2022 NFC South Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Matt Bevins breaks down the NFC South from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review

 

Points per Game 21.4 19th
Offensive Snaps 1051
2021 Record 9-8 16th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 8 19th

 

The New Orleans Saints are just yet another team with tons of turnover going into this season. Drew Brees has been retired for a year, Sean Payton has retired along with him, and seemingly the ongoing experiment of Taysom Hill quarterbacking has come to a fizzled conclusion. Payton, coaching the squad for 15 years will also take along with it the hopes of dreams of the pure speed offense the Saints have employed for so long. Will the Saints have a chance to really become a new phoenix or is this just the team in flux from what it used to be? The Saints finished a game above .500, finishing 4 of their last 5 games with wins, but after all the season we saw, it left the fans with a salty note, knowing well that Brees won’t be back to revive them, and there’s no quick fix in the future. Michael Thomas also is seemingly consistently injured or finding himself on the injured list, so there hasn’t been much to love lately.

 

Coaching:

Payton. Payton’s gone, with the wind. The Saints need to face this situation head-on, and Dennis Allen has been tasked with fixing the issue, as he’ll replace Payton after spending 12 years on the coaching staff of the Saints. Originally a Texas A&M coaching alum, he has spent many years tweaking and learning from Payton, and will likely attempt to perform in the footsteps while with a bit more conservative coverage to begin. Pete Carmichael is taking himself into the offensive coordinator role, 17 seasons in the New Orleans Saints coaching staff, and 14th as Offensive Coordinator. Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard will co-coordinate the defensive scheming for 2022. The Saints’ defensive scheming last year held up 1st in Red Zone defense (https://www.neworleanssaints.com/news/new-orleans-saints-2022-coordinators-coaching-staff-pete-carmichael-doug-marrone). Darren Rizzi will reprise his role as a special teams specialist, and Doug Marrone will find himself as the new offensive lines coach for New Orleans.

 

On-Field Personnel:

The New Orleans Saints are honestly an enigma to me for the most part, as they never really seem well-rounded when they didn’t have a core of Brees/Alvin Kamara/Michael Thomas. They’ll never have this again, and now Kamara is only getting older while facing looming suspensions. The additional worry that Michael Thomas will either “be injured” or “act injured” at any sign of ill will is nothing if not worrisome.  Tre’Quan Smith got resigned for two years, in the likely worry they’d have no depth with no signs of Thomas and Kamara on the horizon. Tyrann Mathieu has finally agreed to a deal with New Orleans and will look to help usher in a new defensive era in New Orleans, while they lost Malcolm Jenkins in the same breath. To round out their disappointment, Michael Thomas has settled in swimmingly on the PUP list, where he takes a return trip to where he was last year.

 

Passing Game

 

Passing Yards per Game 187.4 32nd(Last)
Passing Touchdowns per Game 1.7 11th
Pass Attempts per Game 29.6 30th

 

The passing game in New Orleans is likely going to take strides to become a team more firmly planted in the middle of the passing stats instead of lagging behind the pack. Last season, the Saints starting offerings were fast and loose:

Trevor Siemian: 6 games, 4 started

Jameis Winston: 7 games, 7 started

Taysom Hill: 12 games, 9 started

Hill is a defacto running back in a tight end’s body attempting to be a professional quarterback, and the perfect storm finally came to a head last year. 31 years old, the goal was always to make Hill a tricky player to cover, as he could both pass better than average, while also having the ability to take off on his legs. But the games where he started never truly got off the ground with consistency, and while the sample size was small, Jameis Winston made a very good case that he should be the quarterback to lead this squad, as he showcased only a 1.9 interception percentage, and easily his highest QBR (102.8). Will the team look to employ Hill in a hybrid role all season, or will Jameis flame out with a brand new offense at his disposal? Time will tell, but it’s certainly Jameis’ team to lose.

Thankfully, there are some support troops on the way, as the Saints took in Chris Olave, clearly to help reconstruct this wide receiving corp from the ground up, taking him extremely early at pick 11. Olave’s play style closely resembles Terry McLaurin and this could likely help embolden a team that greatly needs to build some consistent receiving output given that Tre’Quan has some amazing game-changing speed and eye-popping big-playability, but doesn’t do much to help around the line, and with pure route rushing.

