INSIDE THE NUMBERS
In 2012, the New Orleans Saints led the league in passing yards at 312.3 ypg, were second in total ypg at 410.9 and third in total points per game (24 ppg). You would look at these numbers and presume they are a winning team as opposed to finishing the season at 7-9. However, the Saints’ defense finished dead last in the league, allowing an NFL record 7,042 total yards on the season. To put that into perspective, the 1981 Colts, with their defense allowing 424.6 yards per game, finished a dismal 2-14. The Saints’ defense instead allowed 440.1 yards per game, making their 7-9 record rather impressive.
The Saints play three of their first four games in the Superdome which should lead to a fast start. However, in Weeks 5 and 6 before their Week 7 bye, they play on the road @CHI and @NE respectively. After two relatively easy games coming out of their bye against BUF and @NYJ, they go on a stretch to finish the season playing eight straight NFC foes, which will be vital to the Who Dat Nation’s playoff hopes. In the fantasy playoffs, New Orleans plays three of four on the road @SEA, CAR, @STL, @CAR. Those who invest highly in Saints players to help them win League Championships, be cautious of games against Seattle and St. Louis in Weeks 13 & 15.
It is a foregone conclusion that Drew Brees is the catalyst and unquestioned leader of this team outside of Sean Payton. Under Payton since 2006, Brees has racked up 33,571 total passing yards averaging almost 4800 yards per season while only missing one game during that stretch in 2009 when he was benched the last game of their Super Bowl winning season to rest. In other words, Brees is a machine and close to being the surest thing there is in fantasy football. There is no reason to believe that he won’t throw for another 4800 yards and 35-45 TDs. He is the safest pick in fantasy.
It’s hard to argue there are any duds in this high-octane offense, but one that would stick out is RB Mark Ingram. Some say this is the “breakout” year for Ingram, but the simple fact is that Ingram and his skill set does not fit well with this offense and the predictability of it when he is in the game (not to mention the competition he has with Pierre Thomas and the explosive Darren Sproles). You could argue however he holds some decent value in standard leagues, but in PPR leagues he is virtually useless evidenced by his six total receptions last year. Even if his TD’s went up from his 2011 and 2012 totals of five, to eight this year, he still won’t get much more than 150 carries for the season with a career average of 3.9 ypc. Do the math and then let someone else draft him.
The player to grab out backfield is Pierre Thomas. An undrafted free agent in 2007, Thomas and his versatility fit exactly into what the Saints do on offense. Unless there is a long-term injury to Sproles or Ingram, Thomas will probably never put up monster numbers consistently, but with the opportunities he gets in the screen game and his effectiveness on those plays, he has the ability to rack up fantasy points in bunches. Compared to first round pick Ingram, Pierre Thomas has averaged 4.8 ypc over his six-year career, while also averaging almost 40 catches year over the last five years. Draft Thomas with the comfort of knowing you have a quality flex player and bye week fill in on your bench, with the opportunity to really be a valuable asset to your team.
After serving a full one-year suspension as a result of the NFL’s bounty investigations, head coach Sean Payton returns as the unquestioned leader and seems primed to” transform” his Saints back in to a Super Bowl caliber team following a disastrous year last season in which they finished 7-9. The year prior to his suspension in 2011, Payton lead the Saints offense straight to Canton after shattering a number of single season NFL records. He also enters the year in the best physical shape of his life after “transforming” his body using high-intensity CrossFit workouts that also inspired a new approach he has brought to the Saints' offseason workout program. Payton has a renewed energy, renewed focus, and a big chip on his shoulder.
Take away Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, and Pierre Thomas, there are not too many more receptions to go around and opportunities are countless in this offense with Brees going thru his progressions. However, this offense has the potential to turn any player into a stud with certain injuries. With that being said, there are 10 players fighting for what looks to be two, maybe three, more wide receiver spots on the active roster. It’s hard to count out special teams ace Courtney Roby, as he is just too valuable, which leaves a couple more. Look for names like speedster Joe Morgan along with recent draft picks, Nick Toon and Kenny Stills. Deep sleeper: Andy Tanner
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Travaris Cadet is packed in fourth on the depth chart behind Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram. An explosive running back out of Appalachian State, Cadet started his college career playing quarterback before switching to wide receiver due to injuries and then transitioning to running back after breaking his thumb his junior year. Cadet is a jack of all trades in the backfield with great hands who excels as a kick returner. If Sproles were to get hurt, or even Pierre Thomas for that matter, Cadet can easily be inserted into this offense and has the potential to put up Sproles-type numbers with the right opportunity.
Fantasy Football, NFL