The Atlanta Falcons wrested the NFC South Division title away from the New Orleans Saints last season as ‘Bounty Gate’ left New Orleans rudderless without head coach Sean Payton. As free agency unfolds, the Falcons and Saints figure to battle for the division title again with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers playing chase the leaders.
Each team has made a few interesting additions on the defensive side of the ball that effect the 2013 Individual Defensive Players (IDP) fantasy landscape so let’s get to breaking them down.
The Falcons will look to replace one veteran pass-rushing specialist with another in 2013 as they have signed former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. He is slated as of now to be the replacement for John Abraham, who is currently testing the free agent waters himself.
At 31 years old, Umenyiora will be entering his 10th NFL season and is expected to help bolster the Falcons pass rush which finished 28th in total sacks with only 29 last season. He can be penciled in for at least 700 regular season snaps with the real chance to notch at least 10 sacks in 2013. In years that he has played 15 or more games, Umenyiora has averaged just less than double digit sacks (9.91) as well as posting nine in 2011 while playing in only nine games.
Umenyiora has also forced 32 fumbles in his career and his fantasy value is heavily weighted in favor of leagues that reward the big play. He’s averaged 41 total tackles per season with a career-high 71 combined stops coming back in 2005-06. IDP owners don’t draft Umenyiora for his tackle numbers, and he is a solid DL3 with definite DL2 upside. If he can stay healthy and the Falcons can bring in another pass rushing option to line up opposite (there is talk that Abraham may be re-signed), Umenyiora he is line for a bounce back campaign in 2013.
The only other new defensive signing that Atlanta has made has no fantasy impact but is worth noting for its ‘feel good’ factor. After serving five years for a crime he did not commit, linebacker Brian Banks has been signed and will compete for a roster spot in 2013.
Should he make the 53-man roster it’ll most likely be as a special teams player and depth at linebacker. Mad props to the man for staying with his dream after being wronged so unjustly and making it to the league at 27. Good luck sir!
The Panthers have brought in three players to help their porous secondary that finished last season having allowed 22 touchdowns while picking off only 11. Former Chicago nickel back D.J. Moore is likely to assume that same role for the Panthers, which puts a ceiling on his fantasy worth. His career-best season came in 2011 when he notched 44 total stops, four interceptions, eight passes defended and scored a defensive touchdown.
Moore played only 368 snaps for Chicago last season, a big drop off from the average of 563 that he played in 2010-11. His 10 career interceptions, 22 passes defensed and two touchdowns while playing limited snaps for the Bears indicate that Moore has playmaking abilities. However, unless he is given more opportunities for the Panthers, he is not worth wasting a draft selection on.
Drayton Florence will be playing for his fourth team in the last six years as a Panther this season. He will be 32 years old and coming off of an eight-game stint for Detroit in 2012 in which he totaled 19 tackles and one interception. On the bright side, he may actually end up starting for Carolina due to the lack of depth currently on the roster.
Florence has never been higher than a DB4 in his career and there is no reason to believe that tend will end this season. There is an outside chance he could be worth a waiver wire grab in very deep leagues as a DB5 or bye week fill in, but he is best avoided on fantasy draft day.
Former Oakland strong safety Mike Mitchell is a solid run support safety and has the chance to be a starter in 2013 for Carolina. Incumbent safety Haruki Nakamura struggled mightily last season and the position is wide open. Mitchell could carry DB5 fantasy value if he manages to grab the starting gig and hold off any possible competition from a 2013 draft selection.
Chase Blackburn has been brought over from the New York Giants after being instrumental in their Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in 2011. He’s a blood and guts, gritty inside linebacker that amassed a career-high 98 total tackles last season as well as three sacks and four forced fumbles.
That was then and this is now. That was playing for a banged up New York defense and this is playing behind three top IDP performers. Blackburn is too slow to supplant any of the Panthers starting trio of Thomas Davis, Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly. However, all is not lost with the recent injury history of Davis and Beason. There could be value in utilizing a late-round flyer selection on Blackburn as a handcuff option in leagues with very large rosters.