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2012 Fantasy outlooks: New Orleans Saints

Senior Fantasy Writer
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No team in the NFL has had a worse offseason than the Saints. If there was a lottery of bad luck, they would be millionaires.

To recap, the Saints were heavily penalized for their role in a bounty program. The NFL suspended coach Sean Payton for the season and assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis got eight games, and standout defensive players Jonathan Vilma (the season) and Will Smith (four games) will also miss significant time.

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Mark Ingram (knee) also has yet to return at 100 percent, and his health issues remain after a down rookie year. It could be hard for him to reach his full potential in a loaded backfield. We consider Ingram a low-end No. 3 Fantasy running back at best, and he should only be drafted with a late-round pick.

Robert Meachem left the Saints as a free agent for the Chargers. The Saints should be able to fill his role with Lance Moore, Devery Henderson and someone out of the group of rookie Nick Toon, Adrian Arrington and Joe Morgan, but Meachem will be missed in this offense as a complementary option.

If there's a silver lining, it came a few weeks ahead of training camp when the Saints made quarterback Drew Brees the highest-paid player in the NFL with a five-year deal worth $100 million. Having him back in the fold eliminates any distractions this season and gives the team some good news. He remains a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback worth drafting in Round 1 in all standard leagues.

Another good thing for the Saints is Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham remain viable weapons, and all three project as starters in the majority of leagues. Brees should also show no signs of a long layoff and should continue to be an elite Fantasy quarterback.

Some owners are concerned the absence of Payton will hurt the offense, but we're not worried. Even though he's not around to call plays, the Saints should still be able to put up plenty of points.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Drew Brees 1
Running Backs
Darren Sproles 4
Pierre Thomas 8
Mark Ingram 9
Chris Ivory ND
Wide Receivers
Marques Colston 4
Lance Moore 9
Nick Toon ND
Devery Henderson ND
Joe Morgan ND
Tight Ends
Jimmy Graham 3
Kickers/Defense
Garrett Hartley 14
Saints DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Late-round flier ... Lance Moore, wide receiver
Moore had a productive year in 2011 when he finished with 110 Fantasy points, which made him the No. 30 receiver in standard leagues. He finished with 52 catches for 627 yards and eight touchdowns and his stats would have been better if he didn't miss two games due to injury. Moore is a reliable weapon for Brees, and he has at least eight touchdowns in three of the past four years. His targets (73 in 2011) should rise this year with Meachem (60) gone, which should only increase his value. And since you can get Moore with a late-round pick -- probably after Round 9 in most formats -- he will definitely out-produce his draft value. Even though Moore is fourth on the pecking order for Brees behind Colston, Graham and Sproles he still is a valuable weapon for the Saints and Fantasy owners.

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Bounce-back candidate ... Mark Ingram, running back
Ingram may never live up to his potential as long as he's with the Saints. Pierre Thomas remains in the mix and Sproles is the star of this backfield. Ingram just doesn't touch the ball enough to succeed. All three running backs had at least 85 carries last year, with Ingram leading the way at 122. He's not a great receiver in a passing offense, and he has to prove he can stay healthy. In 2011, Ingram missed six games, and he is now dealing with a knee injury heading into training camp. Still, with a late-round pick, Ingram could reap plenty of rewards. If he's healthy, Ingram could reach double digits in touchdowns and 800 rushing yards. He had five touchdowns last year in 10 games, so eight touchdowns is realistic this year going by last year's average. We would like Ingram better if Sproles and Thomas weren't around, but Ingram could still do damage if you draft him in the right spot.

Keeper-league target ... Nick Toon, wide receiver
The Saints drafted second-generation receiver Nick Toon from Wisconsin in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Toon led the Badgers in receiving with 64 catches for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Toon is the son of former NFL receiver Al Toon. With Meachem gone, the Saints need a fourth receiver behind Colston, Moore and Henderson, and Toon appears to have the inside track. He is having a great offseason and we hope he can develop a rapport with Brees once he signs. Toon still has to beat out Arrington and Morgan, who has plenty of upside, but we'd invest a late-round pick in deep seasonal leagues on Toon. He's also worth a mid-to-late pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a third-round pick in rookie-only drafts.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
WAS @CAR KC @GB SD bye @TB @DEN PHI ATL @OAK SF @ATL @NYG TB @DAL CAR
The Saints scored less than 30 points six times in 18 total games last year. They might drop that number to four or five games with sub-30 points in 2012. Payton or not, they're identity isn't about to change, and they don't face a lot of strong pass defenses. But they don't take on many tough run defenses either -- some might suggest they play only one (San Francisco at home in Week 12). If the Saints were to make a move to start running more, it would probably benefit them given their opponents. This schedule will keep the Saints offense churning full speed ahead.

