New Orleans Saints
|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, August 30, 2023|
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 - 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 - 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 Jamaal Williams - 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.
RB Kendre Miller - 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
Injury Status: Out - Ankle
WR Kawaan Baker - Dynasty Only
Over his final three seasons at South Alabama, Baker caught 119 passes for 1,727 yards and 15 touchdowns. He flashed big-play ability in 2018 and 2019 (15.0 and 16.4 yards per catch) while transitioning to a possession guy in 2020 (51/659/8 – 12.9 yards per catch). Baker also has some experience running the ball (92/376/11), highlighted by his success in 2018 (59/251/9).
Baker has the tools to reach a high ceiling once he shows he can win against NFL talent at cornerback. His early quickness and acceleration set the tone for wins with the wheels to turn a short pass into long touchdowns. Baker gets off the line well against press coverage. However, his success falls on too many plays until his hands develop.
Fantasy Outlook: I'm intrigued by his scouting report while understanding Baker needs time to develop. In my head, my thought is a poor man's Jarvis Landry with a flavor of Golden Tate with the ball in his hands. Baker has yet to have a target in the NFL over two seasons.
Other Options: James Washington, Tre'Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood
UPDATE: Baker didn't make the squad and has no fantasy value.
WR Chris Olave - 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 Michael Thomas - Gamble (high risk)
In 2019, Thomas set the NFL record in catches (149) while scoring almost 100 more fantasy points (375.5) than the 2nd ranked wide receiver (Chris Godwin – 276.1) in PPR leagues.
At the end of Week 1 in 2020, he suffered a doomed high ankle sprain with minimal time left in the game. His injury led to six missed weeks and two empty starts (5/51 and 2/27 on 13 combined targets). From Week 11 to Week 14, Thomas posted three playable games (9/104, 9/105, and 8/84) before suffering a hamstring injury. In the first week of the playoffs, he scored his only touchdown (5/73/1), followed by a zero on four targets against Tampa. In mid-January, Thomas had shoulder and ankle surgeries.
In 2021, his lingering ankle issue cost him all 17 games. Last year, he played well over three games (5/57/2, 6/65/1, and 5/49), but Thomas suffered a toe injury in Week 3 that ended his season and surgery in early November.
When at his best from 2017 to 2019, Thomas caught 378 passes for 4,375 yards and 23 touchdowns on 481 targets. His catch rate (78.6) over this span was elite, while gaining 11.6 yards per catch. As a result, he averaged 7.9 catches for 91 yards and 0.48 touchdowns per game, or 20.03 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.
Fantasy Outlook: The question for drafters in 2023 is whether Thomas is a shell of his former self or past his injuries. His success over his three games last year suggests he still has a pulse. He ranked 45th at wide receiver in late June. I'm buying if his summer reports are positive with no hint of an injury. My starting point is 75 catches for 900 yards and five touchdowns.
UPDATE: Check out Shawn's upgraded projections for Thomas!Injury Status: Injured Reserve
WR A.T. Perry - Dynasty Only
Wake Forest gave Perry a high-volume opportunity in 2021 (71/1,293/15) and 2022 (81/1,096/11). He showed the ability to make big plays and move the chains. His explosiveness showed in 12 games (7/155/1, 3/137/3, 6/146/1, 7/116, 6/129/2, 5/113, 10/127/1, 5/142/1, 5/118/1, 12/159/1, 10/119/3, and 11/116) with more than 100 yards receiving.
Fantasy Outlook: Perry has a higher ceiling and career resume than Rashid Shaheed, pointing him jumping him on the depth chart in his rookie season. His movements, ability to adjust to the ball, and hands are better than most scouts believe. I expect Perry to move to the Saints' WR3 in his rookie season. Defenses must respect his deep speed, helping his spacing of the Saints' other wideouts. His stock should rise over the summer, making him a late flier in 12-team redraft formats.
WR Rashid Shaheed - 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.
TE Juwan Johnson - Quality Backup
Coming into 2022, Johnson only had 17 career catches in the NFL for 198 yards and four touchdowns on 31 targets. He came to the Saints with a big wide receiver profile (6'4" and 230 lbs.) out of Oregon. Over four years in college, Johnson had 111 catches for 1,590 yards and six touchdowns on 179 targets.
New Orleans gave him eight starts last year, leading to the best season (42/508/7 on 65 targets) of his career. From Week 7 to Week 15, over seven games, Johnson posted five playable outcomes (5/32/2, 2/42/1, 5/44/1, 3/47/1, and 4/67/2). He left Week 12 after six snaps with an ankle issue, costing him another game. The Saints had him on the field for 64.6% of their plays.
Fantasy Outlook: With Foster Moreau having ties and experience with Derek Carr, Johnson isn't a lock to have the same opportunity as last season. His production and catch rate (64.6) suggest more chances this year, as he is a mismatch problem in some games. Johnson ranked 15th in fantasy scoring (134.80) in PPR formats in 2022 while coming off the board as the 17th player in late June.
TE Taysom Hill - Gamble (high risk)
In some fantasy formats in 2022, Hill had a tight end qualification, helping his playable value. He finished with only nine catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns while being active as a runner (96/575/9). In addition, Hill completed 13 of his 19 passes for 240 yards and two scores. His combined fantasy points (148.20) in four-point passing touchdown leagues and PPR format ranked him eighth at the tight end position. He has an impact game (9/112/3) running the ball in Week 5 and five other double-digit weeks in fantasy points (15.30, 13.55, 11.00, 11.60, and 13.80), with the latter four coming consecutively late in the year. The Saints had Hill on the field for about one-third of their plays.
