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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
Michael Thomas Sep 19 4:50pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) has been ruled out for Monday night's game against the Las Vegas Raiders. There was a "glimmer of hope" that Thomas would be able to suit up a week after suffering a high-ankle sprain, though that was probably false hope at best. This is ideal for fantasy managers because now they can pivot to options on their bench from Sunday's slate of games. Fellow wideout Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Jared Cook should see a larger share of targets while Tre'Quan Smith has some appeal as a sleeper against the Raiders' suspect secondary.

From RotoBaller

Pittsburgh Steelers Sep 19 4:10pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense was excellent in their season-opening road win over the New York Giants in Week 1. They will travel back home to take on the Denver Broncos in a plus matchup in Week 2. Denver's offense was generous to fantasy defenses last season and might be without top wide receiver Courtland Sutton (shoulder) this weekend. Even if Sutton does play, he is expected to be limited by a shoulder injury. Pittsburgh is installed as seven-point home favorites, indicating what should be a favorable game script for their defense against Drew Lock and the Denver offense. Fantasy gamers will want to fire up the Pittsburgh defense in all formats for Week 2.

From RotoBaller

Eric Ebron Sep 19 4:00pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron had a disappointing debut with his new team, catching just one of two targets for 18 yards in a Week 1 win over the New York Giants. Ebron will hope for a larger role in the offense when he takes on the Denver Broncos at home in Week 2. While Denver allowed Jonnu Smith to find the end zone in Week 1, Ebron is best left on fantasy benches until he proves that he is going to be a trustworthy part of the passing attack. Treat him as a mid-range TE2 in Week 2.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Sep 19 3:40pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (head) has been ruled out for Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Carolina Panthers. Godwin was trending in the wrong direction after entering the concussion protocol late in the week on Wednesday, so this news doesn't come as too much of a surprise. Fellow wideout Mike Evans is in a smash spot and needs to be started in all formats while Scotty Miller should also see more targets. The tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard could see more usage, though Evans and Miller are the main beneficiaries here.

From RotoBaller

Diontae Johnson Sep 19 3:20pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is coming off a Week 1 win which saw him lead his team with 10 targets. The second-year wideout will look to build upon that performance in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos. Johnson has been dealing with a toe injury for the past couple of weeks but he was able to practice fully on Friday ahead of his Week 2 tilt. The Broncos coughed up a 100-yard receiving game to Corey Davis in Week 1 and placed top cornerback A.J. Bouye on injured reserve earlier in the week. Fantasy gamers can trust Johnson as a rock-solid WR3 in Week 2.

From RotoBaller

Benny Snell Jr. Sep 19 3:10pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr. burst on the scene with 19 carries for 113 yards in a Week 1 win over the New York Giants. Snell saw extra work after starter James Conner went down with an ankle injury. He was a popular waiver add earlier in the week while Conner's status for Week 2's matchup against the Denver Broncos was still unknown. Conner returned to full practice on Friday and is without an injury designation for this weekend, casting some uncertainty on the Pittsburgh running back situation. Fantasy gamers who were planning on starting Snell should consider the possibility that Conner takes the majority of the running back touches in Week 2, leaving Snell as a shaky flex at best.

From RotoBaller

Jacksonville Jaguars Sep 19 2:10pm ET

Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry will face a Jaguars Defense against which he accumulated 203 rushing yards and three rushing scores in two matchups last season. That Jaguars have allowed an average of 31.4 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs over the past eight games. This forecast seems to bode quite well for Henry who should once again see a large volume of carries. He's undoubtedly a high-end RB1 in all formats heading into week two.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Sep 19 2:00pm ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith gets a plus matchup this week against a Jaguars Defense that allowed 363 yards through the air in week one. A.J. Brown (knee) is set to miss multiple weeks so the Titans will look upon Smith and Corey Davis more frequently. Smith hauled in four of seven targets for 36 yards and a touchdown during week one's 16-14 win against Denver. He's likely to see an uptick in targets and should be viewed as a high-end TE2 in week two against Jacksonville.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Sep 19 1:50pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (hamstring) who was listed as limited on Thursday, practiced full on Friday. He looks ready to go Sunday and should be in line for more targets with fellow receiver A.J. Brown (knee) ruled out. Davis will look to build upon the momentum from week one in which he hauled in seven of eight targets for 101 yards. The receiver is entering his fourth NFL season having yet to emerge as a go-to target after being drafted with the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft. He should produce numbers worthy of a flex start in all league formats against the Jaguars Defense who gave up 363 yards through the air in week one. He could see double digit targets from Ryan Tannehill.

From RotoBaller

Sterling Shepard Sep 19 1:10pm ET

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Sheppard was a big part of the Giants offense in Week 1 and will look to carry that momentum into a road game vs the Bears. Shepard caught all six of his targets for 47 yards as he was the primary short-area target for Daniel Jones. If Golden Tate (hamstring) suits up that could cut into Shepard's target share, but he is still a solid WR3/flex play for fantasy managers, especially in PPR. Shepard would get a big boost in his fantasy appeal if Tate sits.

