New Orleans Saints: 2017 Outlook 2017 TOP 200 Fantasy Football Rankings, TOP 200 PPR Cheatsheets TOP 200 PPR Draft / Draft Rankings

 
 
 
 
 
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New Orleans Saints

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By Shawn Childs, Friday, September 1, 2017

New Orleans Saints

Over the last 11 seasons with Sean Payton as the head coach (suspended in 2012) and Drew Brees at quarterback, the Saints finished first in the NFL in offense yards in six years and second twice including 2016 (1st). They scored 61 more points than 2015 (408) leading to the second highest number of points scored (469). Payton has a career 94-66 record with one Super Bowl title. The Saints missed the playoffs in each of the last three years with a 7-9 record. Pete Carmichael will return for his eighth season as offensive coordinator. Pete has been in the New Orleans' system since 2006. The defensive side of the ball has been a major issue over the last three seasons. They've allowed 424 (28th), 476 (32nd), and 454 (31st) points over each of the last three years while ranking poorly in yards allowed in 2014 (31st), 2015 (31st), and 2016 (27th). Dennis Allen will have a third season to try and save the defense. Dennis held the same position for the Broncos in 2011 leading to a head coaching job for the Raiders from 2012 to 2014 where he struggled to have success (8-28). Allen has 16 years of NFL coaching experience.

Free Agency

The biggest downgrade in the offseason was the loss of WR Brandin Cooks who was moved to the Patriots for a couple of draft picks. They replaced him with a deep threat, WR Ted Ginn. New Orleans added RB Adrian Peterson to improve the power running game hopefully. QB Chase Daniel returns to compete for a backup job as will TE Clay Harbor. They released RB Tim Hightower.

New Orleans lost G Jahri Evans off their offensive line plus backup options G Tim Lelito and T Tony Hills. Evans had an outstanding career in the NFL, but age isn't on his side. G Larry Warford will replace him on the roster after playing well over the last four years.

The Saints added S Rafael Bush, LB Manti Te'o, LB A.J. Klein, and DE Tony McDaniel to the defense. Each player struggled in 2016 with rotational value at best.

They lost CB B.W. Webb, S Jairus Byrd, DE Kasim Edebali, and DE Paul Kruger. Byrd started in 2016 while delivering neutral value. Webb struggled in pass coverage with both defensive ends offering no upside.

Draft

With their two picks in the first two rounds, New Orleans selected CB Marshon Lattimore and T Ryan Ramczyk. Lattimore has the makings of being an elite coverage corner with some value in run support. He has elite speed (4.36) with a smooth transition in coverage. His one black mark is a short resume in college while needing to prove himself against tougher competition. Ryan is very skilled in the techniques needed to have success at his position while adding athletic ability. Ramczyk is an upgrade on the line, and he should start in his first game in the NFL.

S Marcus Williams was the choice in the second round. He brings quickness and athletic ability to the defense. He is expected to play well in pass coverage with a chance to offer upside against the run when he adds more strength. Williams is a playmaker, which is something the Saints lack in the secondary.

With two power backs on the roster, New Orleans drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. He'll add value to the passing game with enough size (5"10" and 214 lbs.) to handle his responsibilities in pass protection. Alvin needs to improve his decision-making in the heat of the battle where his speed and power can lead to explosive plays.

The Saints drafted three defensive players (LB Alex Anzalone - 3rd, LB Trey Hendrickson - 3rd, and DE Al-Quadin Muhammad - 6th) with their last three picks. Anzalone has an injury history while showcasing plus speed and quickness. He has the tools to add value to a defense, but he needs to get stronger to handle the big battles at the line of scrimmage. Hendrickson is built like a DE, but his lack of quickness and vision kills his value at the line of scrimmage. As a linebacker, Trey can add speed and power with a clean run. He needs to improve his ability to break free of would-be blockers when attacking the run game and rushing the passer. Muhammad has a short resume of experience in college due to some on and off the field issues. He needs growth in his technique while adding commitment to his game plan. Al-Quadin does have talent so his game could come quickly with hard work and coaching.

