NFC South Fantasy Preview
The NFC South is filled with four great offenses. First, you’ve got the NFC Champions in the Carolina Panthers. The Atlanta Falcons, who started off last season 5-0. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have a young and upcoming offense. And last but not least you have the New Orleans Saints, who have consistently been a powerhouse offense the past 6 seasons. This season will be a tougher road for the NFC South due to playing the NFC/AFC West this season, which is full of good defenses. Despite that, going to the Panthers, Falcons, Buccaneers and Saints for fantasy players is still a good option.
Coach/Staff: Starting off at the top you have Ron Rivera, a defensive minded coach, who gives the offense to his OC, Mike Shula. Mike Shula is a guy who made a lot out of nothing last season and took Cam Newton to another level.
QB: At the helm you have Mr. MVP himself, Cam Newton. The guy had a career year with 3,837 passing yards 35 TDs and 10 INT. He also added onto those numbers with 636 yards and 10 TDs on the ground. He did all of this without his number one WR, Kelvin Benjamin. Many think he will come in and put up the same stat line from last season since he is getting Benjamin back. But don’t forget he had his worst statistical year with Benjamin.[lptw_table id=”21300″ style=”default”]
That being said, Newton should have a good year, just not MVP like. With an easy schedule, everything fell into place for him last year. Look for a regression in passing TDs, but he could have a progression in yardage.
RB: At running back there’s not much depth. First, you have the “injury prone” Jonathan Stewart, who last year actually stayed moderately healthy. In 13 games, he put up very underwhelming numbers (242-989-6), and was injured for weeks 15 and 16, while people were on their #footclantitle run. That’s when the man called CAP enters. Cameron Artis-Payne actually did a good job playing for the injured Stewart during those hard times in the playoffs. The only problem was that he couldn’t hang onto the ball. He posted a stat line of 14-59 in rushing and 2-34 receiving in week 15. Then in week 16 he was on the same trend with a line of 5-49 and 1-7, until he had a bad fumble, and Rivera pulled him for Mike Tolbert. So in conclusion about this backfield, Stewart is a cheap RB2 if you go RB later and is a good pick in the early to mid 5th round. But don’t forget to pick up CAP as well in the 13th or 14th. He is one of the better handcuffs, and you won’t have to rush to the waiver wires when Stewart gets hurt.
WR: Carolina might have the tallest WR core in the league. Despite being the tallest, it might be the most inconsistent. Kelvin Benjamin is the lock at the WR1 for Carolina and will most likely see the most targets in this group of WRs. Now we have to go back to 2014 to look at his targets because he missed all of 2015 due to an ACL injury. In 2014, as a rookie, he had 145 targets, which is up there with Odell Beckham Jr. However, he was majorly inconsistent with those targets (73-1008-9) due to some very overthrown balls from Newton and lack of concentration. According to ADP, Benjamin is going in the mid 3rd round ahead of Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins and T.Y. Hilton, who all might have a higher ceiling than Benjamin. So draft with caution. If you are looking deeper into the Carolina WR core for production, there is a good chance it will be hard to find. Ted Ginn Jr. had 10 TDs last year, but the fantasy community sees a regression coming and doesn’t feel comfortable starting him in any week. Devin Funchess is still learning the position from being a TE convert, but he possesses the most value from this WR core due to his 13th round ADP. He would be a good, late flyer to take due to the upside he has as the WR2 in the Carolina offense.
TE: There aren’t many TEs as consistent as Greg Olsen, who Cam Newton looks to early and often. He has gotten 100 plus targets in 4 straight years and has eclipsed 1,000 yards in the past 2 seasons. He is Newton’s “baby” blanket and Newton will always be looking for him to keep him safe. At his 5th round ADP, he is a great option if you were to go RB/WR early.
Coach/Staff: Head Coach for the Falcons is the defensive minded, Dan Quinn. Last year, he gave the offensive reins to OC Kyle Shanahan. With another year under their belt, players should thrive in his complicated offensive system.
QB: At QB you have Matt Ryan, who according to most people, had a bad year last year. He actually had the 3rd best yardage year of his career with 4,591 passing yards. The reason why it looked like he had a bad year is the TDs, which was 2nd worst only to his rookie year in 2008. Look for a bounce back year with his 2nd year in Shanahan’s offense, which Ryan has already said this offseason was difficult to get a grasp of.
RB: There has already been a debate this year with Atlanta’s backfield about who will be the guy, who comes out on top. Well that is a weird question when you have a guy who was the number 1 RB last season in Devonta Freeman. This would never be in question with anyone else, but the fact is- Freeman came out of nowhere to help people capture their #footclantitle. The issue with Freeman’s non-believers is that he started off hot in weeks 3-6 and then tapered off weeks 7-17.
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This might deter people away from Freeman, but he was a focal point of the offense last year. A pro-bowler, who put up the receiving stats that he did, won’t have his starting role taken away easily. Someone who could take the job is Tevin Coleman, who flashed a little during his rookie year. This is a guy who was drafted by this regime and showed well when given the chance. He did have issues with fumbles, but what rookie RB last year didn’t? If Freeman somehow loses his job due to injury or very poor play, Coleman could get a crack at the 1-2 role in Atlanta. Where he is being drafted, in the 9th round, could be great value.
