New Orleans Saints: 2012 Fantasy Outlook
The New Orleans Saints were put on an offensive display in 2011, and they did it routinely. They didn’t really dominate in the rushing game, but Drew Brees and the passing offense made history, and he and his weapons regularly made their fantasy owners beyond happy.
Brees tossed 46 touchdowns and broke Dan Marino’s long-standing single-season passing yardage record, while Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles burst onto the fantasy scene. Those three guys should be elite as usual, but what about the rest of the roster? Let’s take a look at all of the relevant Saints’ offensive players heading into 2012:
QB Drew Brees
Brees doesn’t need analysis. He had a freak season in 2011 with 46 passing scores and over 5,400 yards, but he’s good for 30+ touchdowns and 4,500+ passing yards on an off year. He’s a top-three fantasy quarterback, without a doubt.
RB Mark Ingram
Ingram was under-whelming as a rookie, but he’s still as “bell cow” as it gets for the Saints when he’s healthy. If he can remain healthy for 2012, he could push for 200+ carries and respectable RB2 numbers. Just don’t reach too high for him.
Sproles isn’t the starter and he’ll probably never carry the ball 100+ times in a season, but he easily has more value than Ingram due to his versatility and explosiveness. Sproles is a huge part of the passing game and also makes an impact in the return game. Even without return yardage/score points, he’s still a top-25 running back in most standard formats, and even higher in PPR leagues. I like him as a strong RB2 again in 2012.
RB Pierre Thomas
Don’t sleep on the fact that the Saints love to use a three-back system. Thomas will help Ingram on some early down work, will fill in a little on third downs, and can also be used near the goal-line. He’s basically the “spell” back, but that adds up to roughly 10 touches per game. I don’t like him as your weekly RB2, but he’s perfect for the Flex spot when he has a good matchup.
RB Chris Ivory
Ivory is an athletic runner with some shake, but he really only has value when there’s an injury ahead of him like in the past two seasons. He’s fourth on the depth chart and won’t be ascending anytime soon. In fact, there have been reports that he could be on the roster bubble. In other words, leave him off your draft board and target him in-season in the waiver wire if the Saints have an injury at the position.
WR Marques Colston
Even though Colston competes with Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham for targets, he’s still one of the most rock solid WR2′s you’ll find. He can still be a quality WR1 in any given week, too, because of his offense, which helps his value. Colston could actually even see a slightly increased role with Robert Meachem gone to San Diego.
WR Devery Henderson
Henderson is a fairly one-dimensional big-play guy, but he still plays in a crazy good system, and stands to see a target increase with Robert Meachem gone. I expect his value to be closer to his 2009 season than anything else, when he reeled in 51 balls for over 800 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s a risk/reward WR3 with considerably upside going into 2012.
WR Lance Moore
Moore is an excellent slot receiver operating in a system that caters to his skills. Translation: when the dude is healthy, he gets it done. He’s still just a WR3 because of the way his offense spreads things out, but he’s good for 50 receptions and 8+ touchdowns if he can play close to a full season.
WR Adrian Arrington
Arrington has been seldom used in New Orleans, but knows the offense and has good size. He’s the initial body to take a crack at replacing the departed Robert Meachem, but he has competition in rookie Nick Toon and he doesn’t have a resume that exudes confidence.
WR Nick Toon
Toon has decent size and speed, and has reportedly been highly praised at OTAs. He has no locked-in role, but there’s a good chance the fourth-round rookie sneaks ahead of Arrington and carves out a small role in the offense. He’s still a rook and there’s only so many balls to go around in a spread-out passing attack, so he’s a WR4 with limited upside, at best.
TE Jimmy Graham
Graham is a beast and clearly is Brees’ favorite and most effective target. He might actually see an increase in targets with Robert Meachem gone, so he’s easily a top-two fantasy tight end, and I’ll hear the argument to take him over Rob Gronkowski (even though I don’t agree with it). He’s basically a WR1 in a TE1′s body.
TE David Thomas
Being second to Graham is basically like being unemployed when it comes to fantasy terms. Thomas would stand to have a decent role if Graham were to ever go down, but as of now he’s untouchable.
K Garrett Hartley
Hartley missed 2011 with an injured hip, but is back to full strength and ready to get his starting job back from the veteran, John Kasay. Hartley should get the gig even if it’s close, and he’s easily a top-five fantasy kicker again with this explosive offense backing him.
K John Kasay
Kasay is still accurate and can boot it (5 for 9 from 50+ the past two years) despite being 42 years old. He’s basically around to keep Hartley honest, but if Hartley stays healthy and doesn’t face-plant, Kasay should be looking for work before the season begins. He’s a top-five option if he sticks as the starter in New Orleans, and is still probably a top-20 option if he latches on somewhere else.
New Orleans Saints Defense
The Saints have always been aggressive on defense, but perhaps maybe too aggressive (as it turns out). Either way you look at it, they’re rolling with a new defensive coordinator and Jonathan Vilma is suspended for 2012, as well. I can still see the possibility for improvement, which should see them finishing higher than their dreadful 25th fantasy ranking last season. They’re still probably middle of the pack, though, and aren’t the best defense to rely on every single week.
Kevin Roberts owns and operates NFL Soup and heads the fantasy football division of the site. Roberts also finished 2nd in the Wide Receiver position in Fantasy Pros expert fantasy football rankings in 2010 and 3rd in the Quarterback position in 2011. In addition to running the fantasy football section of the site, Roberts contributes to NFL Soup's NFL Draft coverage and breaking news reporting. Follow Kevin on Twitter @NFLSoupKevin