New Orleans Saints Training Camp: Five Areas to Watch
New Orleans Saints Training Camp officially begins on July 26th, with rookies reporting July 19th. Now is the time of year when your fantasy football draft research should be ramping up, as every team’s camps start up over the next week or so. Teams have added impact free agents as well as rookies from the draft, yet only speculative conjecture can be made from samples of prior years. Not until training camp can we finally get a sense of how 53-man rosters and depth charts may turn out. What that means for fantasy football depends on situation and team. Let’s take a look at five things to watch during New Orleans’ training camp that will help with your upcoming drafts.
Veterans Go Head to Head
The acquisition of Adrian Peterson and rookie Alvin Kamara sent fantasy footballers into a bit of a frenzy with Mark Ingram, top 15 fantasy RB for the past three seasons, remaining in the Saints backfield. Current ADP (via FFC) has AP (4.05/5.04) going a considerable distance ahead of top-dog Ingram (6.05/6.12) in standard/PPR leagues, making this the training camp battle that many are discussing.
Adrian Peterson joins the Saints 32-years-young and after missing the majority of the 2016 season with a knee injury. Reports from coaches and teammates flooded out of OTAs about AP’s skills and burst, as well as his desire to be involved in the receiving game more than previously in his career. However, Ingram and possibly even Kamara are better pass-catchers. Peterson topped 30 receptions just once since 2010, whereas Ingram has averaged 41.7 catches over the past three seasons with Brees. Look to see how the Saints use Peterson during camp, and whether they involve him much in the passing game.
No one will argue over AP’s stellar career and skills; however, I’m yet to be convinced he “hasn’t lost a step” as Saints coaches assert. Keep in mind this is a player who participated in just three games in 2016 and didn’t look like the AP of old. In Weeks 1-2, he averaged 1.6 YPC on 31 attempts. Fantasy owners should look for reports out of training camp about how AP handles running with the first-team offense with pads and contact and gauging if there is any sign they might be signing up for the 2016 version of AP at a fourth- or fifth-round price.
Regarding Ingram, he is no stranger to competition and doesn’t seem very impacted by all the media attention around AP. He is the better pass catcher out of the backfield, has consistent fantasy production (RB2 every week), and is a steal at his current ADP. According to PFF, Ingram scored the fourth-best elusiveness rating among running backs in 2016 (basically, his ability to gain yardage after his blockers do their job). He scored higher than Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy in that metric.
One of the biggest predictors of fantasy success is opportunity, so this will come down to timeshare and efficiency with their touches. I could see drafting Ingram and AP similarly, as we don’t know the extent this will be an RBBC; however, two rounds apart tells me AP’s hype train left the station before people even saw him play in 2017. Thankfully, training camp has arrived.
Even though the buzz tends to center around Ingram versus AP, there’s another battle in town. Rookie, Alvin Kamara, Travaris Cadet, and Daniel Lasco head into training camp to fight for the RB3 role, with the latter two possibly fighting for a final roster spot. News out of New Orleans speculates Cadet will be the odd man out, even though he quietly put up four TDs and 281 yards on 40 catches and had a 7.0 yards per reception rate last season. This is more than we’ve seen from Lasco, who has played five offensive snaps in his NFL career, suffering a head injury in 2016.
Kamara seems to be the lock for RB3 and fantasy drafters are responding as such, giving him an ADP in the 13th round. Pay attention to how Kamara is adjusting to the system, how he performs in full pads and with contact at training camp and how the Saints utilize him.
The Tennessee Volunteers utilized Kamara in much the same way I expect the Saints to use him — a Darren-Sproles-type role. How much opportunity he will get in this backfield is certainly a question mark. The Saints’ attempt to trade Cadet seems like evidence of this plan of usage in 2017, but camp will give us a better read on his NFL-readiness and pass-blocking skills. His speed may also be a factor to watch, as many were disappointed with his 4.56 time at the combine.
Kamara doesn’t particularly hurt Ingram/AP ‘s fantasy value in my eyes, but could steal some receptions out of the backfield. He most likely wins the RB3 role over Cadet.
Thomas, Snead, and ______?
In the absence of Brandin Cooks, we all know who the WR1 and WR2 are in the Saints passing game. The question is whether Ted Ginn, Jr. will solidify his role as WR3 as most assume, and how the Saints will use him in this already weapons-heavy receiving corp.
Training camp will most likely confirm the Saints’ intent to use Willie Snead on the outside in two receiver sets and in the slot when in three receiver sets, where he found great success in 2016 (fourth most yards per route run according to PFF). Ginn could be a great fit to replace the Cooks’ deep threat role and it should not take much to beat out Brandon Coleman, who hasn’t made much of an impact over the past two seasons when given opportunities.
Pay attention to Ginn’s speed and route running at training camp, as he is 32 years old and could be losing a step. How he adjusts to the offense and his chemistry with Brees will also be important to monitor. There are 125 targets available in Cooks’ absence and Ginn possesses the speed to make big-play impact. Over the past four seasons, he averaged 14.9 yards per catch and had a solid 2015 fantasy season in Kelvin Benjamin’s absence, finishing as the WR25 overall.
He isn’t a player you can expect consistent fantasy output from on a weekly basis, but Ginn could definitely have some huge weeks if used the way we expect. Going in the 14th round in most drafts, he represents a late-round flier with some upside.
Progression: Fleener Edition
Fleener didn’t quite live up to the expectations set after accepting a 5-year, 36 million dollar deal last offseason. Well, Fleener didn’t come close. Though he ended the season as the overall #12 fantasy TE, that stat is misleading. He only cracked the top 10 TE in fantasy scoring twice the entire season, which equated to some pretty frustrated fantasy owners on a weekly basis. Explanations include Fleener’s difficulty adjusting to the new offense as well as losing snaps to Josh Hill due to blocking deficiencies.
If Fleener looks good (or at least better, which shouldn’t be hard to accomplish) at training camp, owners would be remiss to not consider snagging him at a value late in drafts simply due to his opportunity in this offense. Currently, his ADP is in the 13-14th rounds according to FFC. Even though his 2016 catch percentage overall was lackluster, he will get targets. Last season, Fleener received 12% of the overall target share and 17% of red zone targets — tied for first with Michael Thomas.
It is unclear whether Josh Hill will return from injury during training camp, but if so, that’s definitely a battle to watch as Hill cut into Fleener’s playing time before breaking his fibula in Week 13. Fleener possesses a ceiling of a TE1 and the floor of a streamer in redraft.
Help Me Out, Breaux
New Orleans Saints defense wasn’t good in 2016 (gasp), but there’s hope they will be somewhat better in 2017. After all, it can’t be that difficult to improve on 31st overall in points allowed, right? The Saints spent high draft capital on top cornerback Marshon Lattimore and free safety Marcus Williams in this year’s draft. Vonn Bell and Kenny Vaccaro are back this season to round out the defensive backs on the Saints, but the name I’m focusing on is Delvin Breaux. He could be a difference maker if he can remain healthy.
Delvin Breaux finished 2015 strong, but broke his fibula in week one of 2016. After returning in Week 9, Breaux struggled until a shoulder injury ended his season in Week 14. Watch at training camp to confirm if Breaux really is 100% healthy, as news out of New Orleans asserts. A strong defense keeps Drew Brees on the field, so fantasy owners should definitely be paying attention to any defensive improvement at the New Orleans Saints training camp.
Find more news out of New Orleans training camp here. Also, be sure to check out all of our training camp reviews and visit TFA for all new content and rankings. Follow me on Twitter Follow @FF_female920 for fantasy football advice and news!