32 Teams In 32 Days New Orleans Saints
32 Teams In 32 Days
New Orleans Saints
Hello, fellow fantasy football degenerates. In my “32 In 32” series I will be going team by team breaking them down from every aspect you can think of. From their records, team statistics, Vegas lines, contract situations, individual statistics, fantasy numbers, draft picks and implications, free agency updates, and more. Everything to recap 2018 and preview 2019.
In part one of the series, we are going to look at the New Orleans Saints. One of the most fantasy relevant teams in the league. With an all-time great quarterback in Drew Brees, an amazing all-around running back like Alvin Kamara, a legit number one wide receiver named Michael Thomas, and a potential second-tier tight end on his way into town, the Saints are one of the few teams that could legitimately boast a top-five player at all four fantasy-relevant positions. This is their story…
New Orleans Saints (2018 Record 13-3, Division Winner)
2018 started off on the wrong foot for the eventual division champs. A Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (48-40) had many worried about the Saints defense but they would then go on a 10-game winning streak allowing over 23 points twice in that span. They would take down the eventual NFC Super Bowl participant in the Los Angeles Rams and scored over 30 points in nine of their first 11 games. Coming off a Thanksgiving Day, 31-17 victory over division rival Atlanta, they headed into Dallas feeling good.
The Cowboys quickly ended that feeling by getting immense pressure in Drew Brees’ face. The Boys were able to corral the high powered offense and hold them to under 20 points for the first time all season. The Saints would lose two of their last five games only eclipsing 30 points once and scoring less than 15 points three times.
New Orleans headed into the playoffs as the top seed. Even though the season ended less than spectacularly they were feeling good as they were at home which could have played into their tough stretch to end the year. They played three of their last five games on the road. The Saints would take down the 2017 Super Bowl Champs on a late-game interception but were stopped short of the big game and some would say the refs cost New Orleans the game. However you look at it, 2018 was a solid year for New Orleans but ended on a sour note as ’17 did.
|Pre 1||Thu||August 8||7:30 PM ET||@||Detroit Lions|
|Pre 2||Sat||August 17||7:00 PM ET||@||Tennessee Titans|
|Pre 3||Thu||August 22||7:30 PM ET||Carolina Panthers|
|Pre 4||Thu||August 29||7:30 PM ET||New York Giants|
|1||Sun||September 8||8:20PM ET||Pittsburgh Steelers||preview|
|2||Sun||September 15||1:00PM ET||@||Miami Dolphins||preview|
|3||Sun||September 22||1:00PM ET||New York Jets||preview|
|4||Sun||September 29||1:00PM ET||@||Buffalo Bills||preview|
|5||Sun||October 6||1:00PM ET||@||Washington Redskins||preview|
|6||Thu||October 10||8:20PM ET||New York Giants||preview|
|7||Mon||October 21||8:15PM ET||@||New York Jets||preview|
|8||Sun||October 27||4:25PM ET||Cleveland Browns||preview|
|9||Sun||November 3||8:20PM ET||@||Baltimore Ravens||preview|
|11||Sun||November 17||4:25PM ET||@||Philadelphia Eagles||preview|
|12||Sun||November 24||4:25PM ET||Dallas Cowboys||preview|
|13||Sun||December 1||8:20PM ET||@||Houston Texans||preview|
|14||Sun||December 8||4:25PM ET||Kansas City Chiefs||preview|
|15||Sun||December 15||1:00PM ET||@||Cincinnati Bengals||preview|
|16||Sun||December 22||1:00PM ET||Buffalo Bills||preview|
|17||Sun||December 29||1:00PM ET||Miami Dolphins||preview|
New Orleans Offense
In 2018 there were three teams that scored more than 30 points a game. The Saints finished third on that list with a per game average of 31.5. They were not quite as high on the list when it comes to yards a game but eighth is mpt too shabby (379.2). They failed to score 21 points only three times but unfortunately, all three came at the end of the season between Weeks 13-17 (Week 13/10, 15/12, 17/ 14). In Week 17 they did rest Brees and Kamara though. They were not humming as they had been. That is my point.
