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2023 Fantasy Football Preview: New Orleans Saints

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Player Outlooks (2023)


QB Derek Carr: Carr was primed for a big year in Las Vegas with his best friend (Davante Adams) joining the Silver and Black, but that didn’t happen as he never meshed with head coach Josh McDaniels. New Orleans is a strong landing spot to rebound, though, as Chris Olave is one of the game’s best young wideouts, Michael Thomas might finally be healthy, and there are solid complementary pieces around them—not to mention an offensive line that can be among the league’s best. We’d expect Carr to have a bit of an edge to him because of how the end of his Raiders tenure played out, and he should be drafted as a midrange QB2.


RB Alvin Kamara: We’re still waiting on word about a possible suspension this year, but on the field, there is some concern about Kamara’s efficiency dropping dramatically over the past two seasons—averaging just 3.9 yards per carry and totaling 104 receptions in 2021/2022 (compared to 81+ receptions in all four seasons to begin his career). That said, Kamara might actually benefit from time away from the field if he is indeed suspended, as coming back fresh in the second half of the season could have him looking more like the offensive weapon that was formerly a first-round lock in fantasy drafts.


RB Jamaal Williams: There is no doubt that Williams’ fantasy value is decreased by not re-signing with a Detroit team that provided a bundle of goal-line opportunities for him last year, but New Orleans can be a quality landing spot with Kamara facing a probable suspension. And in addition to ending up with another team that has a very good offensive line, Williams has proven he can produce as a receiver with an average of 29.6 receptions over his first five seasons. If he can hold off third-round pick Kendre Miller, Williams should be a low-end RB2/FLEX option to begin 2023.


RB Kendre Miller: Miller might need to wait a year to be unleashed in New Orleans, but he’s already said he’s coming for the starting job, which is an encouraging mindset for investors. The former TCU star led college football with 7.5 yards per carry as part of a committee in 2021, and then he followed it up by remaining extremely efficient in a workhorse role before suffering an ankle sprain in the College Football Playoff Semifinal last season. Overall, he’s a young runner we are high on, but Kamara’s late-season return and Williams’ stability keeps Miller as more of a later-round target.


WR Chris Olave: Olave enjoyed remarkable consistency as a rookie with at least 40 receiving yards in every game, and he’s a silky-smooth route runner that can track the deep ball at a high level—making him a good fit with Derek Carr. The potential problem with viewing Olave as a WR1 option is the presence of Michael Thomas, as there’s a scenario where the fellow Buckeye stays healthy all season and absorbs a significant number of targets, and the Saints would be happy to have a balanced offense under defensive-minded head coach Dennis Allen. We’d say the middle of Round 4 feels like better value than Olave’s usual ADP in the middle of Round 3.


WR Michael Thomas: Fantasy owners wanting to avoid Thomas based on his past three seasons—with a combined 56 receptions for 609 yards and three touchdowns across ten games while dealing with an ankle injury—would be completely understandable. But those willing to take the gamble could be rewarded in a big way, as Thomas looked like himself with a 16/171/3 line in three appearances last season, and he did so without being used in an every-snap role (snap percentages of 61%, 76% and 68%). Even if the days of sleepwalking to 100+ receptions are over, Thomas can be fantasy steal by putting up 60% of the numbers he once did.


WR Rashid Shaheed: Shaheed was remarkable as an undrafted rookie in 2022—averaging a whopping 14.4 yards per target and scoring three times on just 31 touches. The connection he’s able to form with Derek Carr will be key, as Shaheed could realistically see a drop from the 42% of the snaps played last year if New Orleans’ new quarterback forms a stronger connection with another pass-catcher; either way, the speedster will be a volatile FLEX that’s dependent on a deep shot.


WR Tre’Quan Smith: Smith has seemed to be a deep breakout candidate every year since an impressive 28/427/5 line as a rookie, but the former third-round pick has yet to reach 450 receiving yards or 50 targets in a season through five years in the league. Perhaps having Carr under center will lead to a career year for a guy that’s averaged 9.0 yards per target for his career, but Smith will be pushed by others for a role.


WR James Washington: A preseason foot injury resulted in a lost season for Washington with the Cowboys, but he’s still a receiver that can thrive as a rotational deep threat. While the Saints have a lot of candidates to fill the role, a lot will be dependent on—as previously stated—who forms the strongest connection with Derek Carr; we wouldn’t count out Washington.


WR Bryan Edwards: Edwards also had a forgettable season by catching three passes in seven games with Atlanta, but he knows Carr from their time together in Las Vegas—where the former third-rounder averaged a highly impressive 17.0 yards per reception and 10.3 yards per target. Dynasty owners should at least keep him in mind as an end-of-bench stash.


WR A.T. Perry: A sixth-round pick out of Wake Forest, Perry went for lines of 71/1,293/15 and 81/1,096/11 over his final two college seasons, and some thought he might go as early as Day 2 in the 2023 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, the bigger play style of Perry has gone “out of style” in recent years, so he’ll need to impress next month to crack the roster.


TE Juwan Johnson: One of the most interesting comments of OTAs was Johnson saying he requested film of Julian Edelman from the Saints because Derek Carr “loves those routes,” and the former college wideout suggested his role will include quite a bit of underneath targets. After he caught seven touchdowns over the final ten games in a breakout 2022 season, Johnson is at least putting in the work to take another step, and becoming a star is well within his range of outcomes—though the presence of Taysom Hill and Foster Moreau puts a slight damper on the outlook.


TE Taysom Hill: Based on the rushing production for Hill, a case can be made for him being placed as high as the low-end TE1 ranks; but opportunity to play quarterback and becoming a complete fantasy cheat code are decreased with Carr signed to stabilize the position, and a huge chunk of Hill’s production last season came in one game with 112 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in a Week 5 win. Furthermore, the versatile weapon will turn 33 in late August, so it’s possible his efficiency slows down a bit to make him more of a weekly TE2 rather than the TE1 ranking we usually had for him in 2022.


TE Foster Moreau: Moreau announcing that he’s in full remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma was the best news of the NFL offseason, and the history with Derek Carr could make him an important part of the offense for New Orleans. Before the diagnoses, Moreau was thought to be a definite candidate to earn a No. 1 job in free agency, and the Saints are in a great spot at tight end.


Other Notes


Best IDP value: CB Paulson Adebo

Adebo wasn’t really healthy last year and missed a few games, but he had three interceptions as a rookie and is a top bounce-back candidate for 2023. In addition to an improved offense, it’ll be beneficial to have the Saints’ defensive front be boosted by younger options—including first-round pick Bryan Bresee—that will provide energy and make quarterbacks uncomfortable, and Adebo has the ball skills to take advantage.


Stat to know (via draft guide)

Jamaal Williams led the NFL with 17 rushing touchdowns last season in Detroit—compared to a combined four rushing touchdowns last year from the running backs of the Saints; Taysom Hill had seven rushing touchdowns.