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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 New Orleans Saints

NFL Fantasy



Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The New Orleans Saints.


Below, Daniel Kelley and Dan Fornek tackle the Saints, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: New Orleans Saints

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Kelley: Rashid Shaheed
Fornek: Rashid Shaheed

Biggest Bust

Kelley: Alvin Kamara
Fornek: Jamaal Williams

Bold Prediction

Kelley: The Saints have 3 top-30 wide receivers
Fornek: Derek Carr finishes as a top-12 QB

The Explanations


Kelley: Rashid Shaheed

Per the FTN Fantasy Stats Hub, there were 15 players with at least four receiving plays of 40-plus yards last year. Fourteen of those players had at least 100 targets. The 15th was Rashid Shaheed, who had four receiving plays of at least 40 yards on only 34 (!) targets. And he added a 44-yard touchdown run on his first NFL touch in Week 6 that isn’t even included in that total.

It would of course be tempting to call that a fluke, because long plays often are. Except for this: Rashid Shaheed also holds the all-time FCS record for kickoff return touchdowns (7). Explosive plays are the man’s calling card. And they are his calling card on an offense that doesn’t have many other players who can do that — Shaheed had almost as many receiving yards after contact last year (170) as Chris Olave (210) on 44 fewer receptions. He might be inconsistent, but Rashid Shaheed does something no one else in this offense can do, and he’s essentially free in drafts.

Fornek: Rashid Shaheed

Outside of Chris Olave, the Saints wide receiver room seems to be in flux with Michael Thomas once again going through an offseason of major injury recovery. One player who emerged in 2022 and should be getting more fantasy consideration is second-year receiver Rashid Shaheed. From Weeks 13 to 18 in 2022, Shaheed averaged 4.6 targets, 4.0 receptions and 64.8 receiving yards while operating as New Orleans’ deep threat.

He now gets a quarterback upgrade in Derek Carr. FTN’s advanced stats show that among quarterbacks with at least 300 pass attempts, Carr was fourth in deep pass attempts (71), tied for third in deep pass percentage (14%) and tied for first in deep pass touchdowns (11). Shaheed is a better route runner than he’s given credit for and now gets a deep passing upgrade to make him more efficient down the field. He has a real chance to emerge as the Saints’ WR2 next season but is going off the board as WR74 in fantasy drafts at the moment.



Kelley: Alvin Kamara

Alvin Kamara’s fantasy stock has already plummeted, to the point that he’s going 32nd among running backs in early drafts. So maybe he won’t be a “bust” by ADP, per se, but by game theory he will be. Drafting Kamara means using a pick in the seventh round or so on a player who is likely to miss at least a small chunk of the early season, potentially bigger. That means burning a roster spot, since he can’t be stashed on the IR. 

If this were, say, Austin Ekeler or Justin Jefferson, then sure, burning a roster spot on a relatively sure thing might make sense. But Kamara is no longer anywhere close to a sure thing. He’s scored 6 rushing touchdowns the last two years (after 16 in 2020). He only scored in two different games last year. He has 3.9 yards per carry over the last two years. And his biggest virtue (being the only option in the backfield) has been chopped away by the team signing Jamaal Williams and drafting Kendre Miller. Stashing a player for however many weeks Kamara is suspended doesn’t make any sense at all if you can’t even be sure you’ll start him when he’s back.

Fornek: Jamaal Williams

Jamaal Williams was the definition of a league winner in 2022. Williams was a mid- to late-round running back selection who finished as the RB13 in total points as the early-down and goal-line back in Detroit. Williams secured a contract with the New Orleans Saints this offseason, shifting into a complementary role with Alvin Kamara. However, fantasy managers need to be careful before they slam the button on Williams in fantasy drafts last season. 45% of Williams’s fantasy scoring in 2022 came from touchdowns (17). Additionally, Williams had just one game with Detroit where he saw a snap share above 48%. Alvin Kamara will likely miss time due to an impending suspension, but the Saints ensured they’d keep a committee backfield by selecting TCU’s Kendre Miller in the 2023 NFL draft. Williams needs touchdowns to maintain his fantasy value, but the Saints’ offense may not be able to provide him the goal-line work he needs to replicate his 2022 performance.


Bold Predictions

Kelley: The Saints Have 3 Top-30 Wide Receivers

Chris Olave, we know. He was WR23 as a rookie despite a quarterback change, a lack of complementary weapons and missing two games himself. He’s a stud.

Rashid Shaheed, we discussed above — it might be up-and-down, but he’ll have enough pop plays and pop games that he’ll find his way into the top 30 on overall total.

That leaves Michael Thomas, who is obviously the wild card here. He’s played all of 10 games the last three years since his record-setting 2019 season, including only three over the last two years. But he’s reportedly improving, including getting hardware removed from his foot in May. And in the three games he did play last year, he averaged 7.3 targets, 5.3 receptions and 57.0 yards, with 3 touchdowns in three games. Add in a bottom-10 offensive line and a backfield that includes a 28-year-old with 3.9 yards per carry over the last two years and facing a suspension (Alvin Kamara), the most primed-for-TD-regression player ever (Jamaal Williams, also 28) and a rookie third-rounder (Kendre Miller), and the Saints are going to have to throw to score.

Fornek: Derek Carr Finishes as a Top-12 QB

Derek Carr was released from the Raiders early in the 2023 offseason and ultimately found a home with the Saints. He will now be playing behind arguably the best offensive line in his career in a division that features awful secondaries and numerous indoor and warm-weather stadiums. Carr doesn’t have a bona fide No. 1 receiver like he did with Davante Adams, but the Saints have an overall better receiver room with Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed and the possibility of Michael Thomas finally being healthy. New Orleans also features two strong receiving tight ends (Juwan Johnson and Foster Moreau) and likely a partial season of Alvin Kamara. Carr has been an average fantasy quarterback for most of his career, but now we will see what a competent offensive line can give him with a solid supporting cast. If everything comes together, he can find himself in the top 12 among fantasy quarterbacks in 2023.

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