2023 New Orleans Saints Team Outlook
2023 New Orleans Saints Outlook
After running the Saints' defense for seven seasons, New Orleans promoted Dennis Allen to head coach after Sean Payton retired in 2021. He went 7-10 last year with a slight step back in play on both sides of the ball. His first opportunity to run a team came from 2012 to 2014 for the Raiders, leading to an 8-28 record. Allen has 20 years of NFL coaching experience.
Pete Carmichael returns for his 14th season as the offensive coordinator. New Orleans added him to their system in 2006 when Sean Payton took over running the team.
New Orleans scored 330 points (22nd), 34 points fewer than in 2021 and 152 points from their 2020 total (482). The Saints finished 19th in offensive yards gained.
Joe Woods takes over their defense. He was the Broncos' and Browns' defensive coordinator over five combined seasons. His NFL coaching started in 2004, giving him 19 years of experience in the league.
Their defense climbed to fifth in yards allowed while giving up 345 points (9th). They had a top-tier defense over the past three seasons.
With New Orleans looking for a new starting quarterback in the offseason, they backed up the Brinks truck and paid Derek Carr $150 million over four years ($100 million guaranteed). They also signed RB Jamaal Williams for running back depth and added TE Foster Moreau. WR Jarvis Landry (FA) and QB Andy Dalton were their only offensive losses.
The defense added DT Khalen Saunders and DT Nathan Shepherd to replace DT Shy Tuttle (CAR) and DT David Onyemata (ATL). LB Kaden Elliss (ATL) and DE Marcus Davenport (MIN) also found new homes out of town.
Over the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, New York invested in two defensive players – DT Bryan Bresee (1st) and DE Isiah Foskey (2nd).
Bresee is a power player who will control his area of the field with the ability to reach outside his frame. His run defense projects well, but he needs to develop more moves to improve his chance of earning sacks. His strength and vision invite early wins vs. his man.
Foskey plays with vision and an aggressive demeanor that leads to him disrupting plays behind the line of scrimmage. His early edge is the key to his success, but he will lose value against power blockers if they get their bodies into his frame. Foskey projects well in the pass rush with work to do controlling the run game.
In the third round, the Saints selected RB Kendre Miller. He projects as an early down runner with limited experience in the passing game. His flow to the line of scrimmage has patience with the gas pedal to slam through an opening hole. Miller runs with vision and the footwork to shift lanes while offering sneaky quickness and multiple open-field moves to gain yards at the second level of a defense. His transition between gears grades better in space while showing the ability to break tackles.
New Orleans added G Nick Saldiveri and QB Jake Haener in the fourth round.
Saldiveri moves better off the snap than his speed and quickness showed at the NFL combined. He has a feel for the oncoming rushers and the first step to get in the way, thanks to his footwork. His next area of growth comes with better placement of his hands at the point of contact and a longer running motor on slower-developing pass plays.
Haener is an undersized quarterback (6'0" and 205 lbs.) who lacks pop in his throws. He brings a quick release with an understanding of what a defense wants to do in pass coverage. His footwork must improve, along with his pocket presence.
With their final two choices, the Saints selected S Jordan Howden (5th) and WR A.T. Perry (6th)
Howden has the look and feel of a winning safety option based on his vision and understanding of the game, but his overall speed and quickness fall short of the best players in the game for his position. He has a natural flow in route coverage in middle zones while lacking the wheels to make up for a missed step over the long field.
Perry has an edge in size (6'3" and 200 lbs.) with supporting speed (4.47 40-yard dash). He must improve vs. physical defenders and eliminate his drops. His quickness can create early wins, but his game has a step down in value when changing direction in his pass routes and with the ball in his hands.
The Saints fell to 19th rushing yards (1,982). New Orleans scored 12 touchdowns while gaining 4.3 yards per carry with seven runs of 20 yards or more. New Orleans averaged 27.5 rushing attempts.
New Orleans improved to 16th in passing yards (3,969) while scoring 24 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. They had 45 completions over 20 yards (13 reached the 40-yard mark), gaining yards per pass attempt (7.8). Their offensive line allowed 38 sacks.
