It’s hard to imagine a worse end to your season than the New Orleans Saints got in 2018. After a magnificent regular season, the Saints were in the NFC Title Game against the Rams driving for the win. Then it happened — the Pass Interference Call that wasn’t. And suddenly, it was the Rams going down to score and the Rams making a trip to the Super Bowl.
The crushing end to the Saints’ season led to a lot of grumbling from fans across the country, Super Bowl boycotts in New Orleans and a hard look at the rules and officiating in the off-season. But the question is, can the Saints rebound from disappointment to make another run in 2018?
It’s been a busy off-season for the Saints, but where they’ve seen players go, they’ve brought in others. Alex Okafor left New Orleans for Kansas City, but the Saints brought in defensive tackle Malcolm Brown from the Patriots. They also re-signed back up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, providing continuity and insurance behind starter Drew Brees. One of the biggest changes in the off-season was long-time running back Mark Ingram leaving New Orleans for the Baltimore Ravens. Limited to 12 games in 2018 due to suspension, Ingram rumbled for 645 yards and six TDs as a compliment to star Alvin Kamara.
But the Saints quickly re-loaded with Latavius Murray, who spent the past two seasons in Minnesota. Murray, a sixth year pro, rumbled for 578 yards and six TDs in a complimentary role for the Vikings in 2018. He should slide right into Ingram’s role with the Saints’ offense not missing a beat. The Saints weren’t big players in the draft with just five picks — and none in the first round — but they spent their top three boosting their offensive line and secondary, snagging center Erik McCoy in the second round and a pair of safeties with their next two picks.
The other biggest change is at tight end. Last year’s starter, Ben Watson, retired. Then he un-retired, signed with the Patriots and got slapped with a four-game suspension. But the Saints wasted little time in bringing in veteran Jared Cook to fill the void. Last year with the Raiders, Cook caught 68 passes for 896 yards and six TDs. He gives Brees yet another weapon in the passing game.
The Saints are an offense you want a lot of in fantasy. And that starts with Brees, who threw for 3,992 yards and 32 TDs in 2018. That was good enough to make him QB8 for the season. He’s getting older, but he’s yet to show any signs of slowing down, and you can usually wait a bit to grab him, making him a great QB option in re-draft.
Of course, the Saints’ passing weapons are pretty desirable, too. That starts with Michael Thomas, an easy top pick who was WR6 in 2018. Thomas produced 125 receptions for 1,405 yards and nine TDs last year, and remains Brees’ top target and one of the best WRs in the league. As mentioned above, Cook is a good grab at TE, especially later in drafts. He was TE 5 last year for Oakland, and could easily surpass the 35 receptions and 400 yards for two TDs that Watson produced.
Beyond Thomas and Cook, it’s a bit of a guess as to which Saints pass catcher you want. Second year man Tre’Quan Smith is back after producing 28 receptions for 427 yards and five TDs last year, and veteran Ted Ginn, Jr., is in the mix as well. Ginn produced 17 receptions for 209 yards and two TDs in just five games for the Saints. Both figure to get a shot to start opposite Thomas, and both are worth stashes as a WR4–6 on a roster.
The other biggest piece of the Saints’ offense worth a look is Kamara, who is easily a Top 5 pick in drafts. He was RB4 last year, and is a big threat as a rusher and receiver. Last year in 15 games he had 883 rushing yards and 14 TDs, adding 81 receptions for 709 yards and four more TDs. He’s an easy RB1. Ingram, last year, was RB32 for the Saints while Murray was RB38 for the Vikings. Murray should easily land in the RB30–35 range in this offense in 2019, making him a good mid-round pick up.
As noted above, the Saints’ offense is always a good bet for a big return in fantasy, but the team itself has been a good return in the NFL the past two seasons as well. They’ve won back-to-back division titles, and they figure to be a strong contender to do it again. I think the Saints will be one of the top NFC teams and figure to make another serious run at a return to the Super Bowl, especially with the clock counting down against Brees.
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