Monday, August 8, 2022

2022 Saints Fantasy Football Preview: New weapons, old questions remain

The Saints are seemingly moving on from the Taysom Hill-at-QB experiment, so this is Jameis Winston’s team now, seemingly. Who he’ll be handing off and throwing to remains a bigger question than you’d like given concerns around Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.

2021 Review

Record: 9 – 8 (13)

PPG: 21.4 (19)

YPG: 304.5 (28)

Pass YPG: 187.4 (32)

Rush YPG: 117.1 (15)

PAPG: 29.6 (30)

RAPG: 30.0 (4)

2021 Fantasy finishes

QB: Jameis Winston QB32, Taysom Hill QB 40

RB: Alvin Kamara RB9, Mark Ingram RB49

WR: Marquez Callaway WR43

TE: Adam Trautman TE38

Number to know: 51%

That was the Saints pass rate last season, the second-lowest in the NFL, it’s not necessarily shocking that the Saints were a relatively low pass volume team, because they became a more run-heavy offense during the final years of Drew Brees’ career. That they actually had the fewest dropbacks in the league at 530 was a combination of their low pass rate and slow pace of play. 

But what was surprising was how rarely the Saints passed when Jameis Winston was the QB. We expected a run-heavy offense with Taysom Hill at QB, but they averaged just 25.2 attempts per game in Winston’s six healthy starts, as they didn’t really seem to trust him. For what it’s worth, Winston was quite efficient in those six starts, and he still leaned heavily on Alvin Kamara, who was the only Fantasy relevant player on the team at the time, so the impact for Fantasy wasn’t huge. 

Our expectations are much different this season, of course. We’re assuming Michael Thomas will be healthy for the start of training camp, and the Saints added WR Chris Olave out of Ohio State with the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft, so there are many more mouths to feed suddenly. Winston has, of course, supported multiple must-start Fantasy options in the past, but that was on a high-volume Buccaneers passing offense that allowed him to play ultra-aggressively, creating tons of high-value targets for his weapons.

That isn’t how the Saints played last season. The question is, was that a coaching philosophy thing? Was it about a lack of faith in their weapons? A lack of faith in Winston? If it was either of the first two explanations, we have reason to believe things will be different in 2022, with Sean Payton’s retirement and the addition of multiple new weapons. And they gave Winston decent money coming off a torn ACL, so they must feel pretty good about him.

All in all, I do expect this to be a more pass-heavy team this season, then. Whether Winston and Thomas and the rest can take advantage of it remains to be seen, but there’s still potential in this offense. 

2021 Offseason

Draft Picks 

1. (11) Chris Olave, WR

1. (19) Trevor Penning, T

2. (49) Alontae Taylor, DB

5. (161) D’Marco Jackson, LB

6. (194) Jordan Jackson, DT

Additions

S Tyrann Mathieu, S Marcus Maye, QB Andy Dalton, WR Jarvis Landry, S Daniel Sorensen

Key Departures

OL Terron Armstead, S Marcus Williams, QB Trevor Siemian, RB Ty Montgomery

Available Opportunity 

52 carries, 30 RB targets, 81 WR targets, 0 TE targets 

2022 Preview

Rankings

Chris Towers’ projections

QB Jameis Winston PA: 557, YD: 4011, TD: 25, INT: 12; RUSH — ATT: 56, YD: 280, TD: 2
RB Alvin Kamara CAR: 257, YD: 1104, TD: 9, TAR: 100, REC: 70, YD: 657, TD: 4
RB Mark Ingram CAR: 93, YD: 402, TD: 3, TAR: 22, REC: 17, YD: 103, TD: 1
WR Michael Thomas TAR: 124, REC: 78, YD: 928, TD: 5
WR Jarvis Landry TAR: 111, REC: 67, YD: 747, TD: 5
WR Chris Olave TAR: 119, REC: 72, YD: 824, TD: 5
TE Adam Trautman TAR: 28, REC: 19, YD: 285, TD: 1

Biggest Question

What can you expect from Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas?

Thomas missed all of last season due to ankle injuries after being limited to just five games in 2020, and as of June minicamp, he has yet to be cleared to return to the field. He still has theoretical upside, but between lingering injury concerns and the presence of rookie Chris Olave, he may be less of a focal point. The bigger concern might be Kamara’s status. He is facing felony charges as a result of an altercation during the offseason, and with an initial hearing set for Aug. 1, it’s not clear how that will affect his availability. He’s a top-five RB in PPR when available, but the uncertainty may push him out of the first round.

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One sleeper, one breakout and one bust

If Thomas isn’t available or isn’t 100%, Landry actually has a pretty decent chance to be the Saints No. 1 wide receiver. He was exactly that during minicamps and OTAs, according to reports, and while he isn’t the most high-upside receiver on the team — he’s not even in the top two — Landry has been a viable, must-start WR in PPR in the recent past, and I could see him being that again in this offense if a few things break right. He’ll likely go undrafted in plenty of 12-team leagues, but if I have to start three WRs, I’m looking for Landry with one of my final picks as a potential contributor. 

Olave is a bit undersized, but that didn’t stop him from emerging as a red zone weapon for the Buckeyes, and he plays every bit as quick as his sub-4.40 40-yard dash would indicate. “Smooth” is the word most often used to describe him, and playing with Winston could help unlock some big-play potential for Olave that neither Landry nor Thomas really brings to the table in abundance. There’s certainly an opportunity for Olave to emerge as the top receiver on the team before long, but even if he doesn’t, he could have big weekly upside if they open the offense up and let Winston take more chances.  

Thomas’ ADP has slipped to WR34, in the seventh round, and if it stays there, I have no problem taking him. There’s obvious upside here from the guy who was the consensus top WR in Fantasy to open the 2020 season, and it’s worth chasing at that point in the draft. However, Thomas still hasn’t been fully cleared a few weeks ahead of training camp, and while we expect to see him out there, his recovery from ankle surgery seems to have been less smooth than we would’ve hoped. The risk of a setback in his recovery, of re-injury, of underperformance even when healthy, and the concerns about the direction of the team all complicate his value, in addition to the overall questions we have about this offense. Thomas probably shouldn’t be someone you’re relying on as a key piece right now. 

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