QB Drew Brees
(2012 QB Rank – #1, 27.3 FPts/G)
It was another banner year for Brees in 2012 as he finished the season as the league’s top-ranked fantasy QB. Since the 2006 season, he has held that title three times and never failed to finish ranked among the top three fantasy QBs. And we don’t expect that to change in 2013. While the Saints’ cast of wide receivers isn’t as deep as in recent years, Brees benefits from playing with the league’s top pass-receiving runner out of the backfield in Darren Sproles, as well as the league’s premier pass-catching tight end in Jimmy Graham. With head coach Sean Payton back in the saddle, you could make the argument that the Saints will be even more explosive in 2013. Of course, it will be difficult for Brees to top the 5,177 yards and 43 touchdown passes he threw for in 2012. That marked the second consecutive season that Brees threw for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, making him the first quarterback to ever accomplish this feat. And that is the main reason why he should be the first QB off the board in your fantasy draft.
RB Darren Sproles
(2012 RB Rank – #22, 10.7 FPts/G; #13 PPR, 16.5 FPts/G)
At $14-million over four years, Sproles rates as one the NFL’s truly amazing bargains. Hard to believe that former Chargers general manager A.J. Smith let Sproles walk rather than sign him to such a modest contract, but I guess that is part of the reason why Smith got canned. While Sproles wasn’t quite as dynamic as he was during the 2011 season when he totaled 1,313 total yards and nine touchdowns, he was still a solid fantasy producer, averaging 10.7 PPG. With his carries being reduced to just 48, Sproles totaled just 244 yards on the ground while catching 75 passes for 667 yards with eight total touchdowns through 13 games. He finished the season as the 22nd-ranked RB in standard scoring formats, 13th in PPR formats, and eighth in PPG in PPR formats. During his two-year stint in New Orleans, Sproles has averaged 10.2 touches per game and hit double-digit fantasy points in 19 of 31 games (including playoff games). Don’t make the same mistake Smith did. Grab Sproles if the price is right, particularly in PPR formats.
RB Mark Ingram
(2012 RB Rank – #35, 5.8 FPts/G; #41 PPR, 6.2 FPts/G)
What to make of the Saints Mark Ingram. A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, the Alabama product has spent most of his first two years in the league proving that the Saints made an ill-advised decision in selecting him so high in the draft. While Ingram has solid power running skills, he lacks agility on the second level and the speed necessary to become a truly elite running back. However, he showed some glimpses that he is ready to become a more productive player of the second half of last season. During the first half of the season, he split the rushing role with Pierre Thomas and totaled just 134 yards and a touchdown on 47 carries, averaging 2.8 PPG. Over the remainder of the season, his role increased at Thomas’s expense, with Ingram getting double-digit rushing attempts in seven of the Saints last eight games. From Week 9 on, Ingram carried the ball 109 times for 468 yards and four touchdowns, averaging a respectable 8.2 PPG. While that is hardly outstanding, it makes Ingram a solid RB3 with upside in 2013.
RB Pierre Thomas
(2012 RB Rank – #33, 6.3 FPts/G; #32 PPR, 8.9 FPts/G)
At a certain point, the young buck puts the old man out to pasture, and that is what seemed to happen to Thomas over the latter part of the 2012 season. After getting double-digit touches in six of his first seven games, he had only two such games over his final eight (he missed Week 17). Meanwhile, Mark Ingram had double-digit rushing attempts in seven of his last eight games. By season’s end, Thomas’s production had declined across the board, as he totaled just 473 rushing yards, 354 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His PPG average has now dropped three straight seasons from a high of 11.3 in 2009 to just 6.3 last year. With the Saints seemingly committed to Ingram as their leading rusher, and with Darren Sproles the league’s top receiving threat out of the backfield, Thomas doesn’t seem to have much of a role in 2013. Barring injury, his fantasy value is limited.
WR Marques Colston
(2012 RB Rank – #11, 11.0 FPts/G; #12 PPR, 16.2 FPts/G)
Since his truly amazing breakout season as a rookie seventh-round pick out of Hofstra, Colston has finished as the 14th, 8th, 32nd, 12th, 18th, 10th and 11th WR in each year’s fantasy rankings. And that rank of 32nd came during the 2008 season when he missed five games due to injury. Nonetheless, Colston never seems to generate much excitement. Sure, knee issues have caused his stock to plummet in certain years, and a foot ailment might cause it to drop this season, but his injury issues have been overblown. Since entering the league, he has missed just ten games over seven seasons, appearing in all 16 games three times and topping 1,000 receiving yards every year other than the aforementioned 2008 season. While Colston lacks blazing speed and is unlikely to be on the receiving end of a highlight reel 80-yard bomb, he more than makes up for that with his solid size and ability to haul in touchdowns, averaging 8.3 scores per season. As the undisputed lead wide receiver in the Saints offense, there is a lot to like about Colston. With issues at the third wide receiver position, Colston should once again approach the 130 targets he had in 2012. Consider him a solid low-end WR1 and a steal if you can grab him as your WR2.
