Dynasty Uncertainty: New Orleans Saints’ Quarterback Situation

Tyler Justin Karp

Uncertainty is always a scary word. The thought of it provokes anxiety or fear in many people, and for a good reason. As human beings, we value knowing what will happen, and we are often scared about the unknown.

But in dynasty leagues, uncertain NFL situations present some of the best value and trade opportunities. Often, dynasty managers will need to take a stance on these situations, one way or another. These uncertainties range from black and white or binary cases to those with multiple or a range of outcomes.

I won’t waste more time with an introduction, so let’s jump into the specific scenarios, beginning with the Saints’ starting quarterback dilemma.

Drew Brees, QB NO

The Saints’ starting quarterback spot remains a mystery for dynasty managers. As of this writing, incumbent starter Drew Brees has not yet retired, although I fully expect him to do so in the coming weeks. Either way, I believe the Saints don’t want Brees to return to the team, as his play declined throughout the 2020 season. For now, let’s assume Brees retires and explore some of the other candidates.

Taysom Hill, QB NO

Before the 2020 season, the Saints offered Hill a contract extension for the 2021 season, with approximately $11.16 million guaranteed and a total cap hit of $16.16 million. Now, that salary suggests the Saints at least saw Hill as a strong contender to succeed Brees as the starting quarterback. Before 2020, Hill essentially saw zero quarterback snaps. He totaled six completions in those two seasons with no passing touchdowns.

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However, in 2020, he suddenly saw a chance to start after Brees suffered an injury. He blossomed as a passer, completing 72.7% of his throws for 928 yards and four touchdowns. Hill also totaled an impressive eight rushing touchdowns. But, let’s look closer at the four games Hill started at quarterback.

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Using DLF’s player scoring history app, we can see that Hill provided roughly an 18.5-fantasy-point floor during his four starts. Even more impressive, that down game in week 12 came against the Broncos, who played that week with no starting quarterback, which allowed the Saints to run an extremely conservative gameplan on offense. Outside of that week, his worst performance was 21.94 fantasy points in week 14.

In 1QB leagues, dynasty managers have mostly ignored Hill throughout his career, as he remained outside the top-200 through May 2020, and he then fell outside of ADP entirely from June to November 2020.

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He saw a small value spike in December and January’s ADP, breaking into the top-200 assets. Hill came in at QB23 in December and QB21 in January, carrying some real dynasty value. However, he plummeted in February, falling to an ADP of 233.5 and QB30.

Dynasty managers aren’t confident that Hill will genuinely be the Saints’ week one starting quarterback. Quite frankly, I agree with them. I believe Hill will see an increased role in 2021, but I can’t see him serving as a traditional starter for the entire season.

Jameis Winston, QB NO

Unlike Hill, Winston has a massive track record in the NFL. The Buccaneers selected him with the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and he remained their starting quarterback through his rookie contract and fifth-year option. After 2019, they decided to sign Tom Brady in free agency, which proved to pay off as they won the Super Bowl this season.

Eventually, Winston signed in free agency with the Saints on a cheap deal as the backup to Brees. He filled in for Brees when he suffered an injury in week ten, but the Saints then turned to Hill as the replacement starter for the following four weeks. Therefore, 2020 doesn’t tell us much about Winston, other than that head coach Sean Payton preferred to start Hill in Brees’ place as a stopgap. Let’s look back at Winston’s Buccaneers’ career using the DLF yearly data app.

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As you can see, I highlighted Winston’s best season, which came in 2019 when he finished as the QB3. He never quite finished as a fantasy QB1 in any other season, but he was solid in 2015 and 2016, putting up QB13 and QB15 numbers. We know that Winston is a turnover machine, but he has always been a usable fantasy quarterback and supported fantasy weapons.

I’m honestly unsure whether I’d prefer Winston or Hill in fantasy as the Saints’ starting quarterback. But I do have some fears of the nightmare scenario where the Saints re-sign Winston but legitimately use both quarterbacks in the game plan. We’ve never truly seen an NFL team do that, although I wouldn’t put anything past Payton. If that situation occurs, dynasty managers may not be able to start Winston or Hill in their quarterback spot with certainty. Therefore, I would prefer that Winston sign elsewhere as a starter, even if he doesn’t come with the same fantasy upside.