New Orleans was a pretty sound team and did not shoot themselves in the foot a lot. The offensive line allowed the third fewest sacks per game (1.3), a +8 turnover ratio (seventh), and they had only 94 total penalties (fifth) all help to prove this point. They had the fifth most first downs (377) and were the seventh best team at converting third downs (44.6%). Second in the league in fourth-down conversion rate (81.3%) and a 69.4% touchdown conversion rate on their red zone attempts (fourth). None of these is a surprise with the core pieces on the offense we’re going to talk about.
- Points Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (28.0-31.5/ +3.5)
- Yards Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (391.2-379.2/ -12)
- First Downs Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (20.75-23.56/ +2.81)
- Third Down Conversion Rate 2017-2018/ Difference (37.6%-44.6%/ +7.0%)
- Penalties Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (6.56-5.87-0.69)
- Turnover Ratio 2017-2018/ Difference (7/8/ +1)
2018 Vegas Lines
|G#||Opp||Spread||Over/Under||Result||vs. Line||OU Result|
Results vs. Line: 10-8-0
As Underdog vs. Line: 3-0-0
Favored vs. Line: 7-8-0
Over: 7 Under: 11 Push: 0
Throughout Drew Brees’ 18 years in the league, he has cemented himself among the upper echelon of Quarterbacks all time. Even though 2018 ended a little less productive than the rest of the season, it was still one of his most efficient ever. The Saints QB upped his all-time completion % from 2017’s 72% to 74.4% in ’18 (Best in the league). This was the third season in a row that he has increased this (’15/ 68.3%, ’16/ 70.0%, ’17/ 72.0%, ’18/ 74.4%). It was, however, his first season since his last in San Diego as a Charger that he failed to eclipse the 4000-Yard mark.
Certainly, the efficiency was great though! Brees sported a 6.5% touchdown rate (Highest since 2011, fourth highest of career) and a 1.0% interception rate (The lowest of his career). The O-Line that protected him (1.3 sacks per game, third in the league) will be at 80% or less of its strength from 2018. Pro Bowl center, Max Unger chose to retire but the saints did draft a replacement for Unger in the second round with the 48th pick overall.
Erik McCoy OL, TXAM
Height: 6-4, Weight: 303
One of the best offensive lineman coming out in 2019, the transition could be a little smoother then we expected initially but McCoy will have to develop that chemistry that the former center had with the future Hall-of-Famer. The team made a trade that jumped them up from overall pick 62 to pick 48 to get McCoy. they clearly like Texas A&M product.
Brees’ 2018 Season
- QB8, 303.8 Fan Points
- Completed 364/489 Attempts (74.4%)
- 3992 Yards (8.2 Y/A – 11.0 Y/C)
- 32 TDs (6.5% TD Rate) 5 INT (1.0% INT Rate)
- 31 RuAtt, 22 Yards, 4 TD
- Total QBR 81.9 (QB Rate 115.7)
Brees’ season is littered with top-5 rankings in many metrics.
- Red Zone Att. – 93 (Fifth)
- Red Zone Comp. – 72.0% (Fourth)
- Play Action Comp. – 75.0% (Third)
- Deep Ball Comp. – 45.6% (Third)
- Pressured Comp. – 51.6% (Second)
- Money Throws – 33 (Fourth)
- Adjusted Yards per Att. 8.7 (Second)
- Fan Points per Dropback – 0.56 (Second)
- Interceptable Passes – 13 (31st, Only 32 teams in the league but there were a few teams such as Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia that started multiple QBs for a significant period of time).
The Saints QB did all of that while having his receivers average just 1.32 yards of separation on average which was 25th in the league. He even added in some extra work on the ground to give him 36 total TDs in ’18.
