Is This The Year Chris Olave Becomes a Top Ten Wide Receiver | 2024 New Orleans Saints Fantasy Football Draft Guide

by Ryan Kirksey
Is This the Year Chris Olave Becomes a Top Ten Wide Receiver | 2024 New Orleans Saints Fantasy Football Draft Guide

There is a world where last season's New Orleans Saints were not just an average 9-8 team that missed the playoffs, but rather a team that won 10 or 11 games and sailed past the rest of the division and into the postseason. The Saints scored 402 points last season (23.6 per game), good for ninth in the NFL. Their defense allowed just 327 points (19.2 per game), which was the eighth-best mark in football. Their expected win-loss record based just on point differential was 10.5 wins and 6.5 losses. The problem, however, is that they were just 3-6 in one-score games. Six of their eight losses were devastatingly close games. If they want to change their fortune heading into 2024, the New Orleans Saints will have to answer one key question about their best weapon. Is this the year Chris Olave becomes a top ten Wide Receiver in the NFL?

With only marginal players like Michael Thomas, Jimmy Graham, and Jameis Winston departing and Cedrick Wilson the only incoming player of any significance, the 2024 New Orleans Saints look largely the same on offense. Spencer Rattler was drafted in the fifth round of the 2024 draft, but things will have to go completely sideways for him to start meaningful games this season. With the target share and rushing share pies largely known, what can we expect from the Saints' players from a fantasy perspective in 2024?

Keep reading as we try to answer some more Big Easy questions with the 2024 New Orleans Saints Fantasy Football Draft Guide

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Will Derek Carr Add Efficiency to His High-Volume Passing Game?

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Just looking at some surface stats, fantasy managers would think Derek Carr was a borderline QB1 in 2023. He was tenth in pass attempts, ninth in red zone attempts, ninth in air yards, 13th in passing yards, and tenth in passing touchdowns. Why, then, was Carr just 18th in total fantasy points last season? The answer lies in two words: inefficiency and inconsistency.

Carr was an enigma in 2023. Somehow he led the NFL in games with at least 300 passing yards, but also had five games with under 10 fantasy points. His problem too often in 2023 was accuracy. He was 26th in accuracy rating last year which led to wildly inefficient games. He was 12th in adjusted air yards per attempt, but too often, receivers Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed couldn't come down with the passes. His problems were even worse in the red zone where his 52% completion rate was just 19th among quarterbacks.

With essentially the same roster coming back for Carr, the responsibility lies squarely on him to become more accurate. As it stands now, he is a fine QB2 or Superflex option, but way too boom-or-bust to be counted upon as a week-to-week starter.

Is This The Year Chris Olave Becomes a Top Ten Wide Receiver?

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There is really no debate anymore that Chris Olave is the most fantasy-relevant player on the Saints. He has topped 119 targets, 72 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, and 13 yards per reception in each of his first two NFL seasons, The reason why he hasn't cracked the top-12 wide receivers in either of those campaigns is the last of touchdowns. He had five in 2023 and four in 2022, which means he has been outside the top 18 in wide receiver points per game in each season.

Those touchdowns need to get to the 8-10 range for Olave to have an opportunity to crack the top 12. As you might expect, Olave's success was directly correlated to the horrific games Derek Carr had in 2023. Olave had five games under 10 fantasy points in half-PPR formats last season. For context, the top four wide receivers in points per game last season (Tyreek Hill, CeeDee Lamb, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Keenan Allen) combined for just nine total games under 10 points.  Olave has the talent to make it happen, but there are a few things that the Saints need to change in their offensive scheme.

Olave saw the fourth-most deep targets in the league (32), which is fantastic. but his quarterback rating per target was just 51st in the NFL. Derek Carr also abandoned Olave when they reached the red zone. Olave's 12 red zone targets only ranked 33rd among wide receivers. But worst of all, the overall target accuracy for Olave, as measured by Player Profiler, last season was just 72nd among wide receivers. Demario Douglas was the 72nd-best receiver in fantasy points per game. That's how much the Derek Carr factor impacted Olave.