Offensive Line

New Orleans ranked 16th in the league in rushing yards (1,742) with 17 rushing TDs. They gained 4.3 yards per carry with eight runs over 20 yards. The Saints only had 24 negative runs and 37 rushes over 10 yards.

This offense led the league in passing yards (5,074) with 38 passing TDs and 15 Ints. Brees had a league-high 71 completed passes over 20 yards while their offensive line allowed 27 sacks.

LT Terron Armstead was one of the best players at his position in 2015, but he missed nine games last year due to knee and quad injuries. In June, Terron suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder putting on a path to miss four to six months. The Saints need someone to step up in a big way to protect the left side of the line for Brees. The best option may be rookie Ryan Ramczyk.

LG Andrus Peat still hasn't developed into the player New Orleans thought he would after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. Andrus did improve in his second year while the Saints believe he'll make a nice step forward in 2017.

C Max Under has a long resume of success, but he's recovering from Lisfranc surgery (May). All signs point to him being ready in Week 1. Seattle added him in the second round in 2009.

RG Larry Warford played his best ball in his rookie season with the Lions after getting drafted in the third round. His best value will come in run blocking while expecting to add value to this line.

RT Zach Strief continues to be one of the best players at his position with 11 years of experience in the NFL. He'll turn 33 in September, but he still has plenty of life in his game.

The Saints will need to figure out the left tackles position, which will invite risk early in the season. The rest of the line has enough talent to rank in the top third of the league at the minimum.

Offensive Schedule

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The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).

This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.

2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.

2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.

New Orleans has two favorable games (MIA and BUF) for their rushing offense. They will be challenged in four games (NE, CAR X 2, and GB). Overall, this is a neutral run schedule.

The Saints have five matchups (CAR X 2, ATL X 2, and GB) vs. teams that have risk in pass coverage based on 2016. They have three games (MIN, CHI, and BUF) that have limited upside in the passing game.

Offense

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This offense attempted 674 passes in 2016 accounting for 62.5 percent of the offensive plays. Even with Peterson added to the mix, New Orleans will still throw a ton of passes in 2017.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees

http://www.scout.com/player/19841-drew-brees?s=532

There is nothing but special written on Drew's NFL resume. He has a career 131-101 record with a Super Bowl title. Brees led the NFL in completions (471), pass attempts (673), and pass yards (5,208) in 2016 while finishing with his ten straight years with 32 passing TDs or more. He has over 420 completion and over 625 pass attempts in each of his last seven seasons with four of those years finishing with over 5,000 yards passing. Drew needs 5,830 passing yards to pass Peyton Manning for the most all-time. Also, he needs 75 passing TDs to rank first in the history of the NFL. The loss of WR Brandin Cooks will create a void plus the Saints still have a question option at TE in Coby Fleener. Brees averaged 448 completions, 656 pass attempts, 5,066 passing yards, and 35.6 passing TDs over the last seven season, which sets an exciting bar to judge his value. New Orleans will run the ball well with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram so a slight step back in productive should be expected. Floor of 4,800 passing yards with 35 TDs.

Other options: Chase Daniel, Garrett Grayson, Ryan Nassib

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson

http://www.scout.com/player/29643-adrian-peterson?s=532

If Peterson is healthy, he is going to emerge as the top runner in this offense on early downs and at the goal line. He missed 15 games in 2014 due to a suspension and 13 games in 2016 due to a right knee injury that required surgery. Adrian is a hard worker with seven seasons with over 1,200 yards rushing and eight years with double digit TDs. His place in history will be much lower than expected due to his two lost seasons. Peterson needs less than 2,000 yards to rank top 5 all-time and 27 TDs to rank third in history. In 2016, New Orleans' RBs had 381 rushes for 1,722 yards and 14 rushing TDs plus 127 catches for 884 yards and 10 TDs on 163 targets. Adrian will get 200+ rushes for 900+ yards with a solid chance a double-digit TDs. The Saints throw so many passes to the RB position that he can't help but get over 30 catches for another couple hundred yards.

