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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
Report: Vikings' Adrian Peterson won't attend OTAs on Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5/24/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is reportedly set to skip organized team activities on Tuesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson is frustrated with management in Minnesota for not showing him support through his legal case for child abuse. Peterson has not participated in any offseason activities so far, but skipping Tuesday's workout will cost him $250,000 in bonuses if he does not attend 90 percent of OTAs and minicamps.

Peterson has three years, $44.25 million left on his contract with Minnesota.


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The Cardinals will need a healthy Mathieu to offseason the loss of former defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and cornerback Antonio Cromartie. In two seasons, Mathieu has 100 tackles and three interceptions but has been hampered by nagging injuries. 

"It just feels good to be free," he said. 


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"At the end of the day, I’m a DB,’" Jackson said, per the New York Post. "I think my strengths are cover skills, I got good speed and I got good ball skills. The thing it’s gonna take for me to get out there and make an impact is, I just got to learn the defense and really just communicate the calls fluently."

"It is all in front of him," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We think he can cover. He has done a good job of getting us lined up and then we will see how he plays."


O'Brien impressed with Jadeveon Clowney's work ethic
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Texans coach Bill O'Brien has been impressed with the work defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has put in to recover from microfracture surgery in his knee. 

"I've been impressed with the way JD's been working," O'Brien said, per HoustonTexans.com. "He's been out there. He's in early. He's rehabbing. But he's also being able to take part in some of the things that we do in the weight room. He's not able to do all of the things that we do on the field just yet, because of his rehab. But he's on the right track."


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(5/23/2015) Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron has recovered from the shoulder soreness that bothered him for most of his rookie year. 

McCarron is now throwing deep again. "I feel great," McCarron said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Body feels great and I feel like I'm slinging it better than I ever have, really."


Brooks Reed injured, may miss time at Falcons' OTAs
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(5/23/2015) Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed suffered a groin injury during the recently-completed voluntary minicamp, per ESPN.

The injury was termed "minor", but it still might keep Reed from full participation in the Falcons' upcoming OTAs, which start Tuesday. 


GM: EJ Manuel on 'equal footing' with Bills' other QBs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Bills general manager Doug Whaley denied reports that the team is moving on from quarterback EJ Manuel

The team acquired Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor in the offseason.

In an interview with Jim Rome, Whaley said, "I look at it this way, in this business controversy sells,. The more controversy that you can drum up then the more intereste people are going to be."

"For us we’re excited about the future of all three of those guys," Whaley said. "It’s going to be a great competition. And we can keep three quarterbacks. So I dismiss that as just someone trying to get something stirred during this down time and lack of media stories for the NFL." 

Whaley said all three quarterbacks have an equal shot of winning the starting job. 

"I look for him to come in and compete and try to take the job," he said. "Everybody has got an equal footing. It’s a clean slate for all four of our quarterbacks. We’re not tied to anybody. We just want the best man to start."


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(5/23/2015) Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict's rehab may not be progressing as quickly as the team had hoped.

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This week, the team's website said that Burfict's status was "up in the air" and that a return by the start of the season would be a "tight call".

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So far, so good for Texans rookie CB Kevin Johnson
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(5/23/2015) First impressions aren't necessarily important for first-round picks in the NFL. They are far more critical to lower selections and undrafted free agents who desperately need to raise a few eyebrows immediately lest they be back out looking for work.

But whether necessary or not, Texans first-rounder Kevin Johnson is making one heck of a first impression on Bill O'Brien. The clornerback opened some eyes at minicamp.

"This is a guy that's a very quick guy," O'Brien said. "He's a tall guy. He's a guy that has really good transition ability. He's got what I call really good recover transition. If he's getting beat, he can stick his foot in the ground and really make up a lot of ground.

"He's a very bright player. If you ask him questions in the morning meeting, he really has obviously studied the night before. He's working out on his own and doing things to help stay up on material that's being installed."

Johnson believes he needs to do the little things right to make a big impact in his rookie year.

"From the training room to the classroom to the film study, everything is just more detailed," he told the team website. "I'm just trying to take it all in and use everything around here and just get better."


Bears CB Tim Jennings could transition into slot role
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5/23/2015) Bears cornerback Tim Jennings is "still trying to figure out" where he will fit into the secondary this season, the Chicago Tribune is reporting.

The nine-year veteran, who is entering his sixth season in the Windy City, has 95 career starts and led the league in interceptions in 2012. He is even a two-time Pro Bowler. But he spent significant time as the slot corner in minicamp. That's an unsatisfying role for him that he just might be forced to embrace.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio prefers his outside corners tall and physical. Jennings is 5-8, 185 pounds. He might still earn an outside role opposite Kyle Fuller, but do achieve that goal he must at the very least outperform free agent pickup Alan Ball, who better fits the ideal description.

If the words of new coach John Fox are any indication, that's unlikely to happen.

"Dimension-wise, he's built like a nickel corner," Fox said. "He's played it before."

Jennings has started all but three games over the last seven years.


 
 
 
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