Analysts and media pundits don't see the beginning of the post-Brees era in a positive light, especially after the 2021 NFL Draft.
New Orleans has plummeted below half the teams in the NFL in quite a few rankings.
Although Sean Payton returns as head coach and Mickey Loomis the general manager, some of the analysis slanted to Drew Brees' departure as a significant reason for low projections in New Orleans.
The Saints will suit up their core players like Cam Jordan, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Demario Davis in 2021, so there's a reason for optimism without Drew Brees.
New Orleans hopes for a successful 2021 season rests in the arms of either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. The uncertainty of their quarterback battle during training camp may influence the rankings.
The average position for the Saints is No. 14 in the NFL power rankings. The highest standings were from The Score (9) and NFL.com (10). In contrast, CBS Sports (18) and Bleacher Report (19) gave New Orleans below-average rankings.
Here's a breakdown of those power rankings with their analysis:
Ranking: 11 (7)
Analysis: Points in poll: 168
Highest-place vote: 9 (2)
Lowest-place vote: 19 (1)
Post-SB rank: 7
Season result: 12–4, lost in the divisional round
SI draft grade: C
We don’t know if it’ll be Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill to start the season. Sean Payton claims he doesn’t either, though you’ve got to think he at least has an idea. Either way, Drew Brees’s retirement might mean the Saints are talked about even more next year.
Ranking: 10 (6)
Analysis: We kept waiting for Sean Payton to pull a rabbit out of his hat and come out of this offseason with a blockbuster QB successor to Drew Brees … but no. It now appears all but certain that it will be Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill battling for the QB1 gig come training camp. It feels like a huge roll of the dice for a win-now organization, especially coming in an offseason where there were numerous free-agent, trade and draft options to reset the position. New Orleans used the first three picks of its draft class on defenders, but the 2021 season feels like it will ultimately come down to whether Payton was right to put his faith in his in-house options at QB.
Ranking: 18 (12)
Analysis: It's all about the quarterback position. It's Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill fighting for the job. The Saints fans better hope it's Winston who wins it.
Ranking: 11 (11)
Analysis: Friendly reminder that they're 8-1 over the past two seasons with now-retired Drew Brees out of the lineup. Case to be made this offense might even expand given QB Jameis Winston's ability to strike further reaches of the field ... though getting him one more weapon in the draft would have helped.
Ranking: 19 (16)
Analysis: The New Orleans Saints had to know this day was coming. Now that longtime quarterback Drew Brees has decided to call it a career, the most successful run in team history is over.
It isn't all doom and gloom in New Orleans, though.
Led by edge-rusher Cameron Jordan and cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the Saints defense ranked fifth in the league in points per game allowed last year. Brees may be gone, but the Saints still have one of the NFL's best wide receivers in Michael Thomas, a top-five running back in Alvin Kamara and a top-10 offensive line.
"It's folly to say that losing Brees isn't a blow for the Saints," Davenport said. "But this is a team that won 12 games and the NFC South in 2020 with a clearly limited Brees under center. The Saints are now a clear No. 2 in the division behind the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but if Jameis Winston (who should be the starter in 2021) can avoid turning the ball over too much, New Orleans could still challenge for a wild-card spot at the very least."
Ranking: 9 (8)
Analysis: Rumors were flying prior to Thursday that New Orleans would jump into the top 10 for a defender or Mac Jones. That speculation made the Saints' ultimate haul disappointing. Maybe they were right not to go all-in with Drew Brees gone, but their roster is still one of the NFC's best, and the Saints didn't land a Day 1 contributor.
Ranking: 13 (11)
Payton Turner seemed like a reach at No. 28, but Ohio State linebacker Pete Werner was a solid pick in the second round. I was shocked they took Ian Book in the fourth round. Too high.
Analysis: This franchise has everything, from players to scheme, figured out except for the whole Drew Brees successor situation.
Ranking: 17 (15)
Analysis: The Saints got into a tight salary-cap situation and were forced to scramble to recover, mainly defensively. Also, their quarterback situation post-Drew Brees is very unpredictable with Taysom Hill vs. Jameis Winston and now developmental Ian Book looming.
Analysis: Drew Brees is gone, but the Saints didn’t get great quarterback play last year anyways. What they do have is a potentially great defense and one of the league’s best offensive lines and head coaches.
Ranking: 18 (17)
Analysis: It’s a new era in New Orleans. Drew Brees is gone, Jameis Winston is the projected starter, and Taysom Hill will have an even bigger role in 2021. Believe it or not, the Saints’ passing attack might be better with a quarterback who the coaching staff believes offers more upside than Stafford. So, yes, this offense can still be elite. The same can’t be said about the defense, which has huge holes to fill after cap casualties. A questionable first-round selection didn’t help our evaluation of the Saints, leaving this team toward the bottom of fringe playoff contenders.
Odds to Win Super Bowl LVI: +2600 (No. 12)