Now, as most dynasty managers know, the Saints are currently well over the salary cap, and Winston is an unrestricted free agent heading into the off-season. I’m not sure where they find the money to re-sign him, and they’ll likely only be able to if he has no other market or other options. No team wanted him last off-season, but there are more quarterback vacancies this year, including the Bears, Patriots, and Washington Football Team. Winston would be an immediate upgrade for each of those franchises.

Overall, I think it’s about a 50-50 proposition that Winston re-signs with the Saints. If I had to choose, I’d guess that he does, but even then, I think there will be competition between Winston and Hill for the starting role. Therefore, we need to look at how the Saints’ different quarterback options would affect their primary and high-value fantasy weapons, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.

Alvin Kamara, RB NO

I won’t waste your time telling you that Kamara is a stud player. He finished as the RB1 in 2020 by a significant margin, including a six-touchdown performance in championship week. But Kamara had a rough time in the four games Hill started. Let’s use the DLF player splits app to give us a good picture.

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His rushing production barely changed in the four games that Brees missed, as he had similar attempts and yards with a slightly lower touchdown rate. However, Kamara’s receiving production evaporated, dropping over half his targets and receptions and almost 80% of his receiving yards. Brees constantly looked for Kamara in the dump-off passing game, where Hill barely incorporated those plays when he was the quarterback.

I’m also not saying that Winston is a dump-off machine. He’s never truly supported a receiving back, although he’s also never played with a running back who even had average receiving skills. Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims saw passing-game involvement throughout Winston’s Buccaneers’ career, with Sims posting the best season of any Winston receiving back in 2015. He caught 51 of 70 targets for 561 yards and four touchdowns.

We don’t know what Winston would do with a top-three receiving talent like Kamara, whereas we’ve at least seen what Hill did with Kamara this season. Therefore, I would far prefer Winston as the Saints’ starting quarterback for Kamara’s dynasty value. Right now, Kamara is my RB4, behind only Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, and Saquon Barkley. He’ll likely maintain that value if Winston starts, but if Hill is the clear starter, he’ll undoubtedly lose dynasty value from these splits alone.

Michael Thomas, WR NO

Unlike Kamara, I have fewer concerns with Thomas’s dynasty value based on the starting quarterback. Thomas is the Saints’ clear top target in the passing game, and he will demand targets either way.

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He performed better with Hill as the starting quarterback, struggling in the three games he played with Brees. Thomas’ 16-game pace with Hill looks quite solid, with 120 receptions for 1,372 yards. He didn’t manage any receiving touchdowns with either quarterback, but I would say that’s more of an anomaly. I have concerns with Thomas’s 2020 injuries and his attitude during the season, but I expect to rank him as a solid WR1 for 2021 no matter what. I’d likely slightly prefer Winston as the starter, though, given his history supporting Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as fantasy stars.

Dynasty Fallout

There are some interesting possible dynasty transactions related to this Saints’ quarterback situation. I love the idea of selling Kamara or Thomas, but that’s not based on the quarterback. I know their perceived value will plummet with Hill as the starter, whether it’s warranted like in Kamara’s case or not in Thomas’.

However, the most significant dynasty decision is how to handle Hill and Winston in superflex dynasty leagues. If you genuinely believe that you know who the starter will be, send a mid-second round rookie pick for that player and buy them now. Either player would likely be at least a borderline QB1 as the Saints’ starter, so you’d want to buy in now.

But if you’re not confident in Hill or Winston, now might be the time to sell. Winston is a younger player, and I believe that he will eventually receive another chance to start at quarterback in the NFL. Therefore, I’d be more likely to hang onto Winston than Hill. I think that it’s now or never for Hill, so he’ll either be the Saints’ 2021 starter or lose most of his dynasty value. If you can acquire an early second-round pick for Hill, I’d sell and get that risk off my dynasty team.

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Dynasty Uncertainty: New Orleans Saints’ Quarterback Situation