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Dez Bryant's wait is over, with reports indicating he'll sign a one-year deal with the Saints on Thursday. Bryant has sat out the first nine weeks of the season while waiting for the right fit after being cut by the Cowboys in the offseason. Now he'll join a Saints team that has only lost one game all season. So what can he bring with him?
In 2017, Bryant played 16 games and caught 69 passes for 839 yards and six touchdowns on 132 targets. It was the fifth season in his career with at least 100 targets, and by far his least productive. He averaged 12.1 yards per reception (the lowest of his career) and caught just 52 percent of his targets. But that was with Dak Prescott. Now, at age 30, he'll be with Drew Brees.
Obviously the move to Brees is a upgrade, so let's take a look at where Bryant might fit into the Saints offense.
Since Mark Ingram returned in Week 5, there have been 113 targets available in New Orleans. Michael Thomas has taken 35 of those targets (30.9 percent). Thomas is one of the most talented receivers in the league, and Brees has completed 85.6 of his passes when targeting him, so that number isn't likely decreasing. The running backs (Ingram and Alvin Kamara) have seen for 29 targets (25.6 percent). In 2017 they saw 32.6 percent of the team's targets so their current pace is also like to hold steady.
With roughly 56 percent of the team's targets accounted for we may be moving into an area where Bryant could carve out a space. The only two other Saints who have seen even 10 percent target share are Tre'Quan Smith (14.2 percent) and Benjamin Watson (12.4 percent). Bryant's skillset at this stage of his career more closely matches Watson than Smith. Smith is the deep threat in this offense (he leads the team at 17.8 Y/R) while Watson is third on the team in red zone targets behind Thomas and Kamara.
I wouldn't expect Bryant to push Watson entirely out of the offense, but there are another 16 percent of the targets that have been spread among lesser known players. That's a feature of a Sean Payton offense, so it won't entirely disappear either, but it could be minimized. It's not hard to see an upside for Bryant where he's getting 15 percent of the team's targets and is the third option in the red zone.
Even the 15 percent target share would leave some room for interpretation. Brees has averaged 34 attempts per game this year, but only 30 since Ingram returned. If we go with the bigger number, that would put Bryant around five targets per game. If we're generous and assume a 60 percent catch rate and 14 yards per reception (his career average) you'd be looking at an average of three catches for 42 yards per game.
So what's the verdict? Bryant is probably going to need some time to settle in and get acclimated in New Orleans. Once he does, he looks an awful lot like a touchdown-dependent, low-end flex on a good offense. I don't expect him to impact Thomas, Kamara or Ingram at all. Hopefully, he won't stunt Smith's development either. But once he's fully involved in the offense, he could ruin Watson as a tight end streamer.
There's upside in this move for the Saints in the real-world, and it could give Brees slightly more efficiency in the red zone. But the Fantasy impact of this signing is likely to be very small, and Bryant is nothing more than a bench stash in deeper leagues unless the Saints do something surprising with their targets.
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