Unfortunately, it appears the New Orleans Saints and fantasy football managers alike will be without QB Jameis Winston for a significant period of time after he sustained a knee injury in the Saints’ Week 8 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As we still await further news, here’s the latest on Winston’s injury and the fantasy impact of the Saints’ offense.
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Jameis Winston suffered a potentially “significant” left knee injury vs. Tampa Bay
There is growing fear the Saints might be out their starting QB for the remainder of the 2021 NFL season. Winston was brought down from behind on a 3-yard run, and his left leg bent awkwardly beneath him. You could instantly tell something was wrong.
Winston tried to make his way to the Saints’ sideline but made it only a few steps before going to the ground. He was assisted off the field and taken directly to the medical tent on the sidelines. Shortly after, he was carried to the cart and taken into the locker room for further evaluation.
When asked about his QB’s status in his postgame press conference, Saints’ head coach Sean Payton told reporters that while he was waiting on a further update, he believes the injury is “significant.” He also said Winston “felt something,” but was reluctant to go into further detail until he spoke with team doctors.
In a video from the locker room, Winston was seen on crutches while celebrating the Saints’ 36-27 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. According to Jane Slater of NFL Network, her sources believe it is a torn ACL which would force Winston to miss the remainder of the season.
Winston ended the day with 56 passing yards and 1 touchdown with 4 carries for 40 yards. He was replaced by veteran backup Trevor Siemian, who was the only other QB available. Backup Taysom Hill has been sidelined with a concussion since Week 5, and rookie Ian Book was a healthy inactive. Siemian finished with 159 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-29 passing.
An up-and-down 2021 season for the Saints
It was already apparent we were not going to see the same Winston we last saw starting in 2019. The one in which he joined the illustrious — or should I say infamous — 30-touchdown/30-interception club. After all, Winston went to New Orleans to get what he called a “master class” in the art of QB from both Payton and long-time Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
While he has had some solid outings, Winston has been somewhat inconsistent. He did toss 5 touchdowns in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. Despite that, Winston still started his season with three-straight games of 150 yards or less.
In six games, Winston has yet to throw for over 280 yards. In 2019, the last time he was a starter, Winston did that 11 times. He most certainly is not playing with the same level of talent at wide receiver either. With Michael Thomas (ankle-IR) yet to make his debut, Winston has needed to rely on Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith, Deonte Harris, and Kenny Stills.
Winston has protected the ball more in 2021, throwing just 3 interceptions to 13 touchdowns. However, the Saints’ offense has lacked volume, ranking 29th in plays per game (58.8) and 32nd in passing plays per game (25.8).
The loss of Winston will have a noticeable impact on the Saints for fantasy purposes
While they have lacked volume, the Saints have been efficient when they drop back. As a team, Saints QBs have averaged 0.52 fantasy points per dropback (No. 5) but are No. 1 in points per completed pass at 0.94. This type of efficiency won’t be sustainable with Siemian at the helm.
Siemian has not started since 2017. With Denver, he went 5-5 as a starter, completing 59% of his passes (206-of-349) for 2,285 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
Even once Thomas returns (assuming he does), it’s hard to see any of the Saints’ pass catchers maintaining any fantasy relevancy. This offense will be based on the run just as it has been all season — with Alvin Kamara and newly acquired Mark Ingram leading the way.
What fantasy managers need to hope for is the return of Hill. We have seen what he can do in this offense and know the dynamic skill set he brings.
In his five starts last season (Weeks 10-14), Hill was a QB1 in four of five games while averaging 23.1 fantasy points per contest in 4-point passing TD leagues. As the full-time starter, there is nothing to suggest Hill would not be a low-end QB1/high-end QB2 once he returns to the team.
A move to Hill would be concerning for Kamara’s rest of season outlook. Hill is not only a significant rushing threat, but in the games where Hill started, Kamara averaged just 2.6 receptions and 18.2 yards per game.