2020 New Orleans Saints Outlook
Over the last 14 seasons with Sean Payton as the head coach (suspended in 2012) and Drew Brees at quarterback, the New Orleans Saints finished first or second in the NFL in offense yards nine times. Payton has a career 131-77 record with one Super Bowl title (2009) and eight playoff appearances (8-7).
New Orleans scored 458 points (third) in 2019, 46 points fewer than 2018 (504). The Saints ranking ninth in offensive yards gained., extending their streak of top top-ten finishes in this area to 14 seasons.
Pete Carmichael returns for his 11th season as the offensive coordinator. New Orleans added him to their system in 2006 when Payton took running the team.
The Saints finished just above the league average on the defensive side of the ball for the past three years. In 2019, they finished 11th in offensive yards allowed and 13th in points allowed (341). Only twice in the Payton era has their defense ranked in the top ten in points allowed (2010 and 2013).
Dennis Allen gets his sixth chance to rebuild the Saints' defense. He held the same position for the Broncos in 2011, leading to a head coaching job for the Raiders from 2012 to 2014, where he struggled to find success (8-28). Allen has 17 years of NFL coaching experience.
In the offseason, New Orleans added WR Emmanuel Sanders to their receiving core. He'll start the year at age 33 while being a viable WR2 for an NFL team over the past six seasons.
Their offense lost QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR Ted Ginn, and FB Zach Line. Bridgewater takes over as the starting quarterback for the Panthers. Michael Burton will compete for playing time at fullback.
On defense, the Saints moved on from LB Vonn Bell, CB Eli Apple, CB Johnson Bademosi, LB Stephone Anthony, LB Manti Te'o, LB A.J. Klein, and DE Josh Martin.
Bell played well vs. the run. He also adds value in the pass rush when given the green light to blitz. Bell does need some improvement in his game in the pass coverage. His best value comes when attacking the middle of the field and moving forward.
Apple continues to fall short of expectations in coverage after getting drafted in the first round in 2010. His downside comes from a high number of big plays allowed with a poor TD to Int ratio.
New Orleans only had four picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. In the first round, they invested in C Cesar Ruiz. The Saints expect him to upgrade their run game thanks to plus stretch and ability to win quickly after the snap. Ruiz uses his hands well, but his range may be limited. His challenge will come vs. power in the pass rush.
Baun has the look of a three-down player that brings plenty of strength and quickness to the linebacking core. His foundation skills set projects well in run support with a chance to develop more upside in the pass rush. Baun should shine in coverage. His only negative is his size (6'2" and 238 lbs.), which lower his explosiveness when facing the big bodies on the offensive line. He does also need to add some patience to his attack.
Trautman comes to the NFL with a pass-catching skill set. He does some things well in his route running, while also having questions with his release. His blocking isn't where it needs to be. New Orleans has enough assets in the passing game, where Trautman should see plenty of easy targets in his rookie season.
The future insurance policy at quarterback came via Tommy Stevens in the seventh round. His passing ability needs plenty of work while owning explosiveness as a runner. He plays with power and speed, and the Saints expect him to be on a similar trajectory as Taysom Hill.
The Saints fell to 16th rushing yards (1,738). New Orleans scored 49 rushing TDs in 2017 (23) and 2018 (26), but their struggles on the ground last year led to only 12 touchdowns. The Saints gained (4.3 yards per rush with 11 runs over 20 yards and one carry over 40 yards. New Orleans averaged 29.4 rushes per game in 2018 while slipping to 25.3 carries per contest last year.
New Orleans finished 7th in the NFL in passing yards (4,431) with 36 TDs and six Ints. They had 54 completions over 20 yards while gaining yards per pass attempt (7.6). The Saints averaged only 36.3 passes per game. Their offensive line allowed 25 sacks and 58 QB hits.
LT Terron Armstead
Armstead was one of the best players at his position since 2015 while playing at an elite level last year again in pass protection. He tends to miss some time each year while showing some fade in run blocking in tow of his previous three seasons.
LG Andrus Peat
Peat still hasn't developed into the player New Orleans thought he would after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. He struggled in all areas in back-to-back seasons. Peat missed six games last year with a forearm injury.
C Erik McCoy
In his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round, McCoy made 16 starts with impressive success in both run and pass blocking. His game is built on power and strength, allowing McCoy to handle bull rushers. His range is limited, but he does protect his space quickly after the snap. His challenge will come when asked to defend a more significant piece of the field in pass protection.
RG Cesar Ruiz
The Saints will move Ruiz to right guard in his rookie season after playing at center in his college career. His run blocking should hit the ground running, but the change of position may lead to a learning curve in pass blocking.
