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Training Camp Preview: NFC South

Mon Jul 29 10:49am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Newton is a question mark


This is the seventh preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Falcons

The Falcons didn’t have the season as expected last year, failing to finish above .500. The big issue was the defense, allowing more than 400 points last year. The offense was very good with the passing game excelling. So much of this camp will be focused on getting the defense right. If that happens, the Falcons can make a playoff push.    

Position battle: Receiver Calvin Ridley had a solid rookie season but was a little up and down. Mohamed Sanu is the starter opposite Julio Jones right now but could lose that starting spot to Ridley. Sanu has been a productive NFL player but isn’t off the charts by any means. Ridley is the more talented player of the two with more upside for the big things. He should push Sanu for playing time and likely take over as the starter at some point. 

Injury watch: Running back Devonta Freeman played just two games last year, needing surgery to fix a groin injury. He is back to full strength and will be back to his lead duties for the Falcons. Atlanta needs him healthy with Tevin Coleman gone. Freeman will be counted on to carry the load a little more, so being healthy is pertinent for the Falcons and Freeman’s fantasy owners. 

Saints

The Saints don’t have a lot to be decided this training camp. Much of camp could be getting this team primed for a Super Bowl run. There are high expectations for the team after a good showing last year. Drew Brees doesn’t have a whole lot of time left to make another Super Bowl, so this season could be a big one for his legacy. 

Position battle: The Saints like to rotate receivers, giving plenty of guys chances during the season. But the starter opposite Michael Thomas still has a little more value than the other guys. Right now, Ted Ginn is the favorite to start but Tre’Quan Smith and a healthy Cameron Meredith could push Ginn for the starting spot. This will be a battle to watch because it has fantasy implications. Smith is an intriguing player that showed his rookie year he is capable of the huge game. 

Injury watch: Receiver Ted Ginn played just five games last year because of a knee injury. If he hopes to have a big role this year and keep his starting job, he will need to be healthy and stay healthy. Ginn seems back to his old self during offseason workouts but his age and last year is a concern going forward for him.  

Panthers

The big thing to watch in Panthers camp this year is Cam Newton. How is he going to recover from another surgery to his throwing arm? Newton really is the key to the season for the Panthers. The team needs him healthy and playing at a high level if they hope to have any success this year. The offense really goes through Newton. 

Position battle: D.J. Moore is going to start at one of the receiver spots and Curtis Samuel will work out of the slot, but the No. 2 receiver is up in the air. Devin Funchess is gone, leaving a hole at the position. The candidates to start are Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith and Chris Hogan. It really is a wide open battle without a favorite. We’ll know more as camp and the preseason progresses. 

Injury watch: Quarterback Cam Newton had major shoulder surgery this offseason. He is throwing but will be on a pitch count in camp. The Panthers will take it slow with their star quarterback. Newton has progressed well from the surgery but seeing how he is throwing the ball will be something fantasy teams should monitor closely. Newton is a real wild card this year after having shoulder surgery once again. 

Bucs

The Bucs made changes to the coaching staff once again, hiring Bruce Arians. He should be a big plus for the offense, including starting quarterback Jameis Winston. So the big focus of camp is likely being the Bucs getting up to speed both offensively and defensively with their new schemes. Hopefully, the offense picks things up quick because it could be pretty potent from a fantasy perspective. 

Position battle: The Bucs should have a real battle on their hands for the starting running back spot. Peyton Barber was the starter last year and has a leg up for the job, but second-year back Ronald Jones is looking to rebound from a poor rookie year. A new coaching staff should be a plus for Jones, who had a strong offseason of work. Jones should be given a fair shot to unseat Barber. 

Injury watch: Tight end O.J. Howard had a breakout season last year but missed six gams because of an ankle injury. He is yet to play a full season since entering the NFL. He has a chance for another big year but needs to be on the field for that to happen. Howard has not shown he can on the field to date but hopes to change that perception this season. He could be a star. 

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
New York Jets Sep 17 12:40am ET

The New York Jets Defense had three sacks, one interception and gave up 23 points in a lopsided loss to the Browns on Monday night. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams talked a big game in the week leading up to this matchup, but they couldn't back it up and got torched for 161 yards by Odell Beckham Jr., including an 89-yard touchdown where he was barely touched. The defense should be healthier next week with rookie Quinnen Williams and linebacker C.J. Mosley back in the mix, but they might be the worst defense to start in fantasy for Week 3, as they'll travel to New England to face the Patriots.