Mark Ingram

http://www.scout.com/player/98462-mark-ingram?s=532

For the first time in the last four seasons, Ingram played in 16 games leading to his first year with over 1,000 yards rushing (1,053). Mark averaged a career-high 5.1 yards per carry while regressing in his value in the passing game (6.9 yards per catch). Over the last two seasons, Ingram has 96 combined catches for 724 yards. He also scored 10 TDs, which was a career high. Even with the lead role at RB, the Saints found too many ways to get Tim Hightower in the mix thus lowering his value. Based on this, Ingram will enter 2017 as RB2 for the Saints. I expect him to be active in the passing game helping his Fantasy value. Possible 200+ touches with 40+ coming in the passing game leading to 1,000 combined yards with a handful of TDs.

Alvin Kamara

http://www.scout.com/player/156213-alvin-kamara?s=532

Over two seasons at Tennessee in college, Kamara never had a full-time opportunity. He rushed for 1,294 yards with 16 rushing TDs. His game offered upside in the passing game (74/683/7). He projects as more of a north/south runner with questionable long speed. He runs with power while offering short area quickness. His hands will be a definite asset when added to his route running ability. Viable option on passing downs and he should be able to handle himself in pass protection. Minimal carries without an injury while possibly emerging at the top pass catching back on the team. Alvin looks to be the future back on the roster while being one injury away from having value in 2017.

Other options: Travaris Cadet, Daniel Lasco, Marcus Murphy

Wide Receivers

Michael Thomas

http://www.scout.com/player/137774-michael-thomas?s=532

In his rookie season, Thomas caught 92 of his 121 targets (76.0 percent) for 1,137 yards and nine TDs. It was a massive showing and one in line with Marques Colston (70/1038/8) who developed into a nice wide receiver for Drew Brees. Over last two years at Ohio State, Thomas caught 110 passes for 1602 yards and 18 TDs. He only had two games with over 100 yards receiving in his college career and seven games with seven catches or more. When watching his movement in his highlights, I get a Terrell Owens feeling. Thomas has some wiggle and fight in the open field to extend the length of his catches plus his game projects well when facing tight coverage downfield. Michael will win many jump balls, and he doesn't need a big window to have success at the next level. He needs to smooth out some of his movements in his pass routes while improving his release at the line of scrimmage. With Brandin Cooks no longer on the roster, Thomas will become an elite option in this passing game. His next step is 110+ catches for 1,400+ yards and a run at 15 TDs.

Willie Snead Jr.

http://www.scout.com/player/133363-willie-snead?s=532

The Saints looked Snead's way nine times in Week 1 leading to his best game of the season (9/172/1). He followed up that game with a 5/54/1 performance in Week 2, but an injury in Week 3 set in motion the opportunity for Michael Thomas. Over his last 13 games of the season, Willie scored only two TDs, which both came in Week 10 vs. the Broncos. He had fewer than 60 yards receiving in nine of his last 13 games. Snead finished with 72 catches for 895 yards and four TDs on 104 targets. This almost matched his success in his rookie year (69/984/3). He'll move up one spot on the depth chart with Cooks out of the picture. Possible 80+ catches for 1,100+ yards with five to seven TDs.

Ted Ginn Jr.

http://www.scout.com/player/27242-ted-ginn?s=532

Ted played well again in 2016 for the Panthers leading to 54 catches for 752 yards and four TDs. He improved his catch rate (56.8 - 45.8 in 2015) while getting a few chances in the run game (14/98). Over the past two seasons, Ginn has nine catches for 40 yards or more. He has four returned kicks in his career. His skill set should work well in this offense. He'll give Brees a true deep threat while still offering some scoring ability in the red zone on crossing patterns. Excellent chance to set a career high in catches (60+) and yards (900+) with some value in TDs. In 2016, the Saints' WR caught 275 of 391 targets for 3,562 yards and 24 TDs.

Brandon Coleman

http://www.scout.com/player/126504-brandon-coleman?s=532

The growth of Michael Thomas pushed Coleman to the back burner in 2016. He caught 26 of his 38 targets for 281 yards and three TDs, which was a step back from his rookie season (30/454/2). He'll battle Ginn for the WR3 job, but he can't match his deep speed. There's enough room in this offense for him to catch 30 to 40 balls, but he needs an injury to earn a bigger role in the offense.

