Every year we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the NFL season that was. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the season, we won’t use it to discuss free agency or the draft. Come see us in early May once Mr. Irrelevant is off the board for another 32-article series giving you the same detailed discussion you’ll see below.
Buckle up dynasty fans, because you’re about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”
The 2017 Saints weren’t your father’s Saints, folks. They ranked outside of the top half of the league in passing attempts and inside the top five in rushing yards. In fact, they had exactly as many rushing scores (23) as they did through the air. Hell, even their defense, previously a historic laughingstock, was top ten in the league in terms of points allowed, at only 20.4 per game. This shift in attitude helped New Orleans reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013, falling a miracle touchdown short of reaching the NFC Championship contest. Let’s examine the players who made it all happen.
2009. That’s the last time Saints quarterback Drew Brees had under 600 passing attempts in a season. Not surprisingly, this led to a decrease across the board in yards and touchdowns, where he had his fewest of each in a New Orleans uniform. Fortunately, Brees was able to make up for it in efficiency, where he set a career best in completion percentage (72.0%) and had his third best yards-per-attempt average (8.09).
With only eight multi-score games, and three games eclipsing 300 yards (six above 280 yards), Brees’ floor also disappointed. He added some surprise points with two rushing touchdowns, but in total it’s not what we’ve come to expect. He showed a bit more in the playoffs (670 yards and five touchdowns in two games), but it’s fair to wonder if he’s fallen outside of the realm of the elite signal callers.
Brees is a free agent entering the off-season, but it appears more than likely he’ll return to the Bayou. He makes for a strong, and cheap (ADP = 141.8) buy for contenders looking to solve a one-two year problem. Even if his ceiling has fallen from what it once was, Brees has something to offer dynasty owners who adopt a “late round” strategy at the position.
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I feel the need to group these two together as, to an extent, they were interchangeable for the Saints. This isn’t to say that they possess the exact same skill sets and don’t have physical differences, as they do. It’s more an acknowledgment that Sean Payton and company smartly recognized that featuring his two stud running backs was the key to sustaining success, with Ingram and Kamara combining for a whopping 521 combined looks (carries plus targets).
Ingram, already a proven commodity, had his finest season to date despite his fiercest positional competition. He set highs nearly across the board with attempts, yards, touchdowns, targets, receptions, and receiving yards while putting together his second 16-game season in a row. His 4.9 YPC was also tied for the second-best of his career. From week three forward he had double-digit carries in every game while collecting four or more receptions in eight of 14 games, and three or more ten times. He went over 80 total yards ten times and scored a touchdown in eight separate contests. On the season, he scored at least ten PPR points in every game save for two. To put it succinctly, he often won you weeks, never lost them for you, and all told finished as the PPR RB6.
And yet, he somehow wasn’t even the best fantasy asset in his own backfield…
That honor went to the rookie Kamara, who took the fantasy world by storm to finish as the PPR RB3 on the season. Like a smaller version of David Johnson, we can separate Kamara’s stats into rushing and receiving, and yield a usable fantasy asset for both. With a 120-728-8 line, his 120.8 points solely from rushing would’ve seen him finish as the RB43 on the season, roughly FLEX territory even when all other ball carriers keep their points from receiving. As a pass catcher, Kamara accrued 193.6 more PPR points, which would’ve resulted in a finish as the PPR WR21. Simply put, he was electric with the ball (6.1 YPC and 10.2 YPR) and had a nose for the end zone. Questions remain about sustaining efficiency, but these concerns can also be theoretically mitigated with an increase in volume, particularly on the ground.
With that said, I don’t think I’d buy Kamara at his peak. Currently checking in as the 11th overall player according to the dynasty ADP (and fifth RB), he’s being priced as a stud. It’s certainly not unreasonable, given his success coupled with his youth (just 21 years old), but you would be banking on the youngster achieving the exact same highs he did this past season. It’s more of a seller’s market, and owners could consider using him as a piece to acquire a player like Todd Gurley or Le’Veon Bell.
Ingram’s price is much more palatable, as the 45th overall player and RB16. Though he’s entering his age-28 season, we’ve seen no signs of him slowing down, and the only advantage most above him in the ADP have is age. He has one more guaranteed season in New Orleans, and then he’s a free agent in 2018. For a player who still has under 1,500 NFL touches, it’s fair to reason the “age cliff” isn’t quite as impending as it would be for similarly aged ball carriers.
A questionable fit from the beginning, in four games with the Saints Peterson stunk the joint up and did little other than to add to the confusion in the backfield. In a way, however, he was almost the key to unlocking the New Orleans run game, as upon his trade to Arizona, both Ingram and Kamara were able to be truly unleashed.
Zach Line and Trey Edmunds
They stole an aggregate two touchdowns that could’ve gone to fantasy-relevant players. Thanks, guys.
