Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/12/12
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It has certainly been a tumultuous offseason for the New Orleans Saints, as multiple coaches and general manager Mickey Loomis have been suspended for their roles in the team's ongoing bounty scandal. Head coach Sean Payton will be suspended for the entire 2012 season, and it's fair to wonder how his absence may impact one of the league's most prolific offenses in recent years as he and quarterback Drew Brees appear to have a special chemistry. More specifically, it's fair to wonder how the Saints' offense may be impacted from a fantasy football perspective during the 2012 season, if at all.



Let's take a look at the components that will impact the fantasy value of the New Orleans Saints offense in 2012.

Apart from Payton, the rest of the offensive coaching staff was untouched by suspensions and will remain in place for the entire season. That includes most notably offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi and offensive line coach/running game coordinator Aaron Kromer. So little is likely to change from a schematic standpoint, and having Brees under center will only bolster that continuity. But Brees is trying to work out a long-term deal with the team, and since he has yet to sign his franchise tender as of this writing he can't workout with the team when OTAs start on April 16. As long as Brees is present for training camp, and it would be a big surprise if he was not, missing practice time at this stage should have little affect on the productivity of the Saints' offense.

The Saints were not hampered greatly by free agent departures but two players they did lose, wide receiver Robert Meachem (San Diego Chargers) and left guard Carl Nicks (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) could hurt a little. But Ben Grubbs was signed away from the Baltimore Ravens to replace Nicks, and with all the other options in the Saints' passing game Meachem may not be missed terribly and Adrian Arrington may get an opportunity for more playing time. New Orleans was able to re-sign Marques Colston, who is almost inarguably their best wide receiver, so that definitely helps things.

New Orleans should continue to use the multiple options they have at running back, which stands to continue to frustrate fantasy owners if everyone stays healthy. Mark Ingram was slowed by a toe injury as a rookie in 2011, and could easily earn a greater role in 2012. Darren Sproles should continue to provide a spark as a return man and pass receiver, while Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory may split whatever is left if each guy can stay on the field. Thomas suffered a concussion during the team's Divisional Round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers last season, but is reportedly fully recovered and ready to go. Ivory has had his own issues staying healthy, and could be traded at some point if everyone above him on the depth chart is healthy. Ingram is likely to have the best fantasy value in standard (and perhaps touchdown-heavy formats as well), while Sproles' value stands to be greatest in PPR leagues and leagues that reward return yardage. Thomas could find himself in the mix and could be productive when the opportunity comes, but he and Ivory are unlikely to be anything other than waiver wire fodder without injuries elsewhere.

So Payton's suspension should have little impact on the Saints' offense since most of they key skill position players are still in place, even if Brees' contract squabble keeps him out of offseason work. Carmichael may try to put his stamp on the offensive scheme a little bit and he may solicit input from the other offensive coaches (it has to considered unlikely Payton asks anyone else on staff what they think in terms of play-calling), but a complete overhaul is not going to happen. Fantasy football owners can expect another productive season from the Saints' offense in 2012, even if it is a struggle once again to find consistent weekly starters beyond Brees.

 



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