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Offseason Primers: New Orleans Saints

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Between the fallout from Bountygate and a horrible defense, the Saints' chances to make the playoffs were slim before last season even started. The team started 0-4 and finished 7-9 -- good enough to finish tied for second in the division -- and also tied for last as the Bucs and Panthers finished with the same record.

Though the record was ugly the stats remained high, particularly for Drew Brees, who threw for over 5,000 yards and over 40 touchdowns for the second year in a row. Brees has proven to be the most consistent quarterback and the highest point getter in Fantasy over those two seasons, posting at least 20 points (standard-scoring leagues) in 25 of 32 games. That's the stuff owners crave to have on their rosters, and it's clear that Brees' production trickles down to other good players on the team.

2012 Touches Leaders
793 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Mark Ingram 162 (156 car., 6 rec.) 20.4%
Pierre Thomas 144 (105 car., 39 rec.) 18.2%
Darren Sproles 123 (75 rec., 48 car.) 15.5%
Jimmy Graham 85 rec. 10.7%
Marques Colston 83 rec. 10.5%
Lance Moore 65 rec. 8.2%
All Others 131 16.5%

Marques Colston finished as a Top 12 receiver, Lance Moore finished as a Top 24 receiver, Darren Sproles wound up as a Top 24 running back and Jimmy Graham was Fantasy Football's most productive tight end. Nothing to look twice at but there are some nuances worth noting. Colston, for example, was far more boom-or-bust despite racking up at least 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns for the sixth time in seven years. The typically reliable receiver had under 80 yards with zero touchdowns in half of his games, and he scored 10 times in all! That's hard to do. Lance Moore had a career-best 1,041 yards but had a very uncharacteristic 16.0 receiving average to help him get there. Graham was dominant at his position but should have been even better after a wrist injury hampered him in six of his last eight games. Sproles basically matched his receiving production from a year ago but wound up running the ball just 48 times over 13 games, so some might say he did worse than expected.

One thing's for sure: The Saints' pass-happy ways were obvious even without Sean Payton pacing the sidelines. Though New Orleans threw only 60.6 percent of the time in 2011, they managed to exceed that in 2010 and in 2012. In fact, over the first six games of last season, the Saints threw 69.1 percent of the time! Then interim coach Joe Vitt returned from his Bountygate suspension and knocked some sense into the offense. They still favored the pass but only at a 61.6 percent clip. A good portion of that, mostly in those first six weeks, had to do with playing from behind.

But it's that pass-first doctrine that will steer the direction of this offense, if not this team. The defense might only become messier with Rob Ryan coming on as the defensive coordinator and converting the unit to a 3-4 scheme. If past performance is any indication, Ryan's defense will put Brees & Co. in a position to throw a bunch while playing from behind. That's pretty much expected now anyway from a Saints team that is synonymous with "pass-happy."

2012 Target Leaders
671 pass attempts
Jimmy Graham 135 20.1%
Marques Colston 132 19.7%
Lance Moore 105 15.6%
Darren Sproles 104 15.5%
Pierre Thomas 53 7.9%
Devery Henderson 47 7.0%
All Others 95 14.2%

Mark Ingram -- Bust

Two years ago I liked the prospect of Ingram as the battering ram in a Saints offense flush with receiving threats. The potential for 10 touchdowns was there, or so the perception was. Ingram did score in half of his games his rookie year but only played in 10, getting 10 or more carries in six of those 10 games. It took a philosophical change in the middle of last season for Ingram to get involved, landing 10 or more carries in one of the Saints' first nine games before getting six with 10-plus carries in the last seven. His touchdown opportunities didn't come often; he only had five on the year and rushed for more than 70 yards once all season. For Ingram to do well for your Fantasy team he needs to score -- that much we've learned. Not getting those opportunities has hurt him and splitting reps with the likes of Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas have hurt him (Ingram never had more than roughly a third of the snaps in a game for the Saints last year). Being on a team that ultimately throws 60-plus percent of the time doesn't help either. If you're desperate for a running back and you take Ingram, you're going to be disappointed. Smart Fantasy owners shouldn't consider him anything more than good depth and not someone you could use as even a flex to start a season.

Lance Moore -- Draft Day value

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Drew Brees 10-20 overall
Darren Sproles 35-45 overall
Mark Ingram 75-85 overall
Pierre Thomas Late-round pick
Marques Colston 50-60 overall
Lance Moore 90-100 overall
Joe Morgan Late-round pick
Jimmy Graham 15-25 overall
Garrett Hartley Undrafted
Saints DST Undrafted

How's this for disrespect: Last summer a receiver coming off of back-to-back eight-score seasons was picked 115th overall on average. That's Moore, who didn't get eight touchdowns in 2012 but did score six times and record his first 1,000-yard season. What made Moore's year even more eye-opening was a career-high 16.0 receiving average with 14 of his 65 catches going for 20-plus yards. That's uncharacteristic for him but it's hard to argue with 105 targets and seven games with at least 10 Fantasy points (one more than Marques Colston). With Jimmy Graham and Colston drawing plenty of coverage, Moore will consistently be a candidate for single coverage and Drew Brees has shown a propensity for throwing to him. He's a tremendous get as a third receiver for your teams, though you might be able to snag him in Round 8 or 9.

Joe Morgan -- Late-round flier

You can't help but take notice anytime a receiver averages 37.9 yards per catch. That's Morgan, who had eight of his 10 catches go for at least 20 yards and four of those eight go for at least 40 yards with three touchdowns. Morgan has incredible speed in a thin but tall body and saw seven games in 2012 where he was on the field for at least 40 percent of the snaps, including each of the Saints' last four. With just a little bump in playing time he should see way more than the 21 targets he finished with last season. Knowing how often the Saints will throw, this is a gem of a sleeper receiver to stash on your bench with a late pick.

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

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Player News
Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:56 pm ET) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


 
 
 
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