Saints' Top Players to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistAugust 4, 2021

Saints' Top Players to Target in Fantasy Football Drafts

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints are going through a generational shift on offense for the 2021 NFL season.

    With Drew Brees retired, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are competing for the starting quarterback role. Winston should get the nod because of his previous starting experience. 

    Even though there is some skepticism about how Brees' replacement will perform, there is still the potential for big numbers out of the Saints offense because of their skill-position players. 

    Alvin Kamara is poised for another big season in both facets of the offense, and he should be off the board in the first round in fantasy football drafts. 

    Michael Thomas' fantasy presence comes with more hesitancy because of his recent ankle surgery. If he is healthy, Thomas is one of the best No. 1 wide receivers in the league. 

    New Orleans has a handful of intriguing players around Kamara and Thomas, but none of them enter the season as established fantasy contributors. Latavius Murray is the most experienced player of that group, but his production is limited at best when Kamara is on the gridiron. 

Alvin Kamara

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Kamara is hands down the top fantasy prospect on the Saints roster. 

    The running back resides in the top tier of players at his position, and he could be gone as early as the No. 3 or No. 4 overall pick in fantasy drafts. 

    Kamara's top competition for a high selection will be Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Derrick Henry. He could slide a few places if some unexpected selections occur. 

    Kamara is coming off a 21-touchdown season. He has 14 and 16 rushing touchdowns in two of his last three seasons. 

    He is a valuable asset in points-per-reception leagues since he has over 100 targets in three of his four NFL seasons. 

    In 2020, Kamara caught 83 of his 107 targets for 856 yards. He should receive a similar workload in 2021 as the Saints try to organize their depth chart beneath Thomas. 

    New Orleans has a bunch of promising wideouts for Winston or Hill to work with, but until they prove themselves over a stretch of games, there could be more reliance on Kamara through the air. 

    As long as he is healthy, Kamara should produce some of the highest totals of any running back. 

Michael Thomas

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Thomas is the unquestioned No. 1 wide receiver in New Orleans. 

    However, his fantasy football draft position comes into question because of the preseason ankle surgery he underwent. 

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (h/t reported in July that Thomas "is expected to miss the start of the season" following repair on ligaments in his ankle.

    The loss of Thomas to start September is a major blow to the Saints because he would have been a big help with assimilating the new quarterback into the system in regular-season games. 

    Thomas produced four straight 1,000-yard seasons to begin his NFL career. He had 438 receiving yards over seven games in an injury-affected 2020.

    If Thomas comes back strong from his ankle surgery, he will vault right back up to the top of the wide receiver rankings. A 1,000-yard season is almost certain with how much the Saints will rely on him. 

    Thomas' ankle surgery should affect his fantasy draft status, but if you believe he will come back fine, he could be worth a selection before he takes a massive tumble. 

    An early selection of Thomas is a bet on his health and that he will perform at a high level starting around October. 

Jameis Winston

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The Saints do not have many reliable fantasy options outside of Kamara and Thomas right now. 

    Marquez Callaway, Tre'Quan Smith and other wide receivers will carry more value in the opening weeks while Thomas recovers, but once the top wideout is back, their production should diminish.

    That leaves the starting quarterback as the third-best fantasy option, even if it is interception machine Jameis Winston. 

    Winston lost his starting spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after throwing 30 interceptions in 2019 and Tom Brady revealed interest in joining the franchise. 

    Winston served as Brees' backup last season to gain familiarity with the system, and he should beat out Hill to be the Week 1 starter. 

    He should be a mid-round quarterback at best, and his status could be affected by Thomas' recovery time table since there are not any established wide outs elsewhere on the depth chart. 

    Winston's totals will be boosted by a healthy duo of Kamara and Thomas, but until he proves that he can cut down on the turnovers, he will be a mid-tier signal-caller at best.


    Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.