Another team ended their offseason speculation of direction under center as the Saints signed Jameis Winston to a two-year contract.
Winston was doing everything asked of him prior to tearing his ACL in Week 8. The Saints had a 5-2 record while he was averaging 8.2 yards per pass attempt with 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Winston was actually the top quarterback in fantasy points per attempt (.601) while second in the NFL in EPA per play on his abbreviated sample.
Winston also was living off a completely unsustainable 8.7% touchdown rate, but with the Saints keeping Pete Carmichael in place and finally getting Michael Thomas back on the field, Winston is set back up as a QB2 option that can build off his solid start with the Saints in 2021.
Ab area of concern is Winston averaged 3.2 rushing points per game (15th), while rushing production accounted for 19.3% of his fantasy output (16th). Coming off the ACL, banking on any rushing production is compromised.
Winston also received a short-term deal worth $21 million, which could still leave the door open for Taysom Hill to lurk behind any struggles that occur, but Hill never actually threatened Winston under center with Winston healthy a year ago.
Michael Thomas is someone that I have viewed as undervalued this entire offseason.
Thomas has appeared in just seven games the past two seasons while missing all of 2021, leaving him as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind fantasy entity while he will be coming back to a team without Drew Brees or Sean Payton. But with Carmichael staying, Thomas still has a playcaller that understands where he excels.
Just 17.5% of Thomas’s career targets have come from passers other than Brees, but Thomas has remained a hyper-efficient target no matter who the quarterback has been. We have a 12-game sample of Thomas playing without Brees (or Brees missing significant time) over the course of his career and there as some pros and cons.
The first and obvious pro is that Thomas remained a target magnet. Thomas received a gaudy 32.1% of the team targets with seven or more targets in every game but one (which also happened to be the infamous Kendall Hinton game).
Thomas had at least five receptions in 10 of those 12 weeks with eight or more grabs in eight games. The downside is he has scored just three touchdowns total in those games and has never been strong at creating his own touchdowns on raw athleticism. Of his 32 receiving scores, 20 have come from inside of the 10-yard line and 15 from five yards and in.
The days of Thomas being someone who pushes for the WR1 overall may have passed, but he can still be a viable source of opportunity with limited surrounding threats in his way to a gaudy target share.
If looking for a deeper dart, Deonte Harty (formerly Harris) had a strong connection with Winston. Winston and Harty connected on 12-of-16 targets (75%) for 236 yards (14.8 yards per target) with a 130.2 rating. Winston targeted Harty on 23.2% of his routes.
While Harty is still a deep flyer, he carries end-of-best-ball-draft appeal for his ability to provide splash plays.
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