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2023 Player Outlooks: New Orleans Saints

By Hunter De Siver | 7/15/23 |

QB Derek Carr
(2022 QB Rank – No.16, 18.8 FPts/G)

When the news dropped that All-Pro receiver Davante Adams would reunite with college Derek Carr in Las Vegas last offseason, it was practically inevitable that the quarterback who threw for 4,804 would only improve. However, that was not the case.

Adams did his thing, becoming an All-Pro once again, but Carr struggled when searching for other receivers. In 15 games, Carr threw for 3,522 yards, 24 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Removing Adams from the mix, Carr threw for 2,006 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Carr signed a four-year deal in the offseason with New Orleans, giving him a much different receiving corps. Chris Olave was among the best rookie receivers last season and when healthy (that’s a big ask), Michael Thomas has been one of the best in the league. Thomas has barely played the last three seasons, but did shatter records during his last full season in 2019. Coming into his age 30 season, injuries have lowered his ceiling and his fantasy value. However, his experience makes him a very capable receiver and gives Carr a viable second option in the passing game.

Carr has only topped 30 passing TDs once his career (2015) and is coming off a career-low in completion percentage (60.8%). He doesn’t bring much in the rushing department either - barely topping 100 rush yards the last two seasons - which is why he’s being valued as a middling QB2 in fantasy leagues. In most redraft leagues, he’ll likely be taken as one of the last bench quarterbacks or perhaps go undrafted.

Alvin Kamara

RB Alvin Kamara
(2022 RB Rank – No.16, 14.6 FPts/G)

Kamara recently pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from an incident in 2022 and will have to pay $100,000 to the victim. We are currently awaiting word from the league on any disciplinary action.

Last year was the first of his six-year career that Kamara didn’t make the Pro Bowl. He was a top-10 fantasy running back every year during that span, but last season he finished 16th as he only scored 4 touchdowns despite 280 touches. Inconsistent quarterback play from Jameis Winston who suffered a season-ending back injury in Week 3 and Andy Dalton - 18 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in 14 games – didn’t help matters.

Kamara excels in the receiving game and he’ll need Carr to return to his 2021 form, in order to maximize his fantasy potential. He’ll also need to battle Jamaal Williams and rookie Kendre Miller for touches all the while dodging Roger Goodell’s discipline hammer. These factors are keeping Kamara’s fantasy value in check during drafting season but he does have low-end RB1 upside in PPR leagues should he cleanly navigate these obstacles.

RB Jamaal Williams
(2022 RB Rank – No.13, 13.4 FPts/G)

Jamaal Williams made a huge fantasy impact last season with the Detroit Lions, finishing as the RB touchdown king with 17 scores. However, the majority of those touchdowns were from the goal line as Lions’ quarterback Jared Goff was the main catalyst when driving down the field.

Williams still ran for the 10th-most yards in the league (1,066), but he finds a new home in New Orleans. He’s clearly good enough to be a starter, but that’s Kamara’s job. Wait a minute…this sounds familiar. When Kamara was a rookie, he split carries with Mark Ingram. Ingram got the handoffs and Kamara hauled in receptions. They both made the Pro Bowl. It’s uncertain if the Saints will attempt a similar system, especially since Sean Payton is no longer the coach, but it could be a perfect match.

This scenario is complicated by rookie Kendre Miller who could earn playing time with a solid training camp and be a thorn in the side of both Williams and Kamara. It’s highly unlikely for Williams to repeat his monstrous TD season from a year ago, even with a Kamara suspension, and the battle for touches doesn’t give bode well for a high-end ranking, making Williams more of an RB 3/4 in fantasy leagues.

WR Chris Olave
(2022 WR Rank – No.24, 13.3 FPts/G)

Chris Olave was hoping to break out last season. The rookie finished with the 17th-most yards in the league (1,042), but only found the endzone four times. However, he had one thing fantasy managers drool over: consistency. Olave finished under 10 fantasy points just four times in 15 games, and never had under seven fantasy points. This is crucial and made Olave a reliable start every week.

Despite the consistency, he only had two games over 20 fantasy points in PPR scoring which was heavily impacted by his lack of touchdowns. If he remains the No.1 option in the Saints passing game and gets a little help from the TD variance gods, he has the potential to be a WR1 by midseason. A return to form by Michael Thomas could also be a threat to Olave’s success but it makes sense to side with youth in this situation.

WR Michael Thomas
(2022 WR Rank – No.117, 17.0 FPts/G)

Michael Thomas was simply a nightmare for defensive backs in 2019. He finished with an NFL record 149 receptions, 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns. Chris Godwin and Julio Jones tied for the second-most fantasy points by a receiver that season with 274.1. Thomas had 374.6.

By now you know the story. A rash of injuries kept Thomas largely off the field the next three seasons and the NFL community believes the 30-year-old has passed his prime as a result. They could be right. Thomas is reportedly healthy ahead of training camp but is far from being valued as a high-end fantasy asset, largely being taken in the WR40 range.

With that being said, if he’s able to get out of the gates quickly and stay on the field, he may have the opportunity to become a star once again. Olave is expected to lead the Saints in targets, but Thomas is a worthy option in the middle-to-late rounds as you fill out your wide receiver depth.

WR Rashid Shaheed
(2022 WR Rank – No.73, 9.1 FPts/G)

Shaheed was another Saints rookie receiver who defied expectations last season. New Orleans rotated a plethora of options attempting to fill the Michael Thomas void, but eventually Shaheed carved out his role as an explosive threat with a high aDOT. Sure, his No. 73 fantasy rank didn’t knock your socks off, but he only started six games (played 13 total), hauling in 28 receptions for 488 yards and two touchdowns. His yards per catch numbers were solid (17.4), all on low target volume (34) which is quite impressive.

He’s shaping up to be the third wide receiver once again in 2023 but we should expect his numbers to rise with more play volume. Still, the return of Michael Thomas will keep Shaheed relegated to the final rounds of most fantasy drafts and he’ll likely need an injury to either Olave or Thomas to become a reliable weekly starter.

TE Juwan Johnson
(2022 TE Rank – No.14, 8.4 FPts/G)

Among tight ends last season, Juwan Johnson was 19th in receptions (42), 16th in yards (508), but third in touchdowns (7) which shows you how much the Saints value Johnson’s role in the redzone and why fantasy managers shouldn’t overlook him despite the lurking threat of Taysom Hill. Hill is designated as a tight end in a lot of leagues and his usage as a QB/RB/TE is a thorn in the side to all the other Saints offensive players.

Still, Olave, Thomas, Kamara and even Shaheed are expected to get a plethora of targets, but Johnson is a worthy late-round fantasy draft pick, as a backup tight end due to his valuable role in the offense. If Carr gets him more involved in the passing game, Johnson could squeeze into the low-end TE1 conversation in 12-man leagues by mid-season.

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