The single most important three hours of the year is approaching. The three hour window that will determine bragging rights between your friends and coworkers for the rest of the year. The three hour window that separates the men from the boys, the weak from the strong, and the sports fanatics from the fair weather fan.

I’m talking, of course, about your league’s fantasy football draft. Fantasy football is right around the corner, and if you’re not preparing for it right now…. Well, then you probably accidently clicked on this site. Move along, nothing to see here.

But for those of you who are getting ready for fantasy football, we here at hoopdat thought it’d be instructive to take a look at all of the fantasy relevant players on the Saints roster and tell you who could be a steal and who’s going to be a bust. Enjoy! (Note: Andrew is writing this article, so all view points except for the “Mason’s projection” are his own…. and likely wrong)

Drew Brees – QB

Coming off of a Superbowl MVP, last season was actually a bit of a letdown for Drew. He threw a career high 22 interceptions, tied a career high with nine fumbles, and generally looked just a bit off. Some have speculated that a midseason MCL injury may have thrown him off a bit. Of course, weaker than expected for Drew was still world class for anyone else, as he had a 90.9 QB rating and threw for 4,620 yards and 33 TDs.

ESPN currently has Drew rated as the third overall QB, just behind Mike Vick and just ahead of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. We think this looks about right, though lingering questions about the health of his wide outs and the ability of the offensive line to gel together leave us a bit concerned. Another thing to keep in mind is the depth of the Saints’ running game this season, which may result in a slightly heavier reliance on the run than last year.

Our take – Fairly Valued

ESPN’s Projection – 3rd overall QB, 281 points, 34 TDs, 15 picks, 4516 yards

My Projection – 4th overall QB, 284 points, 34 TDs, 14 picks, 4620 yards

Mason’s Projection – 4th overall QB, 281 points, 35 TDs, 15 INTs, 4400 yards

Running Backs

Given how Coach Payton likes to constantly mix his RBs up, this (and wideout) are much more difficult positions to forecast than for most teams. However, with great uncertainty comes great opportunity, and for fantasy footballers brave enough to venture into one of these players, the upside could be great.

Mark Ingram

The rookie has been impressive in training camp so far, and he received several touches in the red zone during the Saints first preseason game. ESPN currently has Ingram rated as the 28th overall running back, just behind Shonn Greene and Fred Jackson but ahead of Daniel Thomas and Marshawn Lynch.

Given Ingram’s talent level, his reportedly impressive training camp, and the fact the Saints traded into the first round to pick him up, we’d be surprised if the Saints didn’t make a serious effort to get Ingram involved in the offense. This means there could be some serious upside / sleeper potential to Ingram’s pick.

Our take – slightly undervalued / nice sleeper

ESPN projections – 28th overall RB, 197 carries, 869 yards, 8 TDs, 15 receptions, 103 yards, 1 fumble, 142 points

My projection – 22nd overall RB, 205 carries, 910 yards, 10 TDs, 20 receptions, 150 yards, 0 fumbles, 166 points

Mason’s projection – 25th overall RB, 210 carries, 917 yards, 10 TDs, 17 receptions, 118 yds, 3 fumbles, 154 points

Pierre Thomas

PT is coming off an injury plagued campaign that ended in offseason ankle surgery. He’s a solid back whose “no-nonsense, straight ahead” running style (in stark contrast to Reggie’s “dance around” style) and toughness quickly made him a fan favorite. Unfortunately, in a crowded backfield like the Saints this year, a player like PT is often the one who gets lost in the shuffle.

Pierre Thomas just doesn’t make much sense on a risk / reward basis to us at these levels. Most likely case, you’re getting someone who will struggle to be your third best fantasy running back. Combine that with the likelihood of him losing carries to Ingram as the season wears on and some injury risk, and we’re putting PT on the “avoid” list, though we’d love it if he proved us wrong.

