By Matt Kelley (@Fantasy_Mansion)
Special to Yahoo Sports
The Saints are riding eight-straight wins and have “the look” of the hottest team in the NFL. Most warm-blooded football fans feel excited about New Orleans’ resurgence, with one glaring exception… Drew Brees fantasy football owners.
Why the frowny face emojis? After cresting 20 fantasy points per game for a decade, Brees is averaging less than 18.0 fantasy points per week this season. The worst part – Brees’ play is not the problem.
Russell Wilson Parallel
Interestingly, Brees’ advanced stats and metrics profile aligns closely with Wilson. Brees and Wilson are compact quarterbacks with unusually big hands who have been historically accurate downfield throwers. In fact, Brees’ 58.5-percent deep ball completion percentage is No. 1 among NFL QBs this season.
Playing style is the primary difference between Brees and Wilson. While Brees is the NFL’s quintessential pocket passer, Wilson scores fantasy points on the ground and through the air. Wilson’s versatility raises both his floor and ceiling in fantasy. Brees, on the other hand, must go airborne or bust, and this year he has been a fantasy bust.
The Marshon Lattimore Effect
But Brees just threw for 385 yards! He’s back! Don’t bet on it.
Playing in dome conditions against Washington, one of the league’s top-scoring offenses, presented perfect high-scoring conditions in Week 11 that might not be replicated for the remainder of the season. Moreover, Lattimore’s Week 11 ankle injury further contributed to a double-digit second-half deficit that forced Brees and the Saints to switch into hurry-up mode for the first time since September.
Since Lattimore slid to the Saints at the No. 11 slot in this year’s draft, he has been the cornerstone playmaker on the NFL’s most improved defense. Lattimore is allowing just 5.3 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, ranking No. 3 among qualified NFL cornerbacks on PlayerProfiler.com. Having ushered in a new era of defensive dominance in New Orleans, Lattimore should be a top Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.
Saints Points Allowed
Positive Game Script
While Saints fans appreciate the team’s defensive renaissance, fantasy gamers are less enthusiastic. After throwing the ball 673 times in 2016, Brees is projected to throw just 547 passes this season. Brees has been betrayed by Game Script, which measures the average point differential at any point in the game. The Saints’ +4.15 Game Script is No. 4 in the NFL, and has been driving down the team’s historically high pass-to-run ratio.
Saints Pass-Run Ratio
The Saints’ pass-to-run ratio the last four years illustrates the essential problem with the New Orleans passing game. Enjoying commanding leads in the fourth quarter, the Saints are more likely to grind down the clock than activate the hurry-up offense in 2017. While Wilson could rush for yards and touchdowns when Seattle’s defense was at the peak of its powers, Brees has been handing the ball off much more frequently in the second half this season.
Predicting Future Production
Of the myriad fantasy options who are underperforming their average draft position (ADP) in 2017, Brees’ underwhelming season may be the most counterintuitive. No one could have predicted that his fantasy output would be significantly throttled by the exceptional play of a rookie defensive back on his own **** team! Fantasy gamers must now contort their brains and closely monitor Lattimore’s ankle injury, which could keep out in Week 12. Once Lattimore returns, Brees’ fantasy production will surely suffer.