New Orleans Saints Team Preview

  • The Saints are entering the second season of the Derek Carr era, which started things off with a mediocre 9-8 record last year. The longtime-Raiders QB threw for 3,878 yards, 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Carr finished the season as the QB16, but was the QB28 in fantasy points per game among QBs to play at least four games last season. Despite the respectable totals on the season, Carr was almost never helping fantasy teams win their weekly matchups. The Saints’ offense, including Derek Carr, took their lumps throughout the season and saw many offensive playmakers miss several games as they were unable to play at their full abilities. Despite adding rookie QB Spencer Rattler in the fifth round of the 2024 NFL Draft, New Orleans will likely entrust their season with Carr as he enters his 11th season as an NFL pro. Rattler should be an interesting dynasty asset for those considering a potential future pass attack in New Orleans. Gadget QB Taysom Hill also remains on the roster, though likely only to annoyingly vulture away scoring opportunities from the more consistently fantasy-relevant options on the Saints. 

    Alvin Kamara served a three-game suspension to start the season, but he was able to play in 13-of-14 games of eligibility on his way to a top-three fantasy RB finish in FPPG in PPR format last season. This was obviously thanks to the intense uptick in receiving volume that Kamara saw with Derek Carr manning the Saints’ offense. Kamara averaged nearly six receptions per game and reeled in a career-high 87 percent of his targets. The Saints added Jamaal Williams (3Y/$12M) last off-season, and he struggled mightily in his time on the field in 2023. The 2022-23 RB rushing TD leader averaged just 2.9 yards-per-carry and didn’t find the end zone once until Week 18. Williams finished the season after appearing in 13 games with totals of 368 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. He ended the season with a solid performance, but Kendre Miller is the ascending talent behind Kamara in the backfield. The 2023 rookie was selected early in the third-round by the Saints as the fourth running back off the board in that draft. Unfortunately, Kendre Miller had terrible injury timing last season, pulling a hamstring that caused him to miss the first two games of the season, which Kamara also missed while serving his suspension. Miller would be buried on the depth chart much of the season before an ankle injury forced him to leave Week 9 vs. the Bears and keep him out of action until Week 18. Thankfully, Miller performed surprisingly well in the season finale vs. the Falcons, carrying the ball 13 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. The Saints are currently rolling with the same backfield into the 2024 season, which should feature Kamara as the primary back, Miller mixing in for a couple possessions or designed plays, and Williams serving as the third-string back and short-yardage back. All backs suffered at the hands of the Saints’ rebuilding offensive line, but there’s hope that the team has re-tooled enough this off-season to see some improvements to their trench unit. 

    The Saints’ receiving core stayed fairly thin for a majority of the season, with rising stud Chris Olave headlining the team’s pass-catching core. Olave was limited at times this season with a concussion and an ankle sprain, but still reeled in 87-of-138 targets for 1,123 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Olave was joined by Michael Thomas for the beginning of the season, who played in 10 games before missing the remainder of the 2023 season. In his shortened season, Thomas caught 39-of-64 targets for 448 yards and one touchdown. Thomas was a shell of his former self and left the team in free agency this off season, though he currently remains unsigned. Speedy deep threat Rashid Shaheed had his fair share of highlight plays on his way to catching 46-of- 75 targets for 719 yards and five scores in 15 games for New Orleans last season. Shaheed is entering a contract season and the explosive 25-year-old WR should look to impress and secure a long-term deal with a big 2024 season. The Saints saw some life out of 2023 sixth-round rookie WR A.T. Perry, who caught four touchdowns on 12 catches in 10 appearances last season. Moreover, the Saints did also add fifth-round rookie WR Bub Means, who has an impressive combination of speed and strength at 6’1”, 212 lbs but lacks the ability to change gears on a whim. We should learn more about the plans for this receiving offense under new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak as the off-season progresses, but Olave and Shaheed appear leaps and bounds ahead of the other wideouts on the roster. If Shaheed truly proves to be too much of a one-dimensional deep threat and gets leapfrogged this off-season, perhaps the Saints entrust one of their younger wideouts with a role much more sizeable than expected. At this time, Olave is the only Saints pass-catcher who can be truly trusted until we find out more about how the talent shakes out throughout the summer.

    The tight ends are an often-frustrating conversation when it comes to the Saints, especially if Taysom Hill enters that discussion. His touchdown upside means he is only ever a glass-breaking emergency tight end streamer if he has that eligibility in your given league, and is unplayable as a QB without it. As far as the true TEs in New Orleans, Juwan Johnson was the most intriguing on the field last season, stringing some nice performances to put together 37 catches on 59 targets for 368 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games last season. They aren’t impressive totals, but Johnson finished the year with a stretch of at least a touchdown or 40 receiving yards in each of his last four games this season, including his season-best vs. the Buccaneers in Week 17 that saw him come down with 8-of-12 targets for 90 yards and an impressive touchdown snag. The ancient relic known as ‘Jimmy Graham’ was also on the field for the Saints in 13 games, where he caught an impressive four touchdowns on just six catches in his 13th NFL season. Graham is currently a free agent once again, and the next-most interesting tight end on the roster lies in 2024 UDFA Dallin Holker out of Colorado State. Holker has some impressive pass-catching characteristics, and with some fine-tuning on his blocking, he could become a real threat to take snaps away from others in the room if the coaching staff gets complacent with mediocrity.

