The Fantasy Football season is fast approaching, and our Fantasy Six Pack team is rolling out team previews. This time, I'm here with the 2021 Fantasy Football New Orleans Saints Preview.
The 2021 New Orleans Saints are entering uncharted territory. It has been 16 years since the Saints entered a season without Drew Brees as their starting quarterback, but that's the situation they face now, with Brees headed to retirement. While Brees' absence will obviously affect the Saints, the Saints were able to go 12-4 and finish first in the NFC South with him playing at less than his prime. So there's clearly a lot of talent still left on the roster, not to mention future Hall of Fame coach Sean Payton.
That being said, the Saints' fantasy landscape will be tough to navigate, as Brees was always a dependable cornerstone. You knew what you were going to get with him. That's not the case with the 2021 Saints as the biggest question to answer will be who starts at quarterback? The answer to that question will affect the fantasy values of all the skill players in New Orleans.
All of the information in the 2021 Fantasy Football New Orleans Preview is up to date as of June 21st.
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2021 Fantasy Football New Orleans Saints Preview
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As of June 22nd, 2021, Winston is the betting favorite at -250 to Hill's +175. Rookie Ian Book is a long shot at +3300. This implies a 71% chance that Winston will be the starter in Week 1. This is the ideal situation for fantasy players.
The last time we saw Winston as a starter, he was becoming the only member EVER of the 30 TD/30 INT club. He also finished led the league in passing yards with 5,109 yards in Bruce Arians' air-it-out offense. Watching Winston that season was undeniably captivating. Every time he popped up on RedZone I had no idea if he was going to throw a deep touchdown or a horrendous pick-six. Even so, the numbers speak for themselves. Even with 30 interceptions, he finished as the QB5 in 2019.
Winston certainly has his flaws, and I wouldn't count on him to be anything more than a boom-or-bust QB2 if he was named the starter. However, the reason we want him to be the starter is that he unlocks the other players on the offense. He has a clear track record of performing as an NFL-level starter and supporting stars such as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
On the other hand, while Hill excelled in his three real games as a starter last season, he tanks the value of the players around him. In his three starts, he averaged 252 passing yards with a 1.33:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Not much to write home about. But, Hill demonstrated the fantasy value of a running quarterback, adding 55 rushing yards per game and an additional four touchdowns. Over those three games*, he averaged 22.9 fantasy points per game which would have made him the QB7 on the season. If he was named the starter for the Saints, I'd be comfortable with him as a high-end QB2.
So why would I rather have Winston as a starter? While Hill played well in his starts, it came at the cost of the production of Alvin Kamara and any pass-catcher not named Michael Thomas. Kamara's greatest talent is his receiving ability, but in three games with Hill, he only caught 10 of 15 targets for 51 yards. That's an astounding drop in production considering he averages just over 47 receiving yards per game in his career.
If you're looking for a potential starting QB, Hill might be your guy. But for the public's entertainment and Alvin Kamara's value, we should all hope it's Jameis.
*Note: Here and for the rest of this article, I am not counting the Week 12 New Orleans @ Denver game where the Broncos were forced to play without a quarterback.
Kamara has been an absolute fantasy stud since he entered the league in 2017. In his four pro seasons, he has finished as the RB4, RB4, RB16, and RB2. What's interesting is that Kamara has never quite done it as a runner, never eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards. What he offers is 80+ catches per year and another 700+ yards in the receiving game, along with nearly 15 touchdowns per game.
I mentioned above that Kamara was limited in his starts with Hill, but with Winston at the helm, I think you can expect more of the same. In 2019, Tampa Bay running backs combined for 84 catches on 113 targets. So Kamara is a locked-in top-5 RB with Winston.
If Hill is the starter, it's a bit trickier. While Hill didn't target Kamara often in his starts, that was mid-season. I refuse to believe Sean Payton would allow his deadliest weapon not to be utilized over a 17 game season with a whole offseason of planning. Unfortunately, we do have to consider Hill's ineptitude and/or lack of interest in throwing to running backs. So if Hill is the starter, I would downgrade Kamara slightly to just a top-10 RB.
Latavius Murray has been Kamara's running mate for the last two seasons. Over the last two seasons, he's averaged 175 touches, 850 yards, and totaled 11 touchdowns. That's been good enough for finishes as RB30 and RB32. At his current ADP of RB41, he's a boring but safe pick. You know he's going to get his touches even while Kamara is healthy and he's an RB2 if Kamara ever misses time. He should continue to play the same role in 2021.
Michael Thomas was one of 2020's biggest fantasy disappointments, as he battled injuries all season and finished with just 40 catches for 438 yards and no touchdowns. That has caused his ADP to fall all the way from WR1 last season to WR9 this season. At that price, I'm all over him whether Winston or Hill starts.
With Winston, I have absolutely no concerns that he can get Thomas the ball. Even before his 2019 explosion, Winston was able to support Mike Evans as a top-end WR1 for years. And although you might have concerns about his production with Hill, in Hill's three games, he force-fed Thomas 31 targets which Thomas turned into 26 catches for 293 yards. That's still elite production.
Outside of Thomas, the Saints' wide receivers corps looks bleak. The Saints count on Thomas and Kamara for the majority of their receiving production, so the WR2 spot in New Orleans is often unimportant - even more so with Brees leaving.
Tre'Quan Smith has been a popular sleeper year after year but has never eclipsed 450 receiving yards. He has a chance to claim the WR2 spot with Emmanuel Sanders leaving for Buffalo, but he's still no more than a late-round flier.
The rest of the room is a jumble of JAGs who might have a big game here or there, but will not be worth your time as the draft approaches.
With Jared Cook and Josh Hill no longer on the roster, there have been about 85 targets freed up per year at the tight end position. It's most likely that the Saints will employ a committee of tight ends at the position depending on what the play demands, but the guy that stands out is 2020 third-rounder Adam Trautman.
Trautman is 6'5", 255 pounds, and compares favorably athletically to Dallas Goedert, and fits many of the criteria I look for in a late-round tight end sleeper. At his current ADP of TE19, he certainly qualifies.
- Has little to no competition for targets at his position.
- Is athletic enough to exploit mismatches
- Plays for a decent offense.
Now the problem is item #3. The offense might be decent, but Hill threw to his tight ends just 11 times over three starts. That did result in two touchdowns, but touchdowns are random - volume is not. If Hill is the starter, Trautman becomes a lot less intriguing.
With Drew Brees headed to the broadcast booth, we need to get ready for a new era in New Orleans. The Saints are talented enough on defense and have a good enough coaching staff to carry them through games. They just need decent quarterback play to truly compete for a championship.
The quarterback competition of Winston vs Hill will be one of the main storylines to watch during training camp. The result of that will affect a lot of the Saints' position players' fantasy outlooks.
Their top-end talent such as Kamara and Thomas won't be affected, but the secondary complementary players will depend strongly on the winner.
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