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2022 Dynasty Capsule: New Orleans Saints

We examine an offense set to undergo plenty of changes this off-season.

Every year, we give our premium content members a team-by-team, player-by-player look at the prior NFL season. The coverage will be in-depth, but because the Dynasty Capsule series begins immediately after the season, we will not 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 will see below.

Buckle up dynasty fans, because you are about to be reminded why our motto is, “There is no off-season.”

QUARTERBACK

Taysom Hill (ADP = 224, QB29)

Longtime Saints’ head coach Sean Payton recently retired, leaving Hill without his NFL meal ticket. Despite criticism of Hill from almost everyone in existence other than himself, Payton proceeded with a constant charade that Hill had a chance to develop into the Saints’ franchise quarterback. In November, Payton authorized a four-year, $40 million extension for Hill, saddling the Saints with a $12.325 million cap hit they cannot escape in 2022. Considering that Hill turns 32 years old in August, the Saints are paying that contract to an aging gadget player while they are currently $74 million over the salary cap.

No matter who takes over the Saints’ coaching position, they will not have the same unhealthy obsession with Hill that Payton did. I’m sure Hill will continue to see some action as a Swiss army knife, potentially vulturing points from the next starting quarterback and Alvin Kamara. But as a dynasty asset, Hill is done. I would sell for anything I could get. Even in superflex leagues, I would accept any third-rounder in exchange for him.

Jameis Winston (ADP = 231.33, QB31)

Unlike Hill, Winston is an impending free agent, and I believe his free agency process just blew wide open with Payton’s retirement. Before that retirement, I thought the Saints would retain Winston on another one-year deal after he played well and led them to a 5-2 record in his seven starts. He also became a wildly different quarterback during his Saints’ tenure.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

As you can see, Winston managed to control his turnovers, throwing only three interceptions in seven games while throwing for 14 touchdowns. It’s a far cry from his crazy 2019 season, where he threw 33 touchdowns but 30 interceptions. However, he barely saw any passing volume, with only 167.1 passing yards per game. To be fair to Winston, he played with no significant receiving weapons beyond Alvin Kamara, as the unproven Marquez Callaway was his top receiver.

At this point, I feel like Winston is the best free-agent quarterback on the current market, ahead of alternatives like Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, and Teddy Bridgewater. I think he will see a week one starting job for the 2022 season, likely to a quarterback-needy team that misses out on the potential Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. The Broncos, Buccaneers, Washington Football Team all make sense, as well as the Packers or Seahawks if they trade their current starters.

Unfortunately, I still feel like Winston is slightly pricey in DLF’s current superflex ADP at QB26 and 86 overall. He won’t be more than a bridge quarterback next season, and he’ll have to excel if he wants to lock down another franchise job. Luckily, the DLF Trade Analyzer sees Winston differently, comparable to a mid-second-round rookie pick in superflex formats.

At that cost, I would be more comfortable investing in Winston.

Ian Book (ADP = NR)

Similar to Hill, I think Book was mostly a Payton selection. In his one start in 2021, he completed 12 of 20 passes for 135 yards and two interceptions while taking eight sacks. The Saints wasted a fourth-rounder on him last year. He has no dynasty value.

RUNNING BACK

Alvin Kamara (ADP = 17.5, RB7)

Unfortunately, the sell window on Kamara probably slammed shut after Payton retired, leaving anyone with existing shares in a tough spot. But, of course, there are few running backs with a fantasy production history like Kamara’s.

Chart courtesy of DLF Yearly Data App.

Considering the punishing nature of the running back position, few players have the consistency and durability to open their career with five straight fantasy RB1 seasons. Kamara struggled with a high-ankle sprain in 2019 and missed four games in 2021, yet he still finished as the RB9 in both of those seasons. In 2017, 2018, and 2020, he played either 15 or 16 games, putting up RB3, RB4, and RB1 performances.

However, Kamara does have some concerning splits data, especially his career without Drew Brees.

Chart courtesy of DLF Player Splits App.

Interestingly, he saw far more rushing work in the 21 games without Brees, but his touchdown efficiency plummeted as the Saints’ offense wasn’t nearly as potent in those contests. Additionally, Kamara hasn’t seen the same receiving volume with other quarterbacks, dropping across the board in all receiving categories. He declined to only 3.6 receptions per game in 2021 compared to 5.1, 5.4, 5.8, and 5.5 in his previous four seasons.

At this point, the Saints are in obvious rebuild mode, and Kamara seems somewhat out of place on this roster. He turns 27 in July, and the Saints are $6 million underwater against the cap on his 2022 contract, so they cannot release him. He could seek a trade elsewhere, and other NFL teams may be interested in his receiving skill set. Either way, I definitely won’t touch Kamara at RB7 or in the mid-second round of startups. He’s way too expensive, considering his age and current situation.

Tony Jones (ADP = 239.5, RB93)

In the past, I would often recommend chasing the Saints’ RB2, as they represented a potential flex option and an excellent handcuff to Kamara. However, with Payton’s retirement, that is no longer a fantasy-desirable role. Jones saw some intrigue in the pre-season, as his strong play allowed the Saints to part ways with veterans Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman. However, he struggled with injuries and poor play, and the Saints traded for Mark Ingram and gave him a one-year extension for 2022. As a result, Jones is off my dynasty radar.