    New Orleans saw some putrid offensive line performances at times last season, which was a big part as to why no Saints running back saw a carry of 20 or more yards at any point in 2023. The Saints had five offensive linemen enter free agency this off-season, and currently none of them have signed with a team as we roll into May.  Carr did a good job at getting the ball out of his hands quickly to avoid taking many sacks (eighth-fewest in 2023), and this led to the impressive receiving volume distributed around the offense, but more on that later. The Saints have gone out and added former-Vikings versatile OL Olisaemeka Udoh in free agency and also added 14th overall pick OT Taliese Fuaga whose physical dominance could help anchor this struggling offensive line. After gutting the unit this off-season, the Saints are going to need massive improvements from their younger investments like 2022 first-round pick OT Trevor Penning, who was benched before the end of the season last year. New Saints offensive line coach John Benton has boasted some strong run-blocking units across his 19 years in the NFL and will look to turn around the Saints’ dysfunctional cast.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the Saints were a middling group, allowing the 11th-most rushing yards in the league last season, but just the 10th-fewest passing yards. The Saints finished the season with the ninth-most fantasy points among team defenses last season, thanks in large part to their 29 takeaways, which were good for fifth-most in the NFL in 2023. They lost some depth pieces this off-season, with CB Isaac Yiadom, DL Malcolm Roach and LB Zach Baun all departing in free agency. Despite losing some rotational players, the Saints did address some of their losses with intriguing additions in free agency and the draft. New Orleans added DE Chase Young on a one-year $13M ‘prove-it’ deal to aid their pass-rushing efforts, which saw just the fifth-fewest sacks in the league with 34 as a team in 2023. They also signed former-Chiefs Super Bowl-winning LB Willie Gay Jr. In the draft, they selected Alabama CB “Kool-Aid” McKinstry with the 41st overall pick in the second round. This team’s defensive additions this off-season has given it the potential to improve significantly, but time will tell once the gears start turning.

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    Writer’s Season Win Prediction: 8-9

    Derek Carr was seventh in the NFL in completions last season, and some improved offensive line play and healthier weapons could mean that last year could have been what the floor is for him in New Orleans, meaning it could only go up from there. Klint Kubiak is taking over as offensive coordinator, and he comes from a 2023 San Francisco passing game that saw Brock Purdy throw for 4,280 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Saints don’t possess the same talents that the 49ers do, but perhaps the Saints can scheme up their players to their strengths in similar ways. Rookie WR Bub Means does profile similarly to Deebo Samuel, and could prove to be an interesting name to watch as we get closer to the start of the season. Perhaps Kubiak had a say in bringing Means to the team with visions of a similar role. There is a pathway to success for this team given the upside they possess in most position groups that were in need heading into the off-season. This team could easily wind up as one of those that is much more successful in fantasy football than in the actual NFL standings.

    Chris Olave will be a stud WR that demands target volume in what should be an elevated offense. The departure of Michael Thomas could give Olave’s target share just enough of a push into the tier of elite high-volume fantasy wideouts. There’s room for another consistent fantasy option in this passing game, but that remains to be seen. Alvin Kamara offers a solid starting fantasy RB option for those that would like to spend their earlier draft capital on other positions. He’s going to be especially prominent in leagues that value receptions more than others, as he will likely see another insane reception total somewhere north of four or five per game as long as he remains healthy. Derek Carr’s check-down tendencies led to a comfortable floor for Alvin Kamara in PPR leagues in 2023, and should do so once again in 2023.

    The team’s decision to retain Dennis Allen was a head-scratching one, with a 24-46 record as a head coach, including just 16-18 in his first two seasons at the helm in New Orleans. But a clean slate nearly everywhere else in the coaching staff could lead to serious changes, for better or worse, for the Saints in 2024. The Saints’ biggest positional weakness is a glaring one in the offensive line, though you could argue that these teams needs further improvements in several areas in order to make it a serious contender. That said, a team absolutely doesn’t need to be a contender to make a serious fantasy football impact. It will be asking a lot of this team to avoid some amount of dysfunction given the amount of turnover they’ve had, so the red flags about the fragility of this team as a whole is something to take into consideration. The immense range of possible outcomes is surely a knock on the Saints’ fantasy football assets in favor of those with more stable and predictable season outlooks.

    The offensive line has to show life quickly, or this team will likely be toast if they don’t add any talent to the group as it stands. Like most teams in the NFL, their offense can only go as far as their offensive line allows them to, which immediately brings into question the floor of the Saints’ weapons in fantasy football this season. 2024 first round rookie OT Taliese Fuaga will surely help anchor the unit, but it still takes five players to make a well-functioning offensive line. As of now, we don’t even know what the actual starting five will look for the Saints in the trenches, but some chemistry and skill development under a revamped coaching staff could lead to some success in the first year of the reboot. The floor of this offense makes players like Chris Olave a scary draft selection with the capital necessary to bring them on board.

    Saints Strength of Schedule Rank: 5th

    Fantasy Playoff Games: Commanders, Packers, Raiders

    Bye Week: Week 12

    Opposition Home/Away Time
    Week 1 Panthers Home 1:00pm
    Week 2 Cowboys Away 1:00pm
    Week 3 Eagles Home 1:00pm
    Week 4 Falcons Away  1:00pm
    Week 5 Chiefs Away Mon. 8:15pm
    Week 6 Buccs Home 1:00pm
    Week 7 Broncos Home Thurs. 8:15pm
    Week 8 Chargers Away 4:05pm
    Week 9 Panthers Away 1:00pm
    Week 10 Falcons Home 1:00pm
    Week 11 Browns Home 1:00pm
    Week 12 Bye
    Week 13 Rams Home 4:05pm
    Week 14 Giants Away 1:00pm
    Week 15 Commanders Home 1:00pm
    Week 16 Packers Away Mon. 8:15pm
    Week 17 Raiders Home TBA
    Week 18 Buccs Away TBA
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