From RotoBaller

Darius Slayton Sep 19 1:00pm ET

New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton had a huge game in Week 1 going for 100-plus yards and two touchdowns on six catches. Slayton tied with Saquon Barkley for the team lead with nine targets and will look to stay hot in a favorable matchup with the Bears in Week 2. Slayton had a nose for the end zone last season with eight scores on just 48 catches and, while that touchdown rate is unsustainable, he clearly has the trust of QB Daniel Jones in the red zone. Slayton is a startable WR3 in fantasy this week.

From RotoBaller

New York Giants Sep 19 12:50pm ET

The New York Giants Defense is not a strong unit for fantasy and managers should look elsewhere for a D/ST in Week 2. The Giants had just two sacks in Week 1 and only forced one turnover from a forced fumble. New York was gashed on the ground by Benny Snell Jr last week so expect the Bears to keep the ball on the ground, limiting fantasy-point-opportunities for Big Blue's defense. Fantasy managers streaming D/ST should look elsewhere in Week 2.

From RotoBaller

Daniel Jones Sep 19 12:40pm ET

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones struggled somewhat in Week 1 as he turned the ball over twice, but he also had some encouraging throws and will face an easier matchup in Week 2 at Chicago. The Bears secondary was carved-up by Matthew Stafford last week despite missing his top wide receiver so expect a better output from Jones this week. Jones threw for over 3,000 yards as a rookie with a completion percentage over 60-percent with several weeks as a QB1 in fantasy. He has the talent to put up numbers in this matchup and is a low-end QB1 for Week 2.

From RotoBaller

Evan Engram Sep 19 12:40pm ET

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram was a massive letdown for fantasy managers on Monday night as he caught just two passes for nine yards vs Pittsburgh. He'll have an easier matchup in Week 2 vs the Bears and should still be considered a starting tight end for fantasy. Engram struggled in Week 1 but was still targeted seven times so he has a role in the passing game. If he turns a few of those targets into catches Engram has the athleticism to be a top-5 tight end in fantasy. Start the Giants tight end with confidence Week 2 at the Bears.

From RotoBaller

Saquon Barkley Sep 19 12:30pm ET

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley left fantasy managers out in the cold on Monday night as he ran for just six yards on 15 carries vs a stout Steelers Defense. He'll look to atone for that performance in Week 2 with a much more favorable matchup in Chicago. The Bears allowed the ageless Adrian Peterson to rush for 93 yards on 14 carries (6.6 YPC) last week so there should be more running lanes for Barkley in the Windy City. Barkley did have 6 catches for 60 yards last week so he should be involved in both the passing game and rushing game this week making him a top-RB option in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Logan Thomas Sep 19 12:00pm ET

Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas led the offense in targets last week and will look to carry that success into a road matchup with the Cardinals. Thomas caught four of eight targets for 37 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and now gets to face an Arizona defense that allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends in 2019. Thomas should see plenty of targets as Washington is in a position to throw the ball 35-plus times as road underdogs. Fire him up as a sneaky-good start in seasonal leagues or as a cheap option in DFS.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Peterson Sep 19 11:40am ET

Washington Football Team wide receiver Steven Sims Jr only saw three targets last week, but should be more involved in Week 2 vs Arizona. Sims caught all three targets and turned them into 50 yards in a game where Washington only threw the ball 31 times. The Football Team will likely need to throw more this week as road-underdogs in a game with a higher over/under. Sims Jr should see plenty of targets with top-WR Terry McLaurin seeing coverage from All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson making him an intriguing sleeper for fantasy and a strong DFS play.

From RotoBaller

Terry McLaurin Sep 19 11:30am ET

Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin had a tough matchup in Week 1 vs Darius Slay and will face another top-flight cornerback in Week 2 at Arizona. Cornerback Patrick Peterson allowed just one catch on three targets last week and will undoubtedly be tasked with covering the one, true receiving threat on the Washington offense. Despite the tough matchup, fantasy managers shouldn't shy away from McLaurin in seasonal leagues. Washington should be in a position to throw the ball 35-plus times and there simply aren't enough weapons in this offense to take targets away from the second-year wideout. McLaurin is not a good DFS play this week, but he has one of the highest floors thanks to his target share making him a low-end WR2 for fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Gibson Sep 19 11:20am ET

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson was overshadowed by Peyton Barber in Week 1, but the rookie should be in a better position to score fantasy points this week at Arizona. Gibson only handled nine carries last week, but most of that was due to the team having a lead in the fourth quarter and leaning on the veteran Barber. Despite handling eight more carries than Gibson, the rookie still out-rushed Barber, albeit with only 36 yards. Expect Gibson to be more involved this week, especially in the passing game, making him a strong RB3 or flex option for fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Dwayne Haskins Sep 19 11:10am ET

Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins played a solid game vs Philadelphia in Week 1 and will look to build on that performance in his first road test of 2020. Haskins didn't break any passing records last week, but he was effective in throwing for 178 yards and a touchdown and, most importantly, no turnovers. Now he'll face a Cardinals Defense that didn't force a turnover in Week 1 and allowed QB Kyler Murray to rush for 91 of the team's 180 rushing yards. Haskins should have some opportunities to make plays in what is projected to be a high-scoring game making him a low-end starter in 2QB leagues.

From RotoBaller