Sean Payton and Drew Brees have long been figureheads for the New Orleans Saints. Heading into the 2022 NFL season, it will be the first time since 2005 the team has neither. After a season without his long-term partner at quarterback, Payton has now retired as an NFL head coach (for now) and has been replaced with Dennis Allen.
If that name sounds familiar, there are many reasons for that. Allen was a safety for Texas A&M in the 90s before bouncing around the NFL for years as a defensive assistant coach. He finally earned his opportunity to be defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2011 and was named the head coach of the then Oakland Raiders just a year later.
Allen struggled in that position, to say the least, finishing with an overall record of 8-28 over two full seasons and four games in 2014 before he was fired. After returning to the Saints as an assistant, he once again took on the defensive coordinator position after Rob Ryan was fired in 2015.
Now Allen is once again in the head seat but now it’s with the New Orleans Saints. In a turbulent time for the franchise with quarterback Jameis Winston facing a return from a torn ACL and Andy Dalton coming off arguably the worst year of his career. On top of all of this, the franchise is still unsure of stars Alvin Kamara’s and Michael Thomas’ futures, it should be an interesting ride for him to say the least.
Allen’s past as a defensive coordinator and head coach has shown that despite his years of experience as a defensive assistant, they tend to struggle across the board. In his two full seasons as head coach for the Raiders, they finished in the bottom half of the league in total yards. They also finished in the bottom five in points allowed per game. Pair this with the departure of long-time players like Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams, stay away from the Saints defense in fantasy, even as a streaming option.
On the offensive side, while Payton and Brees have certainly been the faces of the franchise, longtime offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has arguably been just as crucial to their success over the past decade. Carmichael joined the Saints alongside Payton in 2006 and was promoted to coordinator in 2009.
Carmichael’s longevity as coordinator is largely thanks to his adaptability. Take the talent he’s given and shift your system to fit said talent. He took the team from what can only be described as an Air Raid offense in the NFL to a rush-heavy attack after losing a massive amount of receiver talent but getting Alvin Kamara. Carmichael is returning to the Saints offense and as a result, it can be expected the offensive side of the ball will remain steady, especially in fantasy terms.
The Saints have finished in the top-9 in total yards since he stepped in as their coordinator. This not only shows that he knows how to produce a well-functioning offense but also a particularly valuable one to keep an eye out for if you’re in a PPR league. Since 2020, the Saints have been the fifth-most run-heavy offense, finishing in front of teams more well known for that type of offense like the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans.
All of this boils down to one crucial point. Talking about the specific system and how it works doesn’t work for a coach like Carmichael. What you can bet on year in and year out is that he will produce a high-powered and efficient offense especially when it comes to helping you in fantasy.
Who Stands to Benefit?
Mark Ingram, RB
As stated before, Alvin Kamara’s current situation with the NFL is still very much up in there. After assaulting a man in Las Vegas, an incident he was arrested and charged with, the incident is under investigation but he is facing felony battery charges. The latest rumors are he is facing at least a six-game suspension.
This almost immediately catapults Mark Ingram into low-end RB1 territory. In the three games he started after being traded back to New Orleans, Ingram scored nine points or more twice. With Carmichael’s ability to turn something into nothing, with a running back that is hardly nothing, Ingram is a sneaky good pick you could find in the mid-late second round.
Jameis Winston, QB
Now it’s still early in the summer (in NFL terms) when it comes to approaching the NFL season. Winston tore his ACL in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which has given him about eight months of healing time. Admittedly, this pick comes with a huge asterisk. Reports have come out of the Saints camp the last few weeks that Winston is still walking with a “visible limp”.
If Winston is healthy enough to begin the season, look out for him to be a sneaky good streaming option throughout the entire season. It may sound ridiculous on the surface but with a receiving corps consisting of Michael Thomas (hopefully healthy), Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, new addition Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave, and the ever versatile Taysom Hill, Carmichael and Winston have a lot to work with in this offense.
Winston scored 20 or more points twice in eight starts last year but one of those games was essentially without an entire coaching staff due to COVID-19 and many of those games had Michael Thomas absent for it. Should he prove healthy, keep a close eye on Winston as one of the top streaming options at QB.
Potential Break-Out Player
Chris Olave, WR
Take a guess who was the Saints best receiver fantasy-wise last year. Michael Thomas? With all those injuries? Nope. Tre’Quan Smith? Understandable guess but he was a hit-or-miss player last year. The correct answer is Marquez Callaway who finished as the 38th-best receiver last year with 106 points in PPR formats.
On the surface, not that impressive, but considering the quarterback inconsistencies and general chaos that was last season for New Orleans, it’s an excellent example of Pete Carmichael’s abilities as a coach. Now, talented former Ohio State receiver and first-round pick Chris Olave is stepping in.
I can throw stats at you all day about Olave’s career at Ohio State (35 career touchdowns, by the way) but here’s the bottom line: if he lives up to expectations, he’s primed to be the Saints’ WR2 behind an often-injured Michael Thomas. Carmichael knows how to make the most of the talent he’s given and if the Saints defense underperforms, they will be passing the ball a lot on the other side of the ball.
Olave will likely not have a rookie season on par with someone like Ja’Marr Chase, but don’t be surprised if he lands himself in the top-30 or top-25 echelon. If he’s there in rounds five or six, he’s well worth considering adding to your roster.
The Saints Will Have Three Top-30 Receivers
It’s no secret that I have my doubts about Dennis Allen. However, where his weaknesses lie, that’s where you can find advantages in fantasy. If the Saints defense has more holes than Swiss cheese as I expect it will, the offense will have to pass more to keep the pace.
This means plenty of PPR points for their loaded receiving corps. If Michael Thomas can stay healthy and Chris Olave lives up to the hype, those are already two safe bets to land in the top 30. Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith already have familiarity in this system and with a hopefully stable quarterback situation, their home run ability could land them in the same area, as well.
If the Saints prove to be the playoff hopefuls the front office and coaching staff clearly think they are, expect a lot of big-time passing numbers from this offense. Whether the third receiver that lands in this group is Smith, Callaway, or another unexpected name remains to be seen but it certainly requires a close eye on the waiver wire as the first few weeks progress during the 2022 Saints season.