QB Drew Brees
(2013 QB Rank—#2, 27.3 FPts/G)
Since Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton came to New Orleans in 2006, the Saints offense has ranked in the top four of the NFL in yards per game every season. Hitching your wagon to Brees might come with a premium, but he rarely disappoints his fantasy owners. A steady veteran, Brees connected on 15 passes of 40+ yards and eclipsed 300 passing yards in 11 of 16 contests during the 2013 regular season en route to his third straight year with over 5,000 yards. He even found a way to decrease his interception total from the previous year. The only downside was the increase in games without multiple touchdown passes. After failing to throw for at least two scores only three times during the 2012 regular season, Brees amassed five such games a year ago. The loss of Darren Sproles and Lance Moore will certainly have an impact on the Saints signal caller but not enough to push him out of the top-five fantasy quarterbacks.
RB Pierre Thomas
(2013 RB Rank—#23, 8.5 FPts/G)
Pierre Thomas continued to be a quality value on draft day in 2013 after posting over 1,000 total yards for the first time since 2009. Those owners who were lucky enough to snatch him up in PPR leagues were also rewarded with a career best 77 receptions—six more than Darren Sproles. Heading into the 2014 campaign, Thomas should be the starter out of the backfield. The team’s desire to use several running backs to shoulder the load keeps Thomas from being a top-25 fantasy running back, though. His reception total is sustainable considering how many passes Drew Brees throws to his running backs and the departure of Sproles. Far from elite, the seven-year veteran could once again be a relative bargain on draft day.
RB Khiry Robinson
(2013 RB Rank—#79, 2.8 FPts/G)
As an undrafted free agent, Khiry Robinson put himself into a position to garner more carries late last season when he scored his first career touchdown and averaged 4.6 yards per carry during the Saints’ final three games of the year. Likely to begin the season No. three on the depth chart this season, Robinson will have limited fantasy value when the season opens barring an injury to Pierre Thomas or Mark Ingram during training camp. Fantasy owners seeking a potential lotto ticket, however, will likely see Robinson as a worthy upside option. If he is able to somehow convince the Saints to give him a dozen carries per game he will have value as a flex option.
RB Mark Ingram
(2013 RB Rank—#62, 4.7 FPts/G)
Mark Ingram enters the final year of his rookie deal without much fanfare as he has yet to provide the Saints or fantasy owners with steady production. Of the 10 New Orleans rushing scores in 2013, Ingram was only responsible for one. Pierre Thomas led the way while Ingram was hampered by injuries, receiving double-digit carries only twice during the regular season. The Saints will need him to show the same physicality and quickness he flashed during his collegiate career if they are to extend him another contract offer. Optimistic owners will bank on a motivated runner with plenty of talent and a cheap price tag. Those more adverse to risk will see another Heisman Trophy winner who fizzled on the NFL stage.
WR Marques Colston
(2013 WR Rank—#27, 8.3 FPts/G)
Marques Colston turned 31 this offseason and is coming off his least-productive fantasy season since an injury-plagued 2008. As long as Drew Brees is leading the offense, Colston will have the chance to be a relevant fantasy option. Tthe days of Colston being a steady producer as a WR1 are behind us, however. Younger options in Kenny Stills and Brandin Cooks are poised to see the field more in 2014 yet Colston remains the most polished and trusted target amongst the team’s receiving corps. While continued decline isn’t out of the question, the Hofstra alumnus could easily see his touchdown total increase this year to make him a low-end WR2.
WR Kenny Stills
(2013 WR Rank—#47, 5.9 FPts/G)
The Saints’ decision to release Lance Moore translates to a vote of confidence in Kenny Stills. A second-year player out of Oklahoma, Stills should see more balls thrown his way in 2014. Will it be enough to make him fantasy relevant on a weekly basis, though? Like many Saints wideouts, Drew Brees’ knack for spreading the ball to everyone is a blessing and a curse. Simply replacing Moore’s production would make him a useful WR4. On the other hand, Marques Colston’s decline and injury history combined with Stills’ continued development into a reliable move-the-chains type of receiver makes him attractive late in drafts. A strong training camp will solidify his starting position opposite Colston and see his fantasy stock start to rise as the season nears.
WR Brandin Cooks
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
Rookie wideout Brandin Cooks missed the Saints’ mini-camps and most OTAs because Oregon State’s school year runs a little longer than other programs. To make up for lost time, the 2013 Biletnikoff award winner plans on working with QB Drew Brees prior to the start of training camp. His explosive speed should make him an instant threat in the Saints vertical passing game while his quickness will give him chances to make plays after the catch. He should fit the offense perfectly, but may need some seasoning before being a solid fantasy contributor.
TE Jimmy Graham
(2013 TE Rank—#1, 13.6 FPts/G)
A TE1 with WR1 production, Jimmy Graham will carry the torch as the top fantasy TE entering the year. In only his fourth year as a starter, Graham will try to become even more consistent after seeing his production slip over the course of the 2013 season following a hot start. As defenses continually evolve to handle the likes of Graham, there is a chance they succeed as Seattle did during last year’s divisional playoff game in limiting Graham to a single catch on six targets. Fantasy owners considering the stud TE in the first round will no doubt place their confidence in position dominance. Yet that gap may not be as large as it appears given a modest regression in the touchdown column and increased yardage totals from fellow tight ends Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas, among others. Regardless of how you feel on draft day, Graham will likely set the pace for all tight ends once again.