Other options: Tommylee Lewis, Jake Lampman, Corey Fuller, Jordan Williams, Rashad Lawrence

Tight Ends

Coby Fleener

http://www.scout.com/player/93210-coby-fleener?s=532

The writing was on the wall in August last year regarding the upside and opportunity of Fleener. He was struggling to get on the same page with Brees. Coby caught 50 of his 81 targets (61.7), which was a low number when you consider the accuracy of Drew. Over the last four seasons, Fleener has between 50 and 54 catches while averaging 85 targets per year. Cody was the 16th-ranked TE in PPR leagues with only three playable games (7/109/1, 6/74/1, and 5/86). He had fewer than 45 yards receiving in nine of his last 11 games. The Saints believe he will be better in his second year and New Orleans completed 70 passes for 812 yards and four TDs on 109 targets to the TE position. Let's push his numbers to 60/700/5 while only buying him at a discount as a TE2.

Other options: Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui, Garrett Griffin, John Phillips, Clay Harbor

Kicker

Wil Lutz

http://www.scout.com/player/182687-wil-lutz?s=532

In his first season in the NFL, Lutz made 28 of 34 field goals (82.4 percent) plus 49 of his 50 extra points. New Orleans gave him seven chances from 50 yards or longer, but he made only three of those kicks. In 2016, he ranked ninth in kicker scoring so Wil should be considered a top 12 scoring option. New Orleans should be improved running the ball in close so his field goal chance could have some regression.

Defensive Schedule

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The Saints' defense has one tough matchup (BUF) for their run defense. Their rushing defense should have an edge in three other games (MIN, DET, and LAR). This is a neutral schedule.

They have an interest dynamic for their pass defense. New Orleans has three tough matchups (WAS and ATL) plus two other mid-tier games (NE and GB) in the passing game. Their pass defense will have an edge in two games (BUF and LAR) followed by two favorable matchups (MIA and NYJ).

Defense

New Orleans was about league average in rushing yards (1,626 - 14th) while allowing 19 rushing TDs. They allowed 4.1 yards with eight runs going for 40 yards or more.

Their failure on defense came in pass coverage. The Saints allowed the most passing yards (4,380) in the league with 27 TDs and nine Ints. QBs gained 7.9 yards per pass attempt while their offensive line recorded only 30 sacks.

DE Cameron Jordan has 37.5 sacks over the last four seasons with steady production in tackles. New Orleans selected him in the first round in 2011. Cameron is one of the best players in the league at his position. DT Nick Fairley had a career high in sacks (6.5) and tackles (43) in his first season with the Saints. He tends to be an edge at his position. Fairley has a heart issue, which may end his career. DT Sheldon Rankins missed the first seven games of his rookie season after getting drafted in the first-round due to a broken leg. Rankins had four sacks and 20 tackles over the last nine games of the season. He has the skills needed to have success at the next level - power, quickness, and endurance, but some scouts question his size (6'1" and 299 lbs.) and strength to hold up over the long haul against NFL starting offensive linemen. Sheldon should handle his run responsibilities plus offer value in the pass rush. His next step will be improving his secondary pass-rushing moves to help finish off the QB. DT Hau'oli Kikaha had 52 tackles and four sacks in his rookie season (2015) while still making too many mistakes, but he missed all of 2016 due to torn ACL last June.

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LB Craig Robertson had a career-high 115 tackles last year with minimal value in sacks (1). Despite his production, Craig ranked poorly at the linebacker position. LB Alex Anzalone may start in his rookie season after getting selected in the third round. At the very least, Alex should see action on early downs against the run. LB Manti Te'o suffered an Achilles injury last September leading to him signing with New Orleans. Manti struggled to make an impact over his first three years in the league after the Chargers invested in him in the second round in 2014.

