The first domino has fallen in the free-agent quarterback market, and it’s an unsurprising one if you have paid attention to the NFL rumor mill in recent weeks.
Carr’s deal averages out to $37.5M per year – which currently makes him the ninth-highest paid QB right behind Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford’s new $40M/year contracts.
Let’s dive into how this move impacts the fantasy landscape.
Fantasy football impact of Derek Carr signing in New Orleans
Carr has never been anything close to a big time fantasy asset, with his lone top-10 finish coming back in 2016 where he finished as QB10 on the button.
Because he doesn’t add anything as a scrambler, Carr is stuck as a QB2 and his new team really doesn’t do much to change that outlook.
Chris Olave quickly exploded in his rookie season for 72/1042/4 (WR26 by fantasy points per game - 13.3), showing excellent polish in his routes. Olave has the speed to get deep and take the top off the defense, but also already possesses the nuances necessary to beat NFL secondaries consistently.
Historically speaking, rookie receivers that produce at an extremely high level like Olave go on to have monster careers. And, well, his stats definitely pop off the screen.
Olave’s 69.5 receiving yards per game ranks 18th-most among rookie wide receivers all-time, and only marginally behind 15th-ranked A.J. Green (70.5), 16th Mike Evans (70.1), and 17th Keenan Allen (69.7).
Looking under the hood of Olave’s rookie year is even more impressive.
According to our in-house Fantasy Points Data department, Olave led all wide receivers in yards per route run vs. man coverage (3.48). That is an extraordinary accomplishment, given how many dominant wideouts are in the game now.
Jerry Jeudy (3.43), Mike Williams (3.40), Tyreek Hill (3.39), Justin Jefferson (3.39), A.J. Brown (3.35), Cooper Kupp (3.28), and Ja’Marr Chase (3.13) round out a loaded top-8 wide receiver group in yards per route run (vs. man coverage). That’s the list to be on. And Olave led them all.
Olave wasn’t too shabby against zone coverage either, ranking 16th-of-96 WRs in YPRR (2.18).
So, just how much better can he be with Derek Carr as opposed to Andy Dalton?
Carr may have been scapegoated by the end of the year, but he had another solid season, ranking just above average in EPA per dropback. 2022 was Carr’s fourth year in a row where he ranked 15th or better in EPA/dropback, but he hasn’t ranked better than 10th since 2019.
Derek Carr’s EPA per dropback by season (ranks out of the top 32 qualifying QBs):— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) February 15, 2023
2014 — 29th
2015 — 25th
2016 — 9th
2017 — 16th
2018 — 26th
2019 — 10th
2020 — 13th
2021 — 15th
2022 — 13th
By last year’s EPA figures, Carr (+0.09 EPA/dropback) is a decent upgrade over Andy Dalton who ranked 20th-of-32 QBs (+0.04).
EPA is just one measure, and Davante Adams certainly helped Carr create big splash plays all season long. Since he doesn’t add much scrambling, just how accurate of a passer is Carr?
Per Fantasy Points Data, Carr ranked 26th QBs in catchable, on-target throws (80%), while Dalton ranked 2nd (86.2%). That is among the 33 passers with at least 200 attempts on the season.
Carr did rank much higher in accurate throw rate in 2021 – 11th-best (83%) – so the hope is that he can return to that form while HC Dennis Allen and OC Pete Carmichael can scheme Carr into more success, just like they did with Dalton last season.
Beyond Olave, the rest of the Saints' fantasy football depth chart is wide open right now. Michael Thomas’ contract has been adjusted to the point that the Saints can move him without consequence, Jarvis Landry is a free agent again, and both TE Juwan Johnson and WR Marquez Callaway are restricted free agents. I’m also sure they’ll be in the hunt for a legitimate #2 RB to pair with soon-to-be 28-year-old Alvin Kamara.
At the very least, Carr provides some stability to Olave’s short- and long-term fantasy stock. Olave’s early fantasy ADP on Underdog is 28.3 overall and he’s the WR15 off the board. I’m going to bump Olave up a spot or two in my overall rankings, but that really just speaks to how good of a pick he was to begin with and how loaded the WR crop is in the early rounds. Rashid Shaheed is a promising late-round Underdog dart throw, but could be buried on the depth chart depending on what the Saints do this off-season.
As for the Saints chances in 2023, well, Carr is easily the best QB in the division… for now. Nine to 10 wins probably takes down the weak NFC South, and the Saints (+140) are now the odds-on favorite to win the division over the Panthers (+240) at DraftKings.