NFC South Fantasy Football Breakdown Recap

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On Saturday’s episode of the Fantasy Footballers, hosts Andy, Mike, and Jason break down the fantasy previews of the NFC South.  In terms of fantasy potential, no other division is quite like the NFC South with the Saints, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Panthers. Make sure to listen to NFL Is Back + NFC South to get a more detailed breakdown of this division.

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New Orleans Saints (13-3)

Head Coach: Sean Payton

Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael

2019 Offensive Stats:

  • Rush YPG: 108.6 – 16th
  • Rush TDs: 12 – 20th
  • Pass YPG: 265.3 – 7th
  • Pass TDs: 36 – 2nd
  • Points For: 28.6/g – 3rd

Projected Week 1 Starters (ADP)

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Player Additions: WR Emmanuel Sanders

Player Subtractions: WR Ted Ginn | QB Teddy Bridgewater

Rookies: TE Adam Trautman | QB Tommy Stevens

Offseason Summary: 

The New Orleans Saints have had an impressive 7-1 record on the road in back-to-back seasons, finishing 2019 13 – 3.  The Saints may get a bad rep for spearheading the charge to implement challenging pass interference, but they remain a Super Bowl contender every year. With continuity of players and coaching, they have a legitimate shot to go all the way this year yet again.

The Saints’ passing volume is coming down, but in the past 11 seasons, Brees has sustained a top-30 WR2 in eight of those years. The last two years, however, the WR2 was Tre’Quan Smith who disappointed for fantasy managers.  If Sanders can finish the year in the top-30, he is an incredible value in 10th Round.

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With the passing volume decreasing, we should have seen RB Alvin Kamara have a feast in 2019. However, the Saints finished the year ranked 20th in rushing touchdowns with only 12. We did learn that Kamara was dealing with a host of injuries last year, hampering his ability to stay productive and see the end zone.  Andy is the lowest on Kamara as his RB7 in his rankings with sustainability concerns and Latavius Murray’s productivity. While he may not ball out on the ground with the identity of the Saints’ offense, he should see plenty of work in the passing game keeping him firmly in the top-10.

TE Jared Cook is going to be tough to predict. His volume may come down with the addition of Sanders as the WR2, but the touchdowns could still be there. However, touchdowns are notoriously difficult to predict, and relying on touchdown-dependent players is risky. His ADP at 10.01 does factor into his 2020 production, so taking him late may be a value to your team, even if you have to rely on TDs for points.

Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

Head Coach: Dan Quinn

Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter

2019 Offensive Stats:

  • Rush YPG: 85.1 30th
  • Rush TDs: 10 – 24th
  • Pass YPG: 294.6 – 3rd
  • Pass TDs: 29 – 8th
  • Points For: 23.8/g – 13th

Projected Week 1 Starters (ADP)

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Player Additions: RB Todd Gurley | TE Hayden Hurst

Player Subtractions: RB Devonta Freeman | TE Austin Hooper

Rookies: DEF/ST

Offseason Summary:

After an incredibly bad start to the season going 1-7, Dan Quinn’s coaching job was on the line.  After their Week 9 bye, the Falcons finished out the rest of the season with a 6-2 record including road wins against the Saints and the 49ers. 

When QB Matt Ryan isn’t throwing interceptions in the red zone, he is a prolific passer.  Ryan and his supporting cast ended 2019 3rd best in the league in yards per game.

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Questions do surround the productivity of WR Calvin Ridley, TE Hayden Hurst, and RB Todd Gurley.  Ridley’s breakout may be capped after acquiring Hurst from the Ravens.  When it comes to Gurley’s 2020 production, it will entirely depend on whether or not Quinn can get him into the end zone. (In this episode, Mike has a fun game for Jason and Andy regarding RB David Montgomery and Gurley that is rather eye-opening.) On the other hand, there are a lot of vacated targets in Atlanta, and Gurley can get production in the passing game as well as the run game.  If Quinn decides that he wants to limit Gurley’s action, it’s anyone’s guess if it will be RB Brian Hill, Ito Smith, or Qadree Ollison on the field with him.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)

