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Why the New Orleans Saints Could Win it All, Part X: Special Teams

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The Saints could have a great return man in 2018.

Big Ten Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

To see previous Parts, click below:

Part I: Offensive Line

Part II: Running Backs

Part III: Wide Receivers

Part IV: Tight Ends

Part V: Quarterbacks

Part VI: Defensive Line

Part VII: Linebackers

Part VIII: Cornerbacks

Part IX: Safeties

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Football Outsiders ranks total Special Team performance every year, measuring field goals, kickoffs/punts, and return yards, while accounting for external factors like weather and stadium versus dome.

Not surprisingly for fans who watched the New Orleans Saints in 2017, the Saints came in roughly in the middle of the pack in last season’s rankings at 15th overall. This was an an improvement over last year’s ranking of 27th overall, but they are the last ranked team where the special teams play provides net positive value. If the Saints were to regress even the slightest in any aspect of special teams play, special teams as a whole would provide negative value for the Saints.

The Saints had net positive scores in both punting and kick returns (helped significantly by Alvin Kamara’s runback for a touchdown against Tampa Bay late last season), but struggled in punt returns and kick coverage.

So here’s why they’re better in 2018:

Capital One Orange Bowl - Miami v Wisconsin Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

General consensus on draft day was that the Saints neglected to draft a clear long-term tight end, but Troy Fumagalli going a few spots earlier might have made the Saints switch gears. Instead, they selected Wisconsin Safety Natrell Jamerson in the 5th Round.

The Saints might have found something with Alvin Kamara returning kicks late in the 2017 regular season and into the postseason, but like Reggie Bush, the Saints are not likely to risk such a key cog of their offense to injury returning punts. Jamerson has 4.4 speed and experience returning kicks and punts in college. He could be the best and most consistent return specialist the Saints have had in a long time.

On punts, the Saints still have “Legatron” Thomas Morstead, one of the very best in the game. Wil Lutz looks to have corrected the low-trajectory issues that plagued him early in his career, and is money on field goals. The Saints also have seen growth from key special teamers like Chris Banjo, Justin Hardee and others.

As the Saints have been able to add depth to the defense, this should allow some 2017 starters, like Craig Robertson and PJ Williams, to go back into the fold on special teams.