Monday - Feb 18, 2019

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NFC South Preview

Ben Ice returns with this pre-season review of the NFC South.  Every
week he’ll deal the sausage gravy for your fantasy biscuits as the
season nears and we can finally start singing “Are you ready for some
football?”

Atlanta

Falcons

QB Michael Vick/Joey Harrington

This headline should probably be labeled Joey Harrington since it seems obvious that Michael Vick won’t play. In fact if what has hit the news lately is true we could be looking at a lifetime ban.

  Such a waste of talent, but it is long overdue for athletes to be treated like the every day Joe and not some kind of demigod.

 

 

Harrington might surprise a few people this year. Yes, I know how bad he has been over the last few years. No one has derided him as a fantasy failure more than I have. In fact I had a column at CBS Sportsline rejected because in the

Detroit

coverage I said that Harrington was worthless as a fantasy option.

  He looked scared, missing wide open receivers and throwing the ball into the ground more often than not.

 

The difference this year is he will be playing for Bobby Petrino, who knows a thing or two about creating prolific offenses. In fact Petrino might just be the thing Harrington needs to revitalize his moribund career.

  And it isn’t like he has to start from scratch.

Atlanta

has a pretty solid offensive line, a quality tight end and two good RB’s. For now Harrington is at best a QB2 and is probably better served as a potential waiver wire pick up, based on how he responds to a new offensive scheme and team.

 

I won’t be holding my breath.

QB Other

We won’t know the true impact of Rich McKay’s decision to ship Matt Schaub off to

Houston

until the season unfolds, but as mulligans go I imagine this is one McKay would really like to have back.

  With Harrington forced into a starters role, it will be up to DJ Shockley and NFL Europe transplant Lang Campbell if Harrington goes down. Now that Culpepper has signed with the Raiders, there are really no viable veteran QB’s on the market, at least not worth signing.

RB

The RB question gets complicated quickly and for a number of reasons. First, Petrino has scrapped the wildly successful zone blocking scheme that made the Falcons the league’s top rushing team for three consecutive years. Jerious

Norwood

is a fast riser on fantasy cheat sheets thanks to recent surgery for incumbent Warrick Dunn, but caution must be exercised. While

Norwood

has top five potential in the one cut and go zone blocking scheme, his value could be considerably less with Petrino’s new offense. He could also be a key part of an RBBC that would include Dunn when healthy, Jamal Robertson, recently acquired from the Panthers and Justin Snelling, the Falcon’s 7th round draft pick out of Virginia. Originally projected by draft experts as a fullback, Snelling has been getting reps at tailback, confirming Petrino’s comments that he was drafted as a tailback, not a fullback. That is enough for me to downgrade

Norwood

from a low RB2 to a high RB3.

 

WR Joe Horn

If a healthy Horn becomes the team’s WR1.

  He has more experience and talent than any of the other Falcons wide outs.

  His value is dampened by the questionable QB situation but Horn could emerge as a sly selection in later rounds.

WR Michael Jenkins

Jenkins has been the de facto WR1 for Atlanta, discounting the fact that TE Alge Crumpler was Vick’s go to guy more often than not.

  He slides down to WR2, and could be challenged by Roddy White, who is having a solid camp so far.

WR

If you are looking for a sleeper, and I’m not sure if this is the team to be doing it with (at least from a WR perspective) rookie Laurent Robinson might be worth considering. Robinson has been a media darling in camp, making spectacular catches seem almost routine.

  Joe Horn has taken a liking to him and has been working closely with the rookie.

  That kind of mentoring can go a long way.

  Apparently the coaches agree and are looking for ways to get him into the game plan. That is the kind of stuff I heard about Marques Colston last year that convinced me to take a late round flyer on him with most of my teams. Unfortunately I don’t think Robinson will have the added benefit of being listed as a TE on Yahoo!

 

TE Discussion

Alge Crumpler reprises his role, but I have to think that with Vick out of the picture and a veteran (Horn) available at the WR1 his value decreases. 

  

 

K

Aaron Elling or Billy Cundiff.

  Whatever, they are after all just kickers and not likely to be more than middle of the pack bye week fill ins, whoever gets the job.

 

 

Carolina

Panthers

QB

Jake Delhomme disappointed a lot of fantasy owners last year, ranking 17th in passing yards and throwing for only 17 touchdowns. That is a far cry from the 29 TD passes he threw in 2005 and the 3800+ yards in 2004.

