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NFC South Preview

NFC South Preview

Atlanta

Falcons

QB –

Chris Redman – Many are wondering if the Falcons will start the season with

Matt Ryan at the helm. If that’s the case they might as well just mail the season in now. Sure they want to start getting some dividends from their $72 million investment, but they need to think long term. Ryan isn’t going to win many games, and the last thing you want to do with a young quarterback is crush his confidence. Redman moved the offense well in the seven games he started. Joey Harrington is the backup for now, but considering his pitiful performance last year, expect him to get sliced at some point this year.

 

RB –

Michael Turner – Turner is fast for a 5-foot-10 bowling ball, and while he’ll get more carries than

Norwood, a 60/40 split is the most likely scenario. Considering that the offensive line is working on their third offense in three years, don’t expect a lot here. At best he is a low end RB2, more likely an RB3 considering the weak passing game, but he won’t be a true feature back in

Atlanta’s new offensive scheme.

 

RB –

Jerious

Norwood

Head coach Mike Smith likens

Norwood to Maurice Jones-Drew from his former team, and while

Norwood is a threat to go all the way he isn’t built to last like MJD. Regardless, he’ll get his share of carries in

Atlanta’s new run-oriented offense, but he is nothing more than a handcuff in case something happens to Turner or a spot start when you are desperate for a RB.

 

RB – Other –

Jason Snelling, Thomas Brown – Snelling didn’t make the team last season, spending more than half of 2007 on the practice squad. Brown is a speedy back but small and not worth looking at.

 

WR –

Roddy White – White was a 3rd-year breakout WR last year and returns as the #1 option in the passing game. He’ll be hard pressed to repeat last year’s 83 catch, 1,202 yard, six TD performance with a renewed emphasis on the running game. With the starting QB job up in the air, temper your expectations and consider him a low end WR2 this season.

 

WR – Other –

Joe Horn, Michael Jenkins, Laurent RobinsonJoe Horn is old, injury prone and was a huge disappointment for some fantasy players last year.

  Michael Jenkins will likely compete with second year burner Robinson, who has the size and speed to stretch defenses. Robinson wowed the fans during OTA’s with a series of acrobatic catches. Jenkins isn’t likely worth drafting, but Robinson should be on your sleeper list if he earns the WR2 spot.

 

TE –

Ben Hartsock – With the departure of Alge Crumpler, Hartsock inherits the TE job and should set career highs in receptions, yards and TDs. That shouldn’t be difficult to do considering last year was his finest, with 12 receptions, 138 yards and no TDs. If Mike Mularkey fulfills his promise to throw to the tight ends more Hartsock might be a viable bye week replacement. Keep him on your radar screen but let him languish on the waiver wire.

 

K –

Jason Elam – The former Bronco Pro Bowler could actually be a worthy kicker, considering the likely struggles of the Falcons offense. He is however a kicker and not worth anything more than an end of draft selection.

 

 

Carolina

Panthers

 

QB –

Jake Delhomme – Delhomme was on his way to a Pro Bowl season, completing over 64% of his passes for 624 yards and eight TDs in two and a half games last season before injuring his elbow. After successful Tommy John surgery, the Ragin’ Cajun is back and with him the fortunes of

Carolina’s offense. For his career Delhomme averages a touch less than 60% and has 100 TDs versus 64 INTs. However, injuries sidelined him in each of the last two seasons, and you have to wonder how many more years he has in the league. The Panthers got him some weapons with the acquisition of DJ Hackett and the return of Muhsin Muhammad. Watch his performance in the preseason. He could outperform his draft spot if he can stay healthy.

 

QB – Other –

Matt Moore – Moore, an undrafted free agent last year, will be the backup quarterback and would see time if Delhomme gets hurt.

Moore went 2-1 as a starter and requited himself well, but isn’t likely to have much value if he does replace Delhomme.

 

RB –

Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams – Stewart and Williams comprise another RBBC that will depress both players’ value, but Stewart is the better selection because he’ll get the red zone carries.