Thomas is precisely the reason you bet on talent. Though the trade of erstwhile “WR1” Brandin Cooks appeared to open up targets, many hypothesized that, due to the nature of the Saints offense, Thomas wouldn’t reap any tangible sort of benefit in terms of volume. Instead, the sophomore collected an additional 27 targets from his rookie year, and his 149 looks were sixth most in the league.
Thomas more than doubled the volume of the next closest receiver, and nearly had twice as many receptions. In terms of targets to receivers, he received a whopping 51.7% of Brees’ passing attempts. His touchdown total dipped from the previous year, but that was more a function of the aggregate passing output than an indictment on Thomas’ usage. He had at least five receptions in 14 of 16 games, as well as at least 50 yards cleared with the same frequency. He’s currently the NFL record holder for most receptions through two seasons, topping Jarvis Landry.
Not shockingly, Thomas is the fifth receiver taken in startup drafts, with an overall ADP of 8.67. I believe that’s a fair price to pay for a player who has talent, age, and proven ability through multiple years. He’s neither a screaming buy nor sell and is valued appropriately across the dynasty universe.
In 2017, Ginn was living proof that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks. Prior to this past season, Ginn lived as an inefficient deep threat, catching a paltry 51.8% of his career targets. With Brees at the helm, however, he managed to catch an incredible 75.7% of his targets, all while averaging 14.8 YPR. As the third option on a running back-centric offense, the volume wasn’t there, and Ginn could only clear four receptions in seven contests. He was more of an “aggregator” on his way to a finish as the PPR WR34 but was a low-cost week winner in best ball leagues. Moving forward, he’s worth a bench spot and bye week or injury replacement and is tied to New Orleans for the next two seasons. He remains more of a buy than a sell with an ADP of 194.8.
In his third year in the league, Coleman essentially is who he is at this point – good enough to split duties as a team’s WR3, and occasionally collect a red zone touchdown. He’s a big body on a team lacking one outside of Thomas, but is unlikely to do any more damage next year than he has in years past. He’s worth a roster spot in deep leagues only.
Lewis is a gadget player who makes former Saint Darren Sproles look huge. Even in leagues that reward return yardage (Lewis has 28 punt returns and 21 kickoff returns over the last two seasons), he belongs on the waiver wire. There’s simply little to no precedent for receivers who stand 5’7”, 168 pounds having successful NFL careers.
Snead was arguably one of the, if not the biggest bust of the season. Popularly mocked (including by yours truly) as a breakout candidate, prevailing wisdom suggested that Snead was ready to build on the nearly 1,900 yards he compiled over the previous two seasons. Averaging over 9.0 yards per target with a first down reception 46.1% of the time he saw a target come his way, Snead climbed as high as the 53rd overall player selected according to August 2017 ADP.
What followed was a comedy of errors. He appeared to be passed by Ginn in the preseason, which was attributed to his impending three-game suspension. Unfortunately, a balky hamstring then meant he didn’t see the field until the middle of October, at which point he failed to ascend the depth chart. Including the playoffs, he only recorded multiple receptions in two of 13 games.
According to the most recent ADP data, Snead checks in as the 139th overall player drafted, and the 66th receiver. That makes him worth a speculative buy on the chance he can find greener pastures in 2018 (he’s a restricted free agent). I personally believe he showed too much from 2015-2016 to believe he’s as useless as he appeared last year, but wouldn’t be willing to spend more than a third-round pick to find out.
If you had any sort of hope for Fleener being a useful fantasy commodity, then to quote The Simpsons, “the children are right to laugh at you!” While that might be slightly disingenuous, the fact is the former Colt has established his ceiling as a 50-catch, 600-yard type, with touchdowns hard to predict. Given his lack of production in a Saints uniform, it’s speculated they could designate him as a post-June 1st cap casualty in order to save money.
It’s hard to say Fleener isn’t rosterable, but the fact is you’re unlikely to ever feel comfortable starting him. At the tight end position, if you don’t have a stud, of which there are precious few, it’s almost worth loading up on the younger, athletic types (think Rico Gathers) in the hopes one of your dart throws hits a bullseye. The dynasty community agrees – Fleener is the 35th tight end off the board, with an ADP of 235.3.
Still somehow only 27, the catch-and-fall specialist has only cleared 10.0 YPR in one of his five seasons. He doesn’t belong on a fantasy roster.
Michael Hoomanawanui and Garrett Griffin
Both players were record-setters in 2017. “Illinois Mike” remained the player with the hardest name to both spell and pronounce for the eighth year in a row, and Griffin was the only player on the Saints roster to catch 100% of his targets.
Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27.
You can find his (typically strong and hopefully reasonable) opinions on Twitter at@EDH_27.