WR: JULIO!!!! This is the name everyone was screaming when they won the #footclantitle last year, and the name defenses were screaming when Atlanta would throw the ball. Julio Jones was the league leader in reception yards (1,871) and tied with only Antonio Brown with receptions (136). Look for a repeat this season where Kyle Shanahan loves to throw to his ‘X’ WR early and often. This could lead Julio to break Marvin Harrison’s single-season reception record of 143 this season. Next to Julio you have the newly signed Mohamed Sanu, who was more of a desperate signing of the Falcons due to needing more weapons next to Julio. Sanu is a bigger bodied, possession WR who never eclipsed 800 yards in his career. Yes, he is a good compliment to Julio but Shanahan has never really targeted his ‘Y’ WR much in the past. Someone who could hold late round value at the end of the draft is Justin Hardy. There is a good chance he gets the slot role in this offense, and this is where Hardy will strive with better than average route running and good hands in traffic. He has worked with Julio all offseason which shows his dedication to improving. He isn’t a sure thing, but someone worth a flyer towards the end of your draft.
TE: The starting tight end is Jacob Tamme, who was good at times, just lacked the TDs (1 in 2015). Someone to watch out for is rookie Austin Hooper, who was drafted in the 3rd round. Usually it takes about 2-3 years for a TE to translate into the NFL. But with Tamme being an average talent and Atlanta looking for a boost in the weapons, you could see Hooper taking over the TE1 job due to his athleticism and receiving ability.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach/Staff: New head coach Dirk Koetter, was promoted from offensive coordinator. Tampa wanted to keep him for the development of Jameis Winston. If they didn’t make him the head coach, lots of other teams had their eye on Koetter as well. So firing Lovie Smith and making Koetter the head coach is a great move for this offense moving forward. They also brought in a new OC in Todd Monken, who was the HC for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles the past 3 years.
QB: The Bucs have a great young core in the offense and it all starts with Jameis Winston. This was a guy many people thought, mentally, would have a hard time adapting to the NFL game. Well, he showed he was a leader, hard worker, and first one in and last one out type of guy. This led him to a fantastic rookie year with 4044 passing yards and 22 TDs. He did have 15 INTs, but most of these were at the beginning of the year where his TD/INT ratio was 10:7 for the first 8 weeks. Then the last 8 weeks he had a 12:6 ratio, if you don’t count week 17 where he threw 2 INTs. What helps Winston is his rushing TDs, which no one really saw coming. He put up a total of 6 rushing TDs, which shows he has a nose for the end zone. This is a great bonus for fantasy, which helps guys like Brady and Flacco add on points to their weekly total as well.
RB: Heartbreak, nobody likes to get their heart broken. Doug Martin is like the ex you just can’t figure out. Are they an amazing person? Or are they someone who will tear your heart out in the middle of the year? Here’s a look at Doug Martin’s first four seasons.[lptw_table id=”21322″ style=”default”]
He had a fantastic rookie season, then was drafted as a top 5 fantasy back in 2013, which was a bust. After that he was a 4th round fantasy pick in 2014, but missed 5 games. Then 2015 rolled around and it was his last chance to gain back the trust, before the hard “break up”. He was being drafted in the 6th round last season with some hope, and it paid off in a big way. He was 2nd in rushing with 1402 yards, behind Adrian Peterson. Even with a great receiving back behind him, he still pulled in 33 catches for 271 yards. He did only total 7 TDs, but this was due to Jameis vulturing 6 rushing TDs. So let’s say Jameis only gets 3 TDs on the ground in 2016. This means Martin could score double digits TDs, which would boost his value past his 2nd round ADP. Some of those TDs could also go to Martin’s fine receiving backup, Charles Sims. In 0.5 PPR last season, Doug Martin was the number 3 RB, and Sims was still a high-end RB 3. He totaled over 1,000 yards with no rushing TDs, thanks to Jameis and Martin, but had 4 receiving TDs. As stated before, Martin is no model of consistency. Sims is a great guy to get in 8th-10th round range due to his PPR upside and the chance Martin breaks your heart again.
WR: The WR core for the Bucs is very top heavy. It starts, and pretty much ends, with Mike Evans. Evans had a great rookie year with sub-par QB play in 2014 with a 68/1051/12 stat line. Everyone thought coming into 2015 with Jameis coming in Evans was due for a huge year. But with growing pains from Jameis and drops from Evans, fantasy owners saw a down year. Or did he have a down year? His stat line says otherwise. His 79/1275/3 are better than his rookie year, except for one noticeable regression, his TDs. This was strange because Evans is a huge red zone target. Look for things to change this season and those numbers to improve with new OC, Todd Monken. When Monken was with Southern Miss, they loved to often throw it to their number 1 WR- now L.A. Rams rookie Mike Thomas. In 2015, Monken made Thomas the focal point in his offense and it shows in his numbers (15’- 71/1391/14). So look for Monken to make Evans the focal point of this passing attack in 2016. Next to Evans you have Vincent Jackson, who is on his last leg. He was hurt for part of last season and still put up over 500 yards. With Monken using one guy heavily, there are better upside players with greater potential this year around Jackson’s 11th round ADP. A potential guy to keep an eye on during training camp and preseason is Kenny Bell, a rookie last season who was out all year due to a groin injury. Fully healthy now and having turned heads in OTAs, could push Jackson for that WR2 role in the offense.
