At first glance, Brees’ QB11 finish would appear to be
adequate, but 2017 was a true disappointment for the future hall
of fame quarterback. After being selected as the third overall
QB in fantasy drafts, Brees fell well short of his expectations.
Despite finishing within the QB1 range, he only managed to finish
as a top 12 QB in four of his 16 starts, well short of his 60
percent average over the previous five seasons.
But there’s reason for optimism, despite concerns about
age, changing scheme, and improving defense. 2017 marked Brees’
lowest number of pass attempts since 2009 when he had one fewer
start and his lowest number of TD passes since 2003. Compared
to 2016, Brees attempted more than 8 fewer passes per game. With
Mark Ingram’s suspension and the seeming reluctance to over-utilize
Alvin Kamara during that suspension, Brees will likely see his
pass attempts rise slightly. If Brees can regain 3 to 4 passes
per game, he’ll likely experience some positive TD regression
After mortgaging their 2019 first round pick, it’s evident
that New Orleans believes they need to win-now during Brees’
last remaining seasons. Barring a Peyton Manning-like fall in
efficiency, Brees remains a QB1 with top five potential, however,
his acquisition cost will likely be close to his finish so the
value is slightly limited.
If you had Alvin Kamara on your roster in 2017, congratulations
on your number one seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately, his injury
in Week 14 probably cost you in your run to the championship.
But that’s in the past and now there’s even more reason
to love Kamara in 2018.
How efficient was Alvin Kamara in 2017? Since 1970, there have
only been 11 seasons where a player had at least 120 rush attempts
with an average over 6 yards per carry and four of those seasons
were by quarterbacks. When you add in his 13 touchdowns, it’s
clear to see why he became such a star during his rookie year.
It’s unlikely that Kamara will maintain this level of efficiency,
but he should see an increase in volume in 2018 to make up for
any drop off. Because his ADP will hover around the top 6 picks
of most drafts, he won’t be the same level of league winner
that he was in 2017, but instead, he’ll be a cornerstone
pick that drafters can rely on.
Following the trade of Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram joined the
elite running backs despite sharing the load with breakout rookie,
Kamara. Early in the off-season, it became clear that Ingram would
remain with the team in 2018 and while Kamara was likely to see
his role increase, Ingram still appeared to be a highly sought
after fantasy asset. And then the four-game suspension came down.
If there was a certainty that Ingram walks back into his job
in Week 5, he’s a RB2 in all formats and should remain a
target in the early rounds. But after 2017, there’s some
evidence that he may be left on the sidelines. Willie Snead’s
return from suspension in 2017 and subsequent lack of production
should give drafters enough pause to pass on Ingram for known
commodities in the middle rounds, but his ADP should be tracked.
If he falls into the low-end RB3 price range, he could be a sneaky
stash pick (if your league has a deep bench) that helps with a
late-season run, but tread carefully because expectations should
be limited and Ingram will only play in one game during the first
six weeks as New Orleans has a Week 6 bye.
Beyond Kamara and Ingram, there are mostly question marks in
the New Orleans backfield, but Jonathan Williams stands out as
the most likely to receive early season carries in Ingram’s
absence. Williams didn’t play in 2017 after his suspension
and subsequent release from Buffalo. His release came as a bit
of a surprise after he was relatively effective during his rookie
season. Williams amassed just 94 yards and 1 touchdown, but served
as the “big back” as a complement to the workhorse,
LeSean McCoy. Because of his size and strength, Williams appears
to be best equipped to fill in for the suspended Ingram. As a
late round flier, Williams could be an option for a fantasy team
weak at running back.
To his owners, Michael Thomas was the boring but reliable WR1in
2017. He only managed 5 touchdowns and despite receiving over
1,200 yards, he only had double digit fantasy points in six of
his regular season games. His three consecutive double digit games
from weeks 13 to 15 undoubtedly helped his owners, but his season
can be described as one with a limited weekly ceiling.
Thomas stands as the primary beneficiary if the passing game
returns to previous years’ volume. He led the team with
149 targets, but with the offseason moves, there will likely need
to be more team volume for Thomas to stay around the 150 target
range. Still, he remains a safe floor play for your wide receiving
corps likely to go in round 2 of most fantasy drafts.
What a difference Brees can make! Despite seeing 25 fewer targets
than his 2016 campaign, Ginn had one less reception, 35 more yards,
and equal touchdowns. On a per game basis, he scored better in
2017. Safe to say that playing with the most accurate quarterback
in NFL history can help a wide receiver. Ginn’s season included
five weeks better than the WR12 in standard scoring.
Ginn is the primary field stretcher in this receiving corps and
his 14.8 yards per reception average will likely remain or potentially
improve. He will need to score more than 4 touchdowns to be a
consistent start in leagues, but he has value in matchups that
favor him. Ginn will likely be a late-round pick in August drafts,
but he will have value as a boom-bust bye week fill in.
Meredith was a popular sleeper pick in 2017, but an ACL injury
derailed his season before it could even start. Meredith came
on strong to finish 2016 with three double digit fantasy games
in his final four. Meredith’s move to New Orleans came as
a bit of a shock as most believe that Chicago would match any
offers on the restricted free agent, but when the time came, Meredith
moved down to the Bayou.
Projecting Meredith in this offense is somewhat challenging so
he’ll be a key player to watch in training camp and preseason
games. If camp reports suggest that he’ll be the second wide receiver
option and preseason games help confirm, he could be a valuable
asset as Brees has proven capable of sustaining multiple top 24
WRs. The team did re-sign Brandon
Coleman and drafted Tre’Quan
Smith in the 3rd round but the free agent contract given to
Meredith should give him the leg up as the third wide receiver
in the Saints offense. As a mid-round selection for a RB heavy
team, Meredith has the potential to be gold.
TE - Ben
Watson (2017 TE Rank – No.17, 4.8
Don’t let Coby Fleener’s time in New Orleans fool
you. There’s still value at the TE position in a Drew Brees
led offense. The last time Watson played with Brees, he finished
7th best at the position with 825 yards and 6 touchdowns.
As his 4.8 points per game 2017 scoring rate would suggest, Watson
isn’t likely to be a safe TE start every week, but few players
at the position can stake that claim. Beyond Ertz, Kelce, and
Gronkowski, many of the TEs are simply streaming options and if
he can reclaim a portion of his 2015 targets again in 2018, Watson
could provide a valuable asset that you can pick up in the last
few rounds of fantasy drafts.