RT Ryan Ramczyk
Ramczyk played well in his first two years in the NFL after the Saints drafted him in the first round in 2017. In 2019, his play moved to an elite level in all areas. Ramczyk is very skilled in the techniques needed to have success at his position while adding athletic ability.
Offensive Line Outlook
New Orleans has a top offensive line, which is also helped by the quick release of Dew Brees. The rushing should be much improved this year. The Saints have a top-five offensive line in the NFL.
QB Jameis Winston, NO - Not Draft Worthy
In the fantasy world, buying low on a player's value is often the key to winning a fantasy title.
Last year Winston led the NFL in passing yards (5,109) with plenty of TDs (33) and attempts (626), but his incredibly high number of Ints (30 – seventh-highest all-time) has teams scared away.
His career completion rate (61.3) is well below the top QBs in the game, but an active receiver doesn't pad his stats in this area in the passing game at running back.
The Saints signed him to a one-year deal with the hopes that he offers upside as a possible replacement to Brees down the road.
QB Taysom Hill, NO - Deep-league Only
In almost all leagues, Hill will be listed at quarterback while improving over his final 11 games in the receiving game (14/200/4). Over this span, he also had 15 rushes for 75 yards and a TD with minimal chances in the passing game (3-for-5 for 37 yards). A playmaker, while lacking a playable opportunity due to his position tag.
QB Drew Brees, --- - Solid/Safe Pick
After consistently ranking at the top of the league in completions and passing attempts, Brees worked as an upside game manager in 2018 (32.6 passes per game) and 2019 (34.3). Last year he missed five games with a thumb issue while seeing a bump in passing attempts (36.9) in his ten full contests.
Over his last 26 starts, he averaged almost 2.5 TDs per game with only nine Ints. Brees led the NFL in completion rate (72.0, 74.4, and 74.3) over his previous three seasons.
Last year he passed for over 300 yards in six games while delivering three TDs or more in seven different weeks. His best play came at home (2,205 yards and 19 TDs over seven outings.
New Orleans has the best WR in the game in Michael Thomas while always ranking high in RB production in the receiving game. WR Emmanuel Sanders may be the missing link for the Saints to regain their passing prowess in 2020.
In the early draft season, Brees is the 11th quarterback off the table with an ADP of 88.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO - Stud (low risk)
Kamara lost some of his elite luster in 2019 after a significant setback in TD production (six in 14 games), which came after scoring 31 touchdowns over his first 31 games.
He held value in catches (81 in each season in the NFL), but he lost his explosiveness (6.6 YPC) in the passing game.
Kamara continues to run hard while breaking tackles in the open field, but the Saints struggled to get him in space in 2019.
He missed two games midseason while dealing with ankle and knee injuries.
Kamara only had two impact games (161 combined yards with two TDs and ten catches and 110 combined yards with two TDs and six catches).
Overall, he averaged 18.0 touches per game, which was well below the top RBs in the league. The Saints had him on the field for about 67 percent of their plays in his 14 games of action.
I set his initial bar at 1,554 combined yards with 11 TDs and 83 catches. Kamara has an ADP of five in the high-stakes market.
RB Latavius Murray, BAL - Quality Backup
Murray ended up being a good fit for the Saints while working behind RB Alvin Kamara.
New Orleans gave him two starts with Kamara injured, and he responded with two RB1 games (150 combined yards with two TDs and two catches and 157 combined yards with two TDs and nine catches).
Over his other 14 games, he averaged 40 yards per game with two TDs and 20 catches or 6.25 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.
Even with the 28th ranking at RB (157.2 fantasy points) in 2019, Murray was unplayable in nine of his 16 weeks. More of a handcuff with upside if given a starting opportunity than a target as a third running back for a fantasy team.Injury Status: Out - Ankle
WR Michael Thomas, NO - Stud (low risk)
Thomas is just a beast at the wide receiver position with an exceptional catch rate in 2018 (85.0) and 2019 (80.5).
Last year he set the NFL record in catches (149) while scoring almost 100 more fantasy points (375.5) than the 2nd ranked WR (Chris Godwin – 276.1) in PPR leagues.
Thomas had ten catches or more in nine games while receiving double-digit targets in 12 contests.
Over his last 32 games, he averaged 8.6 catches for 98 yards and 0.56 TDs per game or 21.8 fantasy points per week.
A tremendous player with a great opportunity – look for another 125+ catches for 1,500+ yards and a career-high in TDs. A massive edge while being drafted in the first five picks in just about every fantasy draft in 2020.