Adam Trautman’s rise to potential fantasy relevance is entirely situational. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real. The Saints’ offense will look completely different with Drew Brees’ retirement and the departure of some of the team’s top pass catchers from 2020. Trautman, entering his second year in the NFL, figures to carve a role into that without much competition for targets left on the team or healthy.
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There’s a quarterback battle in New Orleans with one prone to turnovers and simultaneously gaudy passing numbers while the other used to be in the tight end room with Trautman. No matter who the Saints go with, Trautman will be their go-to option at tight end. He's not likely to finish as a high TE1, though his touchdown numbers in college are encouraging. If you really wait on a tight end, Trautman will be there for you at the end of the draft. He has upside and is certain to see volume considering the status of New Orleans' skill positions outside of running back.
Meet the Saints’ starting tight end
Trautman's rookie season stats aren't particularly inspiring. He hauled in 15 of 16 targets for 171 yards and a touchdown. Jared Cook ate up targets even though Trautman started more games (six) than Cook (five). Saints coach Sean Payton did trust Trautman to be on the field, though. He played 37% of the team's offensive snaps and 34% on special teams.
Dating back to Trautman's time at Dayton, he led the team in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns in each of the two years he played. He caught 14 touchdowns in his final season and nearly topped 1,000 yards in just 11 games. Despite playing at the FCS level, New Orleans spent a third-round pick on Trautman, who learned under Cook, an 11-year veteran at the position.
Trautman occupying vacuum in the Saints offense
With Michael Thomas injured for much of the 2020 season, the Saints' target distribution was relatively egalitarian. Only Alvin Kamara topped 100 targets, and five players had 50 or more targets even though New Orleans is in the bottom third of the league in total pass attempts.
Trautman was ninth on the team in targets last year, barely outpacing Taysom Hill, the potential starting quarterback. Cook and Emmanuel Sanders' offseason departures leave a lot of targets up for grabs. Sanders' 82 targets were second on the team, and Cook drew 60 looks. Thomas drew 55 targets across seven games and is expected to miss more time to begin the season after he underwent ankle surgery in June.
That leaves Kamara the offense's de facto No. 1 option in the receiving and rushing game. The Saints' top three wideouts with Thomas are inconsistent and inexperienced. Tre’Quan Smith is going into his fourth year in the league and has never played 16 games or surpassed 500 yards in a season. Deonte Harris has 26 career catches in two seasons. And Marquez Callaway was undrafted out of Tennessee a season ago and played in 11 games. The Saints also signed veteran Chris Hogan this week, but he’s hardly been a factor since 2018 in New England.
Whether New Orleans goes with Hill or Jameis Winston, Trautman will be one of their top options, at least until Thomas returns.
New Orleans’ friendly sleeper tight end history
It's hard to project how important being the TE1 in a Saints offense without Brees will be. But Payton is still coaching this team, and tight ends have had great success in New Orleans in the past.
In eight of the past 10 years, the Saints' top tight end has finished top three on the team in targets. In 2020 and 2019, that was Cook. In 2015 and 2018, it was Ben Watson. And from 2011 to 2014, it was Jimmy Graham. The usage will be there for Trautman, and of New Orleans' options in the passing game, he's the biggest red-zone target. He's currently going as TE20 and 177th overall. You don't need to overdraft Trautman, but know you're getting great value at the back-end of your draft with him.
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