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Camp Battles: Who will become the Saints’ new QB in 2021?

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Drew Brees’ retirement leaves a huge void in the New Orleans offense for the 2021 season. Will Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill win the role as the Saints’ new QB?


Sean Payton and the Saints have several decisions to make before the start of the 2021 season. The most important decision is deciding on a new starting quarterback to replace Drew Brees. It won’t be easy, as Brees has held that role since 2006. In New Orleans, Breese totaled over 68,000 yards, 491 touchdowns, and a Super Bowl win in the 2009 season. Without Brees, we are poised for a Saints QB battle in NOLA.

Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill are the two current options the Saints will be choosing from. Winston, who the Saints signed before the 2020 season, is recently known for his last season with Tampa Bay. Under Bruce Arians, Winston threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions. Hill has been with New Orleans since they claimed him on waivers after the conclusion of preseason games in 2017. Hill is most known for his versatility with the Saints the last few seasons. A swiss army knife player, as most people would reference it. Hill has seen snaps at quarterback, carries as a back, and caught passes as a tight end.

Saints fans are curious to see who will get the starting nod come September in Week 1. Let’s take a look at what Winston and Hill can offer Sean Payton in the Saints’ offense.

Taysom Hill

We might have gotten an early indication of what is to come based on Brees missing time due to injury in 2020. Hill got the starting nod in the four games that Brees was not able to suit up. In those four starts, Hill threw for 834 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Hill’s continued development as a passer is what will help him land the starting job for the regular season. Hill gave Saints fans some exciting things to look forward to after the Drew Brees era comes to an end.

During his time as the starter, Hill showed that he is more than capable of handling the signal calling duties for the Saints’ offense. He was able to show good accuracy numbers in 2020. Looking at FTN Fantasy’s Advanced Passing Stats, he led the league with an 82.6% adjusted completion percentage of quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. Hill’s high completion rate can be connected to his lower aDOT (average depth of target) attempts. In the same group of quarterbacks with 100 attempts, Hill was 36th with his 6.8 yards per aDOT. Hill’s high completion and lower aDOT approach can closely mimic Drew Brees’ recent years.

Before 2020, Hill was already being utilized in a way to capitalize on his versatility in key spots for Sean Payton.

Hill has the ability to make plays on his own with his legs. This is one aspect of quarterback play where he has a clear advantage over Winston. Sean Payton would have the added benefit of being able to be more creative with his offensive scheme with Hill under center.

If Winston wins the starting job in week 1, Hill would not slide back into a normal backup quarterback role. The Saints would still use him in a variety of ways similar to what we have seen the past couple of seasons.

Jameis Winston

Coming out of college, I really liked Winston as a future NFL quarterback for fantasy purposes. Despite being turnover prone, he has shown flashes of being able to read defenses and make good reads. Some of Winston’s turnovers are simply due to him being a little overconfident and forcing throws that aren’t there. In his first two seasons, he was able to post 4,000-yard seasons with 22 and 28 touchdowns. Winston dealt with some injuries in 2017 and 2018 that forced him to miss 10 games those two seasons.

Bruce Arians became the head coach for Tampa Bay before the 2019 season. Winston proceeded to put 5,109 yards with 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. The air raid offense under Arians gave Winston the chance to show off what he could with his arm. Obviously, the 30 interceptions are worrisome. However, knowing Winston’s interception rate and the passing volume of Arians’ system, 30 interceptions probably did not surprise anyone.

After signing a one-year deal with New Orleans, Winston found himself behind Drew Brees as the backup. Some thought Winston could learn behind Brees until Brees decided to hang up the cleats. Now, Winston finds himself in a competition with Hill.

Personally, I think Winston has a slight advantage in this competition heading into camp. He has the ability to make big-time throws, but it will require Sean Payton to reel in his turnover-prone tendencies.

