2022 New Orleans Saints Team Outlook
With high-stakes fantasy football legend Shawn Childs anchoring Sports Illustrated's fantasy coverage, we decided to give our take on Shawn's Team Outlooks. While we won't always agree, Shawn's pedigree speaks for itself. Shawn has been a high-stakes Fantasy Football legend since 2004 when he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). Childs has competed and won six-figures in all different formats – auctions, draft championships, main events, and high-dollar leagues. We dare you to find an expert who knows the NFL player pool better than Shawn Childs -- it can't be done!
Over the past 16 seasons, Sean Payton helped put the New Orleans Saints on the offensive map, leading to nine postseason appearances, a 152-89 record, and a Super Bowl title (2009). His leadership will be sorely missed. The Saints may have their deepest receiving corps over the past decade. Their success hinges on a rebound season from WR Jarvis Landry and WR Michael Thomas (he continues to have an injury tag next to his name), plus the development of WR Marquez Callaway, WR Chris Olave, and TE Adam Trautman. RB Alvin Kamara comes off the lowest output season of his career due to four missed games and below-par quarterback play. The most important question needed to be answered in 2022 for New Orleans is whether Jameis Winston can revive his career and lead the Saints to a playoff-contending season.
With Drew Brees no longer leading the offensive show for the Saints and other issues at quarterback, New Orleans ran the ball over 50% of the time. In previous years, the Saints consistently ranked in the top-tier of the league in passing stats. With the same offensive coordinator returning in 2022, I would throw last year's stats when evaluating any offensive Saints players. On the surface, this offense has a goldmine of opportunity if three players play well (Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara, and Michael Thomas).
The only stat that didn't regress in 2022 for the Saints' running backs was rushing attempts (398 – 390 in 2020). Their backs combined for 2,093 yards with 10 touchdowns and 88 catches (21.02 fantasy per game). In comparison, New Orleans averaged 32.55 fantasy points in 2020. Under Drew Brees, they were one of the top teams in the league to pass the ball to their running backs. I expect a rebound in this area this season.
Even with a dramatic decline in catches, the Saints' wideout gained more yards per catch (14.4) with a slight bump in touchdowns (16). Their wide receivers caught only 56.7% of their 263 targets, accounting for 62% of their receiving yards. The year New Orleans has the talent to beat their wide receiver output in 2019 (219/2,617/20).
The Saints had a regression in all categories at tight end over the past two seasons. Part of their struggles came from low passing attempts due to injuries to the quarterback position. In addition, New Orleans needs their lead tight end to develop.
After running the Saints' defense for seven seasons, New Orleans promoted Dennis Allen to head coach after Sean Payton retired. His first opportunity to run a team came from 2012 to 2014 for the Raiders, leading to an 8-28 record. Allen has 19 years of NFL coaching experience.
Pete Carmichael returns for his 13th season as the offensive coordinator. New Orleans added him to their system in 2006 when Payton took over running the team.
New Orleans scored 364 points (19th), 118 points fewer than 2020 (482). The Saints regressed to 28th in offensive yards gained, which was their fifth season of decline.
The Saints will use Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard as co-defensive coordinators this season.
Their defense finished seventh in yards allowed while giving up 335 points 45th). They had a top-tier defense in back-to-back seasons.
The top two players lost to free agency were LT Terron Armstead and S Marcus Williams. They signed for a combined $145 million by the Dolphins and Ravens. New Orleans added S Tyrann Mathieu and DS Marcus Maye to their secondary plus WR Jarvis Landry to improve their wide receiver depth.
The Saints only had five picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. In the first round, they added two players (WR Chris Olave and T Trevor Penning). New Orleans focused on their defense with their final three choices (CB Alontae Penning, LB D'Marco Jackson, and DT Jordan Jackson).
The Saints slipped to 15th rushing yards (1,991). New Orleans scored 12 touchdowns while gaining (3.9 yards per carry with 12 runs over 20 yards. New Orleans averaged 30.0 rushing attempts.
New Orleans finished with the worst total in passing yards (3,437), but they surprisingly scored 29 touchdowns with 13 touchdowns. They only had 41 completions over 20 yards while gaining yards per pass attempt (6.8). Their offensive line allowed 37 sacks.