  Injuries on both sides of the line had something to do with the drop in performance, but the lack of a clear #1 RB played into it as well.

  The off-season acquisition of David Carr should make for an interesting camp, and I expect Delhomme to respond. Don’t expect an immediate return to pre-2006 numbers, but new OC Jeff Davidson’s more complex offense should begin paying dividends midway through the season. Delhomme should be a QB2 in 12 team or smaller leagues, and a low end QB1 for larger leagues.

QB Other

David Carr steps into a great scenario.

  The Panthers may not have the best offensive line in the game but they are eons better than

Houston

’s. Carr has skills but after getting tagged for 249 sacks over his first five years in the NFL he needs a break, and playing backup to Delhomme is a great place to start.

  He has no fantasy significance unless Delhomme is hurt or starts the season horrifically.

 

RB DeShaun Foster got the bulk of the carries last year but will face a stiffer challenge from second year pro DeAngelo Williams. Williams had 1 more reception (33 to Fosters 32) but more than double the receiving yards, making him the clear choice in PPR leagues.

  The good news for Williams’ owners is he should get more carries this year. The bad news for anyone drafting either player is they are likely locked in a dreaded RBBC unless one of them is either hurt or totally outplayed.

  Neither is worthy of more than RB3 consideration at this point, but if you are going to gamble on one of them, stick with youth and DeAngelo Williams.

RB Other

Nick Goings will again be third on the depth chart followed by Eric Shelton. Brad Hoover returns as the starting FB. None of them are worth owning

 

WR

Outside of Steve Smith, who seems to get hurt every other year, the Panthers haven’t had much in the way of depth at the WR position. Drafting former USC stud Dwayne Jarrett was a step in the right direction.

  Jarrett could earn the WR2 spot, providing Delhomme a much needed second option in the passing game. In college Jarrett had 149 receptions, 29 going for TD’s. That’s a nice ratio but not one he is likely to maintain at the professional level. Still, it makes for an intriguing decision in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

  Keary Colbert, the likely casualty if Jarrett wins the starting job, was a huge disappointment after looking brilliant as a reserve WR in 2004. Injuries and poor performance have plagued him since.

  Better to look at him as a possible waiver pick up unless he beats out Jarrett for the starting job.

 

TE 

Carolina

uses their tight ends as blockers.

  Until something changes, don’t bother.

K John Kasay

is a solid kicker and can earn some extra points in leagues that award bonuses for longer field goals.

 

New Orleans

Saints

QB Drew Brees

Coming into the 2006 season Brees was considered a question mark, along with the entire Saints team.

  Coach Sean Payton set the tone early, cutting players he felt didn’t give the effort required to turn around a Saints team that had struggled the previous year.

  Brees fits Payton’s wide open offensive style has developed into one of the premier fantasy quarterbacks, although he may be hard pressed to equal the 4418 yards passing from 2006. Brees has challenged his team and the city of

New Orleans

to take the next step, and that bodes well for the entire team in 2007.

  Brees is a personal favorite of mine and can be had at least a round later than Peyton Manning. 

 

QB Other

Jamie Martin is a capable backup with 13 years experience…all as a backup. The Saints would be in trouble if he is needed to step in for Brees for any length of time.

 

RB 

Deuce McAllister will likely get more carries than Reggie Bush this year and should be a viable RB2 or high RB3. They split touches equally last year and should do so again this year, as Payton has said his scheming works both into the offense in different scenarios.

RB Reggie Bush

would easily be a top five draft pick if not for a certain RBBC in

New Orleans

.

  Bush has more upside than Deuce, playing lightning to McAllister’s thunder. Bush’s value increases even more in PPR leagues. Bush caught 88 passes in his rookie season and is expected to see a similar number of looks as Payton creates space for his electric sophomore. Bush is a middle 1st rounder in PPR leagues and a late 1st/early 2nd round selection in non-PPR leagues.

 

 

RB

Former Buckeye Antonio Pittman is the likely successor to Deuce McAllister but is nothing more than a deep keeper stash. Aaron Stecker is fighting for a roster spot. His familiarity with the offense means he would likely see any extra touches if something happened to Deuce.

WR Marques Colston

burst on to the scene as an unheralded rookie in 2006, surprising most fantasy pundits.

  Savvy Yahoo! owners snagged him early thanks to a positional anomaly that had him qualify as a TE, the position he played at

Hofstra

University

.

