The New Orleans Saints have been fantasy gold for owners for many seasons, and I expect them to continue that trend into 2018.
Let’s start with the running back who took the NFL by storm last season – Alvin Kamara. In 2017 he finished as the RB3 and 4th overall in PPR scoring. He’s being drafted as the RB6 and 7th overall, which feels about right to me. I would draft all of the players ahead of him based on ADP – which is not a slight against Kamara one bit.
In my first article for The Vault Studio, I wrote there are only 4 RBs I would draft ahead of Barkley, and my opinion has not changed. Kamara was historically efficient last season, and whilst his volume is expected to increase which should mitigate some of the drop in efficiency. Take a look at how much of an outlier his 2017 season was:
Since the NFL merger (1970) there have been 2,173 instances of a running back totaling at least 100 carries in a single season. Of those seasons, Alvin Kamara’s 2017 season ranks best in fantasy points per touch and second-best in yards per touch. pic.twitter.com/qMh2W2BK1B
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) February 12, 2018
Last season was a perfect storm of factors that allowed Kamara to finish as the RB3. David Johnson missed most of the season with a broken wrist and (including DJ’s injury and Zeke’s suspension), and with Drew Brees due for some positive regression (more on him shortly), I am not willing to take Kamara over those running backs with elite fantasy workloads.
Kamara wasn’t the only fantasy relevant running back last season. Mark Ingram finished as the RB6 and 14th overall. It was an electrifying running back tandem and carried many owners to championships. Unlike Kamara however, I am completely out on Ingram at his current price. He’s being drafted 52nd overall as the RB24 despite the fact he is suspended for the first 4 games of the season after failing a PED test.
On top of that, the Saints have their bye-week in Week 6 of the 2018 NFL season. I don’t feel confident starting Ingram as my RB2 in Week 5 as we don’t know what his usage will look like. There’s every possibility that another running back on the roster performs in Weeks 1-4 and Payton continues to give them playing time. That means not starting Ingram until Week 7, and I am not prepared to waste a valuable roster spot, as well as 6 weeks of production from an alternate draft choice by taking Ingram at his current ADP.
Michael Thomas has established himself as an elite fantasy WR asset, finishing as the WR7 and WR6 in his first two seasons. Of course it helps having Brees as your QB, but anyone who watches football can see the talent that Thomas has. He’s currently being drafted as the WR5 and 15th overall, which represents excellent value as the RB position continues its fantasy resurgence. Thomas sits right between Julio Jones and Keenan Allen, and is the most reliable and consistent option of those three players. I would gladly select him in the beginning of the 2nd round.
One of the most fantasy predictable QBs of all time is Drew Brees, and despite a “down year” in 2017, should return to being one of the elite fantasy QB options. He threw for the fewest yards and touchdowns in his 12 year career with the Saints, as Payton leaned on the running game. It also helped that the Saints defense much improved on the past few seasons, was finally able to stop opposition offenses to avoid negative game-script situations. This season might be different, as the Saints defense is expected to face the 3rd toughest strength of schedule.
Brees might be getting up there in age, but expect him to produce once again. If you can draft him at a discount, great, but I suspect that his name value will keep him being drafted in the late 6th/early 7th round range. Given the immense depth of the QB position in 2018, I will be passing on Brees at that price but I do expect him to finish better than the QB9 as he did in 2017.
New Orleans newcomer Cameron Meredith might be one of the steals of the season. He’s currently coming off the board as the 52nd WR. He missed all of last season with a knee injury, but is back to full health entering camp. He put fantasy owners on notice in 2016 when he produced four 100 yard games for the Bears and finished as the leading receiver. According to reports, Meredith is “the best bet” to win the number 2 receiver, which would make him incredibly valuable with fantasy WR2 upside.
Other names to watch, especially in the absence of Ingram, are Boston Scott, Trey Edmunds, and Jonathon Williams. If one of those three RBs can shoulder the majority of his vacated touches, they should be a reliable flex option through the first four weeks of the season. Ted Ginn will have the occasional high scoring week, and could win you a week if you pick the right match ups. He’s probably a waiver-wire pick up, and useful in a bye-week pinch with his long TD upside.
So which New Orleans players are you interested in for 2018? You can find me on Twitter @FF_DownUnder, and let me know how you feel about the Saints’ fantasy football outlook for 2018!
NB – all fantasy football statistics in this article come from ffstatistics.com unless otherwise stated. Shout out to its creator Addison Hayes (@_amazehayes). Other stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference. ADP data is taken from Fantasy Football Calculator.