We're a little over two weeks away from the official kickoff to the 2013 NFL season. For fantasy football players, the league kicks off with your upcoming draft. With the Saints' potent offense, the boys in Black and Gold will be well represented on draft day. Five offensive Saints players will possibly go within the top 100 picks. If you want a top tier Saints player on your team, you will most likely have to draft him early.
Every league that I play in has PPR (points per reception), which I recommend to anyone who happens to still not count receptions. Most of my leagues count them as some fractional point value (like .25 or .5) which is another thing I'd recommend. Most of my analysis will be PPR based, but in most cases, that wouldn't matter a whole bunch.
Within the first two rounds of your fantasy draft, you can expect to see two of the most dynamic weapons in football off of the board. You probably know which two guys I'm referring to, but what may surprise you is in what order they should come off of the board. The first Saint that should be selected in your fantasy draft is...
JIMMY GRAHAM, TE
The first step to being successful in your fantasy football league is to understand the value of your pick. According to Yahoo Sports, Jimmy Graham currently has an ADP (average draft position) of 18.1, which is 32 picks higher than the 2nd highest tight end in ADP. The reason for that is simple. When it comes to points scored by your tight end, Jimmy Graham will almost always crush your opponent's tight end. We're talking about a guy, who in 2011, nearly DOUBLED the total points scored by any TE outside the top 10 and basically scored over 33% more points than the 4th best TE. In 2012, he led all tight ends in scoring in what many have considered a DOWN year! With Rob Gronkowski suddenly developing the ole "injury prone" tag and Aaron Hernandez allegedly doing really really bad things, the upper tier of the tight end field has thinned out.
With some of the names still currently on the board, it may be hard to take Graham, who is after all, a tight end. If you drafted one of the top 5 RBs or top 3 WRs with your first pick, I would definitely pass on guys like Steven Jackson (17.1 Yahoo ADP), Matt Forte (19.4 ADP) and even our own Drew Brees (18.2 ADP) and take the undisputed best TE on the board. If the opportunity is right, you will not go wrong with Graham.
Prediction: 95 catches, 1,247 yards, 12 TDs. Tops in all three categories among NFL TEs.
DREW BREES, QB
There will be some who would take Brees over Graham, and I'm not mad at you if you do. I just simply see a much bigger potential gap with Graham vs the rest of the tight end field and Brees vs the rest of the quarterbacks. If you pick Brees, you know what to expect. About 4,500-5,000 passing yards with 35-45 TDs. You definitely will get huge points out of the QB position, but there are plenty of quarterbacks that can hang with that pace. I never like to draft quarterbacks early because there always seems to be a 4,300+ yard passer that you can pick in the later rounds and be just fine.
With that said, if he falls into the late second/early third round of your draft, you should probably jump all over him. It's pretty likely that you have 2 nice pieces to build upon, so having Brees as the 3rd player that you picked would most likely create an awesome start to the roster.
Just this stat alone shows how awesome Drew Brees is: In the past TWO seasons, Brees has thrown for 10,653 yards, 89 TDs, 33 INTs. In the past THREE seasons, new $100 million man Joe Flacco has thrown for 11,049 yards, 67 TDs, 32 INTS.
Prediction: 4,844 passing yards, 40 TDs, 16 INTs
Another very consistent performer has been drafted in the top 40 of Yahoo leagues. I'm beginning to think that "The Quiet Storm" is a perfect nickname for him, because he is getting picked at a fairly nice price. Being chosen at an ADP of 37.5 in Yahoo leagues, the always underrated...
MARQUES COLSTON, WR
For the past 3 seasons, Colston has been good for 80+ catches, 1000+ yards, and 7+ TDs. Since 2010, his numbers have nearly increased all the way across the board. Coincidentally, the rise of Jimmy Graham has actually made Colston more dangerous. If he manages to stay healthy, there's no reason to not expect more of the same in 2013.
If you excuse his 2008 season (missed 5 games), Colston has been no worse than 70 catches, 1000 yards and 7 TDs. There's no guess work here. As long as Colston is good to go, you will get production. I take a healthy Colston over Dwayne Bowe (37.0 ADP), Reggie Wayne (42.8 ADP), and yes, even Andre Johnson (31.1 ADP).
Projection: 80 catches, 1,125 yards, 10 TDs
Speaking of underrated, a guy that I think is going too low in drafts is...
LANCE MOORE, WR
With a Yahoo ADP of 106.8, Lance Moore can be an absolute steal coming off of your bench or even starting in deep leagues. I love the value here because you can wait until the 9th-11th round of a 10 team league and still grab a guy coming off of arguably his best year. It's not like he doesn't find the end zone, scoring 22 TDs in the past 3 seasons.
I think the biggest complaint about Moore is how he tends to disappear from the game plan every once in a while and that can hurt in this week by week game. I can possibly see a slight upgrade from last season's numbers, making him a nice value over some of the other WRs being chosen at this point.
Projection: 65 catches, 970 yards, 8 TDs
If you're in a PPR league, you have to bump this guy up on your cheat sheet...
DARREN SPROLES, RB
I can't argue with Sproles' ADP (83.6). While he is the wild card in the Saints defense, he still has to compete for playing time. If you're in a PPR league, Sproles could be a nice value pick.
When it comes to the game of fantasy football, Darren Sproles is basically a WR that gets rushing yards. With 14 TD receptions in the past two seasons, the dynamic 5'6" running back knows his role and plays it well. The scary thing is that the return of Sean Payton may result in more carries and usage of Sproles, who was the all purpose yard record setter with Payton in charge in 2011. My prediction will be rather conservative, but I can see Sproles doing even more than this.
Projection: 495 rushing yards, 3 rush TDs; 77 catches, 655 yards, 6 receiving TDs
On draft day, the only other Saint that I would consider would be Garrett Hartley. He will have plenty of chances to score points. (Draft your kicker late! Those are always a crap shoot.)
With that said, here are a few guys to keep an eye on or draft late in deeper leagues:
MARK INGRAM, RB
As of now, if I had to guess, Mark Ingram will continue to get the bulk of the goal line carries. The Saints running back by committee is so unpredictable, but it seems like Ingram once again has the first crack at being a little more relevant in fantasy football.
PIERRE THOMAS, RB
Some players will take a chance on Thomas in the later rounds. He will still get his share of yards and could possibly score comparable points to Ingram in PPR leagues. He's no more than a late round reserve.
KENNY STILLS/NICK TOON, WR
It seems silly to even bring these guys up. However, it does seem like every year, Devery Henderson was picked up during the bye week stretch or due to injuries for a fantasy team desperate for wide receiver production. If one of these two talented receivers get a majority of #3 WR work, then that guy could be a nice midseason pick up.
It's amazing what preseason hype can do. As of now, the New Orleans Saints defense is the 13th defense drafted on Yahoo. (Yes, they are being picked before Atlanta, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Washington) I'm not saying to go out and draft the Saints defense tomorrow, but keep an eye on this unit. They could be, with the right matchup, a nice bye week or tough matchup filler. Or they could be absolutely horrible again.
On behalf of CSC, I wish all of you the best of luck this season. Here's to watching games with teams you don't care about just to see how the running back does. Hooray fantasy football!