Despite only four drops on the year, Olave was third in the league with 1,058 unrealized air yards. That's clearly a Carr problem and any hope we have of Olave making a top-ten jump in 2024 will rest on how consistent Carr can be. Is This the Year Chris Olave Becomes a top ten wide receiver? Unfortunately, no.

Can Alvin Kamara Regain His Dominance Amid a Contract Dispute?

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About to turn 29 years old, Alvin Kamara is angling for a new contract extension (one that is likely to be his last).  He is owed over $18 million dollars this season (highest on the team), but has no guaranteed money heading into 2025. He is likely looking to add a couple of years onto the current deal. Kamara missed the last day of mandatory minicamp in what sources are calling a holdout over the contract. Kamara remains an integral piece to the Saints offense, but is he safe for fantasy rosters in 2024?

In the 13 games Kamara played last year (remember, he was suspended four games), the efficiency fell off a cliff. He was 45th in true yards per carry (3.4 yards) and 37th in yards per touch (4.5). His breakaway run rate (3.3%) was outside the top 40 running backs. Where Kamara did continue to provide value was with his volume. Battling only Kendre Miller and Jamaal Williams, Kamara had a 71% rushing share. Despite missing four games, Kamara was ninth in red zone touches, sixth in running back receiving yards,, and second in receptions.

That same competition is around, which is to say Kamara should still be very busy in 2024. With the drop in efficiency, however, Kamara has become a volume play. He is still uber-valuable in PPR leagues, but in half-PPR, we now see him as a clear second running back (RB16).

Should We Draft Juwan Johnson After His Injury?

During mini-camp in mid-June, starting tight end Juwan Johnson suffered a foot injury that will require surgery. The injury should keep him out until the start of the regular season, according to Saints coaches. However, without any official injury reports due at this time, there is no way to definitively know if Johnson can be back for the regular season. Johnson is not a top ten tight end by ADP, and we have him ranked as TE19 in half-PPR formats. But can he even be a reliable TE2 with this injury and Taysom Hill and Foster Moreau ready to step in?

Johnson has always been a competent touchdown scorer. He has 15 touchdowns in the last three seasons and saw eight red zone targets last season. Sharing the field with Hill and Jimmy Graham last year, however, Johnson was just 27th in the position in route participation (about 68%). Johnson can produce yards after the catch and is an athletic target, but this injury knocks him out of draft consideration for me, except for deep leagues or tight end premium formats.

If Johnson were to miss some of the regular season due to his injury, I would bump up Foster Moreaur and Taysom Hill on my personal rankings. The Saints produced the ninth-most targets to tight ends last season and one of the three primary options missing would mean a large bump in usage for the other two.

Final Thoughts

For fantasy football, the players on this team will go as far as Derek Carr takes them. His success is the key to unlocking fantasy relevance here. Even for Alvin Kamara, assuring his 70+ targets in 2024 will be essential to him overcoming rushing inefficiency. I am skeptical about Carr's ability to become an exceptionally accurate passer at age 33. Carr's fantasy points per game were his lowest since 2018, so do we expect improvement in his 11th season? He will light up the scoreboard in some games, but others might be a nightmare.

I also worry about Carr and the receivers from the perspective of the team's additions on defense. The Saints added Chase Young and top draft pick Kool-Aid McKinstry this offseason. That should solidify that side of the ball, perhaps leading to fewer shootouts. Carr feasted on the bad teams like the Patriots, Giants, and Falcons last season.  With a tougher schedule this season, we are likely to see the inefficiency all over again.

I still feel confident drafting Olave and Kamra as a second wide receiver and second running back. But I'm pumping the brakes on Kamra returning to the glory days and Olave making a huge leap. They both have the skills to be near the top of their position. But for the time being, they also have a Carr-sized obstacle standing in their way.

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