   Williams is a viable handcuff, but Stewart fits the mold of coach John Fox’s smash mouth running attack.

 

RB – Other –

LaBrandon Toefield, Nick Goings, Brad Hoover – Goings had a decent season filling in for former Panther Stephen Davis in 2004, but if Carolina needs to call on any of these to be a starter the call will likely be to 911.

 

WR –

Steve Smith – Smith is still living off his 103/1,563/12 performance in 2005, but last year is likely closer to what you can expect from him. Delhomme will have options in the passing game, so Smith won’t carry the load. Expect something in the neighborhood of 1,150 yards on 85 receptions and seven to eight TDs. That’s still good for a low end WR1, and even better if you manage to get him for your WR2.

 

WR –

Muhsin Muhammad, DJ Hackett – Muhammad returns to the team that saw him lead he team in receiving in 2004 when Smith went down in the first game of the season. He’s old (35) but still a great route runner and solid blocker. He’ll face a stiff challenge from the speedy Hackett, so watch this battle and draft the winner as a decent WR3.

 

WR – Other –

Dwayne Jarrett – Jarrett has yet to live up to his high draft selection and has an uphill climb for playing time. The former USC Trojan will likely need an injury to crack the starting lineup.

 

TE –

Jeff King – TE’s block in John Fox’s offense. King had career highs last year but it wasn’t worth more than a buy week replacement and a prayer

 

K –

John Kasay – When the Panthers offense is clicking Kasay is kicking. He has converted 86% of his kicks of under 50 yards for his career and has attempted 67 FG’s over 50 yards in his career. Likely worth a flyer when you draft your kicker in the last round. You will draft your kicker in the last round, right?

 

 

New Orleans

Saints

 

QB –

Drew Brees – Brees attempted more passes than any other QB last year, mainly thanks to the loss of Deuce McAllister early in the season. He shouldn’t attempt that many less this year as the passing game is still the bread and butter for the Saints O. The addition of Jeremy Shockey gives Brees another target to choose from and keeps Brees in the Top 5 this year.

 

QB – Other –

Mark Brunell – Entering his 17th year in the NFL, Brunell isn’t going to scare opposing secondaries even with talent he has in the passing game. He may be serviceable if Brees goes down, but there will be no joy in Saintsville if he becomes the starter.

 

RB –

Reggie Bush – The only way Bush is a viable low-end RB1 is if your league counts points for receptions. Bush can’t handle the inside game, and needs space to work his magic. The Saints will need someone to step up and take the pressure off Bush or another injury is highly likely.

 

RB –

Deuce McAllister – I realize some people are expecting Deuce to be running again, but when you are a 29-year-old running back and have to have fluid drained from your surgically repaired knees it’s time to hang up your cleats.

 

 

RB – Other –

Aaron Stecker, Pierre Thomas – Thomas is the guy you want to stash on your bench, even though Stecker is currently ahead of him on the depth chart. In limited action last year Thomas averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 8.9 yards per reception. Many point to Stecker’s impressive performances in weeks 14 and 15 last year, but those games were against

Atlanta and

Arizona.

 

WR –

Marques Colston – Built like a tight end, fast like a wide receiver, Colston is Brees’ favorite target, finishing 2007 with 98 catches, 1,202 yards and 11 TDs. Expect another banner year.

 

WR – Other –

David Patten, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem – Patten had a solid year with 54 catches, 794 yards and three TDs and will see action in the Saints’ pass first offense.

Henderson is nursing a hamstring injury and could find himself outside looking in. Meacham is wowing in camp with great down-field separation and some spectacular catches in traffic. He should be on your radar late in the draft.

 

TE –

Jeremy Shockey – Shockey is coming off a lost season with a broken leg but has the talent to be a nice late draft pick up. His attitude could be an issue and is worth watching closely.

