Over the past 16 seasons, Sean Payton helped put the undefined on the offensive map, leading to nine postseason appearances, a 152-89 record and a Super Bowl title (2009). His leadership will be missed. In the post-Payton Era, their success hinges on a rebound season from wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas (he continues to have an injury tag next to his name), plus the development of receivers Marquez Callaway and Chris Olave and tight end Adam Trautman. Running back Alvin Kamara comes off the lowest output season of his career due to four missed games and below-par quarterback play. The most important question that needs to be answered in 2022 for New Orleans is whether Jameis Winston can revive his career and lead the Saints to a playoff-contending season.
With Drew Brees no longer leading the offensive show for the Saints and other issues at quarterback, New Orleans ran the ball over 50% of the time last season. In previous years, the Saints consistently ranked in the top-tier of the league in passing stats. With the same offensive coordinator returning in 2022, I would throw away last year’s stats when evaluating any Saints offensive players. On the surface, this offense has a goldmine of opportunity if three players play well (Jameis Winston, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas).
Jameis Winston – click here for fantasy projections
Book gained 10,466 combined yards over four seasons at Notre Dame with 89 combined touchdowns and 20 interceptions. His best success came in 2019 (3,580 combined yards with 38 touchdowns and six interceptions. Book has a winning resume, but he does need time to develop as a passer.
His dual-threat ability falls in line with the recent success of Taysom Hill. He lacks an elite arm and has questions with his size (6’0” and 210 pounds). Book offers a good feel for the pocket with a chain mover feel when asked to run on RPOs. His accuracy diminishes with the length of throws while needing improvement taking care of the ball under duress.
Other Options: Andy Dalton
The only stat that didn’t regress in 2022 for the Saints’ running backs was rushing attempts (398 – 390 in 2020). Their backs combined for 2,093 yards with 10 touchdowns and 88 catches (21.02 fantasy per game). In comparison, New Orleans averaged 32.55 fantasy points in 2020. With Brees at QB, they were one of the top teams in the league to pass the ball to their running backs. I expect a rebound in this area this season.
Alvin Kamara – click here for fantasy projections
After playing well in 2019 with the Ravens (1,265 combined yards with 15 touchdowns and 26 catches), he struggled to find his rhythm over the next two seasons (1,065 combined yards with four touchdowns and 33 catches on 265 touches) while averaging only 3.7 yards per rush and 6.4 yards per catch. Ingram will start the year at age 32.
Fantasy outlook: His history with the Saints helps his chances of retaining the RB2 role in 2022. He will get in the way at times, but father time has caught up to him. At best, Ingram would be a short-term injury policy while needing to beat out Tony Jones for snaps.
Over his first two seasons with the Saints after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2020, Jones gained 184 combined yards with five catches on 62 touches. However, his lack of explosiveness (2.7 yards per carry and 5.8 yards per catch) puts him on the cut list over the summer.
He failed to earn a workhorse opportunity in his three seasons at Notre Dame (1,744 combined yards with 14 touchdowns and 27 catches on 298 touches over 36 games). His best success came in 2019 (144/857/6 and 15 catches for 104 yards and a score).
Other Options: Dwayne Washington, Abram Smith, Devine Ozigbo
Even with a dramatic decline in catches, the Saints’ wideout gained more yards per catch (14.4) with a slight bump in touchdowns (16). Their wide receivers caught only 56.7% of their 263 targets, accounting for 62% of their receiving yards. This year, New Orleans has the talent to beat their wide receiver output in 2019 (219/2,617/20).
Michael Thomas – click here for fantasy projections
Over the past two seasons, Landry underperformed his previous resume. Before 2019, he never missed a game in his six-year career. His regression that season (72/840/3) appeared to be more a team offensive issue than his overall play. Last season, Landry suffered a knee injury in Week 2, which efforted his play for the remainder of the season. His best two games came in Week 12 (6/111) and Week 18 (6/75/1). He caught 46 of his 81 targets over the final 10 matchups for 490 yards and two touchdowns.
Before 2020, he had a floor of 81 catches over his first six years with Miami and Cleveland. Over this span, he never finished with fewer than 975 yards receiving while scoring 34 touchdowns over 96 games.
Fantasy outlook: From 2014-19, Landry averaged 5.9 catches for 64 yards and 0.35 touchdowns per game, or 14.40 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. His ADP (139) in the NFFC in late June is priced behind incoming rookie Chris Olave, but Landry's proven resume and an offseason to get healthy will lead to a rebound in his production. He should be the Saints’ WR2 in 2022 with a chance to catch 75 passes for 900 yards with a handful of scores.