LT Trevor Penning missed 11 games with turf toe in his rookie season after getting drafted 19th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. His run blocking was an edge out of the gate with minimal pressure allowed over his limited snaps.
LG Andrus Peat has never played an entire season of games in his eight years in the NFL while missing 17 starts over the past two years. When on the field, his play has been below his expected value over the previous five seasons, when adding the start to his career and his draft pedigree (first-round in 2015).
C Erik McCoy also missed time (nine games) over the last two seasons. When at his best, his pass protection skill set is above the league average while being an asset in run blocking.
The right guard position will be a training camp battle between Cesar Ruiz and Nick Saldiveri. Ruiz continues to underachieve after coming to the NFL in the first round in 2020. He suffered a Lisfranc sprain last December, costing him the final four weeks.
RT Ryan Ramczyk has been a stud in all six seasons with the Saints. He has beast upside in run blocking while allowing minimal pressure on the quarterback.
New Orleans has one of the better lines in the league, but their left tackle still has to prove his worth on the field. The winner at right guard should rank as a league-average player at a minimum. Better quarterback play would also help their overall ratings.
With weakness at quarterback in 2022 and a transitioning wide receiver corps, the Saints no longer had a high-flying passing attack. They ran the ball 47.6% of the time while ranking poorly in plays (977 – 24th). The addition of Derek Carr invites a rebound in passing attempts in 2023.
QB Derek Carr, NO - Quality Backup
In his eighth season with Las Vegas in 2021, Carr set career-highs in completions (428), pass attempts (626), and passing yards (4,804). On the downside, he finished below the league average in touchdowns (23) with a rise in interceptions (14). Carr passed for over 300 yards in seven of his 18 games (including the postseason), but he failed to throw more than two touchdowns in any matchup. Carr was the 12th highest-scoring quarterback (324.40) in four-point passing touchdown leagues despite his low-scoring ability. Before 2021 (40/108), he chipped in with some scores on the ground over the previous three seasons (24/47/1, 27/82/2, and 39/140/3).
Coming into last season, his completion rate (68.7) was a strength from 2018 to 2021. Unfortunately, the addition of Davante Adams (100/1,516/14) gave him a true WR1, but his completion rate (60.8) was the lowest since his rookie season (58.1) in 2014. In addition, Carr had a regression in yards per pass attempt (7.0 – 7.8 from 2019 to 2021). The Raiders ended up benching him over their final two matchups. He had repeated weakness in interceptions (14) and touchdowns (24). Carr passed for more than 300 yards in two games (303/2 and 307/2) while delivering three scores in only two contests. Nine of his interceptions came over his last five starts.
Fantasy Outlook: Based on the passing history of the Saints with Drew Brees behind center, Carr should throw the ball more than 600 times in 2023 while regaining his lost completion rate by throwing many passes to the running back position. WR Chris Olave (72/1,042/4) played well in his rookie season, and WR Rashid Shaheed (28/488/2) showed growth late in the year, but New Orleans still needs a second elite option in the passing game. A Michael Thomas sighting would help Carr's passing upside. In late June, he ranked 18th at quarterback while on a path to pass for 4,300 yards and only a slight progression in touchdowns.
Other Options: Jameis Winston, Jake Haener, Taysom Hill
RB Alvin Kamara, NO - Gamble (high risk)
The lack of quarterback play hurt Kamara in two areas in 2021. 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.
Last season, Kamara missed another two games with an early season rib issue. Over 15 starts, he gained 1,387 combined yards with a career-low four touchdowns and 57 catches. New Orleans gave him the ball 280 times (16.5 per game) while gaining only 4.0 yards per rush. Kamara rushed for more than 100 yards in two matchups (23/103 and 23/107). His role in the passing game was diminished over his final five contests (2/11, 2/13, 2/34, 1/7, and 1/3). He posted one impact showing (158 combined yards with two touchdowns and nine catches).
Fantasy Outlook: Kamara has a court date on July 31st regarding an off-the-field incident early in 2022. Based on his ranking in late June (32nd) and the addition of Jamaal Williams, a suspension appears looming if found guilty. I'll defer on his outlook until his situation clears up in August.
UPDATE: Kamara will serve just a three-game suspension to open the season. This is far fewer games than initially predicted. That gives Kamara high-end RB2 value and makes him a nice sleeper to target in the mid-round range.
