The 2020 NFL offseason has been thoroughly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with team facilities staying closed through free agency and the draft, and all 32 offseason programs going virtual thanks to in-person workouts being largely prohibited. Now, however, as states begin to reopen and teams return select staff to their headquarters, it appears football will, at least in some form, carry on as scheduled -- perhaps with minicamps, likely with summer training camp andin the fall.
One team that should be OK with or without a ton of offseason work is the New Orleans Saints, who have won at least 11 games and appeared in at least one playoff game in each of the last three seasons. Without physical minicamps from which to draw depth-chart battles, Saints roster projections are truly just that right now -- projections. But they at least give us a template for how the club might look when September rolls around and the games begin, or at least if things go according to plan.
For the purpose of this projection, we'll list up to the top four players at any given position. The Saints, like all 32 teams, have a bloated roster nearing the triple-digit mark at the moment. Come September, that number will drop significantly when teams are required to finalize 53-man lineups.
Rookies are denoted with a (*).
|QB||Drew Brees||Jameis Winston||Taysom Hill||Tommy Stevens*|
|RB||Alvin Kamara||Latavius Murray||Ty Montgomery||Dwayne Washington|
|FB||Mike Burton|| |
|LWR||Michael Thomas||Deonte Harris||Lil'Jordan Humphrey||Krishawn Hogan|
|RWR||Emmanuel Sanders||Tre'Quan Smith||Austin Carr||Juwan Johnson*|
|TE||Jared Cook||Josh Hill||Adam Trautman*||Garrett Griffin|
|LT||Terron Armstead||Will Clapp||Darrin Paulo*|
|LG||Andrus Peat||Derrick Kelly II||Patrick Omameh|
|C||Erik McCoy||Nick Easton||Calvin Throckmorton*|
|RG||Cesar Ruiz*||James Hurst||Cameron Tom|
|RT||Ryan Ramczyk||Ethan Greenidge||Jordan Steckler*|
At 41, Brees is about to embark on an unofficial retirement tour, so there's actually a fair amount of intrigue surrounding the guys behind him, even if, ideally, neither of them has to start a single game during the Saints' playoff push. Hill has been undeservedly hyped as New Orleans' franchise QB-in-waiting, but the reality is he's still best suited as a Swiss Army Knife. That's why, when push comes to shove, it's hard to imagine Sean Payton keeping a 26-year-old Jameis Winston on the bench if Brees goes down.
As for the rest of the offense, the skill positions feature some of the best talent in the game, but you can also see clearly the Saints are all in for 2020. For instance, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than Brees-Kamara-Thomas as a Big Three QB/RB/WR trio, and that's not even mentioning Cook, who's underrated at TE, and Sanders, a home-run addition for Payton's quick-strike offense. But the depth behind these guys, a handful of whom are definitely short-term solutions (Cook and Sanders are both 33), is so-so. If Trautman makes an instant impact, he'll take a lot of pressure off the reserve receivers, but if Thomas or Sanders goes down for an extended period of time, New Orleans might have to rebuild its offensive strategy.
Ditto for the O-line, which got better with the addition of Ruiz on the interior but is still banking an awful lot on the top veterans lasting long enough for a postseason run. Armstead and Peat, who are responsible for Brees' blind side, have drawn high praise both in and outside of the organization when healthy, but neither has been very healthy as of late. This sounds nitpicky when you consider the Saints' starting lineup as a whole, but the truth is they're top-heavy all over the offense, the trenches included. As long as the front line holds up, of course, they figure to once again rank among the NFL's best.
|LDE||Cameron Jordan||Carl Granderson||Gus Cumberlander*|
|DT||Sheldon Rankins||Malcom Brown||Mario Edwards Jr.|
|DT||David Onyemata||Margus Hunt||Shy Tuttle|
|RDE||Marcus Davenport||Trey Hendrickson|
|OLB||Alex Anzalone||Anthony Chickillo||Chase Hansen|
|MLB||Kiko Alonso||Craig Robertson||Joe Bachie*|
|OLB||Demario Davis||Zack Baun*||Kaden Elliss|
|LCB||Janoris Jenkins||P.J. Williams||Deatrick Nichols|
|RCB||Marshon Lattimore||Patrick Robinson||Justin Hardee|
|FS||Malcolm Jenkins||D.J. Swearinger||Saquan Hampton|
|SS||Marcus Williams||Chauncey Gardner-Johnson||J.T. Gray|
Defensively, the Saints are equally as talented and, save for the pass rush, probably even deeper. A breakout year from Davenport, a former first-rounder, would only help Jordan, who's already among the NFL's top edge players. Behind the line, the LB unit might be the one to watch, with Baun almost sure to be in contention for a starting job -- if not by Opening Day, then early in his rookie year.
The secondary, though, is easily the most intriguing of the unit. Jenkins' return to man the roaming FS role should do wonders for the rest of the defensive backfield, even though Lattimore and Williams were already top-tier starters in their own right. If everyone stays healthy, you're talking about one of the best, most versatile secondaries in the league, with Jenkins, Robinson and Gardner-Johnson all capable of rotating between the nickel and back end.
|P||Thomas Morestead||Blake Gillikin*|
|KR||Deonte Harris||Taysom Hill|
|PR||Deonte Harris||Alvin Kamara|
Hill has seen time as a kick returner before, but pretty much everything should stay the same on special teams here.