WR Lance Moore
(2012 WR Rank – #21, 9.3 FPts/G; #21 PPR, 13.7 FPts/G)
There are certain players that fail to generate much excitement in fantasy circles and Moore is at the top of that list. At just 5’9″ and 190 pounds and lacking great speed, Moore is never going to be a candidate to have a truly outstanding season. That being said, he’s been a solid contributor in the Saints offense for several years, and the team has done little to replace him as a starter. Removing his injury-plagued 2009 campaign, he has averaged 8.7 PPG since the 2008 season. Did we mention that he topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in 2012, despite being targeted just 104 times? If that were any other player, we’d be writing that his solid production in limited opportunities warrants a larger role in 2013. But it’s Moore, so nobody’s writing that. Don’t get me wrong—he’s not that exciting. But he is a low-risk alternative as a lower-tier WR2.
WR Nick Toon
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
The Saints used a fourth-round pick on the 6’4”, 218-pound Wisconsin product only to watch him miss all of his rookie season with a foot injury. Polished as a route runner but lacking deep speed, Toon will battle to earn the top backup spot at wide receiver in 2013. We’re just not sure we like his chances to win that battle, however. With starters Marques Colston and Lance Moore lacking deep speed, it won’t be a surprise if the Saints try to plug in a speedier threat as their third guy. With rookie Kenny Stills possessing good wheels and the team having added veteran retread Steve Breaston, Toon will need to prove his worth in the preseason in order to have even a marginal role in 2013.
WR Kenny Stills
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
Taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft as developmental prospect, the door has opened a crack for Stills to earn some playing time as a rookie. Possessed with outstanding speed but lacking route-running chops, the Oklahoma product has a chance to earn a role as a deep threat in the Saints high powered offense because of the loss of Joe Morgan. Stills has decent size at 6’0”, 194 pounds and will need to beat out Nick Toon and Steve Breaston, both of whom are more intermediate threats. He is a lower-tier dynasty prospect and a player worth monitoring on the waiver wire in redraft formats.
WR Steve Breaston
(2012 WR Rank – #151, 1.1 FPts/G; #145 PPR, 2.1 FPts/G)
After a string of four solid seasons, Breaston flamed out with the Chiefs in 2012 as knee issues caused his production to plummet. He appeared in just ten games, catching seven of his 15 targets for 74 yards. Released by Kansas City, Breaston landed with the Saints, where he will compete with Nick Toon and Kenny Stills for a backup role. Barring a solid preseason, we don’t like his chance to emerge as the winner of that competition.
WR Joe Morgan
(2012 WR Rank – #78, 5.1 FPts/G; #64 PPR, 7.1 FPts/G)
While Morgan is out for the year with a knee injury, you might want to stash him away in your dynasty league. There are players that do several things well and some that do just one thing well. Morgan gets lumped into the latter category. Possessed with outstanding speed, Morgan did one thing in 2012—run straight down the field. While he caught only ten of his 21 targets, he managed to average a ridiculous 37.9 yards per reception and take three of his catches to the house. Sure, he’s a one-trick pony, but there is a chance that Morgan can round out his game and become the deep threat the Saints need. It just won’t be happening this year.
TE Jimmy Graham
(2012 TE Rank – #1, 10.1 FPts/G; #1 PPR, 15.8 FPts/G)
Speed, skill, athleticism—is there anything that Jimmy Graham doesn’t bring to the table as the league’s most talented tight end? Other than durability, probably not. Although he has missed just two games during his three-year career, Graham battled wrist and ankle injuries last year and as a result saw his production decline. After totaling 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011, he failed to top the 1000-yard mark in 2012, with 982 yards and nine touchdowns. Great numbers to be sure, and good enough to be the top-ranked fantasy TE. But is there value here? If you have to spend a high second-round pick to get him, then no. But if you can grab him late in the second round, then go for it. The Saints return all of their key skill position players but they lack a proven No. 3 receiver, and that should mean plenty of targets for Graham once again in 2013. With Rob Gronkowski’s injury woes, Graham is the undisputed top-ranked fantasy TE.