Over his final 31 games, Olave caught 164 of his 239 targets (68.6%) for 2,514 yards and 32 touchdowns while gaining 15.3 yards per catch. His best season came in 2021 (65/936/13) despite being outplayed slightly by his teammate Garrett Wilson (70/1,058/12). Olave finished last year with six games with seven catches or more, highlighted by two matchups (12/126 and 7/140/2).
Olave offers a plus route running that allows him to create space and plays at all three levels of the defense. He has a chain-mover feel and the speed to beat a defense over the top. His ability to create on-time catches bodes well for his success in his rookie season. Olave has room for growth. His quickness helps him win at the line of scrimmage while still needing to get stronger to handle physical defenders.
Fantasy outlook: In the early draft season in the NFFC, Olave is the 49th wide receiver drafted with an ADP of 115. Young wideouts with plus route running can have a shorter learning curve out of the gate. The structure of the Saints’ wide receivers points to him working on the outside in his rookie season. So let’s start the bidding at 50 catches for 750 yards and five touchdowns.
In his rookie season over 11 games, Callaway caught 21 of his 27 targets for 213 yards with one contest of value (8/75). New Orleans signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He battled knee and ankle injuries over the second half of his first year in the NFL.
The demise of Michael Thomas’s outlook and a good preseason led to Callaway flying up draft boards in early September last season. He finished with 46 catches for 698 yards and six touchdowns on 84 targets, but Callaway failed to fill his draft day bucket. His only starting playable value came in four contests (4/41/1, 4/85/2, 6/112, 6/97).
From 2017-19 in college, he caught 91 of his 164 targets for 1,633 yards and 13 touchdowns while working as a deep threat (17.9 yards per catch).
Fantasy outlook: His growth should make him more valuable to the Saints this year but only in a limited WR4 role. Callaway should create some mismatch problems while seeing inconsistent chances.
Over his final three seasons at South Alabama, Baker caught 119 passes for 1,727 yards and 15 touchdowns. He flashed big-play ability in 2018 and ‘19 (15.0 and 16.4 yards per catch) while transitioning to a possession guy in 2020 (51/659/8 – 12.9 yards per catch). Baker also has some experience running the ball (92/376/11), highlighted by his success in 2018 (59/251/9).
Baker has the tools to reach a high ceiling once he shows he can win against NFL talent at cornerback. His early quickness and acceleration set the tone for wins with the wheels to turn short passes into long touchdowns. Baker gets off the line well against press coverage. However, his success falls on too many plays until his hands develop.
Fantasy outlook: I'm intrigued by his scouting report while understanding Baker needs time to develop. In my head, my thought is a poor man’s Jarvis Landry with a flavor of Golden Tate with the ball in his hands. New Orleans should try to get him the ball on jet sweeps, similar to what the Rams did with Robert Woods. Baker didn’t touch the ball in his rookie season.
Other Options: Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harty, Kevin White
The Saints had a regression in all categories at tight end over the past two seasons. Part of their struggles came from low passing attempts due to injuries to the quarterback position. In addition, New Orleans needs their lead tight end to develop.
Over four seasons in Dayton, Trautman caught 178 passes for 2,295 yards and 31 touchdowns. His play improved in 2018 (41/604/9) and 2019 (70/916/14).
Trautman came to the NFL with a pass-catching skill set. He does some things well in his route running while having questions about his release and blocking.
As the TE2 for the Saints in 2020, Trautman caught 15 of his 16 targets for 171 yards and one touchdown. Unfortunately, his only playable game came in Week 9 (3/39/1). Last year he pushed his output to 27 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns on 43 targets. He missed four games late in the season with a knee injury and Covid-19.
Fantasy outlook: Trautman should be their fifth option based on the structure of the Saints’ receiving corps this season. New Orleans should create more passing chances this year, pointing to him pushing his output to about 45 catches for 500 yards and a few short touchdowns. In the NFFC, Trautman is a borderline backend TE2 with an ADP of 237.
New Orleans won’t use Hill as a quarterback option this year. His best path to snaps may come at tight end unless they decide to use him on gimmick plays. Last January, he had surgery on his left foot to repair a Lisfranc injury. The Saints expected him to be ready for Week 1. Hill only has 34 catches for 388 yards and seven touchdowns on 60 targets in his career.
Fantasy outlook: Hill has talent and play-making ability, but he will be challenging to time in any fantasy role.
Other Options: Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, Brandon Dillon
Over the past three seasons, Lutz made 88.3% of his 84 field goals. He went 157-for-160 in extra-point tries. In his career, his leg has had flashes from 50 yards or more (13 successful kicks in 23 chances). New Orleans scored 43 touchdowns in 2021 with 30 field goal chances.
