Former Chicago Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith was off to a promising fantasy career with a fine 2016 showing. Much has changed since a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2017 preseason action ended his season before it really began. The Bears opted not to match an offer sheet extended to Meredith by the New Orleans Saints this spring, so the restricted free agent moved his game to the Big Easy.
First and foremost, the knee reconstruction will dictate the path he takes in 2018. Since the injury happened before the regular season began last year, time is on the 25-year-old’s side for making a full recovery as we enter the upcoming season. The Saints have been taking it easy on Meredith, and he is ahead of schedule, according to head coach Sean Payton.
In 2016, then a second-year receiver, Meredith snagged 66 of his 97 targets in Chicago. The 6-foot-3, 207-pounder has a wide catch radius and is athletic enough to make things happen in the open field. He finished the year with 888 yards and four touchdowns in 14 appearances.
In New Orleans, Meredith is reunited with his former position coach, Curtis Johnson. The pair have a strong relationship and will look to pick up where they left off following Meredith’s breakout 2016 showing.
Payton has indicated he has a clear plan of how he wants to utilize Meredith, though fantasy owners will be left in the dark for the time being. It most likely will be as an option in the red zone and a complement to Michael Thomas. Able to exploit single coverage, a healthy Meredith could prove a dangerous weapon for Drew Brees. New Orleans has one of football’s most gifted offensive lines, and the explosive rushing attack will keep defenses honest.
The Saints return 33-year-old veteran Ted Ginn Jr. and veteran reserve Brandon Coleman at wide receiver. Rookie third-rounder Tre’Quan Smith joins the corps but has to prove himself. The same can be said for former New England Patriot Austin Carr. Meredith has a clear path to being among second most targeted wideout in the offense.
Fantasy football takeaway
No Mark Ingram for the first months should mean an uptick in passing. This could be a wash, though, if it takes that long for Meredith to return to game shape and build confidence in his knee. The offense is flexible enough to transition from a power-rushing attack one week to an overly aggressive vertical game and air it out the next. Heck, we’ve seen Payton do that within the same game. Finding 100-plus targets for Meredith shouldn’t be a problem.
Barring a setback with the knee, Meredith is poised to be one of fantasy’s top sleeper receivers. He is in an ideal situation with little pressure, and the creative mind of Payton will find ways to get the ball into his hands.
Gamers have opted for the former Bear in the 14th round, on average, which may prove to be highway robbery. Feel comfortable taking a chance on Meredith as early as Round 11 in more competitive formats or larger leagues (14 teams or more).