StrategyAugust 15, 2009

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Daily Preview: New Orleans Saints

By Roy Larking

The Saints were the highest scoring fantasy team in 2008 with 2002.1 fantasy points based on standard PPR scoring. Part of this was due to the explosive talent they had, and part of it was due to how horrible they were on defense. That is the perfect storm for fantasy football. Any team with a solid offense and less than stellar defense is fantasy gold, and the Saints were a classic example of that in 2008. Will we see more of the same in 2009? Please read on!

QB: Drew Brees, Mark Brunell, Joey Harrington
RB: Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, Heath Evans (FB)
WR: Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Adrian Arrington
TE: Jeremy Shockey, Billy Miller
PK: Garrett Hartley

Quarterback: Drew Brees led all fantasy scorers in 2009 with 372.4 FP. That’s a tie for the 17th-most Fantasy Points (FP) in a single season over the past eight years (Brian Westbrook 2007). Perhaps the most amazing part of that total is that you have to go all the way to the 48th-overall fantasy scorer to find another Saint (Lance Moore with 230 FP) in the overall top 50. By comparison, Randy Moss was the second overall fantasy scorer (385 FP) when Tom Brady finished as the top fantasy scorer (454 FP) in 2007. Plus, Brees did it with WR Marques Colston and RB Reggie Bush playing in less than ten full games each. The only thing you can fault Brees for in 2008 was his 17 INTs. If his full arsenal is healthy in 2009, expect the INT total to go down some while the rest of his stats will go up some. Brees fell just 16 passing yards short of breaking Dan Marino’s single season record (5,084 yards) when he threw one of his worst passes of the season as time expired in Week 17 against the Panthers. At this point last season I said: “Confidently take Brees as your #1 QB and expect him to go off the board as a top-five QB. When all is said and done, Brees could end up as the #1 ‘08 fantasy stud at QB.” For 2009, I am positive that Brees will be the #1 overall QB. Brees is a warrior who has started every game except one over the past five seasons. The only game he didn’t start was Week 17 in 2004 while playing for the Chargers, who had locked up their playoff position and rested him. Don’t even bother with a handcuff for Brees. You wouldn’t want to start either Mark Brunell or Joey Harrington if Brees went down with an injury.

Running Back: The Saints have not had a true fantasy stud at the RB position since Deuce McAllister finished fifth overall in 2003 with 333 FP. Injuries and the Saints’ passing game have been the primary reasons that the Saints don’t produce stars at the RB position. It also doesn’t help that their defense is never solid, so they trail in many games and are forced to the air. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush will run in tandem for the Saints in 2009 and FB Heath Evans has come over from the Patriots to lead the way blocking. I have never been high on Bush and, until he proves he can play a full season, I never will be. Bush played in parts of just ten games in 2008 and has seen his FP total slip in each of the past two years from his rookie year in 2006 (267 FP). When Bush went down last season, Thomas stepped in and finished the season very strong. From Weeks 11 through 16, Thomas had 141 FP for a 23.45 FP PG average. If you select either Thomas or Bush, you should make a very concentrated effort to get the other one as the handcuff. Mike Bell is in the mix in the Saints backfield, but he will have limited value from a fantasy perspective. I fully expect that Thomas will have the lead role in New Orleans in 2009 but (if he can stay healthy) Bush will get his fair share of touches as well. Thomas has bulked up in the off-season, with most of the muscle being added to his legs. Having Evans as his lead blocker will help as well. Bush is still recovering from micro-fracture surgery and has already missed time in training camp because of swelling on his knee. Take Thomas as a high-end RB2 and Bush as a high-end RB3. Both of these guys have a chance to produce better-than-expected fantasy results if they can stay healthy in 2009.

Wide Receiver: The Saints head into 2009 hoping they can stay healthy at the WR position as well. Marques Colston was primed for a monster season in 2008 but was injured in Week 1 and missed the next six games. Colston average 17 FP PG over the last eight weeks but never seemed to hit his stride. Colston’s injury opened the door for Lance Moore and he busted through it with an impressive 230 FP. The seven weeks that he failed to hit double digit FP is a cause for concern, but I feel he has arrived entering his fourth NFL season. Devery Henderson has a new contract and is projected as the Saints WR3. Henderson still hasn’t learned how to catch the football and we are surprised by the four-year, $12 million deal he somehow managed to get out of the Saints. Colston (micro-fracture) and Moore (back) both had off-season surgery so don’t expect to see much of either of them in the preseason. They will both be ready to go for Week 1 at home against the Lions. Let the fireworks begin! Robert Meachem is battling Henderson for the WR3 position and has looked impressive in training camp thus far. Adrian Arrington is also in the mix here, but the Saints tend to use their TE as the WR4. Take Colston as low end WR1 and Moore as high end WR3. Whoever wins the training camp battle between Henderson and Meachem should be considered as a low end WR4.

Tight End: Jeremy Shockey and Billy Miller are two of the most active pass-catching TEs in the NFL. Active is one thing, production is another and with Shockey, the two haven’t lined up together since 2005. That year, Shockey posted 198 FP for the Giants and was the third overall TE in FP that season (Gates 259 FP, Heap 203 FP). That was then and this is now though. Shockey has seen his numbers fall in each of the last three seasons at an incredible rate. From his 198 FP career high in 2005 he fell to 170 FP in 2006, then to 138 FP in 2007 and he hit a career low with just 98 FP in 2008. Shockey has battled minor injuries throughout his career. His first season in NO was no different as he missed four games (and parts of many others) with a nagging groin injury. 2009 didn’t start much better as Shockey was briefly hospitalized due to “dehydration” suffered at a pool party at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas on May 24. That’s a pretty ironic twist on the old adage, “water everywhere, but none to drink”. Billy Miller made the most of his added playing time in 2009 and finished as the Saints top-scoring fantasy TE, as well as 16th overall at the position with 108.9 FP. Shockey and Miller will both be active in this high-powered passing offense again in 2009. TE by committee is not a good thing in FF though, and that bumps them both down considerably. I don’t like recommending Shockey but will give him the benefit of the doubt to start the 2009 season. He will get his first full preseason in the Saints offense and, if he stays healthy, he should have a decent season. Select him as high-end TE2, stash him on your bench and get him going if he proves he can stay healthy. Miller should be taken as a mid-range TE3 and as a handcuff for Shockey.

Team Defense/IDP: The Saints were not part of the 2008 post-season party for one reason and one reason only. DEFENSE! This unit was horrible as they were 23rd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed in 2008. Gregg Williams comes over to the Saints after one year as the Jaguars defensive coordinator and definitely has his work cut out for him with this crew. The only IDPs from the Saints that even remotely hit the radar are DB Roman Harper and MLB Jonathan Vilma. Harper is expected to blitz more under new DC Williams and Vilma is a stud at MLB. The bottom line though is the Saints D still won’t be very good in 2009 and that means more chances for the offense to put up big numbers. Yes, it is the “perfect storm” down in the Bayou again in 2009.

The Saints have a very tough schedule in 2009 but they will only play one game where weather could be a factor (WAS Week 13). They play 10 of their 16 games in doomed stadiums as well. Their defense will be slightly better in 2009 but not enough to prevent them from being in a lot of games that end up being shoot-outs. The fireworks begin with them putting up 45 points against the Lions in Week 1. Get the stars from the Saints and enjoy the production!


Fantasy Football is not a matter or life or death. It's boundaries are much more expansive than that.
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