Fantasy Outlook: Hill has talent and play-making ability, pointing to New Orleans getting him on the field in some fashion this year. I expect him to get running chances again inside the five-yard line and in some short-yardage situations. He a viable backup tight end option if your format allows, with most of his output coming in the run game.
TE Jimmy Graham - Deep-league Only
Graham was a surprising addition to the Saints' preseason roster and managed to make some plays. Although 36, Graham showed enough downfield ability to make the Saints' Week One roster. They'll go with four active tight ends, so the snaps could be limited. But it wouldn't be a shock to see Graham carve out a red-zone role.
TE Foster Moreau - Low Potential
Over four seasons for the Raiders, Moreau worked as their backup tight end, leading to 91 catches for 1.107 yards and 12 touchdowns on 132 targets. Injuries to Darren Waller over the last two seasons gave him windows to produce with starting snaps, but Morneau rarely delivered TE1 stats in a week. He scored double-digit fantasy points twice in 2022 (3/43/1 and 3/33/1) and four times in 2021 (2/34/1, 6/60/1, 7/65, and 4/67) in PPR formats.
Fantasy Outlook: Moreau will see a rotational tight end role for the Saints in 2023. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in March, but he looks on track to be ready for opening day. New Orleans signed him to a $12 million three-year deal in May.
Other Options: Jesse James, Lucas Krull, Miller Forristall
PK Wil Lutz - Not Draft Worthy
From 2017 to 2020, Lutz made 87.7% of his 130 field goals while going 204-for-210 in extra-point tries. He missed all of 2021 with an abdomen injury. His leg lost value last season (23-for-30 – 74.2%), but Lutz didn't miss any of his 33 extra points. He made 27 of his 29 kicks from 50 yards or more in his career. New Orleans scored 37 touchdowns in 2022 with 31 field goal chances.
Fantasy Outlook: Lutz is no longer considered a top-12 kicking option, but he should rebound this year. In addition, New Orleans should be better offensively. In the early draft season, the Saints kicker is the 24th option off the board.
UPDATE: LUTZ was traded to Denver and will kick for the Broncos.
PK Blake Grupe - Deep-league Only
Grupe beat out Will Lutz to win the Saints' kicking job. Lutz was subsequently traded to Denver. The Saints are NFC South favorites and should have a decent amount of scoring opportunities. That makes Grupe a mid-tier option on draft day.
New Orleans - Bye Week Fill-in
New Orleans nose-dived to 4th in rushing yards allowed (2,218) with 14 touchdowns. They gave up 4.5 yards per rush, with opponents attempting 28.9 rushers per game.
The Saints rose to second in passing yards allowed (3,134) with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 6.4 yards per pass attempt. Their defense finished with 48 sacks.
DE Cameron Jordan had a step back in sacks (8.5 – 12.5 in 2021) last year, but he posted the second-most tackles (66) of his career. His run defense continues to be an edge. DE Carl Granderson showed growth in his fourth season with the Saints, leading to career-highs in tackles (53) and sacks (5.5). He excelled defending the run while working as a rotational player, with only four starts in 2022. Over the past two seasons, New Orleans added Payton Turner (first round) and Isaiah Foskey (second round) to help their perimeter defense at the line of scrimmage.
DT Khalen Saunders signed a three-year deal in March, but he has never been a top player with starting snaps. His value in the pass rush did improve last season with the Chiefs. DT Bryan Bresee should slide into the starting line in his rookie season after getting drafted 29th overall. DT Nathan Shepard is another off-season addition with questionable value in run support. He put more heat on the quarterback over the past two seasons with the Jets.
LB Zack Baun has yet to be an asset in any area in his three seasons for the Saints. He missed 11 games last year with hamstring and ankle issues. New Orleans drafted him in the third round in 2020. LB Demario Davis posted more than 100 tackles for six consecutive seasons while adding 27.5 sacks over his last 97 games. His strength remains his run defense. Despite missing five games in his sophomore year for the Saints, LB Pete Werner set a career-best with 80 tackles. His run defense should improve with more experience.
CB Marshon Lattimore missed 10 games in 2022 with an abdomen injury. His pass defense with the best of his career when on the field. CB Paulson Adebo holds receivers to a low catch rate, but he still gives up too many big plays and some damage in scoring. He sat out four games in 2022 with ankle and hamstring issues. CB Alontae Taylor played well in relief of Lattimore in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. He didn't allow a touchdown, and receivers gained minimal yards per catch with a lock catch rate.
S Tyrann Mathieu finished with a career-high in tackles (91), three interceptions, and eight defended passes. He has been a defense edge for most of his 10 seasons in the NFL. CB Marcus Maye plays well vs. run while holding his own in coverage. He missed seven games last year with rib, abdomen, and shoulder issues. S Johnathan Abram is a former first-round draft pick (2019) who needs to reinvent his career after missing 35 games over the last three years.
New Orleans played well defensively over the past three seasons, and they have the talent to continue on the same path. There are some questions at linebacker, but the Saints make up for that would strength at the defensive end position and in their secondary. They ranked 12th in the fantasy market in late June after finishing eighth in fantasy scoring in 2022.