Training camp topics

The only real battle for the Saints will take place between kickers Garrett Hartley and John Kasay, but we expect Hartley to win the job. He remains a No. 1 Fantasy kicker worth a last-round pick.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Darren Sproles 87 carries, 86 catches
Pierre Thomas 110 carries, 50 catches
Mark Ingram 122 carries, 11 catches
Jimmy Graham 99 catches
Marques Colston 80 catches

Colston is still an elite Fantasy receiver and should have another solid year. Despite a few nagging injuries that have kept him off the field for all but two of his years, Colston has had over 1,000 yards receiving, at least seven touchdowns and at least 70 receptions in five of six NFL seasons. He should be drafted by Round 4.

There is a strong debate about the No. 1 overall tight end between Graham and New England's Rob Gronkowski and when either should be drafted. I consider Gronkowski the best tight end in standard leagues, but Graham has an edge in PPR formats. The earliest I would draft either tight end would be Round 3 otherwise it's a reach, even as good as Graham has become after he had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns on a whopping 149 targets.

Sproles had 1,313 total yards and nine touchdowns last year with 86 catches, and we don't want to see a change in how he's used. He might not score as much this season, but his ability in this offense is off the charts. We would draft Sproles with a fourth-round pick in standard leagues, and it's not a stretch to take him in Round 2 in PPR formats. He's that good even with all the weapons around him.

Injury update

Ingram (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Chris Ivory (hamstring; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart looking to build off strong finish
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:37 am ET) Over the last five weeks of the regular season, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 486 yards, second only to Dallas' DeMarco Murray. Stewart followed that up with 123 yards and a touchdown in the playoff win over Arizona.

"I'm really excited for next year," Stewart told the team's website. "You have to find your zone throughout the offseason. It starts now."

Stewart got the chance to be a workhorse when DeAngelo Williams fractured his hand Week 13. ESPN.com reports there's a "strong possibility" the Panthers will release the 31-year-old Williams this offseason, leaving Stewart, 27, as the unquestioned starter.

"It's just part of the journey," Stewart said of the individual success he had toward season's end. "The moment you start focusing on that, you miss out on other things along the journey."


Report: Patriots hoping to sign Darrelle Revis to long-term extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Patriots are reportedly looking to sign cornerback Darrelle Revis to a long-term extension, according Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

However, New England has not ruled out paying Revis the $20 million team option in 2015, Rapoport reports. The decision needs to be made by April 1, when a $12 million roster bonus kicks in for Revis.

Revis totaled 47 tackles in 16 games for the Patriots, grabbing two interceptions and forcing one fumble.


C.J. Spiller expecting 'March Madness' style free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Bills running back C.J. Spiller is getting healthy again. Spiller, who has fully recovered from a shoulder injury, just ended the final season of his contract and is looking at his options for next season.

"Physically, I’m back to 100 percent, back to doing normal activities," Spiller told The Post and Courier on Friday. "As far as football, free agency will start in March, and I’ll get with my people next week and get a game plan together."

Spiller has played five seasons for the Bills, only playing two full years. He ran for 1,244 yards in 2012 with six touchdowns.

"I guess you could say it’ll be March Madness," Spiller said with a smile. "It’ll be a fun March."


Report: Rams among teams interested in trade for Eagles' Foles
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Teams are beginning to show interest in Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, as reports are surfacing Philadelphia is unsure of what to do with the third-year quarterback, per NJ.com. A source said the Rams have interest in Foles should the Eagles choose to trade him this offseason. 

The Titans and Texans have also been mentioned as teams that would have interest in Foles, if he hits the trade market.

It's still unclear if the Eagles would be willing to move Foles. NJ.com reported last week the Eagles, who have the 20th pick in the NFL Draft, are considering making a run at Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in the draft. 

"From No. 20, it's certainly not going to be easy,'' a source said. "It's probably going to take moving up twice to do it. There's going to be some wheeling and dealing involved.

"Can it happen? I don't know. But they're going to try."

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly recruited Mariota to Oregon and coached him for two years.

"Obviously, [with] my relationship with coach Kelly, it'd be a lot of fun to be a part of that offense and be a part of that team," Mariota said when asked about a potential reunion with Kelly.

Foles is 15-9 as a starter in the NFL, but he has yet to play a full season. He has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 6,753 yards, 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.


Colts' Luck on new contract: 'There's nothing there right now'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) An ESPN report surfaced last week stating the Colts were working on making quarterback Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in the NFL. When asked about the subject at the Pro Bowl, Luck seemed surprise when he heard the news.

"There's nothing there right now," Luck said, per The Indianapolis Star. "I didn't think about it all during the season and it's only been a few days since it ended. I haven't thought about it. I will have conversations with my agent just because you have to prepare, but I'm not sure where that report came from."

