Update August 31: Brees saying Smith could be primed for a breakout year is a good sign. If the 24-year-old wideout has gained the trust of one of the most skilled field generals in the NFL, that bodes well. Brees praised Smith less than a week after Payton spoke out about his potential. His target share is hard to gauge with Emmanuel Sanders in the mix, but he’s one of the more interesting Saints skill players worth considering.
Update August 24: Sean Payton says Smith could be an important part of the offense in 2020, and Emmanuel Butler getting waived improved his chances to be an impact player. His ability to go into traffic to make catches, which adds value.
In this series we will look at the most important fantasy football position battles for each NFL team. Opportunity is king in fantasy, as you can’t produce fantasy statistics without getting on the field. So, the first step when looking for value plays is to project, correctly, which players will win training camp battles.
The Saints upgraded at wide receiver this offseason, adding Emmanuel Sanders, previously of the 49ers and Broncos. Sanders will immediately become the No. 2 receiver behind Michael Thomas. They also let Ted Ginn Jr. walk, which keeps the third wide receiver job open. Last season that job was mostly Tre’Quan Smith’s. Smith even out-snapped Ginn in the final eight games while Ginn had 23 targets and Smith had 20 in that stretch.
Unfortunately for fantasy, Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara are much more involved in the passing game than the Saints third receiver. I expect Sanders to cut into Thomas’ 186 carries, but there really isn’t much room for fantasy production for the WR3 without an injury.
But, this is football and injuries do happen, so keeping the Saints next receiver up on your radar is important. Smith hasn’t done much, but he did catch five touchdowns last season. Going into his third season this year, he’ll need to do more than garner 18 receptions for 234 yards though. At this point, the job is up for grabs, but Smith is likely the frontrunner without any receivers set to make a step forward.
If there is a receiver set to make that jump, it’s probably Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders showed well in training camp and preseason last year, but ended up on the practice squad. There are plenty of names backing up the starters, like Krishawn Hogan, Deonte Harris, Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Austin Carr and Tommylee Lewis. Most of these guys haven’t been able to rise in the ranks though.
This one will come down to training camp and Smith is the likely pick of the group, but without a lot of fantasy upside.