Projected Lineups: New Orleans Saints

The Saints couldn't win back the NFC South with Sean Payton back, but Gordon McGuinness looks at the line up they will look to build to win it again.

| 3 years ago

Projected Lineups: New Orleans Saints

32-lineups-NORebounding from a tough year in 2012, that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008, the New Orleans Saints returned to the postseason in 2013. They weren’t able to win the division however, so found themselves on the road, eventually falling to the Super Bowl champion-to-be Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.

Still, they head into 2014 with a very positive outlook once again and, with a quarterback like Drew Brees, they’ll be confident of competing for the NFC South crown, and more, once again. Of course that doesn’t mean that they don’t have areas to improve, especially if they want to match up better with the Seahawks.

–  Player markers are colored per class on a six-step ‘Poor’ to ‘High Quality’ scale based on their overall performance and the league’s elite are marked separately in blue.
–  Colored outlines suggest a potential change in class.
–  Underlined players will be 30+ years old for the 2014 season.
–  Red player names suggest injury risks.
–  Click on the image to enlarge.

Lineup NO

Roster Notes

–  It all starts with quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans. Grading out in the Top 5 at the position in each of the past five years, he’s the definition of an elite player in the NFL these days.

–  Mark Ingram’s play at the end of the season will give fans hope that he can kick on and have a stellar season as part of the Saints running back by committee approach. We hadn’t seen it before in his career but after grading out at -1.7 through the first 14 weeks of the season, he then had a four game stretch where he graded out at +9.3.

–  The Saints wide receiver corps looks to be in good shape again, with Marques Colston consistently one of the better players at his position in the league. Kenny Stills was solid in his rookie campaign, and there will be the expectation that he can step up in 2014, while Lance Moore remains another solid weapon for Brees.

–  They have a strong defensive front, where Akiem Hicks has shown the potential to grow further. Many expected Cameron Jordan to take another step forward and, while he’s not quite in that elite bracket at this point in his career, he’s still a very good player.

–  One player to keep an eye on at outside linebacker is Victor Butler. Acquired as a free agent last offseason, he missed all of 2013 through injury. He had been nothing more than a role player for the Dallas Cowboys earlier in his career, but did show enough that we were looking forward to what he did in a bigger role. We’ve had to wait an extra year, but he could really surprise people in New Orleans this year.

2014 Cap Situation

With just $1.5million in cap space, only five teams are in worse shape than the Saints, they don’t have many of their own free agents that they need to re-sign for starting roles, but they’ll have some work to do to plug some holes. Signing their draft class will be an issue as well, and don’t forget about Jimmy Graham, who will eat into the cap regardless of how they keep him around, so they’ll have to find a way to create some room in a hurry.

Potential Casualties

The bad news for the Saints is that there aren’t many players that they realistically will want to cut that will free up a chunk of money. Moore would save $2.5m, but that would depend if they think they can replace him easily enough or not while the $3.5m saved by releasing Darren Sproles would also see them lose one of their best weapons on offense. Likewise for Pierre Thomas, who might save them $2.9m, but is also a key part of their running game. The Saints definitely have some tough decisions ahead of them.

Opportunities from the Roster

On the defensive line, Tyrunn Walker looked good in limited duty, both against the run and as a pass rusher. Rookie first round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro had a very solid first season, and there will be an expectation that he can kick on in 2014. One name to keep an eye on at running back, giving them the potential to make cuts and save space at the position, is Khiry Robinson. The undrafted free agent had two strong showings in the playoffs and may force himself further into the team’s plans in 2014.


Projected lineups by team:



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| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

  • Patrick

    Very generous to the WRs not named Stills. Moore at best is “yellow”, and Colston’s definitely not a high quality starter any more. I think he’s trending closer to the “yellow” level than he is to the upper echelon receivers at this point. He’s good at what he does – beating zone and linebackers from the slot, making some contested catches – but compared to other WRs he’s closer to average IMO, not a guy that defenses are overly worried about.

    • Danny Smith

      How can you say that about Colston? He has the BEST HANDS in the NFL!!! He is a good run blocker and a leader! He should of had 10 TD ‘s last year, but had 2 overturned because of dumb ass penalties by lineman and I believe he fumbled twice at the goal line. That being said, he still has great body control, always stays alive during every pass play. He helps Drew by coming back to the ball, unlike Jimmy Graham and catches everything insight, always with his hands. He will catch a TD pass, every 8 or 10 catches. Last year Brees was so Graham happy, it caused people to think Marcus has lost a step. He was the only receiver that could get open against Sea Hawks! He has another 2 or 3 years left, just like Drew. Marcus and Drew will walk away together, as one of the best QB & WR combo’s of all Time!

      • [email protected]

        I think fumbling twice on the goal line goes under “Negative: poor ball security” not “Positive: nearly a TD”

  • Nick Cortez

    Not including Graham deserves a serious explanation. Also, this analysis left off several free agents that the Saints are likely to bring back (Jenkins and De La Puente)…nevermind the guys still under contract (Thomas and Sproles). If you are taking the route of “likely” starters as opposed to under contract / likely to be cut, then Graham is the starting TE and is elite. If you are going for guys under contract, then there should be mention of a couple of other guys. Not a very good grading on the WRs, either.
    Sorry to be so critical!

  • Ulrik Gorm Jensen

    Don’t know why Graham is not the Saints TE for 2014? But I guess we all know, he is going to be… The Saints should have an Elite TE at this position.

  • Ulrik Gorm Jensen

    Don’t know why Graham is not the Saints TE for 2014? But I guess we all know, he is going to be… The Saints should have an Elite TE at this position.

  • UncleTuna

    Why is Zach Strief, a free agent, listed as the right tackle?!?

    • Nick Cortez

      He was in the likely to be re-signed category…which, he was re-signed today as expected.

  • Nick Cortez

    Updates that should be made: Moore is no longer a predicted starter. Meacham should be the replacement player at that spot. Graham has been tagged and is likely a starter (over Ben Watson). Byrd should be added and the Saints defense should likely indicate 3 starting safeties. It is likely that they will play more 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 this year with 3 Safety looks than 3 CB looks. I don’t know if Strief is a projected starter or not at this point. May not be enough cap room.

  • Nick Cortez

    I thought I noed updates that should be included…Byrd should be starting at FS (and elite). Bush should still be shown as a starter in some way with Vaccaro in the slot most likely (Saints will use 3 Saftey looks on more downs that true Nickel back situations). Moore should be removed from the list with Meacham replacing him most likely (and in yellow). Jimmy Graham should be at TE (and marked as elite). I would downgrade Grubbs to light green. Strief is likely not a likely starter at this point at RT but that is still way up in the air at this moment.

  • gonzo

    update this, please!