By: Jesse Patterson (@df_patterson)
The seemingly endless offseason is drawing to a close as training camps open across the NFL over the next few weeks. Ladies and gentlemen, the fantasy football season is right around the corner; your long wait is over. At this point in the offseason, the majority of rookie drafts have taken place and owners are beginning to get a feel for their lineups. Before the preseason games start to kick off, I wanted to take a deeper look at a player who changed teams this offseason, to see if there is any hidden value to be had. This could potentially give dynasty owners one last opportunity to buy a player before his value takes a significant bump.
The player that I am excited about, and one that meets this criteria is Cameron Meredith. The new Saints receiver is an incredible value, currently being selected 125th overall as the WR58 according to DLF's July ADP data .
Meredith entered the league in 2015, signing with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois State. The former quarterback switched to wide receiver in 2013 and broke out in 2014, leading the team with 66 receptions, 1061 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Considering he had just changed positions the season prior, this is a pretty impressive stat line. Standing 6’3” and weighing in at 207 lbs, the 25-year-old Meredith quickly climbed the depth chart in Chicago due to a rash of injuries and inconsistency at the position. By his second full season in the NFL, Meredith found himself as the top passing game option. In 14 games, Meredith hauled in 66 receptions for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns - including four games with over 100 yards receiving - finishing as the WR39 in PPR leagues. Expectations were high entering the 2017 season that Meredith would continue to improve his overall game and exceed his 2016 totals. Unfortunately, a severe knee injury suffered during the preseason ended his 2017 season before it even began,as Meredith was placed on Injured Reserve prior to Week 1.
A lost season and an overhauled Bears receiving corps left Meredith with an uncertain future in Chicago, as did the fact he was a restricted free agent. The Bears qualified him as an original round tender meaning they would not be compensated should another franchise sign him. After visiting with the Colts and Ravens, Meredith signed a two year $9.6 million offer sheet with the New Orleans Saints, including $5.4 million guaranteed. Chicago chose not to match the offer, allowing Meredith to officially become a member of New Orleans.
He now joins a Saints team boasting one of the premier quarterbacks to ever step onto the field in Drew Brees. Brees has topped 600 passing attempts in 9 of his 12 seasons in New Orleans and has had four of his passing game options top 50 receptions in each of the past five seasons. The Saints passing attack has consistently ranked inside the top five in the league over the past ten years. Brees is a perennial top ten field general has made fantasy viable players out of a host of formerly unknown wideouts over the years including Marques Colston, Devry Henderson, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem. Colston specifically is a good comparison and possible preview of how Meredith can succeed in this system. Both Colston and Meredith are tall, possession focused slot receivers who came from smaller schools with relatively little post-draft hype in the football community, yet have found success at the NFL level. Colston, drafted in the 7th round out of small-school Hofstra University posted six seasons of 70 or more catches and over 1000 receiving yards while working with Brees. Simply put, this is an excellent, receiver friendly offense that should put Meredith’s big body and sure hands in the slot, to use as he continues to grow his game.
Entering his third full NFL season - his second one while healthy - Meredith has demonstrated that he has the tools to succeed against NFL level talent. He was able to accomplish this despite less than consistent quarterback play, on a team otherwise devoid of talented weapons. With Brees at quarterback, bonafide stud wide receiver Michael Thomas and sophomore sensation running back Alvin Kamara drawing defensive attention, very little else in terms of competition for targets means Meredith is poised for a career year. While I am aware Ted Ginn is still with the organization, I don’t consider him to be ‘competition’ for targets. Ginn will be playing a completely different role and I expect Meredith to prove himself a more reliable option early in camp. There is some risk associated with him due to his devastating injury from a season ago, the Saints appear to be taking things slowly with their new weapon. Expect Meredith to establish himself early and often as a go-to weapon in this high-powered offense. I predict 55-75 receptions, 1000-1200 yards receiving, and 6-8 touchdowns, which would have placed Meredith in the top 24 at the position this past season. Buy Cameron Meredith now as a WR3 with WR2 upside and reap the rewards all season long.