 

K –

Martin Gramatica – Once known as “Automatica” when he kicked for the Buccaneers in the early part of the decade, Gramatica has found a new home in

New Orleans

. Gramatica has a strong leg and should get plenty of FG chances, and eight dome games certainly won’t hurt his chances of being a decent kicker. Gramatica has booted 16-25 FGs over 50 yards in his career.

 

 

Tampa

Bay

Buccaneers

 

QB –

Jeff Garcia – Possibly the best thing that came out the Favre saga is the motivation it gave Garcia to prove doubters wrong. While there are plenty of question marks at WR, expect some answers as preseason rolls around. The biggest issue with Garcia is his age, as evidenced by his recent calf injury. It hasn’t healed as fast as it might have just a few years ago. Regardless, Garcia will be nothing more than a backup for any fantasy team.

 

Other QB –

Luke McCown, Brian Griese – McCown is the backup. Griese is an insurance policy, something NFL teams must plan for these days as defenses get bigger and faster. If McCown takes the helm due to a Garcia injury, he’ll need to improve on his decision making. He’s had a great camp so far but either way, neither of these QB’s are anything more than waiver wire fodder.

 

RB –

Earnest Graham – Don’t be fooled by the acquisition of Warrick Dunn. His job is to compete for passing downs and to give Graham a rest. If he stays healthy expect Graham to produce as a top RB2, with around 1,500 total yards, 12 TDs and 50 receptions.

 

Other RB –

Warrick Dunn, Michael Bennett, Cadillac Williams – Dunn and Bennett will compete for the backup job. Williams will likely spend the first six games of the season on the PUP list, but could be an intriguing waiver wire pick up once he returns. Unless something happens to Graham, don’t expect the Bucs to rush him back into the game.

 

WR –

Joey Galloway – Galloway doesn’t have many years left and is coming back from shoulder and groin injuries that have kept him out of heavy practice but it won’t affect his position.

Galloway has three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons even though his receptions have fallen each of those years. Interestingly, his yards per catch during that stretch have increased each year, from 15.5 in 2005 to 17.8 last year. An improving running game has a lot to do with both of those stats, and he should finish the season with 60 receptions, 1,000+ yards and seven TDs…good enough for a pretty solid WR3.

 

WR –

Ike Hilliard – Ike doesn’t have

Galloway’s speed but found a niche as Garcia’s go-to-guy when a clutch play was needed. Hilliard consistently made big plays to keep drives going, but offseason shoulder surgery could force him back down the depth chart in favor of a younger player. Hilliard doesn’t have much value in most leagues and should not be drafted.

 

WR – Other –

Michael Clayton, Maurice Stovall, Paris

Warren – If Hilliard loses his job it will be to either Clayton or Stovall. Clayton is fully healed from the nagging injuries that kept him down after a brilliant rookie season.

  Stovall, like Clayton, is a big, strong, athletic target who could benefit from another year in Gruden’s system. Expect the competition to be fierce, but give the edge to Clayton, who should last year that he was finally back.

  

Sleeper AlertParis Warren is buried on the depth chart for the moment after suffering a horrendous “Joe Theismann” like injury when he broke his ankle in the final preseason game of 2007.

Warren was the darling of camp last year and had earned a spot on the team thanks to highlight reel catches and excellent performance after the catch. If he makes the team and is confident of his wheels, he could be a big surprise for fantasy owners later this season.

Warren

is one to keep an eye on for keeper and dynasty leagues if he does make the team.

 

TE –

Alex Smith,

Ben Troupe, Jerramy Stevens – Although an athletic group with good hands, TE’s in Gruden’s system are rotated too often for any one player to stand out as anything more than a bye week replacement.

 

K –

Matt Bryant – While Bryant did provide the winning points against Philadelphia in the sixth game of the 2006 season with a miracle 62-yard kick with no time remaining, he didn’t complete a single field goal over 50 yards last year. He’s a kicker and not a very high scoring one. At best he’ll be a bye week replacement.

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