Our take – Avoid

ESPN projections – 32nd overall, 152 carries, 702 yards, 5 TDs, 31 receptions, 245 yards, 2 TDs, 1 fumble, 134 points

My projection – 38th overall, 140 carries, 650 yards, 6TDs, 26 receptions, 150 yards, 2 Tds, 0 fumbles, 128 points

Mason’s projection – 39th overall, 135 carries, 628 yards, 6 TDs, 25 receptions, 172 yards, 1 TD, 2 fumbles, 117 points

Wideouts / TEs

The Saints have some nice talent at wideout, which is great for Saints fans but terrible for fantasy owners. Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around, which makes picking one week’s standout fantasy player a nightmare for owners. That said, here’s our best thinking.

Marques Colston

Colston is probably the biggest gamble in the draft. He’s had three surgeries on his right knee in the past 12 months and has already missed a bit of preseason time recovering from the most recent surgery. So your downside is the injury nags him throughout the season and causes him to miss significant amounts of time. On the other hand, the upside is huge. Colston is every QBs dream red zone target- he’s big and strong and excellent at bringing down jump balls. Colston has led the Saints in wideout targets four of the past five years and been at least seventh in the NFL in red zone targets three of the past four years, so he clearly has a connection with Drew Brees.

This is a tough call to make. If he’s healthy, it’s not hard to see Colston returning to pro-bowl caliber form. Personally, I was calling for him to lead the league in TD catches this season, and he could do that if healthy. For those of willing to roll the dice, Colston is just what the doctor ordered…. but be advised it’s a big roll of the dice, and more conservative owners should stay away.

Our take – High risk / high reward

ESPN projection – 16th WR overall, 71 Catches, 1005 yards, 8 TDs, 1 fumble, 146 points

My projection (best case scenario) – 5th overall, 104 catches, 1260 yards, 12 TDs, 0 fumbles, 198 points

My projection (worst case scenario) – only makes it on the field for three games, leaves before half time in two of them.

Mason’s Projection - 13th WR overall, 72 receptions, 992 yards, 10 TDs, 1 fumble, 157 points

Robert Meachem

Saints fans keep waiting for Meachem to make the leap. It’s clear all the tools are there, but something you can’t quite put your finger on is always missing.

Well, HoopDat is here to tell you- this is the year for Meachem. It’s his fourth year in the league, and it’s a contract year for him. We’re anticipating big things for Meachem, as he pushes Colston for the top wideout spot and enjoys a breakout season.

Our take – way undervalued / big sleeper

ESPN projection – 39th WR overall, 47 catches, 661 yards, 7 TDs, 1 fumble, 110 points

My projection – 15th WR overall, 62 catches, 940 yards, 10 TDs, 0 fumbles, 154 points

Mason’s projection - 22nd overall, 68 catches,1009 yards, 6 TDs, 3 fumbles, 130 points

Jimmy Graham

Second year TE Jimmy Graham comes into the season with big expectations placed on him, as he’ll have to step into the volatile shoes of departed TE Jeremy Shockey. Graham is a super athletic big man with a basketball background who walked onto the University of Miami football team his senior year of college, got drafted the next year, showed some real flashes of promise during his first season, and is now the team’s top TE.

I’ll be honest: I’m buying everything this guy is selling. We saw what Antonio Gates could do with his background as a basketball player and athleticism, and I think Graham’s upside is somewhere close to Gates…. But that’s still a few years down the line. Still, with another training camp under his belt and some more football experience, we think he’s at least a solid starter with huge upside potential.

Our take – undervalued / sleeper

ESPN’s projection – 11th overall TE, 59 receptions, 690 yards, 6 TDs, 0 fumbles, 105 points

My projection – 6th overall TE, 65 receptions, 675 yards, 10 TDs, 0 fumbles, 128 points

Mason’s projection – 7th overall TE, 68 receptions, 743 yards, 8 TDs, 1 fumble, 120 points

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