Why Each QB Would Get The Job

Taysom Hill

Hill would get the job if Sean Payton decided he would rather go with someone who has been around the system longer and who also has a more conservative approach. Ultimately, I think that was the coaching staff’s reasoning for giving Hill the starting spot while Brees was out in 2020. I expect to see a lot of what we saw from Hill in 2020. He can be a playmaker with his legs while also taking what the defense gives him and making the conservative reads.

Winston

Winston headed into camp as the slight favorite to win the job. He posses a better skill set for what Sean Payton would like to have as the quarterback of his offense. Winston will now have had a full season under Brees while also having a whole offseason to better understand Payton’s offensive system. Winston’s improvement in taking care of the ball will be the deciding factor for whether or not he can land the starting job in week 1. He clearly has the arm talent to make any throw necessary for the Saints. Learning when to take risks or making the easy check-down will be key development pieces for him.

Fantasy Outlook

Now let’s take a look at what this competition means for other key fantasy pieces on the Saints’ offense, depending on who wins the job for week 1.

Alvin Kamara

Many fantasy managers noticed the difference in Kamara’s performance while Hill was the quarterback for a short time in 2020. The biggest factor was the lack of involvement Kamara had in the passing game in the first three games with Hill under center. Kamara saw a total of six targets in the first three full games with Hill. That changed in the fourth game when Hill gave Kamara 10 targets in a loss at Philadelphia.

I do not think Kamara’s value would plummet if Hill were to be named the starter. Though, it might be tougher for Kamara to push the 100 target threshold with Hill as quarterback. Any dual-threat QB is going to take away some value of pass-catching runnings backs with their ability to take off instead of just checking it down.

Kamara is currently being drafted as the RB5 (fifth overall) according to IDP Guys’ Offense ADP for July. He is still going to be an extremely good running back for fantasy purposes regardless of who wins the starting QB job. However, the pass-catching upside from Kamara may not be what it used to be with Brees if Hill wins the starting job.

Michael Thomas

If I were writing this outlook for Michael Thomas based on who the quarterback was going to be, I would say that he has very similar outlooks catching passes from Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. Thomas is an alpha wide receiver who is always going to command an elite target share.

Injuries held him to only seven games in 2020. Taysom Hill was the starting quarterback for four of those seven games. In those four games, Thomas tallied 37 targets. In two of those games, he eclipsed 100 receiving yards.

Before Thomas’ recent injury, he was being taken as the WR14 (40th overall) in IDP Guys’ Offense ADP. I expect his ADP to drop a significant amount knowing he will be out for quite some time. The four-month recommended recovery time will probably push fantasy managers to wait and take Thomas as a stash for later on when he returns. Whether Winston or Hill is the QB, I expect Thomas to return to close to normal form once he is fully healthy and recovered. This is definitely a situation worth monitoring as it progresses.

Conclusion

The quarterback battle in New Orleans will be something to keep an eye on throughout training camp. Both Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill have the abilities needed to run the offense for Sean Payton. I think Winston ends up winning the job out of camp. Hill is still going to be involved in his versatile role on offense. There still would be a chance where Winston is a bit too turnover-prone and they make the switch to Taysom Hill at quarterback.

From a fantasy perspective, Alvin Kamara may lose some pass-catching upside if Hill were to win the job, due to Hill’s dual-threat ability.

Michael Thomas would have hovered around the WR12 mark regardless of who won the quarterback battle. All of that changes, now that Thomas’ injury news indicates he will be sidelined for several weeks, if not months.

Overall, the Saints’ offense may take a slight step back with the retirement of Brees and now the injury to Thomas. I do believe both Winston and Hill can effectively run what Sean Payton ultimately wants to put on the field. Jameis Winston, to me, offers more upside as the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints in 2021, and possibly beyond.


Thank you for reading! Follow me on Twitter at @blakeponson and @IDPGuys. You can read more of my work here at idpguys.org, and check out other NFL Offensive articles for the upcoming fantasy football season. Stay tuned for more content!

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