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What You Need to Know:
-- No Saints #2 WR has topped 70 targets since 2017.
-- Sanders has finished 6 of the past 7 years among the top 33 PPR wideouts.
-- Drew Brees has led the league in completion rate each of the past 3 years.
-- New Orleans’ WR corps is due for a rebound in target volume.
Saints Weakness at WR2
In the 4 years since Michael Thomas entered the league, he has provided the 4 largest target totals by a Saint.
There have been just 4 other seasons of 100+ looks by a Saint in that span: 2 by Alvin Kamara, and the 2016 totals for Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead.
Behind those target totals sit Kamara’s 2019 (97 targets in 14 games) and Coby Fleener’s 2016 (81 targets). The next non-2016 WR season: Ted Ginn Jr.’s 70 targets in 2017.
That’s why the Saints signed Sanders this offseason, because their wideouts haven’t cut it over the past 3 years.
The #2 WR in targets last season was Ginn at 56. Next behind him: Tre’Quan Smith at just 25 targets over 11 games (2.3 per contest). He beat Taysom Hill by just 3 targets for the season.
A Reliable Vet
Enter Sanders, who has eclipsed 90 targets in 7 straight seasons, averaging 125 per 16 games over that span. He has also finished 6 of those 7 seasons inside the top 33 among PPR scorers at the position.
Pro Football Focus graded Sanders 23rd among 221 receivers last season and 24th among 215 the year before. And those campaigns ranked just 5th and 4th in receiving grade among his 10 seasons.
Drew Brees has a way of elevating pass-catchers. He has led the league in completion rate in each of the past 3 seasons. He has finished each of the past 5 seasons among the top 10 in yards per pass attempt, with 4 of those landing him among the top 7. Brees just set a career high in TD rate in his age-40 season, after delivering his 5th-highest rate at 39.
Sanders got to play with 2014 Peyton Manning in Denver (39 TD passes). But his QBs since have included Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Jimmy Garoppolo.
So maybe we can’t say for sure that age-41 Brees will be the best QB Sanders has played with. But he’ll at least mark a significant upgrade over the past 5 seasons.
The New Situation
Sanders obviously doesn’t have a shot at approaching the #1 WR spot unless Michael Thomas goes down. Thomas led the league by a wide margin with his 31.8% target share last season and cracked 28% the previous year (though he ranked just 3rd in the NFL then).
But New Orleans wideouts saw the 5th-lowest target share in the league last season. Only Minnesota, Philly, Baltimore and Oakland threw fewer passes to wideouts. The 47.7% share for Saints receivers marked their smallest cut since 2014, predating Michael Thomas.
Expect that slice of the pie to grow in 2020, leaving room for Thomas to continue his control of the situation while also allowing for Sanders to achieve fantasy relevance.
It can only help the situation that both Sanders and Thomas sport the ability to run from the slot. That makes it easier for HC Sean Payton to vary alignments while keeping his top 2 WRs involved.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Barring a flashy preseason, Sanders doesn’t seem likely to climb beyond WR4 range in ADP. The efficiency that comes with drawing Drew Brees targets plus Sanders’ already productive history easily combine to give him upside at least into WR3 range -- if not beyond. He’s a good addition in your WR4 spot and offers nice weekly upside to a best-ball lineup.