Luck has two years remaining on the $22 million deal he signed as a rookie in 2012. It includes a team option for 2016, which must be exercised later this year.

Luck just completed his third season in the NFL. He has been to the Pro Bowl every year he's been in the NFL. He's gone 11-5 in every season as an NFL starter. He threw for a career-best 40 touchdowns in 2014 and led Indianapolis to the AFC title game this season.


Seahawks' Sherman disappointed he won't receive gifts from Pro Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) In case you missed Sunday's Pro Bowl, Team Irvin knocked off Team Carter, 32-28, thanks to a second-half rally, which included touchdown catches by Emmanuel Sanders and Jimmy Graham.

While many Pro Bowl players that made the original roster were absent from the game due to injuries, Pro Bowl players from the Patriots and Seahawks also did not play due to preparations for next Sunday's Super Bowl.

One player who seemed upset about missing the Pro Bowl was Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. However, it was for a reason you probably wouldn't suspect.

“Only thing I’m disappointed in is they won’t give us our gifts from the Pro Bowl, which is kind of dumb,” Sherman said, per The Boston Globe. “The NFL is the only league that punishes the players who actually make the All-Star game by not giving them their gifts. It’s supposed to be watches and some other stuff, but we don’t get them so I couldn’t tell you.”


Patriots' Tom Brady on Deflategate: 'My feelings got hurt'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) If you have been out of the loop for the last week, then you might be unaware the Patriots have been under a lot of scrutiny since the AFC title game due to improperly inflated footballs used against the Colts. The media hoopla has transformed the controversy into what we know as Deflategate.

If you haven't been out of the loop, then you are well aware of the nonstop coverage it has received the last week and despite the Patriots pleas for it to go away, it just won't.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has had to deal with the backlash from Deflategate, and he found himself talking about the subject again Monday morning during an interview with WEEI.

“It’s all speculation,” Brady said. “I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, too. I’ve done that and I’m trying to move past that, because I continue to try to rehash things. I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me, and my feelings got hurt. Then I moved past it, because it’s not serving me. What’s serving me is try to prepare for the game ahead. I’ll deal with whatever happens later. I’ll have my opportunity to try to figure out what happened and figure out a theory like everyone else is trying to do. But this isn’t the time for that. Honestly, I’m not interested in trying to find out right now, because we have the biggest game of our season ahead.”

One topic Brady didn't have a problem addressing was the speculation coach Bill Belichick threw him under the bus during a press conference on Thursday. But Brady came to the defense of Belichick, who has won three Super Bowls as the Patriots coach.

“I’ve never once felt that we’re not on the same page,” Brady said. “He’s a great coach. He’s the only coach I’ve ever played for; he’s the only coach I’d ever want to play for. There’s a lot of people over the years that have criticized him, but I’d say there’s not one player who’s ever played for him who’s not had an unbelievable amount of respect for him and how he prepares and his diligence and his preparation."


Giants' Odell Beckham says he played with hamstring tears
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said he played all season with two tears in his hamstrings, according to the New York Daily News.

Beckham took part in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, but admitted he's still not fully healed. Beckham said the injuries prevented him from getting to that "last gear that I wanted to have." He added that the injuries really bothered him against the Eagles and Colts. Beckham said he was "stumbling" and falling over during those games. He added that he's not sure whether he'll ever be 100 percent again.

The rookie had a tremendous season, hauling in 91 balls for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. 


Patriots' Tom Brady meeting with NFL after Super Bowl 49
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't expect to meet with the NFL until after Super Bowl XLIX, according to NFL.com.

The Patriots have been in the headlines all week due to Deflategate, and it appears the situation won't be resolved until after the season. "I believe they're going to do [a meeting] after the season," Brady said. "So we'll deal with it after this game. I think everybody is locked in, ready to go for the Super Bowl." Both Brady and coach Bill Belichick have held separate press conferences during the week to deny the team's involvement in deflating their footballs. 

The Patriots are subject to punishment from the NFL if the league finds any wrongdoing during the investigation. 


Earl Thomas on bad shoulder: 'I'll still play fearless'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, could remain limited in practice this week ahead of the Super Bowl, reports the Seattle Times. But he said he won't be thinking about the injury against the Patriots.

"When I come alive nothing is limited,’’ he said. “I’ll still play fearless, throw my body around, and let whatever happens, happens.’’

Thomas did allow that he might have to rely more on his teammates.

“My mindset is I have an opportunity to really trust my teammates,’’ he said. “This is the first game I’m going to have to trust them because of my injury. So I really, really, really trust my teammates, and that’s what I’m banking on, my teammates doing what they need to do and I need to come through myself.’’

It's unclear if Thomas will need offseason surgery.

The Seahawks are 1-point underdogs after opening as 2.5-point favorites.


 
 
 
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