The Following Voice Over & Article Are in Memory of Saints News Network Intern and New Orleans Native Tristen Edgerson (1997-2021).
With legendary quarterback Drew Brees hanging up his cleats, the New Orleans Saints’ offense embarks on a brand new journey heading into the 2021 season. Many Saints fans and analysts are looking towards how Brees’ void will impact New Orleans’ win total. However, the fantasy football community is scratching their heads asking how the team’s offense will be affected and what opportunities Brees' retirement presents for the Saints’ next signal caller.
Out of every player in New Orleans’ offense, there will be no two players more heavily affected by Brees’ retirement than QBs Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. Despite head coach Sean Payton stating that Winston and Hill will battle for the starting nod, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported back in February that the former-Buccaneers’ gunslinger is in the “driver’s seat” to lead the Saints’ offense next season.
So, if the former first overall draft pick does in fact win the Saints starting quarterback job, is he a lock as a top 10 quarterback option in fantasy football next season?
Rewind to 2019, the last time Winston served as a starting signal caller in the NFL. He was one of the best quarterbacks in fantasy football. His 305.7-point output in PPR formats propelled him to a Top-5 QB option. Winston’s ultra-gunslinger mentality may not have been very attractive to earning wins for Tampa Bay but produced solid fantasy football performances. He averaged over 19 fantasy points per week during his 5,000 yard passing season in 2019.
If Winston earns the right to be the field general in New Orleans, there will be a much different game plan in place, compared to the 2013 Heisman Trophy winners’ time with the Bucs. In New Orleans, Winston will be asked to lean more on the running game, as the team has done over the last few seasons with fantasy football darling Alvin Kamara. Expect Winston’s pass attempts to creep nowhere near the 626 total he accumulated in his last Tampa Bay, which will undoubtedly bring down his solid 2019 fantasy total in 2021.
Conversely, with less attempts come fewer turnovers and higher efficiency. With a Sean Payton coached offense, the 2015 Pro Bowler should not come close to his 30 interceptions thrown in 2019. He will most likely throw for fewer yards and touchdowns, but his completion percentage and passer rating should rise, while his turnover rate should drastically fall.
Over the past two years, Saints starting quarterbacks not named Drew Brees averaged 35 passing attempts per game. In 2019, Winston threw over 39 times per game, but in his previous four seasons under former Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter, he averaged 34 passing attempts, which almost exactly mirrors the New Orleans quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill over the past two years.
In his first four NFL seasons, Winston averaged 16.6 fantasy points per week, which was good for 18th best among qualified quarterbacks. But, Winston did not have a great supporting cast around him. While in Tampa, Winston had just one 1,000-yard rusher (Doug Martin in 2015, where Winston averaged 17.8 points, the 2nd best of his career) and a 21st ranked offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus’ pass blocking grades.
If Winston ends up starting on the Bayou, expect a similar output to his days in Tampa Bay. Winston averaged between 16.6-19.1 points during his tenure with the Buccaneers. A similar points per week average in 2021 would elevate Winston to a solid starter in an average 10-12 team fantasy league. His production should fall right around the 18.7 average that the Saints’ backup quarterbacks over the last two years possessed with a chance to exceed that level and become a perennial elite fantasy football quarterback.
New Orleans is still trying to find out if the 2015 first-rounder can be the next Saints’ franchise quarterback. However, fantasy football owners can trust Winston to manufacture a starter-level season with a chance of even greater upside as a mid-round draft pick.
Saints News Network Intern Andrew Gullotta contributed to this article.
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