The Saints’ offense is generous, giving many footballs to many hands. But owning the two top players will require paying a significant price.
Notable Additions: None with a fantasy impact, with the focus mostly on a struggling secondary, highlighted by the Keenan Lewis signing.
Notable Draft Picks: The focus in late April remained on defense, though wide receiver Kenny Stills was a fifth-round pick, and he’ll now compete to fill the hole left by Joe Morgan’s ACL tear.
The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)
Drew Brees (ADP: 23.1): His completion percentage fell to 63.0 from 71.2 in 2011, though only those who need to satisfy their need to worry about something in this life are truly concerned about that. With his career completion percentage of 65.6, I think we can definitively conclude that Brees is pretty good at getting a football to its desired destination.
You care even less about any minor dip in a silly matter like completion percentage after Brees led the league in fantasy points with 341.5. Yes, the entire league, at an average of 21.3 points per game while recording over 5,000 receiving yards and +40 touchdowns for the second straight year.
There’s a problem with Brees, though, and it’s the best illustration of how fake football differs from real football. Lunging for Brees is tempting for the obvious reason that if you own him, you own the kingpin at the position that typically scores the most points weekly. In a game that’s not cumulative and is rooted in week-to-week production to win matchups and to win money, that’s vital.
But look at that ADP. Look at it, and let it melt your soul.
That particular ADP is taken from Fantasy Football Calculator, and it places Brees at the very end of the second round. Over at My Fantasy League he falls a little further to 29th, in the middle of the third, while the crazies in ESPN leagues are taking Brees at 12th overall. Obviously, the further he falls, the more tolerable the price becomes. But even with what he’s giving you, it’s painful to buy high on Brees (or Aaron Rodgers, who’s coming off the board in a similar area) because of the holes you’re potentially creating elsewhere on your roster.
If Brees is taken at the high range of his ADP and late in the second round of a 12-team league, then it’s quite possible that you’re securing elite quarterback play, while settling for scary uncertainty in your second running back with brittle ilk like DeMarco Murray, or Darren McFadden. Or if he falls to the third round and you’ve already been a good little fantasy manager by taking two running backs, you’re then creating the possibility of a spiraling chasm at wide receiver, an increasingly thin position due to the epidemic of ACL ripping. By the fourth round, you may have to settle for Danny Amendola as your WR1, if Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston escape your grasp. With an early pick on Brees, the possibility for poor luck and dark holes shortly after increases.
Those who dutifully attend the school of late-round quarterback drafting will wait. Brees is great and super awesome, but Tony Romo is available on average 57 picks later, around the same draft real estate as Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Eli Manning. Your irrational Romo hatred will make you forget that he still finished eighth in fantasy points at his position last year, with an average of 17.2 points weekly, and 275 overall.
Jimmy Graham (ADP: 21.0): Graham has a Brees-esque draft value problem too, though with him it’s much easier to justify an absurdly early reach. He’s the one player at any position who’s infinitely ahead of his peers, which especially applies now with Aaron Hernandez dominating only leagues where orange certainly is not the new black, Dennis Pitta is done for the year, Rob Gronkowski is flirting with a PUP appearance and a six-game absence, and Heath Miller could miss time too. If/when we get confirmation that Gronk is out, Graham’s ADP will soar.
The problem is that the reach for Graham is even further than your desperate clawing for Brees. His ADP has climbed to as high as 16th overall, though it’s more often hovering a little later in the second round. Either way, you’re stuck with the same potential for a running back debacle that a Brees pick would bring, just worse. Instead of, say, picking between Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Bush, or Chris Johnson as your RB2, you’d likely be left choosing from an assortment of rookie and time share questions (Montee Ball, Le’Veon Bell, David Wilson).
Marques Colston (ADP: 43.7): For some reason, owning Marques Colston doesn’t feel sexy. Every year, it’s the most irrational reluctant click I make, as he brings the most meh of all the quality second tier options.
I can’t justify that feeling, and neither can you. On an offense that treats running like a chore and distributes touches so widely that each hot dog vendor is included, here are Colston’s averages over the past three seasons: 123 targets, 1,106 yards, 8 touchdowns.
Consistency, and quality. Ho hum.
Darren Sproles (ADP: 36.3): In a point-per-reception league, Sproles is Greek God-like. Though he may be joined on his mountain this year by Reggie Bush and Matt Forte, he is the supreme overlord of all the running back beings who excel at catching passes.
We just had a bit of fun with Colston’s averages, so let’s have even more with Sproles’ during his two years as a Saint: 107.5 targets, 80.5 receptions, and 688.5 receiving yards. In PPR formats, he’s the most coveted running back.
In standard formats, though, he’s a little less appealing. Once we take away the 80 or so points you’re getting from each reception, Sproles finished with 151 fantasy points last year, 16th at his position. That’s behind a plodding jerk like Shonn Greene, and not far ahead of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The vast difference between Sproles’ carries and his catches grew even more pronounced last year, partly due to his injury. He missed three games, and had 48 carries to 75 receptions. When used conventionally, he’s merely adequate, and buried among the Saints’ everlasting clustered backfield.
The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)
Lance Moore (ADP: 99.3): If it’s high ceiling late value you seek, then it’s Moore you’ll buy.
Joe Morgan is now gone for the season with an ACL tear, because every wide receiver with an ACL is ripping that muscle if they want to be cool. That creates both a hole behind Moore and Colston, and a deep sleeper opportunity for whoever proves worthy of filling it (see below). It’ll also create more balls in Moore’s hands.
In 2012, Moore was freed from the shackles bound to him by Robert Meachem, and the result was a leap from 627 receiving yards to 1,027. That included four games when his yards per catch went above 25.0. He’s a high-end WR3, especially with Sean Payton back, and especially in an offense that threw the ball 671 times last year (second in the league).
Mark Ingram/Pierre Thomas (ADP: 92.4/120.2): Ahhh, the eternal Saints running back confusion. Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram are addressed together here because it just feels so right. They’ll be together until time ends.
This has actually created two warring factions within the fantasy footballing community: Camp Ingram, and Camp Thomas, the latter of which sounds like the worst place an eight-year-old can spend a summer. The difference last year in carries (156 to 105 in favor of Ingram) was notable yet not substantial, as was the difference in rushing yards (602 to 473, again in favor of Ingram).
Ingram’s real advantage and why he should be drafted first lies in the area of the field where points are scored. The Saints will do a lot of scoring, and as the back more suited for goal-line barreling, Ingram could cash in easily and be a candidate for 10 touchdowns.
Two years ago under Payton, the Saints ran 36 times inside the 10, according to Yahoo’s Brad Evans. The value here lies in who wins that primary goal-line role.
The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)
Kenny Stills/Nick Toon (ADP: undrafted): We know that Graham will be a target behemoth, as will Colston, followed closely by Moore and Sproles. But in an offense that spreads the ball around so efficiently, please recall that two years ago under Payton the third best wide receiver (Robert Meachem) still had 620 yards and six touchdowns on 40 catches.
Depending on the size of your league, the Saints’ third wide receiver will have value.
The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)
Steve Breaston (ADP: undrafted): See above. Directly above, though from early reports it would seem Breaston’s shot at replacing Morgan and being the No. 3 guy is a more reaching one, as Stills has the advantage.