The first step in rebuilding the Saints' offense line starts with incoming rookie LT Trevor Penning. In the Drew Brees era, New Orleans consistently had a talented group of blockers in front of him. RT Ramczyk has been a top-tier player in all five of his season with the Saints, but he missed seven games last year with a knee injury that required surgery in early February. LG Andrus Peat continues to battle injuries (torn pec muscle cost him 11 starts in 2021), leading to him falling short of his first-round (2015) draft pedigree. RG Cesar Ruiz is another first-round investment (2020) that has yet to live up to expectations. C Erik McCoy played well in his rookie reason before fading to a league-average player over the past two seasons. He missed five games early in the year with a calf issue
The Saints invested plenty of early-round selections in their offensive line, pointing to a rebound in play in 2022 if this group can stay healthy and reach this potential.
New Orleans remains 4th in rushing yards allowed (1,589) with 12 touchdowns and nine runs over 20 yards. They gave up 3.7 yards per rush, with opponents attempting 25.1 rushers per game.
The Saints slipped to 14th in passing yards allowed (3,821) with 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 7.0 yards per pass attempt with 56 completion of 20 yards or more. Their defense finished with 46 sacks.
DE Cameron Jordan continues to be a beast value in the pass rush (12.5 sacks) and defending the run. DE Marcus Davenport has yet to play an entire season in his four-year career, but he showcased an improved pass rush in 2021 with strength slowing down ball carries. DT Shy Tuttle and DT David Onyemata clogged up the middle of the line to limit the damage by rushers. Onyemata improved in the pass rush despite only recording two sacks.
CB Marshon Lattimore will give up plenty of big plays and touchdowns, but wideouts tend to have a low catch rate. The Saints have competitive options at safety while needing to develop their depth at cornerback.
The second level of New Orleans' defense has one foundation player (Demario Davis). LB Pete Werner improved their run support in his rookie season while offering no help attacking the quarterback.
The Saints played well defensively in back-to-back seasons, highlighted by their value against the run and the pressure by their defensive line. However, I could see regression in overall play if they can't repeat in the pass rush. The second level of the defense isn't an edge, and there will be times when offenses will beat them in the deep passing game. They rank 11th in the early draft season in the NFFC. New Orleans' defense would be significantly helped by playing from the lead in more games in 2022.
QB Jameis Winston, NO - Gamble (high risk)
Over 77 career starts, Wintson went 33-44, with his only winning record for an entire season coming in 2016 (9-7). In 2019, Winston led the NFL in passing yards (5,109) with plenty of touchdowns (33) and attempts (626), but his incredibly high number of interceptions (30 – seventh-highest all-time) keeps his opponents in games too often. Last year with a questionable wide receiving corps, he went 5-2 with 1,336 combined yards (only 191 yards per game) with 15 touchdowns.
Despite underwhelming passing stats, Winston did post two impact games (31.10 and 30.55 fantasy points). His career completion rate (61.2) is well below the top quarterbacks in the game, but his success in this area would be significantly improved by throwing more balls to the running back position.
The key to Winston's ceiling would be a healthy Michael Thomas. New Orleans added more weapons at wide receiver in the offense season, setting up a structure where they should return to their roots in the passing game. After blowing out his ACL in his left knee in late October, he looks to be on a path to start in Week 1.
Fantasy outlook: In late June, in the Fantasy Football World Championship, Winston is the 22nd quarterback. He is the clear-cut starter for New Orleans with a reasonable leash to keep the job if Wintson struggles early. I view him as a cheat QB1 for a fantasy drafting looking to gain an edge in depth at running back, wide receiver, and tight end.
Jody Smith's note: I love the Saints' supporting cast but I remain skeptical of Winston as a fantasy starter. He was downright awful in 4 of his six complete games and was held under 230 passing yards in 6-of-7. Nine of his 14 TDs came in two games and he had the second-lowest completion percentage of his entire career. Without Sean Payton calling the plays, the floor or Winston is way too low for me to consider him anything more than a middling QB2 in a Superflex format.