Fantasy outlook: Lutz has top-tier upside with a rebound in scoring by the Saints. In the early draft season in the NFFC, he is the 11th-ranked kicker.
After running the Saints’ defense for seven seasons, New Orleans promoted Dennis Allen to head coach after Payton retired. His first opportunity to run a team came from 2012-14 for the Raiders, leading to an 8-28 record. Allen has 19 years of NFL coaching experience.
Pete Carmichael returns for his 13th season as the offensive coordinator. New Orleans added him to their system in 2006 when Payton took over running the team.
New Orleans scored 364 points (19th), 118 points fewer than 2020 (482). The Saints regressed to 28th in offensive yards gained, which was their fifth season of decline.
The Saints will use Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard as co-defensive coordinators this season.
Their defense finished seventh in yards allowed while giving up 335 points 45th). They had a top-tier defense in back-to-back seasons.
The top two players lost to free agency were LT Terron Armstead and S Marcus Williams. They signed for a combined $145 million by the Dolphins and Ravens, respectively. New Orleans added safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye to their secondary plus WR Jarvis Landry to improve their wide receiver depth.
The Saints only had five picks in the 2022 NFL draft. In the first round, they added two players (WR Chris Olave and T Trevor Penning). New Orleans focused on their defense with their final three choices (CB Alontae Penning, LB D’Marco Jackson and DT Jordan Jackson).
The Saints slipped to 15th in rushing yards (1,991). New Orleans scored 12 touchdowns while gaining 3.9 yards per carry with 12 runs over 20 yards. New Orleans averaged 30 rushing attempts.
New Orleans finished with the worst total in passing yards (3,437), but they surprisingly scored 29 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. They only had 41 completions over 20 yards while gaining 6.8 yards per pass attempt. Their offensive line allowed 37 sacks.
The first step in rebuilding the Saints’ offense line starts with incoming rookie LT Trevor Penning. In the Drew Brees era, New Orleans consistently had a talented group of blockers in front of him. RT Ryan Ramczyk has been a top-tier player in all five of his seasons with the Saints, but he missed seven games last year with a knee injury that required surgery in early February. LG Andrus Peat continues to battle injuries (torn pec muscle cost him 11 starts in 2021), leading to him falling short of his first-round (2015) draft pedigree. RG Cesar Ruiz is another first-round investment (2020) that has yet to live up to expectations. Center Erik McCoy played well in his rookie season before fading to a league-average player over the past two seasons. He missed five games early in the year with a calf issue
The Saints invested plenty of early-round selections in their offensive line, pointing to a rebound in play in 2022 if this group can stay healthy and reach this potential.
New Orleans remains fourth in rushing yards allowed (1,589) with 12 touchdowns and nine runs over 20 yards. They gave up 3.7 yards per rush, with opponents attempting 25.1 rushers per game.
The Saints slipped to 14th in passing yards allowed (3,821) with 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 7.0 yards per pass attempt with 56 completion of 20 yards or more. Their defense finished with 46 sacks.
DE Cameron Jordan continues to be a beast value in the pass rush (12.5 sacks) and defending the run. DE Marcus Davenport has yet to play an entire season in his four-year career, but he showcased an improved pass rush in 2021 with strength slowing down ball carries. Defensive tackles Shy Tuttle and David Onyemata clogged up the middle of the line to limit the damage by rushers. Onyemata improved in the pass rush despite only recording two sacks.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore will give up plenty of big plays and touchdowns, but wideouts tend to have a low catch rate. The Saints have competitive options at safety while needing to develop their depth at cornerback.
The second level of New Orleans’ defense has one foundation player (Demario Davis). Linebacker Pete Werner improved their run support in his rookie season while offering no help attacking the quarterback.
The Saints played well defensively in back-to-back seasons, highlighted by their value against the run and the pressure by their defensive line. However, I could see regression in overall play if they can’t repeat in the pass rush. The second level of the defense isn’t an edge, and there will be times when offenses will beat them in the deep passing game. They rank 11th in the early draft season in the NFFC. New Orleans’ defense would be significantly helped by playing from the lead in more games in 2022.
2022 FANTASY OUTLOOKS
AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Patriots | Jets
AFC North: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Steelers
AFC South: Texans | Colts | Jaguars | Titans
AFC West: Broncos | Chiefs | Raiders | Chargers
NFC East: Cowboys | Giants | Eagles | Commanders
NFC North: Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South: Falcons | Panthers | Saints | Buccaneers
NFC West: Cardinals | Rams | 49ers | Seahawks