2020 NFL Team Previews: New Orleans Saints

2020 NFL Team Previews: New Orleans Saints

This article is part of our Team Previews series.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints possess a clear array of talent on both sides of the ball, but the team will only go as far as 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees takes it. He'll need to stay healthy, maintain his trademark accuracy and make some winning plays for New Orleans to get back over the playoff hump.

Offseason Moves

Key Acquisitions

The savvy veteran adds needed depth to a shallow receiving corps.

Gunslinger with poor decision-making hopes to grow under Drew Brees.

Three-time Pro Bowler shores up the secondary in his second stint with the team.

A small-school player who offers some playmaking ability.

Key Losses

Payday and starting opportunity led him to sign with a division rival.

Key piece of the secondary hits the open market.

Starting linebacker joins Buffalo after a career-best campaign.

Linchpin safety gone after four seasons.

A Look Under the Hood

Head Coach: Sean Payton (Year 14)

Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael (Year 12) - West Coast offense

Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Allen (Year 6) - 4-3 scheme

2020 Vegas Projected Wins: 10.5 (T-3rd)

2019 Record: 13-3

2019 Points Scored: 458 (T-3rd)

2019 Points Allowed: 341 (13th)

2019 Point Differential: +117 (5th)

2019 Run-Play Rate: 39.6 percent (20th)

2019 Situation-Neutral Pace: 31.63 seconds per play (23rd)

2019 Offensive Snaps: 1,011 (21st)

2019 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 5

Full 2019 Team Stats

Projected 2020 Depth Chart

QB: Drew Brees / Jameis Winston / Taysom Hill

RB: Alvin Kamara / Latavius Murray / Dwayne Washington / Ty Montgomery

WR1: Michael Thomas / Krishawn Hogan 

WR2: Emmanuel Sanders / Austin Carr

WR3: Tre'Quan Smith / Deonte Harris

TE: Jared Cook / Josh Hill / Adam Trautman

O-Line: LT Terron Armstead / LG Andrus Peat / C Erik McCoy / RG Cesar Ruiz / RT Ryan Ramczyk                    (RotoWire Rank: No. 2)

Kicker: Wil Lutz

Full 2020 Depth Chart

Top Storylines

Curtain Call for Brees?

Drew Brees has led his team to plenty of wins over the last three seasons, thanks to his accurate arm and limited interceptions. He paced the league in completion percentage in each of those campaigns while posting an 82:17 TD:INT ratio in that span, including a 59:9 mark in 2018-19.

During this three-year run, Brees has posted his fewest pass attempts and yards in such a period since arriving in New Orleans. Where he lacked in quantity, however, he more than made up for in quality. The veteran's interception rate and completion percentages in that timeframe are the best marks of his career.

The Saints have opted to take the offensive burden off the quarterback by giving him a solid defense and capable run game, leading to an efficient style of football that doesn't expose Brees to some of the risks associated with hero ball. As long as he's on the field, Brees' accuracy and ball security provide him a safe fantasy floor, albeit with a lower ceiling than he's had in past years.

There's been no official word on retirement, but it's possible 2020 will be his last. A returning cast of weapons in Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, the signing of reliable slot man Emmanuel Sanders, and added protection from first-round offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz should aid Brees in what could be his swan song.

Drew Brees scanning the field for his next best checkdown.

A Fascinating Quarterback Room

As Drew Brees' career draws to a close, the Saints are forced to look to the future. Teddy Bridgewater – who led New Orleans to a 5-0 record in 2019 sans Brees – signed with Carolina, leaving a quarterback room with a future Hall of Famer in his twilight, a young, turnover-prone signal-caller and a Swiss Army Knife.

Shortly after the NFL Draft, Taysom Hill signed a two-year deal to remain with New Orleans after posting career highs in yards per touch (8.5), total scrimmage yards (390) and total touchdowns (seven) in 2019. Not long after Hill's extension was signed, the Saints inked 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston to a modest, one-year deal.

Hill displayed plenty of upside last season, and before the Winston signing, it seemed highly likely the versatile jack-of-all-trades would be Brees' heir apparent. Winston represents a low-risk, high-reward gamble from Sean Payton and Co. as the quarterback's raw skill and poor decision-making were on full display last season when he led the league in both passing yards and interceptions.

The two quarterbacks are expected to compete for the backup job, though Hill's roles as a receiver and running back aren't impacted by Winston. The former should still see his share of action as a gadget option, ensuring fantasy relevance no matter who is under center.

A Little Help from My Friends

As has been the case for each of the last three seasons, New Orleans will again trot out a top-heavy receiving corps. However, depth isn't as much of an issue as it's been in the past, as the team added veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who brings with him a decade of experience, three Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. He'll provide the Saints a legitimate one-two punch at the position for the first time since 2016, when Michael Thomas was a rookie and Brandin Cooks was still on the roster.

For the last three campaigns, New Orleans' receptions leaders were Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara, with Saints wide receivers falling far behind the pack in that category. There's been a cavernous disparity in the target department, too, as Thomas received 185 looks in 2019 – 104 more than Tre'Quan Smith and the now-departed Ted Ginn combined.

The addition of Sanders will close the talent gap for the Saints' wideout group, and the two-time Pro Bowler shouldn't have a problem carving out a regular role on offense. Sanders will almost certainly draw some targets away from Thomas, but the latter should still command a large target share as Drew Brees' most trusted weapon in the receiving game. Sanders is expected to make an immediate contribution and shoulder some of Thomas' recent burden.

Barometer

⬆️ Rising: TE Jared Cook

Cook finished the year with a 22-463-7 receiving line over his last seven games, accounting for the majority of his season-long production. Positive momentum and another offseason with Drew Brees are on Cook's side.

⬇️ Falling: WR Tre'Quan Smith

Smith has flashed pure athleticism and breakaway speed through two NFL seasons, but consistency and usage have been clear obstacles in his development. Targets will be hard to come by in 2020 with Emmanuel Sanders in the mix.

😴 Sleeper: WR Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders likely will be undervalued due to the number of looks enjoyed by Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in recent seasons, but he's no slouch. The 10-year pro has a chance to make an instant impact in New Orleans.

🌟 Pivotal Player: Michael Thomas

Thomas went off in 2019, as the Ohio State product set the NFL record for catches in a single season (149) while leading the league in receiving yards (1,725). Historically consistent production and a clear spot atop the depth chart contribute to a high floor, and he should be a consensus first-round selection in 2020 fantasy drafts.

Following up a historic season won't be easy, but Michael Thomas has the ability and situation to do just that.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zak Hanshew
Zak Hanshew covers the NBA and Saints football for RotoWire. He also covers the NBA and NFL for FantasyPros. In his spare time, Zak loves hanging out with his wife and four kids, playing the guitar and rooting for his alma mater WVU Mountaineers.
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