From RotoBaller

Ty Montgomery Sep 17 12:30am ET

New York Jets running back Ty Montgomery had three carries for 25 yards and three catches for 15 yards in a loss to Cleveland Monday. Montgomery was a hot waiver wire add earlier in the week with Le'Veon Bell questionable with a shoulder injury but Bell was fine and handled the lion's share of the backfield work out-touching Montgomery 31-6. Head coach Adam Gase has made it clear through two weeks Bell is the centerpiece of this offense and Montgomery won't have much fantasy value unless Bell misses time.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Sep 17 12:30am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry was quiet in a 23-3 win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football in Week 2. Landry caught three of his seven targets for 32 yards in the win. The veteran slot receiver's biggest contribution on the evening was a 25-yard gain on third-and-20 at the end of the second quarter. Of course, Odell Beckham Jr was tending to an injury on the sidelines when Landry made that catch. Beckham's presence in town is a concern for Landry, who has just seven catches for 99 yards through two games. In Freddie Kitchens' offense, Landry is not getting fed targets the way he has in the past. He is dropping into the WR4 range in fantasy and will be tough to trust in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Sep 17 12:20am ET

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 19-of-35 passes for 325 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a 23-3 win over the New York Jets in Week 2. While the second-year quarterback's final numbers look good, the Cleveland offense looked disjointed and had issues moving the ball at times against an overmatched Jets team. Mayfield's final stat line was bailed out by an 89-yard touchdown reception by Odell Beckham Jr in the third quarter in which the receiver did most of the heavy lifting after a short catch. Mayfield now has 610 passing yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions through his first two games. He will look for his first multi-touchdown game in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.

From RotoBaller

Nick Chubb Sep 17 12:20am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards and a touchdown in a 23-3 win over the New York Jets in Week 2. Chubb also added four receptions for 36 yards in the winning effort. The second-year running back scored Cleveland's first touchdown of the evening in the second quarter when he broke several tackles in a bruising 19-yard run. Chubb often left the field for D'Ernest Johnson on third downs but he wound up handling 18 of Cleveland's 21 rush attempts. Chubb is locked in as a high-volume runner in the Cleveland offense and will be an RB1 again in Week 3 when the Browns face the Los Angeles Rams.

From RotoBaller

Sam Ficken Sep 17 12:20am ET

New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken made a 46-yard field goal on his only attempt of the night in a 23-3 loss to the Browns Monday. The home crowd didn't have much to cheer for but erupted when Ficken's kick sailed through the uprights after the Jets kicking disaster last week against the Bills. Ficken was signed after a tryout on Tuesday and didn't do anything tonight to lose the job, but won't have much fantasy value kicking for a Jets team that has scored only 19 points through two games and struggled mightily with backup quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk playing tonight.

From RotoBaller

Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 17 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr caught 6-of-10 targets for 161 yards and a touchdown in a 23-3 win over the New York Jets on Monday night. Beckham made the play of the game when he took a short pass over the middle in the third quarter and outran the New York defense for an 89-yard touchdown, the longest of his career. Beckham did survive an injury scare as he had to leave the game briefly at the end of the first half after he came down hard in the end zone following a catch attempt. He returned for the second half without any issues. Beckham now has 13 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown through two games. He will look to find the end zone again in Week 3 against the Los Angeles Rams.

From RotoBaller

Jamison Crowder Sep 17 12:10am ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder caught four passes for 40 yards on six targets in a 23-3 loss to the Browns Monday night. A week after tying the Jets record for catches in a game Crowder was seldom used tonight with the Jets playing backup quarterbacks and RB Le'Veon Bell getting most of the short targets Crowder thrived on in Week 1. Crowder's fantasy value will depend on who plays QB for the Jets moving forward as he simply didn't have the same connection this week as he did with a healthy Sam Darnold last week. Crowder will be in the WR3/flex mix most weeks but faces a daunting matchup next week against a Patriots Defense that has allowed only three points through two games.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Griffin Sep 17 12:10am ET

New York Jets tight end Ryan Griffin got one target that he didn't catch in a 23-3 loss against the Browns Monday night. Griffin now has only five targets through two games and is not a viable fantasy option in any format, especially given the Jets are likely to be starting a third-string quarterback next week. The Jets tight end situation can be safely ignored in fantasy until regular starter Chris Herndon returns from suspension in Week 6.

From RotoBaller

Luke Falk Sep 17 12:00am ET

New York Jets quarterback Luke Falk completed 20 passes in 25 attempts for 198 yards coming off the bench Monday night. Falk had no touchdowns and no interceptions in emergency duty after Trevor Siemian (ankle) left with an injury in the first half. Given the situation, Falk played a decent game but is not someone fantasy owners need to pay attention to, especially with a trip to New England lined up for next week. However, Falk did pepper Le'Veon Bell with 10 targets and made several good throws to Robby Anderson in garbage time so the Jets other fantasy assets could still be usable if Falk has to make a start next week.