QB Ian Book, --- - Not Draft Worthy
Book gained 10,466 combined yards over four seasons at Notre Dame with 89 combined touchdowns and 20 interceptions. His best success came in 2019 (3,580 combined yards with 38 touchdowns and six interceptions. Book has a winning resume, but he does need time to develop as a passer.
His dual-threat ability falls in line with the recent success of Taysom Hill. He lacks an elite arm with questions with his size (6'0" and 210 lbs.). Book offers a good feel for the pocket with a chain mover feel when asked to run on RPOs. His accuracy diminishes with the length of throws while needing improvement taking care of the ball under duress.
Other Options: Andy Dalton
RB Alvin Kamara, NO - Solid/Safe Pick
The lack of quarterback play hurt Kamara in two areas last season. He finished with a career-low 3.7 yards per carry (5.0 over his first four years) while having a sharp decline in his value in the passing game (47/439/5 – over 80 catches each season from 2017 to 2020). Despite missing four games with a knee injury, Kamara set a career-high in rushing attempts (240). He averaged 22.1 touches, besting his previous top in 2018 (18.3 per game).
Kamara gained 100 combined yards in eight of his 13 starts, leading to 18.05 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. His path projected over 17 matchups would have pushed him into the top five in running back scoring.
Fantasy outlook: With a long history of being a top pass-catching back with value in touchdowns, Kamara remains a top-tier running back option this season. His rise in early down chances points to his best season in touches of his career. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, he has an ADP of 19 as the 10th running back off the table. With 17 games played, Kamara should gain 1,600 combined yards with 16 scores and 70 catches while also owning a higher ceiling if the Saints' offense plays better than expected.
Update: It's looking more and more like any potential suspension Kamara could face will go into 2023. That makes him a much better value at his currently deflated ADP. We've moved Kamara back into the top-10.
RB Tony Jones, ARI - Not Draft Worthy
Over his first two seasons with the Saints after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2020, Jones gained 184 combined yards with five catches on 62 touches. However, his lack of explosiveness (2.7 yards per carry and 5.8 yards per catch) puts him on the cut list over the summer.
He failed to earn a workhorse opportunity in his three seasons at Notre Dame (1,744 combined yards with 14 touchdowns and 27 catches on 298 touches over 36 games). His best success came in 2019 (144/857/6 and 15 catches for 104 yards and a score).
Other Options: Dwayne Washington, Abram Smith, Devine Ozigbo
RB Mark Ingram, --- - Fantasy Handcuff
After playing well in 2019 with the Ravens (1,265 combined yards with 15 touchdowns and 26 catches), he struggled to find his rhythm over the next two seasons (1,065 combined yards with four touchdowns and 33 catches on 265 touches) while averaging only 3.7 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per catch. Ingram will start the year at age 32.
Fantasy outlook: His history with the Saints helps his chances of retaining the RB2 role in 2022. He will get in the way at times, but father time has caught up to him. At best, Ingram would be a short-term injury policy while needing to beat out Tony Jones for snaps.
WR Chris Olave, NO - Bye Week Fill-in
Over his final 31 games, Olave caught 164 of his 239 targets (68.6 percent) for 2,514 yards and 32 touchdowns while gaining 15.3 yards per catch. His best season came in 2021 (65/936/13) despite being outplayed slightly by his teammate Garrett Wilson (70/1,058/12). Olave finished last year with six games with seven catches or more, highlighted by two matchups (12/126 and 7/140/2).
Olave offers a plus route running that allows him to create space and plays at all three levels of the defense. He has a chain-mover feel and the speed to beat a defense over the top. His ability to create on-time catches bodes well for his success in his rookie season. Olave has room for growth. His quickness helps him win at the line of scrimmage while still needing to get stronger to handle physical defenders.
Fantasy outlook: In the early draft season in the FFWC, Olave is the 49th wide receiver drafted with an ADP of 115. Young wideouts with plus route running can have a quicker learning curve success out of the gate. The structure of the Saints' wide receivers points to him working on the outside in his rookie season. So let's start the bidding at 50 catches for 750 yards and five touchdowns.