Despite the New Orleans Saints' bounty saga (and the subsequent one-year suspension of head coach Sean Payton), there are still plenty of fantasy prospects down in Cajun Country. Personally, I wish the Saints would just take their lumps if they deserve them, and get on with concentrating on NFL 2012. That way, maybe everyone else would move past the entire Bountygate scandal. The issue is a Pandora's box that needs to be nailed shut, sooner rather than later. Enough on that, let's get to the Bayou Fantasy facts!
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Fantasy Options
Everything I am about to discuss is hinged on one point. QB Drew Brees needs to get his long-term contract deal done prior to the July 16, 2012 deadline. Simply put, Saints owner Tom Benson and the top brass in New Orleans, have to make sure their franchise pivot is paid and happy. Chase Daniels, Luke McCown and Sean Canfield are not the answers to any questions under the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in Louisiana.
On Tuesday, June 27, 2012, Brees was on the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN Radio. While he was vague about his contract situation and the holdups surrounding it, Brees sounded confident that a deal would get done (later rather than sooner) in time for the Saints' 2012 NFL regular season opener at home against the Redskins. His comments on the Saints "Bountygate" saga were very harsh toward the once New Orleans loving NFL Head Office in NYC.
Coming off the best Fantasy season of his career, Brees is poised for another big year. That's because most of his offensive weapons are back in place for NFL 2012. Along with breaking Dan Marino's single season passing yards record with 5,476 PYD, Cool Brees also scored a career high 47 total touchdowns to go along with just 15 turnovers. Those net 32 passing and rushing scores are more than 13 NFL clubs scored as a combined unit last season.
Saints QB Analysis: While many wonder how the suspension of offensive guru and Saints head coach Sean Payton will affect the Saints, I don't see it as that much of an issue. First and foremost, Payton will have his paws all over the team – somehow, someway. Second, the Saints will run the same high-octane offense that they have for years now; the players are familiar with it and Brees is a field general who lives up to the highest standard of the term.
New Orleans Saints Running Back Fantasy Options
Somewhat lost in the celebration of Hurricane Drew's record-breaking season was the success the Saints backfield enjoyed last season. RB Darren Sproles looked right at home during his first season down in the Bayou. The former San Diego lightning bug lit it up for 1,313 total yards and nine touchdowns. His 111 targets and 86 receptions in the Saints passing game was tops for running backs and only five NFL players had more receptions than Sproles.
Injuries, along with being surrounded by superstars, stunted the growth of RB Mark Ingram during his rookie campaign. The former Alabama Crimson Tide standout saw limited action in ten games that produced 520 total yards and five touchdowns on 133 touches. As one of the most frustrating backs during NFL 2011, RB Pierre Thomas bobbed and weaved his way to 987 total yards and six touchdowns. Good for the Saints, not good for fantasy football owners.
Saints RB Analysis: Furthering the frustration of having Thomas on your roster was the fact that he alternated single and double-digit fantasy scoring from Week 4 through Week 13. Sproles will be on my draft list as a midrange RB1 in PPR leagues. In standard scoring leagues he drops to down to a high end RB2. Ingram will battle Thomas for the goal-line back role during training camp. While both players can produce decent numbers in the explosive three-headed RBBC system in New Orleans, I won't be drafting either of them.
New Orleans Saints Wide Receiver Fantasy Options
New Orleans' "big three" wide receivers are all signed and back for the 2012 season. WR Marques Colston is now locked in through 2016, while WR Lance Moore restructured his deal and is signed through the 2015 season. WR Devery Henderson enters his ninth season in the NFL (all of them with the Saints) and is in the final year of his current four-year contract. Up against the salary cap, the Saints elected to let WR Robert Meachem bolt to the San Diego Chargers.
Colston and Moore both played 14 games last season, while Henderson played in all 16 regular season games. Adrian Arrington, who was reportedly courted by several clubs in the off-season, is the leader to take over the WR4 role in New Orleans. The former Michigan Wolverine has appeared in four games through his first two seasons and will play for $540K in the final year of his rookie contract. Nick Toon and Joseph Morgan are also in the wide receiver mix.
Saints WR Analysis: Brees is a lock to throw the ball over 600 times, with a completion range at about 450, again this season. Sproles will get his 80 plus targets, while TE Jimmy Graham can expect 130 plus looks. That leaves the rest of the Saints to split up somewhere around 240 passes. Colston will get his 100 targets, with Moore and Henderson both coming in at around 70 looks. Watch the development of Arrington, Toon and Morgan.
New Orleans Saints Tight End Fantasy Options
After showing signs of brilliance during his 2010 NFL rookie season, TE Jimmy Graham busted out as a superstar with 99 receptions for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns in his sophomore season. There's no reason to expect that this fantasy stud can't continue on that pace. Two concussions and the emergence of Graham hampered the 2011 NFL season for tight end David Thomas. He should resume his role backup role this season.
Saints TE Analysis: At 6'6" and 260 pounds, Graham ranks just a notch below Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski on my most wanted tight end list. I expect the Saints' human wrecking ball to post even better numbers, especially when if comes to touchdowns, during the 2012 NFL campaign. You'll have to draft Graham early on, but the reward will be a ton of points.
New Orleans Saints Fantasy Bottom Line: Looking at New Orleans' 2012 NFL schedule, and considering the hits they took on defense, we can't find a contest that won't be a shootout for the Saints. Plus, the entire club will be out to show the world that while Bountygate may have beat them down, you can't count them out. Despite all the turmoil in Cajun Country, as long as Brees gets signed, fantasy owners can invest in the Saints superstars with confidence!