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NFC South Preview: New Orleans Saints

Ahhhh New Orleans, who’s up for a trip to NOLA? Finding a city quite like that of “New Or-lins/New Or-lee-yuns (correct pronunciation)” would be just as hard as finding a team that has been as explosive and unique as the Saints have been the past two years. Just think about it, the Saints are finding ways to win with an aging quarterback whose arm strength is below average, and declining, and by deploying a RBBC (running back by committee). Which other team in the NFL has the two things I just mentioned and finds a way to win week in and week out? The answer: none. Coach Sean Payton always finds a way to maximize his players talent, and that of course bodes well for everybody; Saints fans, football fans in general, and fantasy fans who have investments in the New Orleans. Here’s a look at three Saints players who could have a big impact on your fantasy team this year: Drew Brees Drew Brees is no longer the Drew Brees of old. Last season, it was really evident that his arm strength is declining. Don’t agree? Watch his deep balls from last year. Most every ball that traveled any meaningful distance through the air just didn’t have the “zip’” you would like to see on deep balls. Case in point: Take a look at the very first play of the Saints playoff game against the Eagles. The Saints tried to storm out of the gate with a homerun ball to Ted Ginn Jr. on the first play from scrimmage. Ginn had Eagles corner CreVon LeBlanc beat by two steps but the ball was underthrown so much so that Ginn didn’t even have time to come back to the ball and break up the pass.

Now saying all of that to say this, Brees still has plenty of value. While his arm strength is on the decline, he’s maintained his other-worldly accuracy, which is evidenced by his 74.4% completion percentage in 2018. He also elite talent in the forms of running back in Alvin Kamara (see below) and receiver Michael Thomas. Newly signed tight end Jared Cook (see below) is the most talented tight end the Saints have had since Jimmy Graham was shipped out. While he may not be what he once was, I still see him as a top 10 fantasy quarterback. He is my QB9 heading into the summer, and he has a chance to push his close to the top five if he can maintain success over the entire year. Alvin Kamara If you’ve watched the Saints at all over the past two years, you’ve probably noticed No. 41 all over the field making play after play. Alvin Kamara, simply put, has been electric since being drafted out of Tennessee. Over the past two seasons, Kamara has amassed a total of 3,146 yards to go along with 31 touchdowns. If your in a PPR league, he’s also added 162 catches (81 each year). Those numbers are absolutely jaw dropping when you consider that he split time with Mark Ingram.

With new backfield buddy Latavius Murray replacing the departed Ingram, many expect Kamara to maintain his usage rate from ‘17 and ‘18 (on field for 53.78% of offensive snaps), if not see an uptick if Murray fails to produce similarly to Ingram. Either way, Kamara looks to continue to build on an outstanding young career, and should be a surefire top five running back in your league as long as he’s healthy for the entire year. Jared Cook Many may not realize this because Jared Cook is not a flashy fantasy football name, but he finished 2018 as a top five tight end. Looking back, that feat is really quite impressive when you consider how discombobulated the Raiders were last year. By signing with the Saints he’s traded in Derek Carr and the Bay for Drew Brees and the “Who Dat’s,” a choice many pundits would deem to be a wise choice. Cook looks to capitalize in an offense that can put up points in bunches. He won’t be a primary option like he was last year in Oakland, and that should only help him. Teams will be more focused on Kamara, Thomas, and possibly Trequan Smith, which should open up some space for him to operate. And while his ‘18 numbers were a bit inflated due to three big games, they should become more consistent this year because the offense, as a whole, will be much more consistent. Overall, I think his numbers go down just a little bit because there are a decent amount of options ahead of him on the depth chart. Look for him to post a year end statline right around 55/750/4 (catches/yards/touchdowns). Cook is my TE8, and don’t hesitate to grab him if he’s available in the sixth or seventh round (current ADP is 6.04-via Sleeper).

Writers Note- I chose to not feature Michael Thomas because all of the evidence suggests that he should have another stellar campaign in 2019. He is my WR3