- QB RuTD – 4 (Fifth in the league)
2019 QB free Agency Update
Surprising;y, Teddy Bridgewater chose to stay with the Saints instead of taking what could have turned into a starting position in Miami. Bridgewater is likely making the move in hopes that Drew Brees will retire following this season and he will get a chance at the New Orleans job. His dynasty value might have actually went up or at least stayed on par with where it would have been had he changed locations. The surrounding cast is no comparison as it sits right now and Brees may be one great season away from calling it a career.
The Two-Headed Monster At Running Back
*Note: Mark Ingram was suspended for the first four games of 2018 due to PEDs.
In 2018 the Saints ran the ball the fifth most in the league (29.4 attempts per game) and in the first four weeks of the season, we saw the full capability of Alvin Kamara with a full workload. The second-year back hit the ground running… and receiving. He averaged 14 attempts rushing for 68.8 yards and 1.3 TDs and caught 8.8/11.8 targets for 84 yards and 0.3 Tds per game. There was a game with 20 targets and 15 receptions and another that produced his lone 100+ yard performance in this stretch. Many thought this production would make Mark Ingram somewhat irrelevant coming off his suspension but we know Sean Payton better than that. In Week 5 Ingram came in and right off the bat he received 18 touches and gained 73 yards while scoring twice.
From that point on, Kamara would still be the top running back in the backfield but Ingram definitely had his role back. Now to think that the Saints were going to produce two top-six RBs from this point on as they did for the entire season last year is expecting a little much. Kamara held up his part of the deal but Ingram, although still an RB2, not the beast he was last season.
Snap And Touch Breakdown
Below is the difference for Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas pre and post-Ingram return.
- Weeks 1-4 279 Total (Weekly % – 81%, 77%, 85%, 84%) Average Touches/ Opportunities per Game – 22.8/ 25.8 (34.0 Points per Game, RB1)
- Weeks 5-17 427 Total (Weekly % – 47%, BYE, 55%, 72%, 58%, 45%, 63%, 65%, 67%, 64%, 64%, 61%, Didn’t Play) Average Touches/ Opportunities per Game – 16.7/ 17.8 (19.8 Points per Game/ -14.2 Points per Game, RB5/ -4 in the rankings)
- Weeks 5-17 350 Total (Weekly % – 55%, Bye, 49%, 43%, 48%, 41%, 43%, 47%, 40%, 45%, 45%, 48%, 37%) Average Touches/ Opportunities per Game – 13.3/ 13.8 (11.9 Points per Game, RB20)
In many ways, Kamara was better than Ingram but the elder statesmen did outperform the younger back in a few areas.
- Points per Oppo. – AK (1.16, 20th) x MI (0.86, 62nd)
- Points per Game – AK (23.2, Fourth) x MI (11.9, 26th)
- Yard per Touch – AK (5.8, 10th) x MI (5.1, 27th)
- Breakaway Run Rate – AK (5.2%, 22nd) x MI (5.1%, 23rd)
- Juke Rate – AK (26.9%, 24th) MI (28.9%, 17th) x
- Yards Created per Rush – AK (1.07, 40th) MI (1.62, Fourth) x
The fact that Kamara faced an average of 6.9 men in the box and a stacked front on 20.1% of his attempts rushing could have resulted in Ingram slightly outperforming Kamara in a couple of areas. In contrast, both are slightly higher than Ingram faced (6.7, 16.7).
Kamara’s 2018 Season
- RB4, 273.2 Fan Points
- 194 RuAtt (12.9 AttP/G), 883 Yards (58.9 YdP/G), 1 100 Yard Game
- Caught 81/105 Targets, 709 Yards (8.8 Y/R)
- 14 RuTD, 4 ReTD (18 Total)
- 275 Touches, 1,592 Yards (5.8 Y/T)
Ingram’s 2018 Season
- RB28, 121.5 Fan Points
- 138 RuAtt (11.5 AttP/G), 645 Yards (53.8 YdP/G), 2 100 Yard Games
- Caught 21/27 Targets, 170 Yards (8.1 Y/R)
- 6 RuTD, 1 ReTD (7 Total)
- 159 Touches, 815 Yards (5.1 Y/T)
2019 RB free Agency Update
Mark Ingram signed with the Baltimore Ravens so the second RB slot is currently up for grabs. We all saw what Kamara is capable of with a full workload but Sean Payton clearly does not want the RB to handle that kind of load on the regular. The Saints signed Latavius Murrey (4 years), formerly with the Vikings so one would assume the job is his to lose. Murrey has been a valuable goal-line asset for a few years now and has a chance at some really good opportunity with a coach and in an offense that traditionally operates as a two-back system. As you can see below, 10 out of 15 years, Payton’s RB2 has surpassed 100 attempts.
