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2022 New Orleans Saints Fantasy Preview

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,177 yards (28th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 41 (T-17th)
Offensive Plays: 1,051 (23rd)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 541 (T-30th)
Rush Attempts: 510 (4th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 81 (26th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 31 (24th)

Coaching Staff

New Saints’ head coach Dennis Allen will get his second opportunity as the lead-man. His last HC gig was from 2012-2014 with the Raiders when he compiled an 8-28 record before being fired four games into the 2014 season. Not long after, he became the Saints’ defensive coordinator late in the 2015 season. He’s held that position since and, with legendary offensive guru Sean Payton retiring (for now), Allen was promoted to head coach. He will inherit a team with talented players. Despite players’ injuries that included Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas, the team managed to finish with a 9-8 record in a down season. A defensive mind as we know, Allen will mainly have his hands on that side of the ball. On offense, he chose to retain offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who’s held the position since 2009.

Although the Saints held several interviews for the OC role, the decision was made to keep the long-time coordinator. The move might prove to be the best they’ve made this offseason. If you can’t have Payton or Drew Brees, it’s best to have the guy who was attached to them in the offense. Carmichael came onto the staff in 2006 as the quarterbacks coach (the same year the Saints acquired Brees). With a roster in win-now mode, it was probably best for the offensive players to have some type of continuity. Now that Carmichael has the offense to himself, the question is, what will the offense look like? For starters, Carmichael has actually had a season in which he was the sole play-caller for the Saints. In 2012 when Payton served a season-long suspension, Carmichael engineered the second-ranked offense in football. Mind you, they also were very pass heavy (671 passing attempts) and fielded the worst defense in the league that year. Positional finishes for fantasy were as follows:

With play-makers all over the Saints’ defense, don’t look for them to be playing catch up often. The Saints defense ranked as the seventh-best overall and fourth-best fantasy wise in 2021. What they have, however, is capable players on offense, and Carmichael will use them to their strengths. While there are some questions about how the Saints offense will look, Carmichael is a long-tenured and trusted member within the Saints’ organization.

Passing Game

QB: Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton
WR: Michael Thomas, Marquez Callaway
WR: Jarvis Landry, Deonte Harty
WR: Chris Olave, Tre’Quan Smith
TE: Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill

The passing game will more than likely be the Saints bread and butter in 2022. With the additions of Jarvis Landry and first-round pick Chris Olave and the projected return of Michael Thomas, it’s the Saints’ best receiving group in a while. With Jameis Winston now throwing without a knee brace and looking healthier by the day, this offense could sneak up on people. Out of the gate, it’ll be hard to determine how the targets will be distributed. When you consider the top-three leading wideouts from 2021 (Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harty and Tre’Quan Smith) will all be backups now, it makes things more confusing. Alvin Kamara, who totaled at least 95 targets and 81 receptions in each of his first four seasons, saw a huge dip in receiving production after the departure of Drew Brees. In 2021, he had a career-low 67 targets and 47 receptions. On the flip side, Kamara gathered a career-high in carries with 240. These numbers bode well for the receiving corps.

In the five seasons where Winston has played in at least 11 games, running backs have only been targeted more than 46 times in a season once (Charles Sims in 2015, 70). In the seven games Winston started in 2021, Kamara saw 5.3 targets/game in the passing game. To put that in perspective, he saw 6.8 targets/game in his first four seasons. Receivers will get more love in this (sort of) new-look Saints’ offense. With Winston’s penchant for deep-ball passing, Olave is the receiver of the group you will look towards for the bigger plays. He may not lead the team in receptions in year one, but he could be the most effective and efficient. In four seasons at Ohio State, Olave averaged 15.4 yards per reception. In 2021, 354 of his 936 yards and seven of his 13 touchdowns came on deep routes (20 yards or more). With both Landry and Thomas having career averages of under 12 yards per catch, Olave and his 4.39 40-yard dash speed will fill the big-play receiver role.

Thomas remains a big question mark as he has not played any good football since 2019 due to lingering ankle issues. Entering his age-29 season, it could be a “do or die” type campaign. It’s been reported that he’s making good progress. Recently, videos hit the mean streets of social media of Thomas running routes and doing sprints. Whether or not he can return to All-Pro form remains to be seen, but a healthy Thomas is undoubtedly the best option in the passing game for the Saints at this point. Landry is coming off two very uninspiring seasons in Cleveland. A volume catcher in his own right, Landry will be able to line up in the slot or on the outside. Thomas’ health early on in the season will dictate the usage of Landry. With all three of the Saints receivers on the field together though, the biggest fantasy winner will be Winston.

Running Game

RB: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones, Devine Ozigbo, Dwayne Washington, Abram Smith
OL (L-R): Trevor Penning, Andrus Peat, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, Ryan Ramczyk

The Saints’ backfield wouldn’t be a question at all if Kamara didn’t have legal issues looming. While reports are he’s “bracing” for a six-game suspension, that’s all we know and it is hearsay. Where to even draft him is a question mark. The hope is we get some real clarity before fantasy-draft season is in full swing come August. With no suspension, Kamara should still be considered an RB1 with top 3-5 upside. A six-game suspension would knock Kamara into the middle rounds of fantasy drafts. If he does serve a suspension, who will fill the role and how will the Saints deploy their backs?

In 2021, Kamara missed four games between Weeks 10 and 13 due to a knee sprain. In those games, Mark Ingram assumed the role of lead back averaging 13.3 carries, 54.3 yards and 3.7 receptions per game. Taysom Hill chipped in as well with 14 carries for 124 yards while he tried to play quarterback. Tony Jones started Week 12 and was ineffective, gaining 27 yards on 16 totes. The Saints did not draft a running back and will pretty much bring back the same group. If Kamara does serve a suspension, expect some sort of committee with 32-year-old Mark Ingram leading the way. Jones, Devine Ozigbo, and Dwayne Washington could compete for touches behind Ingram. Undrafted rookie Abram Smith could also push for a roster spot.

On a brighter note the offensive line should be improved. Ryan Ramczyk will return as the only lineman for the team who graded out over 80 according to PFF. While the Saints lost Terron Armstead in free agency, they wasted no time in finding his replacement Trevor Penning in the first round. Andrus Peat will return to the lineup to help the interior line after only playing in six games in 2021.

Win Total

The Saints went through a hell of a lot for a team that was still able to finish 9-8 in 2021. When you have to play quarterback musical chairs between Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill for more than half of a season, you’re lucky just to get out alive. This team found a way on the back of their defense. That side of the ball is even more loaded with the additions of Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu to go along with Cam Jordan and the front seven. Given their new offensive weapons, 8.5 wins seems like a keeper and I’m taking the bait. Give me the over and look for the Saints to give the Bucs everything they can handle in the NFC South title race.