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New Orleans Saints
Schedule Strength: 2nd
Postseason Weather issues: Week 14 at New York Giants
Offensive Line Ranking: 12
Head Coach – Sean Payton
Interim Head Coach – Joe Vitt
Without a doubt the craziest coaching scenario in all of football. In the wake of Payton’s year-long suspension, Vitt, the former defensive coordinator, becomes the interim head coach through the preseason. Vitt will be suspended the opening four games of the regular season, returning Week 5 to resume the role of head coach through the remainder of the season. If we examine Vitt’s history, we find he is a lifelong defensive coach, having little to do with the offensive system, forcing us to bypass over to the offensive coordinator.
Offensive Coordinator – Pete Carmichael, Jr.
Quarterbacks coach since 2006, Carmichael was promoted to the position of offensive coordinator following the 2009 season. In a normal season, Carmichael would have very little to do with the offensive system, but the 2012 Saints are far from normal. In the aftermath of the Saints’ bounty scandal, and the one-year suspension of Payton, Carmichael has been propelled into the role of “game planner” and “playcaller.” Despite the coaching turmoil, the Saints’ offensive system will remain relatively untouched: throw, throw and throw some more.
QB – Drew Brees;
If you’re reading this you must be new to fantasy football so I’ll indulge. Drew Brees is what I like to classify as a beast. Playing in a strict passing offensive system, Brees is one of the few quarterbacks in the league being provided unlimited freedom to throw any pass on the field, regardless of down, distance, time remaining or score. Already a player/coach, Brees’ control of the Saints offense will expand with Payton now suspended. Also, the Saints bounty scandal could create an “us against the world mentality” with Brees leading the charge. As we dig deeper, we will expose four “question marks” not normally circling Brees that could raise concerns entering 2012. They are: the loss of playcaller/mentor Sean Payton interfering with the continuity of the offense; the ongoing contract negotiation (which should get settled before preseason); the loss of All-Pro left guard Carl Nicks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and the departure of Robert Meachem. Despite these concerns, should Brees sign a new contract before the preseason, he will remain amongst the Top 5 quarterbacks with a Player Rating of 9.1 (without a contract we have serious problems).
RB1 – Darren Sproles
The only aspect of the Saints’ running back situation we know for sure is they will employ some form of a running back by committee. I guarantee it. They’ve proven it year-in-and-year-out since Payton took over the team in 2006 (Deuce McAllister was the last “three-down-running back” on the Saints roster). Most running back by committee systems, consisting of three different running backs, make it almost impossible to trust one particular player. However, Darren Sproles proved last year that his unique talents in the passing game, coupled with the Saints’ explosive offensive system, makes Sproles the lone running back to trust in the New Orleans backfield as a mid-RB2 with a Player Rating of 8.4.
Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas will continue to vulture touches and touchdowns from one another, thus inhibiting the fantasy point production of both players. This creates a very difficult decision of who to place in our starting lineup(s) on game day. Furthermore, both are a red flag injury risk, as each players' stock would rise considerably should the other miss playing time. We should anticipate Ingram to garner a larger percentage of goal-line carries, as our predraft outlook has Ingram projected to a slightly higher Player Rating of 7.0 (higher RB3 status) and Thomas coming in with a Rating of 6.6 (low-end RB3).
WR 1– Marques Colston
Colston is the ideal fantasy wide receiver for so many reasons: a passing offense, prolific quarterback, excellent route running, great hands and he’s a red zone threat. Further aiding Colston is the departure of Robert Meachem, freeing up 60 targets to be distributed amongst the remaining receivers. Colson’s major downfall is his yellow flag injury prone status due to multiple knee surgeries, while suffering a broken collarbone in 2011. Despite his checkered history, Colston has only missed two games in the past three seasons. Assuming Brees is back in the fold before the start of preseason, Colston has earned a Player Rating of 8.6.
Lance Moore has been a difficult nut to crack. After a season of brilliance in 2008, injuries have plagued Moore, along with competition for targets from other wide receivers, tight ends and running backs on the Saints roster. Moore was able to score 53 fantasy points over the final five games of the 2011 fantasy regular season, placing him 10th in wide receiver scoring over that time period. With Robert Meachem now departed, Moore could be in line for a productive WR3 season with a Player Rating of 7.8. Devery Henderson is the Saints pure deep threat and could gain some value with Meachem now gone, but he should remain undrafted until further notice. His sporadic production warrants a Player Rating of 6.8.
TE – Jimmy Graham
Absolute Beast. Enough Said. Rating = 9.6.
D/ST – New Orleans
Suspensions to Jonathan Vilma and former defensive coordinator/interim head coach Joe Vitt should downgrade this unit. Furthermore, average NFL defenses playing opposite a dynamic offense are rarely recommend because teams are forced to score points in order to win the game. Further factoring in a stiff NFC South, the Saints D/ST has an unacceptable Rating of 6.0.
Under normal circumstances, owning the Saints kicker would be an appealing proposition. They play in a dome alongside a prolific offense capable of producing a truck load of points. However, the only position on the Saints roster in greater turmoil than running back is the kickers. John Carney has been hired as the kicking coach, so remove his name from the above list. Garrett Hartley was supposed to become the incumbent starter in 2011, but injury forced the Saints to hire John Kasay, who finished the season making 28-out-of-34 attempts, placing second in fantasy scoring. Kasay was resigned this past offseason, adding to the confusion. A kicker competition means we are in a holding pattern about which player to draft until the opening of the regular season. Damn shame considering who ever starts the season as the Saints kicker will be a hot fantasy commodity with a Player Rating near 9.3.
* Player Rating on a scale of 1-10 *
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