TE: Highly debated this year already is the Bucs TE position. You’ve got the uber talented but head case in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Then you’ve got the hard working, not as talented guy in Cameron Brate. ASJ is a guy that has all the talent in the world and this showed in week 1 in 2015, where he put up 5/110/2. People thought they had a gem, until he missed a lot of games in the middle of the season due to injury. With questions about his grit and work on and off the field, his 13th round ADP ahead of the likes of Eric Ebron, might be a little too risky. The man behind him is getting a lot of buzz this offseason. Cameron Brate is a guy being undrafted and unrecognized, but he played well when ASJ was hurt, putting up a 23/288/3 stat line. These numbers won’t wow anyone, and he might not light the world on fire, just a position battle to monitor through training camp and preseason.
New Orleans Saints
Coach/Staff: Everyone knows the guy in charge of everything in New Orleans, Head Coach Sean Payton. He calls the offensive plays as well, so OC Pete Carmichael can focus on what he does best, which is helping the QBs thrive in the offense.
QB: When you think of Sean Payton, you instantly have to think of Drew Brees. These two were a match made in heaven right from the moment the Saints signed Brees as a free agent in 2006. Since signing in 2006, Brees has been over 4,000 yards for 10 straight years, over 30 TDs for 8 years and has thrown for over 5,000 yards in 4 of those years (08’, 11’-13’). He is a model of consistency and with the addition of new weapons this year, is a great buy with his 6th round ADP.
RB: The backfield of the Saints is a deep one. It all starts off with the man on top, Mark Ingram. He was on a tear the first 13 weeks of the season (116/769/6 rushing. 50/405 receiving). Even missing the last 4 games of the year, he still ended up a top 10 RB in fantasy. Everyone thought C.J. Spiller was going to be the passing down back, but Ingram showed he could be that 3-down back for a high powered offense. Also, Spiller did nothing to prove he is anything special or should threaten Ingram for any touches. This is why Ingram in the mid to late 2nd round in ADP would be a great guy to target, if you go WR in the early 1st round. Ingram has missed time in 4 out of 5 seasons. This is why if you own Ingram you shouldn’t target Spiller, but target Tim Hightower in the last rounds. He was a guy who played great in the fantasy playoffs when Ingram went down and helped many people to their #Footclantitle.
WR: With a high powered offense, everyone would love to get their hands on a piece of the Saints receiving core. At the top, you have Brandin Cooks. Cooks had a great year last year with a 84/1138/9 stat line after coming off of an injury late in his rookie season. Now, the issue everyone has with Cooks is his inconsistency. He started off the season very slow weeks 1-7, then weeks 8-17 was a top tier WR.[lptw_table id=”21333″ style=”default”]
The TDs came in bulk from week 8 on. Cooks should only improve his skills, entering his 3rd season. If you were to draft a WR in the first two rounds, then Cooks would be a great pick in the 3rd round as your WR2. Opposite of Cooks has been a debate. First, you’ve got the savvy, possession guy in Willie Sneed. He surprised most last season posting a 69/984/3 stat line. Most everyone expected veteran, Marques Colston, to get those numbers, but Colston wasn’t the same player and was cut this offseason. Snead’s is a guy who isn’t great at any one thing. He works hard, runs good routes, catches the ball well. There are Willie Snead doubters because of the incoming 2nd round draft pick out of Ohio State, Michael Thomas. Thomas projects well in what was the Colston, big slot roll. He is 6’3”, 212 lbs. and possesses big hands. He isn’t a burner, nor is Snead, but Cooks is the fast burner. So if Thomas does take some of Snead’s targets, it won’t be because Snead isn’t on the field, but because Thomas will play in the slot instead of outside. This offense is high powered enough to support 3 WRs. Snead should still get his, but this next new weapon’s fantasy outlook depends on what Thomas can do.
TE: The other new weapon the Saints brought in is Coby Fleener. The pure receiving TE they signed from the Colts. He will slide right into the Jimmy Graham/Ben Watson role, and flourish. He didn’t post great numbers for the Colts in his 4 seasons, never eclipsing 800 yard or 8 TDs. This could change with the Saints who use the TE a lot of different ways. Fleener is a matchup nightmare on the outside but can also win on the inside vs LBs. With his ADP rising into the 7th round, he is still a good value and has the potential to finish in the top 5 at the position. It’s just a good thing he doesn’t have to block for your fantasy team.