RB Kendre Miller, NO - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over three seasons at TCU, Miller gained 2,639 combined yards with 27 touchdowns and 29 catches. His highlight season came in 2022 (224/1,399/17 with 16 catches for 116 yards). He gained 6.7 yards in his college career. Miller rushed for more than 100 yards in seven games (17/142/1, 13/136/2, 22/104/2, 29/153/2, 12/120/1, 21/158/1, and 21/138/1).
Fantasy Outlook: Miller had many easy runs in college, thanks to big holes created by TCU's offensive line. He already appears to have more overall upside than Jamaal Williams, pointing to him being active in his rookie campaign if Alvin Kamara is suspended. His pass-catching ability will be higher than most believe. In late June, Miller is only a handcuff player but a must-follow this summer. He's coming off a right knee injury, which should be monitored.
Other Options: Dwayne Washington, Eno Benjamin, Ellis Merriweather
RB Jamaal Williams, NO - Quality Backup
The Lions used Williams 179 times over his 13 games (13.8 per week) in 2021. He set a career-high in rushing yards (601) while showing weakness in yards per carry (3.9) and yards per catch (6.0). Williams missed four games with thigh, hip, and Covid-19 issues. He posted his best output in Week 1 (110 combined yards with one touchdown and eight catches). Detroit gave him three targets or fewer in 11 of his final 12 matchups while scoring less than 10.00 fantasy points in PPR leagues in nine games.
Despite a minimal uptick in yards per rush (4.1), Williams had the best rushing opportunity (262/1,066) of his career, highlighted by 17 touchdowns. His role in the passing game (12/73) was a career-low. He scored two touchdowns or more in six matchups while gaining more than 100 yards in two games (19/108/2 and 22/144/1). The Lions had him on the field for only 40.6% of their plays.
Fantasy Outlook: Williams gives the Saints veteran experience in case Alvin Kamara has a lengthy suspension. New Orleans rotated in two backs in the past, a sign of their potential plan in 2023. Williams will catch some balls while having the appearance of assuming a Mark Ingram type role in the Saints game plan when their top two runners are available to play. He ranks 35th at running in the early draft season in the high-stake market as the fantasy world waits for more information to decide on his potential. Williams has a floor of 800 combined yards with five touchdowns and 25 catches. I'll revise his outlook when I have more news.
WR Chris Olave, NO - Solid/Safe Pick
Over his final 31 games at Ohio State, Olave caught 164 of his 239 targets (68.6%) 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 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 early success. 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.
He finished his rookie season with 72 catches for 1,042 and four touchdowns on 119 targets. His catch rate (60.5) came below his college career. Olave missed two games with concussion and hamstring issues. He gained more than 100 yards in three matchups (9/147, 7/106, and 5/102/1). All of his touchdowns came at home.
Fantasy Outlook: There is no doubt Olave can get open and make big plays, but he got banged around in multiple games with a pair of fumbles. The next step in his growth is scoring more touchdowns. Olave finished last year 18th in fantasy scoring (200.2) in PPR formats while ranking 15th at wide receiver in late June. Olave's natural progression should be 80 catches for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns.
WR Rashid Shaheed, NO - Sleeper (undervalued)
Shaheed had a short opportunity (146/2,164/18 with 30 rushes for 179 yards and two scores) over five seasons at Weber State. His top output came in 2018 (41/442/5). The Saints signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2022.
In his first year in New Orleans, Shaheed gave them surprising games over the final five weeks (4/75, 3/95/1, 4/41, 6/79, and 3/34) while receiving only 23 targets. He also scored a touchdown over his first two games (1/44/1 rushing the ball and 1/53/1). Shaheed also returned 20 punts (193 yards) and 14 kickoff returns (320 yards). On the year, he caught 28 of his 34 targets (82.4%) for 545 yards and three scores.
Fantasy Outlook: His rookie success points to Shaheed earning a WR3 opportunity in 2023. The health of Michael Thomas sets the tone for his targets. A possible 50 catches for 750 yards and five touchdowns while ranking 65th at wide receiver in late June if he can hold off A.T. Perry.