S Kenny Vaccaro failed a PED test in 2016, which led to four missed games late in the year. Kenny will struggle in pass coverage while adding value vs. the run. S Vonn Bell played in 16 games in his rookie season after getting drafted in the second round. He lacks the skills to play cornerback at the next level leading to him switching to safety. His size (5'11" and 199 Lbs.) and strength don't offer much impact value in run support from the safety position. Vonn will add strength in coverage for his position while offering an edge in quickness and vision to help make winning plays in the passing game. He should be better in his second year in the league. New Orleans added another option (Marcus Williams) in the second round of the 2017 draft to help solidify the position. Rookie CB Marshon Lattimore is expected to move right into the starting lineup after the Saints snatched him up in the first round. He has the talent to be an edge at cornerback once he gets more experience. CB Delvin Breaux battled a couple of injuries in his second year in the league leading to a disappointing year. His game offered an upside in his first year in the league in 2015 after earning his way to the NFL via the Canadian Football League.

New Orleans has talent on the defensive line while taking multiple shots in the draft over the last two years to improve their secondary. The combination of veteran and young talent should lead to improved play in coverage while still being a year or two away from being an area of strength. The second level of the defense does have some risk if a couple of players don't step up. The return game has a chance with Ginn added, and Kamara may get an opportunity to return kicks. Not dead in the water with growth to league average being a likely outcome in 2017. Backup Fantasy defense for me with matchup value against some of the weaker offenses in the league.

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Update 10/16/17

Brees started the season with three games on the road with one of those games being in London. He has seven TDs in his last three games while passing for 356 yards and two TDs in his only game at home. Last season the Lions didn’t allow a TD to Drew in New Orleans even with 326 yards passing. Detroit struggled last week vs. Cam Newton (355/3), which was the worst game of the season. In their two road games vs. the Giants and the Vikings, Detroit allowed 458 combined passing yards with one TD. Brees will use all options in the passing game, but the Lions have played well against the run (3.3 yards per rush). This should lead to the Saints scoring most of their TDs via the pass. Possible shootout game.

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Update 10/16/17

Over the last two games, Ingram has 34 touches for 148 combined yards with six catches. Mark doesn't have a TD in 2017, but he's the clear goal line back with Adrian Peterson playing in Arizona. Last season he had 63 combined yards with five catches against Detroit. RBs gain only 3.3 yards per rush vs. the Lions in 2017 with three rushing TDs. This defense did show risk in one game (ATL) vs. RBs (237 combined yards with a TD and six catches). Not the best matchup, but his low salary put him in play. The drop off in catches does lower his reliability score.

(Updated: 07/11/17)

If Peterson is healthy, he is going to emerge as the top runner in this offense on early downs and at the goal line. He missed 15 games in 2014 due to a suspension and 13 games in 2016 due to a right knee injury that required surgery. Adrian is a hard worker with seven seasons with over 1,200 yards rushing and eight years with double digit TDs. His place in history will be much lower than expected due to his two lost seasons. Peterson needs less than 2,000 yards to rank top 5 all-time and 27 TDs to rank third in history. In 2016, New Orleans' RBs had 381 rushes for 1,722 yards and 14 rushing TDs plus 127 catches for 884 yards and 10 TDs on 163 targets. Adrian will get 200+ rushes for 900+ yards with a solid chance a double-digit TDs. The Saints throw so many passes to the RB position that he can't help but get over 30 catches for another couple hundred yards.

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Update 10/16/17

The Saints have cleared the door for Kamara to be very active going forward by trading Adrian Peterson to the Cardinals. They showcased him in the passing game in Week 4 (10/71/1) while picking up five carries for 25 yards. Alvin will get the bulk of the passing action going forward while being the change of pace back on early downs. RBs have 32 catches for 291 yards and a TD on 44 targets vs. the Lions in 2017. Last season Drew Brees completed 12 passes for 84 yards on 13 targets against the Lions. Viable at this level, but Kamara needs a TD to reach his salary bucket.

