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Booms, Busts, Breakouts & Bets: New Orleans Saints

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As the mercury rises and we inch closer to training camp openings, our resident fantasy football aficionados, Brad Evans and Derek Brown, profile their favorite Booms, Busts, Breakouts and Bets for every NFL team. Giddy up, gamers. Today’s topic: The Fighting Fleur de Lis.

Fantasy Football Booms – Saints

Michael Thomas, WR

The rumors of the demise of “slant boy” Michael Thomas have been greatly exaggerated. Thomas gutted out the 2020 season playing on a bum ankle and with a torn deltoid and still was impressive in his underlying metrics. Among 84 wide receivers with 50 or more targets, he finished 13th in yards per route run (2.14). 

Thomas is still a true alpha wide receiver, and when he was on the field, he was fed like one. In Weeks 10-14, when he managed to survive playing 60% or higher snaps, he saw a 35.4% target share. For all the Taysom Hill worriers in the crowd when Hill was under center, Thomas’s target share rose to 36.7%. Regardless of who the starting quarterback is for New Orleans this season, Thomas will reprise his role as one of the few target-hog wide receiver ones left in the NFL. Enjoy the discount in drafts while it lasts. — Derek Brown

Michael Thomas, WR

It’s often stunning how quickly perceptions change. Many fantasy managers live stubbornly by a “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality. It’s this approach that commonly generates market inefficiencies, generous ADP reduction the keen-eyed feast upon. Thomas is one textbook example. 

Whether it’s Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill, the volume — a convincing word in fantasy — should be cranked. No, he won’t duplicate what he achieved two seasons ago on the surface (149-1725-9), but now healthy after battling ankle issues, he should lure 160-plus targets. Without a consistent and proven WR2 (Sorry, Tre’Quan Smith, but it’s true), he will be the weapon of choice. 

Fantasy fans should root for Winston to win the gig. His aggressive, though often reckless, downfield nature should jive with Thomas on outside-the-numbers routes. Recall last year with a noodly Drew Brees, Thomas only logged two targets beyond 20 yards in seven games. Stay healthy, pair with Jameis and a final line in range of 110-1400-8 is very possible. Sporting a WR11 ADP (33.1 overall), he’s undervalued. — Brad Evans

2021 Fantasy Football Busts – Saints

Alvin Kamara, RB

Blasphemous? Full disclosure, Alvin Kamara remains a fixture inside my RB top-10, but he’s much further down (RB7) compared to the industry consensus. It’s possible Drew Brees’ retirement is overly weighed inside this scribe’s reptilian brain, but his short-armed nature, particularly over the past two seasons, pinpoint touch and overall judiciousness were incredibly valuable. Just look at how Kamara’s PPR production sank with Taysom Hill at the controls. Recall Weeks 11-14, he averaged 0.95 fantasy points per touch, RB24 during the stretch. Outside that window and with Brees, he contributed 1.35 fantasy points per touch, tops for any rusher. 

To be fair, Jameis Winston, then with division rival Tampa, posted a 100.8 passer rating on short throws (QB16) during the 2018 season, but suggesting he or Hill aren’t a step down from a future HOF passer is bat bleepin’ crazy. Even in a 17-game season, matching last year’s position pacesetting numbers is highly unlikely. The regression could be harsher than what some believe. — Brad Evans

Jameis Winston, QB

Yes, I know Jameis Winston is currently free in drafts (QB25, 182.3), so bear with me for a second. That ADP is because we don’t have definitive news on who will be under center for the Saints when Week 1 rolls around. Before you get up in arms and scream to the rooftops that this is a pro-Taysom Hill rant, yes, I broke down the Saints QB situation earlier this offseason, and my bet would be Hill is the starter heading into the season. 

But Winston makes this list because if he is named the starter for the Saints, the hype that will swell will be deafening. We all have fuzzy recollections of his fantasy point barrages while in Tampa Bay, but if he assumes the starting role, that might be coming back. Sean Payton could peg Winston into a similar game-manager role that Teddy Bridgewater occupied in 2019. Payton muting Winston’s turnover-prone ways can’t be discounted. In 2019, Bridgewater averaged 17.1 fantasy points per game as the starter. Last season, that would have slotted him in as the QB22 in fantasy. Winston could be asked to check his downfield tendencies at the door. For a quarterback that lacks the mobility, we seek in fantasy now and could gain steam the closer we get to the season as a possible top 12 quarterback. I’ll happily select other options when on the clock in drafts. — Derek Brown

Fantasy football breakouts for the Saints

Adam Trautman, TE

Adam Trautman is primed to party in the Big Easy this season. Trautman excelled on the limited opportunity last season, snagging 15 of his 16 targets with a 132.0 passer rating. With his proven acumen as a blocker last year, he can carve out a role Jared Cook never could in this offense as a true three-down tight end. 

Cook ran the 19th-most routes among tight ends last year while losing snaps due to his poor blocking abilities. With volume behind Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara up for grabs and a tight end depth chart featuring Nick Vannett, Garrett Griffin, Ethan Wolf and Dylan Soehner, Trautman could pay off big time in 2021. — Derek Brown

Adam Trautman, TE

Gaining indispensable experience in his rookie season, Trautman largely floated in the waiver wire pool in all but the deepest dynasty leagues. Still, his acquired confidence and increased role down the homestretch — he ran at least 11 routes in four of his last five games, including the playoffs — amplifies his late-round appeal in fantasy drafts. 

With Jared Cook now in L.A. with the Chargers and no definitive No. 3 option outside of Thomas and Kamara in the pass game, he could command a sizable target share in his sophomore season. Netting close to what Cook did in his final act with ‘Nawlins (37-504-7) is very much a possibility. Given his TE18 price tag, he’s an ideal option for the discount minded. — Brad Evans

Best Bets for the Saints 2021

(Use the FTN Prop Shop to uncover the best lines across legal sportsbooks) 

Michael Thomas to win Comeback Player of the Year (+5000, FanDuel)

Since 2016, two wide receivers have taken home the award (Jordy Nelson, Keenan Allen). The duo averaged 99.5 receptions, 1,325 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in their triumphant returns. These numbers are attainable my Thomas in 2021, and at these longshot odds count me in. — Derek Brown

Alvin Kamara UNDER 975.5 rush yards (-120, DraftKings)

Given his spectacular duality, he’s a certain RB1 in 12-team leagues, but a likely uptick in overloaded fronts (11.7 stack% in ‘20) combined with the looming specter that is Latavius Murray imply a ground finish in the 900-925 range is most buyable. — Brad Evans

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