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Last updated: August 1st at 12:15am.

Saints 2014-2018 Offensive Profile Under Sean Payton

2014-2018 Pass Attempts Rank: 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 19th, 23rd
2014-2018 Rush Attempts Rank: 19th, 20th, 19th, 13th, 5th
2014-2018 Play Volume Rank: 3rd, 4th, 1st, 19th, 17th
2014-2018 Yards Per Play Rank: 5th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, 7th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2018 (Rank): 78 (23rd)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2018 (Rank): 159 (8th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Drew Brees
RB: Alvin Kamara
WR1: Michael Thomas
WR2: Ted Ginn
SLWR: Keith Kirkwood
TE: Jared Cook
LT: Terron Armstead
LG: Andrus Peat
C: Erik McCoy
RG: Larry Warford
RT: Ryan Ramczyk

Saints Passing Game

Drew Brees is among 2019’s most-obvious fantasy fades in an NFL increasingly littered with dual-threat quarterbacks that are cheaper in drafts and offer higher week-to-week ceilings. Brees barely finished as a top-ten QB scorer in each of the last two years and was virtually unusable with a 234.5-yard average and 7:5 TD-to-INT ratio over last season’s final six games, including the playoffs. On a Saints team equipped to win with its defense and running game but not quite as passing-game rich, 40-year-old Brees is no longer a difference-making asset and has become someone we should let competitors draft.

Michael Thomas landed a five-year deal worth $20 million annually after leading the NFL in receptions (125) with an outrageous 85% catch rate and career highs in yards (1,405) and yards per target (9.6). Still just 26 years old, Thomas is firmly in his prime after finishing No. 2 in the NFL in yards per route run (2.66) behind only Julio Jones. Sean Payton’s creativity shows up in Thomas’ slot usage, where he was the NFL’s highest-targeted wide receiver on a percentage basis (32.7%) and caught 88.5% of his targets. Entrenched as the focal point of one of the league’s most-efficient passing games, Thomas is my overall WR5 behind Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, and Julio.

Jared Cook arrived in New Orleans on a two-year, $15 million agreement after setting career highs in targets (101), catches (68), yards (896), touchdowns (6), and catch rate (67.3%) as the Raiders’ top 2018 pass catcher. Cook’s role won’t be as prominent behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the Saints’ target pecking order, although New Orleans’ offense is much more trustworthy and high scoring than Oakland’s. A tantalizing underachiever for most of his pre-Raiders career, 32-year-old Cook settled in as one of the league’s premier pass-catching tight ends over the last two seasons, where onlyZach Ertz(190), Travis Kelce(186), and George Kittle(131) have more combined receptions than Cook’s 121.

Saints role-player pass-catching snaps are open to competition between Ted Ginn, Tre’Quan Smith, and Keith Kirkwood. Ginn missed nine games with a knee injury last season, then returned for stat lines of 5/74/0, 3/44/0, and 3/58/0 in Week 16 and the playoffs. Smith’s snap rates in those games were all over the place (39%, 28%, 62%) with target totals of 1 – 1 – 3 compared to Ginn’s 8 – 7 – 6. Nevertheless, 2018 third-rounder Smith offers significantly more short- and long-term upside than 34-year-old role-player Ginn. Kirkwood was a lightly-targeted slot receiver down the stretch.. Due to the Saints’ increasingly run-heavy approach, their ancillary pass catchers have become much less fantasy relevant than in years past.

Saints Running Game

Alvin Kamara defined fantasy week winner with Mark Ingram on suspension last Weeks 1-4, parlaying 22.8 touches into 152.8 yards per game with six touchdowns as fantasy’s overall RB1 in September. His average touches dipped to 16.7 the rest of the way, but Kamara was still the RB5 in PPR scoring from Weeks 5-16 before sitting out meaningless Week 17 after the Saints earned a first-round bye. With 32 all-purpose TDs through 31 regular season games and over 80 receptions in each of his first two seasons, Kamara enters 2019 entrenched as one of the NFL’s top-five playmakers in an offense that has finished top ten in points scored in eight straight years. I rank him behind Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, and Saquon Barkley only because Kamara’s volume projects substantially lower than his competition.

Latavius Murray joined the Saints on a four-year, $14.4 million pact to assume the Mark Ingram role behind Kamara, duties that saw Ingram average 13.3 touches with seven TDs in 12 games last year. After running behind a Vikings offensive line that ranked 23rdin Football Outsiders’ run blocking, Murray relocated to a Saints front five that finished No. 2. Last year’s New Orleans team was also top five in rushing attempts, while Minnesota finished 27th. The Saints are missing the NFL’s third-most carries inside the five-yard line (12) from last year’s team. With a locked-in role in a high-scoring offense, Murray is being slept on as a mid-round upside pick and surefire RB1 in the event of a Kamara injury.

2019 Vegas Win Total

The Saints are projected at 10.5 wins after winning 13 and 11 the past two seasons, albeit with good fortune after last year’s club went a well-above-expectation 5-2 in one-score games while outkicking its Pythagorean Win Expectation by nearly two full victories. In the division, Carolina, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay all look likely to improve, while Drew Brees’ gradual decline lowers New Orleans’ floor as a team. Despite their recent success, the Saints’ under is one of my favorite 2019 team-specific win-total bets.