The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. And we're finally near the end. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings are not to be questioned.
Let there be no mistake, this is a gutless ranking.
It would be fairly shocking if New Orleans didn't have one of the NFL's elite offenses in 2008. In fact, an argument can be made that fifth is almost a worst-case scenario.
The Saints led the NFL in yards per game in 2006 (391.5) and they were fourth in 2007 (361.3). They had the league's best red zone touchdown percentage last year (72.0) and they'll face a user-friendly schedule in 2008 (.449). Sean Payton has been a rather incredible friend to the fantasy community, and he isn't likely to disappoint us this season.
Payton's offense has attempted over 1,200 passes in just two years, which is an absurd number. That approach has led to 8,841 passing yards and 54 TDs for Drew Brees, the No. 3 quarterback in our preseason ranks. Brees hasn't missed a game over the past three seasons, he'll throw more passes than any other QB, and the Saints receiving corps has clearly improved (details below). It's tough to argue that any quarterback selected in the first three rounds of a fantasy draft is a bargain, but if that's true of anyone, it's Brees (ADP 28.0).
He'll have an impressive collection of draft-worthy receivers in 2008. We'll review them here in descending order of projected targets. (You'll want to follow that link, then bookmark. That's some good Buser).
• Marques Colston, 146 projected looks. At 6'4" and 230 pounds, he's an excellent red zone target (19 TDs in 30 games) who tends to absorb some big hits. The bruised ribs are apparently a non-issue, though. Colston is seventh in the preseason WR ranks, and he's certainly a contender to emerge as the position's top-scorer.
• Jeremy Shockey, 105 looks. There was simply not a better situation available to Shockey this offseason. You might recall that Brees has worked well with elite tight ends in the past. Note the drop in receptions for Antonio Gates when Brees left San Diego. It would of course be nice to see Shockey play 16 games. He's never done it in any of his six NFL seasons, and he's returning (slowly) from a broken leg.
• Robert Meachem, 90 looks. Meachem is everybody's favorite second-year sleeper wide receiver. When he's selected in drafts, the next two words in chat are invariably "Nice pick." Unless it's just one word: "Noooooo!" Meachem is a big-play threat, to say the very least. If you'd like evidence of his playmaking ability, check the highlights at 1:50 and 2:25 in this NFL.com video. There's a depth chart pileup involving Devery Henderson and Lance Moore, but Meachem has the clear edge in terms of upside. His ADP at Mock Draft Central is 158.0, so there's very little risk associated with the pick.
• David Patten, 85 looks. If you don't expect the 34-year-old Patten to improve on last year's numbers (54 receptions, 792 yards, 3 TDs), then you won't be disappointed. Think of him as a bye-week option, not a top-45 receiver. And we don't care what the AP says.
OK, we're already up to 426 looks, and we haven't even factored in Reggie Bush. He has 161 receptions in just 28 career games. Buser's math can still work, though, because the Saints attempted over 40 passes per game in 2007.
If you're drafting in a points-per-reception league, Bush needs to be a mid- to late-second round pick. (This depends a little on the exact scoring system, but you get the general point: he receives a PPR bump). Bush is an explosive player with great balance and remarkably quick feet, but contact isn't really his thing. Neither is health.
Bush tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last year, and he's experienced some swelling in the same knee during the exhibition season. But still, he's playing. There's little doubt he has the talent to outperform his ADP (30.5). He was considered a massive disappointment in '07, but he still gained 998 combined yards in just 12 games. A few more touchdowns would be appreciated.
The other backfield names of interest are Deuce McAllister and Pierre Thomas. The fact that McAllister is playing on those rebuilt knees is encouraging, but the results haven't been spectacular. He had six carries for nine yards in Saturday's preseason victory over the Bengals, and his longest gain went for two yards.
Thomas, an undrafted 23-year-old, doesn't have the brand name, but he's the appropriate handcuff to Bush. Thomas had five carries for 46 yards on Saturday, and five receptions for 35. Those of you who were involved in Week 17 fantasy championships last season are already familiar with his work. Thomas carried 20 times against the Bears for 105 yards, and he added 12 receptions for 121 and a touchdown. The Saints still lost that game, however, because Devin Hester is awesome and Chicago was not especially concerned with draft position.
The Saints defense won't be drafted in most fantasy leagues. They were one of only seven undrafted DEFs in a 20-team league of mine. There are injuries on the line already (Brian Young and Hollis Thomas), and LB Mark Simoneau has a back issue. The best New Orleans IDP options are LB Jonathan Vilma (115 tackles in '06), DB Roman Harper (90 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 INTs), and DE Will Smith (66 tackles, 7.0 sacks).
2007 New Orleans team stats
Rushing: 91.6 Y/G
Passing: 269.6 Y/G
Points per game: 23.7
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 50, 36
'08 Schedule strength: .449
The rest of the Index...
32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia, 9) Pittsburgh, 8) Green Bay, 7) NY Giants, 6) Cleveland, 5) New Orleans
Photos via Getty Images
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