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Update 10/16/17

Thomas doesn't have an impact game on his 2017 resume, but he's coming on. He has over 85 yards receiving in his last three games while scoring a TD in two straight games. Michael has 15 catches on 19 targets in his last two starts. He struggled in his matchup at home vs. the Lions in 2016 (4/42). WRs have 64 catches for 731 yards and five TDs on 104 targets against Detroit this year with no receiver gaining over 100 yards receiving. Julio Jones had seven catches for 91 yards in his matchup vs. the Lions earlier in the year. Volume WR with scoring ability. The Lions will give him the underneath catches so he'll need to work to post a winning score. I’m sure Detroit will try to use CB Darius Slay to slow Thomas down.

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Update 10/16/17

Snead could be over projected again this week with him being limited again on Thursday in practice. The Saints expect him to play vs. Detroit, but his role and opportunity is still in question. Last season Willie had two catches for 38 yards on six targets against the Lions. Too many variables to be a consideration in the daily games. He's had 5+ weeks to get healthy and he's still not ready to turn in a full practice…pass.

UPDATE: Snead has been suspended the first 3 games of the season for violating the substance abuse policy. We've been increasing Ted Ginn's ranking the last month anyway, but this just cements his value as a bonafide WR3. Snead on the other hand, drops to WR4 draft status, but once he's back, expect him to step right back into his WR2 role on the Saints. Sneaky alert: Watch out for Brandon Coleman who absolutely owned the Saints training camp. He's 6-6 and can win battles decisively over smaller defensive backs. Expect the Tight Ends to receive more work as well. -Scott Atkins

Ted played well again in 2016 for the Panthers leading to 54 catches for 752 yards and four TDs. He improved his catch rate (56.8 - 45.8 in 2015) while getting a few chances in the run game (14/98). Over the past two seasons, Ginn has nine catches for 40 yards or more. He has four returned kicks in his career. His skill set should work well in this offense. He'll give Brees a true deep threat while still offering some scoring ability in the red zone on crossing patterns. Excellent chance to set a career high in catches (60+) and yards (900+) with some value in TDs. In 2016, the Saints' WR caught 275 of 391 targets for 3,562 yards and 24 TDs.

UPDATE: Snead has been suspended the first 3 games of the season for violating the substance abuse policy. We've been increasing Ted Ginn's ranking the last month anyway, but this just cements his value as a bonafide WR3. Snead on the other hand, drops to WR4 draft status, but once he's back, expect him to step right back into his WR2 role on the Saints. Sneaky alert: Watch out for Brandon Coleman who absolutely owned the Saints training camp. He's 6-6 and can win battles decisively over smaller defensive backs. Expect the Tight Ends to receive more work as well. -Scott Atkins

The growth of Michael Thomas pushed Coleman to the back burner in 2016. He caught 26 of his 38 targets for 281 yards and three TDs, which was a step back from his rookie season (30/454/2). He'll battle Ginn for the WR3 job, but he can't match his deep speed. There's enough room in this offense for him to catch 30 to 40 balls, but he needs an injury to earn a bigger role in the offense.

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Update 10/16/17

The disappearing act of Fleener is starting to bleed through in his last two starts. Coby has three catches for 42 yards on five targets in his last two games on the road with a similar role in Week 2 (3/33 on four targets), but he did score against the Patriots. His best opportunity came vs. the Vikings (5/54/1). On the year, Fleener averages fewer than four targets per game while gaining under 55 yards per contest. Last season he had five catches for 86 yards on seven targets against the Lions. Detroit struggled twice in 2017 vs. TEs (NYG - 7/108/1 and CAR - 5/175) while holding the other three teams to only seven catches for 70 yards on 12 targets. Coby has talent and scoring ability, but his opportunity tends to be much shorter than expected in this offense. His matchup does give him a chance to shine if Drew Brees finds him on the field. More of a play for Fantasy owners chasing last week’s stats.

In his first season in the NFL, Lutz made 28 of 34 field goals (82.4 percent) plus 49 of his 50 extra points. New Orleans gave him seven chances from 50 yards or longer, but he made only three of those kicks. In 2016, he ranked ninth in kicker scoring so Wil should be considered a top 12 scoring option. New Orleans should be improved running the ball in close so his field goal chance could have some regression.