Note: Daniel Lasco has yet to sign with a team.
2019 UDFA Singing
The Saints also picked up a back as an undrafted free agent that could steal that second running back slot as well. Devine Ozigbo out of Nebraska stands 6-0 and 235 lbs, certainly, he has the size to take on that goal-line pounder role and steal away touches. Ozigbo did not do a lot in his first three years at the collegiate level but he came on strong in his senior season with 1,082 yards on 155 attempts rushing with 12 touchdowns rushing. He added in 23 receptions for 203 yards. Normally you should not pay attention to yards per attempt. In college, it is a bit different and 7.0 yards per attempt is not bad at all.
Michael Thomas And The Rest Of The Receivers
Thomas has now caught 321 passes in his first three seasons as a pro. That is 33 more receptions than any other Wide Receiver… Ever… To say that Michael Thomas was efficient In 2018 is a bit of an understatement (Slightly more in PPR).
Thomas had several big weeks but most noteworthy Week 1 (Caught 16/17 targets, 180 yards, 1 TD) and Week 9 (Caught 12/15 targets, 211 yards, 1 TD).
Thomas Season Split (Pre and Post Ingram)
- Weeks 1-4 – Caught 10.5/11 Targets, 111.3 Yards, 0.8 TDs
- Weeks 5-17 – Caught 6.9/8.6 Targets, 80.0 Yards, 0.5 TDs
Despite the falloff, Thomas was still able to put together an incredible year. The target hog had seven double-digit target games and three with 15+. He led the league in receptions (125), red zone receptions (24), catch rate (85.0%), ninth in targets (147), seventh in AirYards (928), third in yards after the catch (477), Fourth in target share (28.8%), ninth in red zone target share (30.5%), sixth in yards per route ran (2.89), and had a 30.5% dominator rating (Ninth in the league).
As a result, the third year WR scored nine times (Eighth), had 1,405 yards (sixth), scored 19.7 points per game (Sixth), 0.65 points per route ran (Fourth), and 2.15 points per target. What a great season!
Furthermore, it’s even more impressive when you consider that Thomas ranked 60th in end zone target share (18.2%), 80th in yard per reception (11.2), 19th in yard per target (9.6), 96th in avg target distance (8.0), and 47th in avg target separation (1.47 yards). It’s a good thing he led the league in contested catch rate (73.9%) and received the highest percent of catchable passes (95.2%). Thomas is just so reliable and I feel has more to give still. Brees did not show any real signs of a fall-off so we will get at least one more year of the two together. Hopefully five.
Thomas’ 2018 Season
- WR8, 190.5 Fan Points
- Caught 125/147 Targets (87.8%) 7.8 P/G
- 1,405 Yards (12.0 Y/R, 9.55 Y/T) 5 100 Yard games
- 9 TDs
The rest of the receiving corps had some moments. Tre’Quan Smith showed something but really only in home games. His season highlight came in Week 11 when he had 10 receptions for 157 yards and scored once. Cameron Meredith was expected to take over a fairly large workload but lost much of his season to injury (Knee, IR on 11/11/18). Ted Ginn Jr was not able to carry over last seasons success (2017 WR35, 2018 WR159) because he as well missed most of the season with a knee injury as well (IR 10/8/18). Then there was a revolving door of UDFA’s that each had moments (Tommy Lee Lewis, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood).
