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Scott Pianowski

Juggernaut Index No. 2: The New Orleans Saints

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.

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2. New Orleans Saints

We know there's going to be a ton of fantasy goodness coming from the Bayou again this season; with Drew Brees(notes) and Sean Payton in place, it's hard to go wrong. But it's a little tricky getting a definitive feel for the other skill players in this offense.

Let's start with the constant in all this, the magnificent Brees. He's been a Top 5 fantasy quarterback for all three of his seasons in New Orleans and he finally got to the top of the heap last year, beating everyone at the position. He's led the league in pass attempts and completions two years running, and he's been tops in yards two out of three seasons. He's missed just one game in five years. You can't make a safer pick at quarterback this year.

But even with Brees's aerial circus, it's not easy to identify a can't-miss wide receiver on this roster. Marques Colston(notes) is a physical and reliable possession receiver but he's no burner; you‘d love him as your fantasy No. 2 WR, but in many formats you‘ll have to pay for him as a No. 1. Devery Henderson(notes) is a dynamite deep threat but at the end of the day, just a one-trick pony. Robert Meachem(notes) routinely dominates football games in August but we've yet to see that carry over to real games. And Lance Moore(notes) probably won't sneak up on anyone again, and his touchdown-to-reception ratio (10 scores, 79 catches) is unlikely to repeat.

For all of Brees's ability, he's not a mad bomber. The strength of this offense is short passing with a few intermediate throws, getting rid of the ball quickly, making good decisions consistently. Brees loves to throw behind the line of scrimmage and between the numbers - the Saints led the league in RB and TE catches last year - but he won't force the ball outside if the play isn't there.

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Perhaps there's a deal to be had on tight end Jeremy Shockey(notes), who reported to camp in shape and has looked good most of the summer. He won't have to worry about Billy Miller(notes) (Achilles, out for the year), and while the Saints did add David Thomas(notes) for depth, he's not capable of beating out Shockey if the veteran is motivated. It's stunning that Shockey couldn't even manage one TD last year despite playing with Brees and the gang, but he just looks like a different player right now. I'm prepared to give Shockey one more chance, how about you?

A leap of faith is definitely needed before you take the plunge on any New Orleans running back. Reggie Bush(notes) hasn't done a lot for a month (just three preseason carries) because of a sore knee and calf. The Saints are downplaying it but fantasy owners remain concerned; this is a back who's missed 10 games in two seasons. If Bush is healthy you at least have a sense of what you're getting; a dynamite satellite player who will catch a bunch of balls, run inconsistently between the tackles, and occasionally break a few big plays. I'm not adverse to playing the Bush card in PPR formats (he's the poster child for a player that gets better in that area), but it's hard to trust him in any sort of traditional league.

We all want to fall madly in love with Pierre Thomas(notes) but he's got his issues as well, mostly a sore knee that kept him out of the final two preseason games. The Saints can't guarantee that Thomas will be a go for the opener, and given that Detroit is waiting on the schedule, we won't fault Payton is he decides it's not worth it to risk Thomas. We'll say this for the snappy PT Cruiser - he looked like the team's best back for just about the entire 2009 season, showing a surprising blend of speed, power and versatility.

And just to make our fantasy live as confusing as possible, Mike Bell(notes) is around. You remember Bell, he was the guy who had 15 seconds of buzz back in Denver with a few solid games in 2006 (4.3 YPC, 8 TD). He made the most of 15 preseason carries (115 yards, one touchdown) and although the Saints aren't in desperate need of a goal-line back, Bell might be an intriguing fit there. In any deep league of 12 owners or more, there's a case to grab Bell late as a stash-and-hope play.

Born on a Bayou: To continue with our "jumbled team" theme, the Saints even have a logjam of sorts at kicker. Garrett Hartley(notes) was in line to get the cushy gig here but a four-game league suspension put the kibosh on that; Hartley was nabbed with the stimulant Adderall in his system. The ancient John Carney(notes) (now 45, sonny) will begin the year as the kicker here and if he's off to a smooth start through four games, it's possible the Saints might opt to leave well enough alone. Hartley was inconsistent during most of the summer anyway . . . Mark Brunell(notes) beat out Joey Harrington(notes) (cut) for the right to back up Brees. Let's hope Brunell never has to take his hat off . . . Brees looked ready to go in the practice games, posting a 132.7 rating over 40 attempts and throwing touchdowns to four different receivers . . . Shockey (8-116, TD) and Meacham (6-177, TD) helped their stock in August, no getting around that . . . Weather won't bother the Saints during the fantasy playoffs; they stay indoors for Weeks 14-16 (at Atlanta, then home with the Cowboys and Bucs).

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Earlier Juggernauts: 32) Oakland, 31) Cleveland, 30) St. Louis, 29) Miami, 28) NY Jets, 27) Baltimore, 26) Washington, 25) San Francisco, 24) Tampa Bay, 23) Kansas City, 22) Detroit, 21) Seattle, 20) Buffalo, 19) Cincinnati, 18) Jacksonville, 17) New York Giants, 16) Tennessee, 15) Pittsburgh, 14) Denver, 13) Chicago, 12) Minnesota, 11) Arizona, 10) Green Bay, 9) Dallas, 8) Carolina, 7) Atlanta, 6) Indianapolis, 5) San Diego, 4) New England, 3) Philadelphia.

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