Head Coach: Bruce Arians

Offensive Coordinator: Byron Leftwich

2019 Offensive Stats:

  • Rush YPG: 95.1 – 24th
  • Rush TDs: 15 – Tied 15th
  • Pass YPG: 302.8 – 1st
  • Pass TDs: 33 – 3rd
  • Points For: 28.6/g – 3rd
  • INTs: 33 – 32nd

Projected Week 1 Starters (ADP):

Player Additions: QB Tom Brady | TE Rob Gronkowski 

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Player Subtractions: QB Jameis Winston | RB Peyton Barber

Rookies: RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn | WR Tyler Johnson | RB Raymond Calais

Offseason Summary:

It should come as no surprise to hear that QB Jameis Winston threw an interception on 7.3% of his attempts. The NFL average was 1.5% in 2019, mind you. Still, Arians is a true believer in chucking it down the field, leading the league in passing yards per game at 302.8.

This, of course, bodes well for QB Tom Brady who will have a decent offensive line that finished 7th in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus and is currently ranked 13th heading into the 2020 season.  WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans should also see a boost in production with a more accurate quarterback under center.

Jason is the lowest on WR Mike Evans this year, ranking him as the WR19 while Andy is the highest at WR8. Evans certainly has a better, more skilled quarterback in Brady, but we can’t ignore Godwin and TE Rob Gronkowski. We also don’t know how similar 2020’s offense will look compared to last year’s high-flying performances with Winston.  Evans dominates the deep ball, but there are questions surrounding Brady’s ability to consistently throw deep.

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Watching Gronkowski’s return to the NFL should be entertaining no matter what, especially with Brady at the helm.  Andy has him ranked at TE8, Mike at TE12, and Jason is all the way down at TE24. 

With losing RB Peyton Barber, a big question surrounds Ronald Jones and his ability to absorb those vacated rushes. Could we see rookie RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn be the guy in Tampa Bay?  One thing is for sure, as soon as one of these RBs fails to block and gets Brady sacked, there goes their shot at being on the field.

Carolina Panthers (5-11)

Head Coach: Matt Rhule (or Matt Ja Rhule, if you prefer)

Offensive Coordinator: Joe Brady

2019 Offensive Stats:

  • Rush YPG: 113.7 – 14th
  • Rush TDs: 20 – Tied 4th
  • Pass YPG: 228.1 – 20th
  • Pass TDs: 17 – 31st
  • Points For: 21.3/g – 20th

Projected Week 1 Starters (ADP):

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Player Additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater | WR Robby Anderson

Player Subtractions: QB Cam Newton | TE Greg Olsen

Rookies: DEF Players

Offseason Summary:

Out of the NFC South, the Panthers are going through the biggest offensive changes of all the teams.  2020 will see a new head coach and offensive coordinator, WR, and a new QB in Teddy Bridgewater.  Carolina will be the most difficult to predict in aside from RB Christian McCaffrey.

HC Matt Rhule had excellent success as a coach in college, but it did take at least a year to get the offenses going. Add that to a new starting QB, poor defense, a weak offensive line, and the Panthers will struggle in this division. 

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The fantasy production will be there for McCaffrey as well as WR D.J. Moore who should see a ton of short field targets.  However, deep-threat WR Robby Anderson is a wild card.  Just over 7% of Bridgewater’s passes were considered “deep” in 2019, but when he did throw long, he was accurate.  The Footballers also note that Brees only went deep about 8% so a lot of that could be due to the Saints’ offensive mentality.

2019 was supposed to be the year for WR Curtis Samuel, but yet again, fate intervened with an injured Cam Newton.  Injuries have either plagued Samuel or his starting QB and he has yet to have an opportunity to make a splash.  He finally did play a full 16 games last year and led the league in routes run, but only 67 out 105 targets were catchable. That’s absurd.

With veteran TE Greg Olsen gone to Seattle, don’t forget about TE Ian Thomas.  He averaged 6 targets per game when Olsen was out. Another interesting note, when Bridgewater and Cook played together in four games with the Saints, Cook was a top-6 TE in two of those four games.  This is promising for Thomas’ future in 2020 and he is either going undrafted or very late.

Bridgewater has the weapons around him to be fantasy productive and is much better equipped to run the Panthers’ offense, unlike QB Kyle Allen in 2019. Whether or not he can take that step forward for a full 16 games in 2020 is a question mark. He is a good target late in drafts, especially in two QB leagues.

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