’t stop him from leading the league in receiver yards (1,725) by 331 yards(!). Thomas also tied for 4th most receiving touchdowns in the league with nine. His 149 receptions paced the league by 45. The only other receiver in the league who could conceivably challenge Thomas’ in fantasy scoring is Davante Adams. Adams is playing in a worse offense with a worse coach though. Bet on Michael Thomas to retain rights to fantasy’s overall WR1 in 2020. His .5PPR ADP of 1.04, WR1 is acceptable—but brings slight concern given the depth of the WR position and the shallowness at running back.
Emmanuel Sanders has been much more of a “real life” standout wide receiver than a standout fantasy option for some time now. He will no doubt find success in the box score from time to time but there just isn’t a big enough slice of the passing game pie for Sanders to be startable on a weekly basis. Should anything happen to Michael Thomas, Sanders would immediately vault into WR2 territory, especially given his slot route prowess—an area frequently occupied by Thomas. Sanders’ 8.11, WR41 .5PPR ADP is too high.
Tre’Quan Smith finally has the Saints’ downfield WR role to himself, with Ted Ginn Jr. leaving for Chicago. Smith will be a matchup-based option who can be added and dropped as needed.
Jared Cook had a rock solid 2019. The addition of Emmanuel Sanders will hurt his over-the-middle safety blanket usage to some extent. But the veteran tight end should retain rights to the No. 3 spot in the passing game pecking order. Unfortunately, his 7.06, TE8 .5PPR ADP is far too high for the value he’ll comparatively bring to his late round tight end counterparts.
Will Lutz checks the boxes of being a great kicker in a great offense — who has the added benefit of playing half of his games in a dome. Draft him as a set-it-and-forget-it kicker in fantasy.
New Orleans boasts a brilliant defense that will find itself in excellent game scripts. The more the Saints score on offense, the more passing situations its defense will get to face. That bodes well for their sack and interception production.