After a great training camp and preseason, my boy Jonathan Williams was cut by the Saints. But I did my crying in the privacy of my office; now it’s time to break down how this impacts the slate.
Let’s start from the roots (as we always should): What does this move by the Saints tell us? It tells us they trust rookie Boston Scott. In fact, it tells us that Scott — a Louisiana native and a product of small-school Louisiana Tech — is likely a guy the Saints have been keeping their eyes on for a while. The only running backs on the roster right now are Kamara and Scott (with Trey Edmunds and Zach Line functioning in ‘fullback’ roles; Edmunds had nine carries last season and zero catches, while Line had seven carries and two catches). We also know the Saints have said they don’t want to overwork Kamara these first four weeks (as noted earlier: #coacheslie, and I expect Kamara to get 17 to 21 touches per game over this stretch, but he won’t turn into Le’Veon Bell all of a sudden, as many seem to be expecting). Add it all up, and we should expect a sizable role for Scott. “How sizable” is the big question, of course; but the Saints averaged 30.6 touches per game last season between Ingram and Kamara — and they are a big home favorite (a condition that elevates running back touches). If we stretch things and give Kamara 23 touches, that still leaves a good 10 touches for Scott. I think 10 to 14 touches for Scott is a good expectation here, and if the Saints take complete control of this game, I can’t imagine them bleeding out the clock with their offensive MVP. If you want to know what you’re getting with Scott…well, your best bet is to actually watch some game tape — but in the interest of time (and fun), this three minute highlight video is a great introduction. It’s hard to not like this guy, and you can see exactly the types of traits that must have excited Sean Payton.
On the strategy side of things: if you want to protect your investment in Scott, it makes sense to pair him with Michael Thomas (both these guys can also go onto a roster with Kamara, of course, and I would be fine playing all three together). Thomas is set to have a strong game regardless of whether the Saints are winning or losing; but it would appear that the only way Scott is likely to find himself on the sub-10-touch end of the volume pool is if the Saints are somehow playing most of this game from behind — in which case, the Saints would be passing the ball more, and Thomas would be even more heavily involved.
Finally, some people will surely make this out to be something that will increase Kamara’s touch upside even further; but this wasn’t an injury. The Saints made this decision because they felt Scott was the better fill-in for Ingram, not because they changed their mind and decided they want to give Kamara 27 touches. With that said, there is a lot of nuance to the Kamara setup. He’ll definitely see more volume in this game than he could be relied on for last year, so his upside is obviously enormous. But we should expect him to touch the ball the same amount as guys like Fournette, Hunt, Melvin Gordon, and CMC. In fact, I would put volume expectations on that group as Fournette > Gordon > Hunt > CMC > Kamara (though, to be clear, it’s close on all). So, again: Kamara can absolutely smash. Just don’t get sucked into thinking he’s going to see breathtaking volume — and don’t be scared that you “need to play him because everyone else will be playing him.” Assess all the nuances of this play, and decide if he is the right play for you.
Afternoon of September 2: The Saints have signed Mike Gillislee. For the most part, this changes nothing laid out above. Gillislee is not an impact player and should be viewed primarily as “a body that can take the rough hits on short-yardage situations.” This likely does remove Scott from cash consideration (not that you were necessarily thinking of him in cash…but I absolutely was!), as carries inside the three-yard-line may go here, and clock-killing work may go here. But if Gillislee is getting more than five or six touches, it’s because Kamara and/or Scott have already smashed. Everything on Kamara remains the same. And I’ll lower Scott’s touch floor to around eight, but I’m still pegging eight to 14 touches as his range, making him an intriguing “upside” pivot off some of the more popular salary-saver backs in tourneys.