From RotoBaller

Robby Anderson Sep 16 11:50pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson caught four passes for 81 yards on six targets Monday night against the Browns. Overall it was a good game for Anderson given the Jets started the game with backup QB Trevor Siemian and finished it with third-stringer Luke Falk running the offense. Anderson has always been a boom-or-bust big-play receiver and is likely to bust more often than not given the Jets current QB nightmare. He will be in the WR3 mix after the Jets Week 4 bye, when Sam Darnold should be back under center, but fantasy owners should leave Anderson on the bench next week in a brutal matchup at New England.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Sep 16 11:40pm ET

New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 21 times for 68 yards and had 10 receptions for 61 yards in a 23-3 loss to the Browns Monday night. The Jets offense could do nothing with Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk playing quarterback, but Bell was still able to put up a decent game thanks to 31 touches, eight more than he had in Week 1 when he played every snap. Given the injuries to the Jets quarterbacks, scoring opportunities will be few and far between for Bell but he has a safe floor in fantasy with all the targets he'll get and almost no competition for touches in the backfield. Bell will be in the RB2 mix in a difficult matchup next week at New England.

From RotoBaller

Demaryius Thomas Sep 16 11:00pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (ankle) suffered an ankle injury on Monday night against the Browns and is out for the rest of the game. Thomas had just one catch for minus-one yard on two targets. To be fair, Thomas was making his debut with the team and was taking passes from backup Trevor Siemian and third-stringer Luke Falk. He hadn't practiced at all with the Jets before being active on Monday, and he might miss more practice time this week on a short week ahead of Week 3. As the third wideout, at best, for Gang Green and with Sam Darnold (illness) likely out for at least another couple weeks, DT has very little fantasy appeal.

From RotoBaller

Giovani Bernard Sep 16 10:50pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was active and started on Sunday, leaving Giovani Bernard to backup duties. Bernard played just 40% of the snaps on Sunday as Mixon played through his ankle injury without any setbacks. Bernard carried the ball six times for six yards and hauled in just one of his three targets for seven more yards. The long-time Bengals running back remains a must-own player if you have Mixon on your roster, but he can't be trusted in standard-sized leagues, especially non-PPR ones.

From RotoBaller

Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 16 10:33pm ET

Updating a previous report, Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (undisclosed) returned for the second half of the Week 2 game against the New York Jets. He jogged off with an apparent lower leg injury near the end of the second quarter.

From TheHuddle

Minkah Fitzpatrick Sep 16 10:30pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers are acquiring defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Fitzpatrick requested a trade late last week and it was reported that the Dolphins wanted a first round pick for the 11th overall selection in the 2018 draft. As a rookie, he totaled 80 tackles, two interceptions, and nine passes defended. The 22-year-old can play safety and slot corner, but the Steelers Defense could use help at both spots so it will be interesting to see how they utilize him. Pittsburgh has a Week 3 matchup with San Francisco, but it's not advisable to stream them in a road matchup.

From RotoBaller

Demaryius Thomas Sep 16 10:23pm ET

New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) aggravated his hamstring injury in Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns and he will not return.

Fantasy Spin: Thomas is clearly not 100 percent, was rushed into action and he is now hurt. Avoid him in all fantasy leagues until he can return to health, get familiar with the playbook and show a little consistency.

From TheHuddle

Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 16 9:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (lower leg) suffered an apparent lower leg injury late in the second quarter after landing awkwardly in the end zone in Week 2 against the New York Jets. He attempted to get up, couldn't walk, and went back down to his backside. He then jogged off to meet with the training staff before trotting to the locker room right before halftime.

Fantasy Spin: Beckham looked to be in obvious discomfort initially, but he ran rather briskly into the locker room on third and long, suggesting he might be OK to begin the second half. We'll keep an eye on it.

From TheHuddle

David Njoku Sep 16 9:33pm ET

Updating a previous report, Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku (concussion) suffered a concussion in the first quarter of the Week 2 game against the New York Jets and he will not return.

Fantasy Spin: Njoku was upended on a pass play and landed awkwardly after having his legs taken out, hitting his head on the field turf surface. Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seal-Jones and Pharaoh Brown are the next men up at the position, with Harris likely to see the most targets.

From TheHuddle

Trevor Siemian Sep 16 9:30pm ET

New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian (ankle) suffered what looked to be a serious ankle injury in the second quarter on Monday night against the Browns. Siemian was hit hard and got his ankle caught underneath him while being taken to the turf. Somehow he was able to walk off the field under his own power and is being taken to the locker room. We'd be surprised if he were able to come back into this game. Third-stringer Luke Falk is now in the game. The Jets haven't been able to get any offense going and are leaning heavily on running back Le'Veon Bell. Siemian was an embarrassing 3-for-6 for three yards before he departed.

From RotoBaller