After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…
Today we kick off the NFC South and those New Orleans Saints.
How Did Last Season Go?
In short, the regular season was pretty spectacular. Week 1 brought an unexpected loss to Ryan Fitzpatrick led Bucs in a shootout but after that, the Saints went on an absolute tear, winning the next 10 straight games. These ten games included sweeping the Falcons, blow out wins against the Giants, Redskins, Bengals and Eagles and a win against fellow NFC titans, the L.A. Rams. The Saints were absolutely flying.
Only Dallas and the Panthers beat the Saints the rest of the season and the Saints played their back ups in week 17 versus Carolina.
The Saints finished 13-3 (matching a franchise record) and secured home advantage throughout the postseason, eight of their players were voted into the Pro Bowl and five of whom were voted either first or second team All-Pro. Not too shabby.
Ultimately though, the Saints didn’t make the Superbowl… but of course, you already knew that. Everyone knows that and why they didn’t.
The NFC Championship game, a rematch against the Rams was marred by controversy, a pass interference call by Nickell Robey-Coleman on Tommylee Lewis with less than 2 minutes remaining. It was a awful missed call and one that the NFL actually ended up apologising for it a couple of weeks later.
Cap space: $18.6m
Draft picks (6): Round 2, 62nd overall, round 5, 168th overall, round 6, 177th & 202nd overall, round 7, 231st & 244th overall
First up, veteran center, Max Unger hung ‘em up after a decade in the league, which will be a big loss to the Saints and Brees as he’ll need to acclimatise to a new backside when taking the ball at the snap.
The most notable free agent loss for New Orleans have been Mark Ingram, which means there’s a new head on their two headed running monster (but more on that later). Alex Okafor has headed to Kansas City to replace Dee Ford, with other notable losses on defense being Kurt Coleman and Manti Te’o.
On offense the Saints are now without the aforementioned Tommylee Lewis, Dez Bryant, although, I’d have to query whether he was ever really there and a tight end older than time itself, Ben Watson.
So essentially, outside of Unger and Ingram the Saints are no worse off…
Because Nick Easton has come in to be that new backside that Drew Brees has to get acquainted with and Latavius Murray is the new thunder to Alvin Kamara’s lightning.
Malcolm Brown has come in from New England, to fill the void that Sheldon Rankins’ achilles injury will leave, Mario Edward replaced Okafor and Marcus Sherels has come in to add corner depth.
The Saints have very much made a bunch of like for like deals as they pretty much just back themselves to be the best team in the South and one of the best teams in the conference again by just being themselves… which is an awfully privileged position to be in… but then again, when you have Brees, Kamara and Michael Thomas on offense you don’t need to change too much, especially because your offensive line is very good and your head coach is one the the best offensive lines to ever do it.
(The defense isn’t bad either).
Another reason why the Saints are going to be pretty much the same as last year is because they have next to no draft capital to spend this year. Marcus Davenport better be worth it…
One pick in the drafts top 167 picks is leaving the cupboard bearer than bear. It’s destitute, when considering they only own a 2nd rounder in that time, and at 62nd overall, it’s almost a third. Not all is lost but GM, Mickey Loomis is either going to have to get super creative in Indy come draft weekend or pretty much take the first two days off and take the best player available at 62.
Outlook For Next Year
The movement of players in and out of the building isn’t going to make the Saints much better or worse in my book, so we’re looking at a really good team again.
Drew Brees is going to be playing what most expect to be his retirement tour too, so expect him to be putting it all on the line.
As for the opponents, the Saints play the NFC West and the AFC South as well as the Bears and Cowboys in 2019. There’s plenty of tasty games amongst that lot, especially another game against the Rams! Then there will be the small matter of 6 divisional games too and if Bruce Arians’ hire has a positive impact, there will certainly be no comfortable games in the division next year at all!
12-4. I think the Saints will probably win the division and go close to reaching a Superbowl again. I’m sure a lot of NFL fans would join me in saying that if your team isn’t going to or doesn’t win the Superbowl, then it’d be pretty cool for Drew Brees to win another. That’ll be the aim of everyone in New Orleans in 2019.
Alvin Kamara is going to be an extremely valuable commodity next year no matter what format of fantasy football you play and he’ll be a top 5 pick no matter what.
I’m a massive Michael Thomas fan, I think he’s a top 5 wide receiver in the game and he’s Brees’ favourite target so again, he’ll be extremely valuable in 2019 and will be amongst the first receivers taken too. So that’ll cement him into being taken at the end of the first round or early second, depending on how big your league is… However, if you’re in a bit more of a casual league, I reckon you’ll be able to get him s big later on, no much, but a little bit. New Orleans isn’t the biggest market and I can see more casual fans gravitating towards bigger names like Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown before Thomas. Mental, I know.
Latavius Murray will be a decent mid rounds RB2/RB3, as he’ll get plenty of touches as the Saints mix up the pace.
Jared Cook is a reasonable TE2 or streaming option (depending on how you draft tight ends) and at time of writing was on the verge of signing with the Saints… although, one Robert James Gronkowski (no idea if his middle name is actually James), just retired last night so the Patriots will be looking at a new tight end and could be a last minute option for Cook.
Outside of that lot, I think you can do worse than a late round flier on Tre’Quan Smith when you’re filling out your roster too. The former 3rd round pick out of UCF, averaged over 15 Yards per catch and had 5 scores last year as a part timer. That could have been a trial to see if he can run as the WR2, next to Thomas. I think Smith can make the step up so I’ll probably be one of those guys looking to scoop him up at the start of the double digit rounds.