Sep 10, 2007
By Jim Coventry
One game has been played this season and nothing should be determined about this or future seasons based on such a small sample size, but if you’ve been reading my posts, you’ve probably recognized a theme: I try to put the reader into thinking mode about the keeper issues of the day.
So, today will be no exception to my philosophy.
Going into this season, the key Saints players were considered great options for keeper leagues and redraft leagues alike, and most likely, that consideration has been earned. I had my own questions about the Saints as the season went on last year and I think now is as good a time as any to share those concerns. What I hope the reader will do is hear my take on these players and hold it up to your opinions and make a good decision on each of them.
First of all, I have seen many amazing things happen in the course of my life when people had a cause to rally behind. My first significant memory was the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team, which faced insurmountable odds to win the gold medal. If you’re too young to remember that team, you may have seen the Disney movie, Miracle. You may have thought the movie was fact mixed with Hollywood exaggeration, but if you thought that, you thought wrong. The miracle was definitely a miracle. Picking one other thing that most everyone should remember was the game after Brett Favre’s (QB, GB) father passed away. Despite tremendous grief, he completed 22 of 30 for 399, 4 TDs and 0 INTs for a passer rating of 154.9, which was 20 rating points higher than any game he played this millennium. You’ve probably figured out where I am going with this, and if you guessed the 2006 New Orleans Saints, that’s exactly where I am going.
When I was assessing the Saints before last season, I had plenty of reservations, especially since I saw them as a team that wouldn’t win more than five games. I thought that they would pummel the Falcons on the night the Superdome was reopened and if I were a gambler, I would’ve bet the mortgage on that game. I knew that the Saints would play for Katrina and the entire city that evening, and even if the AFC all-pro team were the opponent, the Saints would have won. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that they could keep that intensity up over a full season. Had they played the NFC championship game at home, I have no doubt they would have been in the super bowl and probably would have won that as well. That said, the Saints no longer have Katrina to play for (at least the newness of it and the re-opening of the stadium), and I think that the team and many of its players will come back to earth this year. Here is my player-by-player analysis:
Drew Brees (QB, NO) overcame amazing odds returning so strongly from rotator cuff surgery to have an incredibly productive season. Brees had shown much of that brilliance while in San Diego, so it is not unreasonable to see him as a cornerstone of a keeper franchise. That said, expecting about 80%- 90% of that production might be the norm for him from here on out, which would make him a top-6 QB, instead of a top-3. Brees’ QB rating was pretty consistent from 2004-2006, but his passing yardage last year was up 25% from his highest total. Instead of 4,400 yards, 3,900 might be more reasonable to expect.
Reggie Bush (RB, NO) was seen as the next greatest thing coming out of USC and explosive speed is not something that can be faked at the NFL level. Bush’s skills are very real and he was probably the least affected player by the emotional high the team was on, because he was too busy trying to learn his way around the NFL. If you are in a PPR league, Bush is a potential gold mine- a poor man’s Marshall Faulk of the early millennium. If your league isn’t PPR, he should be in the top-12 (worst case scenario) for years to come.
Marques Colston (WR, NO) is the one player that leaps out at me as one that might have been an illusion. When Colston is often described, the words athletic and acrobatic come to mind, but the words that are not really mentioned are explosive and fast. Two things that a franchise WR in fantasy normally needs to be. While I watched film on Colston, he reminded me a lot of Brandon Lloyd (WR, Was) when he was starting to break out in San Francisco at the beginning of 2005 (before they switched the QB to Alex Smith.) Lloyd was making the same types of plays that Colston was making last year. As I did my research, I realized that WRs generally don’t do well as rookies, with a very few exceptions, but seventh round picks definitely never do that. The play calling for the Saints, as well as the execution, was flawless and I thought that Colston was the biggest beneficiary of the magical year- perhaps he was even the poster child for it.
Deuce McAllister (RB, NO) peaked in 2003, when he ran for 4.7 YPR, but he decreased in each of the following two years (4.0 in 2004 & 3.6 in 2005.) After tearing his ACL in 2005, and after two straight years of decline, it was pretty easy to predict that he would fall another couple of tenths per carry, but that did not happen as McAllister went up to a 4.3 YPR! I’m sure the pressure of being pushed by the rookie (Bush) was great motivation, but the man was not even a year removed from ACL surgery. It seemed like Deuce was another poster child of the Katrina emotion.
So, if you’ve already bought into the Saints as part of your keeper team, I suggest you keep a close eye on them as the first half of the season moves on. If you feel that your player(s) is doing fine, at least you were paying attention and you move on happily with your great player(s). But if you see the ‘Blues on the Bayou,’ you might be wise to trade off some of your Saints while others wait for them to bounce back and you can maximize trade value.