Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
With the NFC East and NFC North under my belt, now is time to focus on one of the toughest divisions in the NFL; the NFC South. And the Buccaneers won't make it any easier with all the offensive changes the team made in the offseason, more on that later..
New Orleans Saints
When you think of the Saints offense, and ultimately one of their true fantasy football studs, one only has to look at QB Drew Brees. Despite being overlooked by owners for either QB Peyton Manning or QB Aaron Rodgers, Brees continues to put up yearly stats that are equal or even a bit better than the two. Coming off three-straight 5,000+ passing yard seasons and 128 total passing touchdowns in that same span, the lack of a true running game in New Orleans' backfield will solidify Brees' status as a top-3 fantasy quarterback once again in 2014. Like other high-valued fantasy stars I have written about in other team articles, there really isn't much else I can say that could devalue Brees' worth in any league format. The addition of rookie WR Brandin Cooks, along with mainstays like TE Jimmy Graham, can only make Brees a better player. As for his current fantasy value; Brees continues to remain in the shadows of Manning and Rodgers as the No. 3 quarterback drafted, according to his current ADP. This is mainly due to the news that HC Sean Payton wants to run a more ball-controlled offense. If Manning and Rodgers were gone, I'd have no problems taking Brees over the likes of QB Andrew Luck and QB Matthew Stafford. Brees' passing numbers can take a bit of a dip and he'd still be worth more.
The running back situation is a whole different ball game when it comes to fantasy football. The depth chart currently looks like this:
Some have Ingram No. 1, but it really doesn't matter. All three players will see playing time.
It will be interesting to see how this new-ish backfield will be ran after RB Darren Sproles signed with the Eagles. Sproles wasn't much of a factor in the running game, but his 71 receptions from 2013 will be missed.
Ingram reportedly opened up training camp running with the first-string offense. This really doesn't mean much. Especially so early in camp. Ingram hasn't done much since being drafted in 2011. It's hard to think he'll turn into a relevant fantasy option after all this time. Ingram should wind up with some short-yardage duties and could steal goal-line carries, which does give him some value. Although, I consider him nothing more than an RB4 given his past stats and his inability to stay on the field in passing situations.
RB Pierre Thomas is the guy most fantasy football owners will want to draft, especially in PPR leagues. Even with Sproles, Thomas totaled 1062 total yards and hauled in a whopping 77 catches last season, doubling his 39 receptions from 2012. Thomas will continue to be a nice pickup in PPR leagues, but don't overvalue him in non-PPR formats. He shouldn't eclipse more than 500-550 rushing yards with Ingram and RB Khiry Robinson expected to get more of the rushing workload. View Thomas as a strong RB3 where receptions matter, but his value drops if catches aren't scored in your league.
Some predict Robinson to be one of this year's breakout candidates, but it's hard to see how that can come to fruition when you have two other running backs vying for time in the backfield. He ran extremely well in the Saints' two playoff games, rushing 21 times for 102 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles and Seahawks, but he's too unknown to be drafted before the season. I prefer him more as a dynasty option, with a waiver wire spot in redraft leagues until either Thomas or Ingram miss time with injuries.
It should come as no surprise that the biggest news of the Saints' offseason was the arbitration between TE Jimmy Graham and the Saints in regards to whether or not Graham should be franchise tagged as a tight end or receiver. The Saints wound up winning the ruling after Graham was declared a tight end (Graham even had it on his Twitter bio), but it didn't matter after both sides agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract. $21 million of that being guaranteed. In recent years, Graham had been in a feud with TE Rob Gronkowski as fantasy football's top tight end. That debate has come to a close, with Gronk having played in just 18 games the past two seasons. Health will scare any owner off.
Along with his No. 1 tight end status, Graham is sitting at a cushy No. 8 overall in fantasy football's overall top 10. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He accounted for 16 scores and over 1200 receiving yards in 2013. Expect him to be drafted ahead of a majority of WR1s moving forward.
Graham's fantasy value is going up, but cornerstone WR Marques Colston is clearly starting to fall. While he isn't off the fantasy radar completely, nagging foot problems have continued to make him an iffy redraft option. His four-year streak of 1,000+ receiving yards was snapped in 2013 after accumulating 943 yards. His five touchdowns were cut in half from 2012. Graham's status as the team's new No. 1 "receiver" doesn't help. Colston should no longer be viewed as a WR2. It's simply too risky. He's a much safer WR3 with a tad more upside if he can keep his health in check.
WR Kenny Stills is expected to be the No. 2 receiver, but that could change if rookie Cooks continues putting on a show in practice. Reports from several outlets have Cooks playing lights out in spring practices and training camp. Teammates have noticed he plays at a whole different speed than the offense, with Brees stating to the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
"Here's a guy who's obviously extremely talented. But more so than that, very intelligent. You get this feeling that he wants to be great, he loves football, he wants to learn. Every time he comes up to me, it's eyes wide. Feed me, feed me information. He absorbs it very quickly and goes out and applies it."
Cooks is currently the No. 3, but don't be surprised if he starts eating into Stills' playing time. A gadget player, many have predicted Cooks as the top rookie to win Rookie of the Year honors. His chemistry with Brees is clearly through the roof.
The bad news for fantasy football owners is that Cooks is no longer at sleeper level. His ADP is currently at the mid-to-late seventh round, with Stills coming in at the top of the 11th. Cooks has WR3 value, with a hell of a lot more upside than both Stills and Colston combined. Stills is better off as a low-tier WR4 due to Cooks and also his extremely inconsistent 2013 season.