Mark Ingram (ADP = 240.5, RB94)

Similarly, I have no interest in targeting Ingram. He had more carries than Jones for the Saints, despite only playing seven games, but he only had 3.8 YPC on those touches. Considering that he turned 32 in December and will share the handcuff role with Jones, Ingram has no dynasty value to me whatsoever.

WIDE RECEIVER

Michael Thomas (ADP = 70, WR33)

There’s nothing to discuss from Thomas’s 2021 performance as he missed the entire season with complications from his 2020 ankle injury. However, before that, Thomas was an elite fantasy option.

Chart courtesy of DLF Yearly Data App.

He began his career with three straight solid fantasy WR1 seasons, finishing as WR7, WR5, and WR6 from 2016 to 2018. He played so well that the Saints traded Brandin Cooks away after his rookie year, and he eventually earned a massive five-year, $96.5 million extension before the 2019 season.

Of course, Thomas paid off that investment in 2019, as he finished as the WR1 overall in a league-winning performance. He scored a whopping 23.41 PPR points per game, incredible for any player, let alone a wide receiver. It’s also essential to remember Thomas’s reliability from 2016 to 2019, as he played 63 of a possible 64 games.

But now, he looks like an entirely different dynasty asset, after averaging 11.99 PPR points in an injury-riddled 2020 season followed by missing all of 2021. Suddenly, he turns 29 in March, putting him beyond the age apex for dynasty value. Those factors explain his current ADP of WR33 and 70th overall. Typically, I wouldn’t bother acquiring an older player with an injury history like Thomas, but his 2019 upside is at least interesting.

Chart courtesy of DLF Trade Finder.

If I could pay either of these prices to buy Thomas, I’d have to consider it at least. I have little faith in Rondale Moore or in the second round in this year’s rookie draft, so these trades seem reasonable. But I’m past the point where I would give up a first-round pick or an intriguing younger asset for Thomas.

Marquez Callaway (ADP = 129, WR59)

Callaway led the Saints in receiving yards, touchdowns, and targets, but I’d have to say his season was a disappointment given his preseason hype. He only caught 46 of his 84 targets for 698 yards and six touchdowns, averaging only 2.7 receptions and 41.1 yards per game. He finished as the WR44 with 8.93 PPR points per game, which is pretty unimpressive for the top option on an NFL offense.

Moving forward, either Thomas will return, or the Saints will acquire a legitimate top receiver to make this a more competent offensive unit. 2021 was likely Callaway’s best year, and he doesn’t possess much upside to me, especially as the Saints currently have no answer at quarterback. Therefore, I find his current ADP egregious, and I wouldn’t draft him for at least three or four rounds after that. I don’t mind taking a shot on him as a late flier, but he would have to fall significantly in value for me to have even a shred of interest.

Tre’Quan Smith (ADP = 197.33, WR87)

I don’t understand Smith’s ADP at all, as he finished well behind Deonte Harris in receiving yards and hasn’t done much in a four-year NFL career.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

He’ll hit free agency without a 500-yard season and with a career-high of 34 receptions. I’m not even sure he deserves a spot at the end of dynasty benches.

Deonte Harris (ADP = 234.83, WR110)

Unlike Smith, I have a small level of interest in Harris. He’s shown progression throughout his career after coming into the NFL as a UDFA in 2019.

Chart courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

He was a Pro Bowler as a returner in 2019 before progressing into a depth receiver role in 2020 and a legitimate receiving option in 2021. With all the uncertainty in New Orleans, I’m fine taking my last bench spot on Harris. He’s only 24 years old, making him an emerging, young player.

TIGHT END

Adam Trautman (ADP = 183.67, TE21)

Even though Trautman had lots of hype in the off-season and pre-season, and top receiving target Michael Thomas missed the entire season, he failed to deliver in 2021. Juwan Johnson vultured a few red-zone opportunities, but that’s not the only reason Trautman didn’t perform for fantasy football. He finished behind Callaway, Kamara, Harris, and Smith in targets, with a final line of 27 receptions, 263 catches, and two touchdowns on 43 targets. Unfortunately, that line made him the TE36 with only 5.02 PPR points per game, similar to irrelevant options like Hayden Hurst and Anthony Firkser.

With all that said, I won’t completely quit on Trautman. He still carries third-round draft capital, and he only turns 25 in February. Most tight ends struggle to break out before they are 25, especially raw prospects like Trautman. In addition, the Saints still made him their starting tight end in year two, which is a relatively impressive accomplishment at that position. If the Saints had a better offensive outlook, I’d have more interest, but for now, he’s just a deeper stash to keep an eye on.

Juwan Johnson (ADP = NR)

Johnson had a preseason hype train, where it seemed like he might take over the starting tight end role from Trautman. Then, he delivered a massive fantasy performance in week one, with three catches for 21 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he only totaled ten catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the 13 games after that, as Trautman served as the clear starter. Johnson isn’t worth a roster spot in dynasty formats.

Latest posts by Tyler Justin Karp (see all)
2022 Dynasty Capsule: New Orleans Saints
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