  There won’t be any such gifts this year, and caution should be exercised when considering him. First, he struggled late in the season due to nagging injuries. Second, with Joe Horn gone Colston will draw more double-teams, which could make it difficult for him to equal last years numbers.

 

WR Devery Henderson

showed flashes of brilliance last year, as evidenced by a sterling 23.3 yards per reception. While

Henderson

only caught 32 passes, he converted them into 745 yards and 5 TD’s and emerged as a viable deep threat. His biggest issue was dropped passes, but according to Brees, he has spent the off-season working diligently on his technique and it is showing in camp.

  He should start the season as the team’s WR2, but will face stiff challenges from rookie Robert Meacham and Terrance Copper, especially if his pass catching doesn’t improve.

WR Other

Copper showed some skills last year and could see an increase in production with the off-season departure of Horn. Meacham could cut into his opportunities with a solid camp, and has been rumored to have an outside shot at the WR2.

  I’d rate Meacham a slight favorite in deep redraft leagues and a clear choice over Copper in keeper leagues.

 

TE discussion 

The Saints signed Eric Johnson to a one-year deal and if he stays healthy stands a chance of returning some value this season. There was no clear-cut option last year, and coach Payton said Johnson fits the offense he wants to run.

  Caveat emptor with Johnson, who hasn’t been able to play an entire year since his breakout season in 2004 with the 49ers.

 

 

K Olindo Mare

replaces John Carney. Mare is pretty good and converts well up to 50 yards on FG attempts.

  He slipped to only 1-6 in attempts over 50 yards. Still a solid pick and likely not gone after the first too-early kicker run.

Tampa

Bay

Buccaneers

QB Jeff Garcia

If he stays healthy I see Garcia ranking as a top ten fantasy QB production-wise.

  The investments on the offensive line should begin paying major dividends, especially the acquisition of Luke Petitgout from the Giants and the return of Dan Buenning from injury.

  Garcia doesn’t have the big arm, but is extremely accurate, which is what the Bucs were lacking last year with rookie Bruce Gradkowski.

 

QB Other

Chris Simms is still struggling, apparently with some nerve damage that is a carry over from the injury that effectively ended his season last year.

  That leaves the Bucs with Simms, Luke McCown and Gradkowski battling for the backup spot. Simms has had problems in camp related to his injury but should be kept on your radar screen in case of injury to Garcia.

 

RB Cadillac Williams

is ripe for a comeback this season, but with prejudice. I expect him to look more like the Rookie of the Year version than the 2006 Kia version. The prejudice is whether he can stay healthy, as even in college he had a knack for losing some time due to nagging injuries. You can’t hang last year’s disappointing season on Williams however.

  Defenses routinely put nine in the box, daring Gradkowski to beat them. For the most part they had little to be concerned about. That won’t happen this year and, coupled with an offensive line that should get better as the year progresses, Cadillac becomes a viable RB2. You might even steal him as an RB3 since many owners were burned by him last year and ascribe to a sometimes misguided sense of what reliability means.

RB Other

Michael Pittman is the obvious handcuff here. There is little else to look at.

WR Joey Galloway

actually had a pretty solid year considering how many times the QB missed him when he was wide open.

  With a veteran QB who can hit him in stride on the slants Gruden loves to run, a competition brewing for the WR2 spot and an invigorated rushing attack,

Galloway

is another player flying under the radar who should be a steal later in the draft.

Galloway

should prove to be a legitimate WR2 this year but likely will be drafted with other WR3’s and 4’s.

WR Other

in the past this would be Michael Clayton, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. This year he could lose out to former Notre Dame star Maurice Stovall. Stovall has been impressive in camp and has worked his way into the mix.

  Watch this battle closely, but considering the problems Clayton has experienced since his outstanding rookie year, expect Stovall to get the looks early.

  The David Boston watch renews this year.

Boston

reportedly is at his prime playing weight of 230, and at only 27 could be an asset both for the Bucs and fantasy teams that start three WR’s. For now he is a waiver wire option in all but keeper and dynasty leagues.

TE

Gruden loves his TE’s, but not enough to focus on just one.

  Last year Anthony Becht and Alex Smith each caught a few, but Gruden will spread the love, making neither worthy of anything more than a bye week fill in

K 

Matt Bryant kicked a 62 yard field goal to beat the Eagles last year, and could see a lift in value if the offense comes around, but is still not worth drafting.

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