His routes are like butter.

 

Running Game

 

Rushing Yards Per Game 117.1 16th
Rushing Touchdowns Per Game 0.7 T-24th
Rushing Attempts Per Game 30.0 4th

 

The New Orleans Saints WANTED to run last year. The sad fact of the matter was that while their attempts were extremely high, the outcome was pretty poor, and the Kamara/Mark Ingram returning/Tony Jones trio really didn’t do much to excite. Kamara only got a starting spot in 10 games, and while clearly, he wasn’t in the best health, there was also a huge dropoff in his production, as his receptions dropped off just shy of 40 from the prior season, and his yards per attempt was under 4 yards for the first time in his career. Now, we also have to contend with an off-season fight he was involved with that could potentially sideline him from games to a year. While Mark Ingram has long been a steady Eddie for the Saints, this fellow is now 32 years old and is without game-changing Michael Thomas to help pull some attention off of the rushers, and Drew Brees is not worrying defensive squads where he could unload large passes at any time. This rushing game has a ton of land mines, and they’re certainly doesn’t yet seem like there’s a solution to it yet.

 

Sleeper

 

Chris Olave, WR

I’m not selling many of you on Chris Olave if you’re a football fan/fantasy football player. He was drafted at #11, this isn’t a Tom Brady in the last round of the NFL Draft reach. The overall point here would be that the ADP that Olave is at is somehow still lower than it deserves to be. He’s outside the top 100 draft picks. He’s just inside the top 50 wide receivers drafted. IF Kamara and Michael Thomas both end up either by choice sitting out a large portion of a larger than a minuscule portion of the season, Olave will likely be the person who can showcase the most consistency on this team without any black marks on their resume. Smith has plenty of talent and seems like a great draft pick for the Saints, but he’s incredibly inconsistent. Ingram has value if Kamara sits, but he’s older and takes a lot of head-on contact. If Olave can run routes as he did in college, he could become an incredibly comfortable security blanket for ol’ Jameis.

 

Deep Sleeper

 

Jarvis Landry, WR

Back in May, months before the Michael Thomas downgrade of expectation even happened, the Saints decided to invest in Jarvis Landry. Landry, just turning 30, has seen his stock drop both due to a lack of passing talent throwing the ball to him, but he has also seen his games start to drop for 3 straight years, as well as having a bottom 50 percent yards per reception rate last season. The team, however, as discussed prior, still needs some consistent and available production, and there isn’t nearly as much of it available as there used to be on this team. With Olave drawing some coverage, and Jameis attempting to still get himself loose with some big play passing, Landry will continue to roam as a Y-receiver, helping across the middle of the field and in hopes of moving the chains. There could be some late-round value here, and arguably it could come at the value of 3-4 rounds higher than where Landry needs to be taken.

 

Bust Candidate

 

Alvin Kamara, RB

Alvin Kamara saw a meteoric and unexpected rise after being drafted, at many times being the centerpiece to an offense that thrived on high-octane, unexpected playcalling. This has come crashing to the ground and shattered like an off-the-course space object, leaving us wondering if Kamara’s reign as a top 2-3 round production player is done for. His yards per carry dropped over 1.5 yards last season. He also started ten games, and at this point, it’s started to become a lot bigger of an issue to look at the fact that he has only started more than 10 games once in his 5 season career. Oh, did we mention that he has a looming legal issue that could grind his expectations to a halt, and still hasn’t fully come to a head? Kamara is very talented. Will not argue that point. The real issue here is that the draft value is almost impossible to pinpoint at this point in his career, the Saints are a team looking for a full makeover, and also there are numerous new dimples in the offense, as well as new offensive weapons to feed. Kamara could have the second half of draft value, but sadly it’s all but expected some person will overpay for the sheer upside, and I’m completely out on that endeavor.

 

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Ken Murray, Roy K. Miller, William Howard & David Rosenblum / Icon Sportswire

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