This is going to be an interesting upcoming season as literally only one WR (Tre’Quan Smith) is signed passed 2020. Thomas will for sure be resigned but the rest of the receiving corps is kind of up in the air. They do not exactly have a lot of Cap Space with less than 1.5 million. The Saints clearly like what they have at the position as they did not take a receiving option in the draft outside of a late-round tight end we will discuss later but they did snag two talented UDFA wide receivers in Emmanuel Butler (Northern Arizona) and Lil Jordan Humphry (Texas). Both went undrafted but if 2018 taught us anything, it is that when it comes to the Saints, that does not matter.
2019 WR free Agency Update
Tommy Lee Lewis signed with the Detroit Lions. Dez Bryant has been lobbying for a chance on Twitter recently. Josh Huff has yet to sign with a team. They still have time to add pieces though but it might not be anyone of consequence.
The biggest story at Tight End this season when ’18 started was the future retirement of Benjamin Watson… The story to end the season is still the retirement of Watson. The Saints have not seen reliable TE production since the Jimmy Graham days.
- B. Watson – Caught 35/46 Targets, 400 Yards, 2 TDs (16 Games)
- J. Hill – Caught 16/24 Targets, 185 Yards, 1 TD (16 Games)
- D. Arnold – Caught 12/19 Targets, 150 Yards, 1 TD (10 Games)
2019 TE free Agency Update
The Saints have signed Jared Cook to hopefully bring a reliable athletic weapon to the tight end position. The 31-year-old TE is coming off a top-five season in fantasy terms and he posted career highs in targets (101), receptions (68), yards (896), and Catch Rate (67.3%). Not since Jimmy Graham have the Saints had a true athletic weapon at TE. If Cook is anything, it’s athletic. It’s obviously been a few years but his combine metrics are still impressive.
Alize Mack Tight End, New Orleans Saints
Alize Mack (Notre Dame) showed some great athleticism at the combine and is a big target. He definitely needs to improve in some facets of his game such as gaining separation but a potential Drew Brees weapon is always interesting. Jared Cook has been anything but consistent during his career. Cook is signed through 2021.
2019 O-Line free Agency Update
Center Max Unger has chosen to hang um up so what once looked like a full return of the starting five. New Orleans brought in Nick Easton from the Minnesota Vikings.
2018 Fantasy Relevant Draftees
91st Overall, WR Tre’Quan Smith
- Caught 28/44 Targets, 427 Yards
201st Overall, RB Boston Scott
- Cut by New Orleans on Sep 6th, Signed by Philadelphia on Dec 11th. 4 Returns, 96 Yards
2019 Draft Picks
- Erik McCoy OL, TXAM
Height: 6-4, Weight: 303
This was a smart pick because they had to replace Max Unger. Drew Brees has to be protected inside since he is a short quarterback, so it works.
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson S, FLA
Height: 5-11, Weight: 210
- Saquan Hampton S, RUT
Height: 6-1, Weight: 206
- Alize Mack TE, ND
Height: 6-4, Weight: 249
Mack is a large target at tight end who proved to have explosive athleticism at the combine. He leaves a little to be desired in terms of separation and yards after the catch.
- Kaden Elliss LB, IDAHO
Height: 6-3, Weight: 240
Saints 2018 Injuries
Click here to see a full list of the Saints injuries.
Moving Into 2019
Cap Space $8,984,568
As we talked about above, the Saints are coming off two straight disappointing finishes but, they are still one of the best teams in the league and returning much of the same roster while added new pieces that will help on both sides of the ball. Their window is closing though as their quarterback ages so they will need to get it together sooner rather than later if they hope to take home the NFC championship trophy if not more.
New Orleans boasts a top fantasy performer at every major position and we will likely see this continue in 2019. There is a legitimate chance they have a top-five performer in terms of fantasy and reality at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end if everyone can stay healthy.
Please feel free to check out my original FFStatistics article all about New Orleans regression heading into 2018. The article was originally published on September 3rd, 2018. Thank you. Find me on Twitter @willson8tor