Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The New Orleans Saints only scored 13 points, but still won the game. What’s that? You never heard that before? You might be right. For New Orleans fans, a defense is a new experience. Previously, it was defined as the time you refill the chip bowl before Drew Brees comes back on the field.
But this year is shaping up differently. The Saints have now gone eight full quarters without giving up a point. Through three games, they have allowed only 7 first-half points. They have attitude, youth, and speed throughout the lineup. They started three rookie draft picks against the Texans and a fourth joined them for spells. Everyone performed admirably in shutting out Houston, 13-0.
Those fans who were excited to see Brees, Mark Ingram, and Adrian Peterson on the field together for the first time were a little disappointed. Brees finished with a sleepy 11-15 effort for 78 yards. He led one field goal drive and four drives that ended in punts.
Peterson carried the ball six times for 15 yards and lost a yard on his one reception. Ingram had 20 total yards, including 11 yards on two catches and the rest over four carries.
Still, it was a successful night as all three came out of the game without injuries and proclaimed themselves ready for the season opener in two weeks.
What we learned
Time will tell if the Saints’ new defensive prowess continues into the regular season, but it is the buzz in Louisiana right now. Which begs the question, if the Saints shut down opponents, does the offense become more conservative? Or do they score even more points with some additional possessions?
At this point in his career, Drew Brees is an automatic completion machine. He can’t help it. He sleep-walked to an 11-15 night. He might appear less focused if he doesn’t need to score 50 points, but the offense will happen nonetheless.
His receivers, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., and Willie Snead can look forward to lots of targets and fantasy points. Ginn showed he still has moves at age 32 when he juked his way for a big gain on an opening-play end around. Unfortunately, it was nullified by a penalty. He showed speed on an 11-yard slant and when he outran the defender on a long sideline incompletion later in the game.
Thomas and Snead are ready for big seasons after the offseason departure of Brandin Cooks. With Brees at the helm, there should be plenty of targets, even if the defense holds the opposition’s score down.
Rookie sensation Alvin Kamara took the night off leaving fellow rookie Darius Victor to manage the bulk of the rushing load. Victor solidified his chances of a practice squad slot if he clears waivers. It is not likely the Saints will find room for him on the 53-man roster.
Brees continues to be drafted right behind Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady. No one seems concerned he will slow down the Saints offensive juggernaut.
As the lead receiver in that juggernaut, Michael Thomas warrants his top-ten wideout status, coming off the board as the seventh WR on average. At first glance, Willie Snead looks like he might present a bargain at WR32 with the expected volume from Brees. But there is a whole bevy of receivers with similar expectations. It is hard to argue for reaching over most of them.
Ted Ginn is seeing late round action as the WR55. No one trusts that Brees will suddenly start using tight end Coby Fleener this year. He is barely registering an ADP as a late backup choice. That might make Ginn worth a look as a deep threat with a high ceiling.
The running back situation bears some thought. The starting job belongs to Mark Ingram, but a healthy Adrian Peterson puts a potential crimp in his volume. If the plan is to have Peterson take a series here and there, I am concerned about his history of getting stronger as his workload increases. He needs to get warmed up. Will he have success if he is not the workhorse back?
Right now, the pair is being drafted in the 5th round as the RB23 and RB25. My concern about intermittent work pushed Peterson down to RB32 on my board. We don’t really know the plan for New Orleans’ offense, but I can’t imagine Drew Brees would be a willing participant in a run-heavy scheme that diminishes his status. I wouldn’t argue with anyone picking Peterson from 20 to 40 because we just aren’t sure and the ceiling is obviously high.
Those other fantasy guys
We already mentioned the lack of faith in tight end Coby Fleener. Anything is possible with a quarterback like Brees and a new start, but I’m not drafting him.
Will Lutz has been money in the preseason. He noticeably raised the trajectory on his long kicks, which was his only weak spot last season. He is a top ten fantasy value.
Then there is the defense. Can we trust it? So far, they have not registered an ADP. But if they keep things up, they will be a popular streaming option during the season.
So… that’s that.
I am sure New Orleans is very excited about their defense, but if they make the offense more conservative, there will be a lot of angry fantasy owners.
For now, I am going with the tried and true recipe of Brees, his top three receivers and Ingram with a little Peterson and Lutz thrown in. If ingredients change, we’ll let you know right here. Check back in frequently so you don’t miss anything.
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