Since Drew Brees has taken over for Aaron Brooks in 2006, the Saints have finished first, fourth, first, first, sixth, and first in total yards of offense. (Obvious hat-tip to Sean Payton, who also came into the organization in 2006.) It's a monster, a juggernaut, and just the fact that they've only won a single Super Bowl is a testament to how hard it is to be a "dynasty" in the modern NFL.
But they're absolutely a scoring dynasty. I almost have to wonder if history will look back at this Saints team in a positive light or only remember the scandal that has cost the coach a year of his job and several other front office and team members quite a bit of game time during suspensions.
It's a shame in part because this defense was hardly dominant. The Saints are all about putting points on you and they don't need a financial incentive to do so. It's just at the will of Brees and the rest of the offense that they're better than you, they can beat you, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
There will be a number of changes around this team, not only from suspension, but as they sort out the backfield hierarchy and who will step up in the place of Robert Meachem, fantasy owners have some valid questions of their own. Will Darren Sproles repeat? Will Jimmy Graham make his mark as the actual best tight end in football?
Let's take a look:
2011 Record: 13-3
Drafted Skill Players: Nick Toon, WR (4th)
Dearly Departed: Robert Meachem
When you look at a player like Matt Ryan and think "Yeah, he's good but he's no Brees" remember that Brees wasn't always Brees. Well, he was always himself and you may not even have the same thoughts as I do, but in terms of the Hall of Fame QB we see today, he wasn't that.
Between 2004-2007: 65.6% completions, 247 yards per game, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions per season, 94.1 QB rating with two seasons in San Diego and two in New Orleans.
Between 2008-2011: 68.7% completions, 310 yards per game, 37 touchdowns and 16 interceptions per season, 101.4 QB rating.
His run over the last four years is nearly unmatchable by any other quarterback in history and he's the perfect player for an offense with the perfect weapons. Despite all the controversy surrounding the Saints, none of it should effect Brees and if anything it may force him to pass more and play a bigger part in scoring as many points possible for a defense that could struggle.
2012 Projection: 70%, 5,200 yards, 40 touchdowns, 16 interceptions.
Backup Chase Daniel had a good preseason and could be a solid option on the waiver wire if anything happened to Brees. That's not likely as Brees has not missed many career games, starting all but one game during his time with the Saints.
Messing with the Saints' running back situation was a fool's errand for the most part last season and only the versatile Sproles really escaped with any fantasy value. He broke the NFL record for all-purpose yards by running, receiving, returning punts and returning kicks with great success. He never rushed or caught for more than 100 yards in any single game but he scored a touchdown in nine different games and consistently had a total right around 80-110 in total yards from scrimmage.
If your league counted punt and kick return yards, you were in serious business. I'm just not sure that he can take the league by surprise again or repeat a 6.9 YPC average.
2012 Projection: 70 rushes for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. 75 catches for 700 yards and 6 touchdowns. 1200-1400 return yards.
This might not have been the best situation for the Heisman winner to prove he can be the real deal at the pro level too. Ingram had just 3.9 yards per carry and seemed to struggle with his goal-line carries. Either way, it's crazy how many running backs the Saints have, considering how often they throw the ball.
All of which suits Pierre Thomas better than it suits Ingram.
2012 Projection: 100 carries, 400 yards, 4 touchdowns.
He had 987 total yards, 50 catches and six touchdowns a year ago. He had 5 carries for 40 yards and 8 catches for 96 yards in the preseason. Comparatively, Ingram had 15 carries for 46 yards.
2012 Projection: 130 carries, 550 yards, 40 catches, 400 yards, 7 touchdowns.
Chris Ivory sticks with the team for another year and undrafted free agent Travaris Cadet came out of nowhere to force himself on the roster out of Appalachian State, rushing for 132 yards and catching 30 passes for 246 yards in the preseason. Is Cadet being molded into a future Sproles?
He's one of the most consistently productive wide receivers in the NFL. Colston is often good for 7-10 catches, 60-120 yards every game and a score every other game. A solid choice as a WR1.
2012 Projection: 85 catches, 1200 yards, 9 touchdowns.
Both are popular choices and plug-and-play receivers in fantasy, for when you've got a WR or two on a bye or injury. Neither are consistent enough or productive enough to rely on for a weekly basis. I have always preferred Moore but Henderson could benefit from the absence of Meachem this season.
Henderson Projection: 35 catches, 550 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Moore Projection: 60 catches, 700 yards, 8 touchdowns.
With Meachem leaving and with this offense passing so much, could someone benefit from his absence? Joe Morgan, Courtney Roby, and Adrian Arrington round out the group. Morgan had 15 catches for 182 yards in the preseason while Roby had 10 for 146. Roby has been around the league since 2005, almost exclusively as a kick returner. Morgan was an undrafted free agent last year that impressed but hit injured reserve prior to the year with a knee injury. If I had to keep an eye on one, it would definitely be Morgan.
The only real concern people seem to have is "Graham or Gronk"? Well, I am not convinced that Aaron Hernandez couldn't outproduce Rob Gronkowski on any given day. Who is going to do that for Jimmy Graham? He's too difficult for opposing defenses to stop and Brees will keep going to him and nobody else for those moments when he's looking for his big tight end.
I'll take Jimmy over any other tight end.
2012 Projection: 100 catches, 1,350 yards, 12 touchdowns.