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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
Jacoby Brissett Sep 22 7:00pm ET

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett was one completion away from breaking former quarterback Peyton Manning's team record. On the day, he finished 28-of-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Brissett takes care of the ball, and he makes low-risk throws. On a day where running back Marlon Mack was limited, those throws eventually added up. Brissett is unlikely to have nearly 30 completions every week, but he showed this week that he can have QB1 upside in the right circumstances.

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Carson Wentz Sep 22 7:00pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was solid in Sunday's Week 3 loss, tossing two touchdowns. He completed 19 of his 36 passes for 259 yards. He added 33 yards on four carries as well. Wentz's touchdowns came on a 20-yard pass and a two-yard pass, both to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Even without his top two wide receivers, Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin) in the game, Wentz was still able to move the offense for most of the game.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Sep 22 7:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball 19 times in Week 3, picking up 125 yards on the ground. He added two catches for 14 more yards. Elliott's 125 yards were clearly great, but his fantasy owners were likely expecting at least one touchdown against the sport's worst team, the Miami Dolphins. Elliott was on the sidelines when his backup, Tony Pollard, scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter since the Cowboys were running down the clock in an obvious win. Elliott looked back to his usual workload, and should be an easy RB1 going forward.

From RotoBaller

Marlon Mack Sep 22 7:00pm ET

Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack continues to be a consistent player for fantasy footballers. Despite being a questionable game-time decision coming into Sunday, he was able to suit up, and he had an effective day. He finished with 16 carries for 74 yards and one touchdown. He also added two catches for 14 yards on the day. Unless he sustains a more serious injury, Mack is proving to be a consistent starter on a weekly basis.

From RotoBaller

Tony Pollard Sep 22 7:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard had an excellent game in Week 3, running the ball 13 times for 103 yards and a touchdown while adding three catches for 25 more yards. Pollard scored on a fourth-quarter run from 16 yards out. In a game where the Cowboys had control all afternoon, Pollard got a bit more run than he would have in a closer contest. This game showed how much value Pollard could have if Ezekiel Elliott were forced to miss any time.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Sep 22 6:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a productive Week 3, throwing two touchdowns and running one in as well. Prescott completed 19 of his 32 passes for 246 yards. His passing touchdowns both went to Amari Cooper, one for five yards and another for 19. His rushing touchdown was on an eight-yard run in the third quarter. Overall, it was a solid performance for Prescott, although his owners may have expected even more with him taking on the listless Miami Dolphins.

From RotoBaller

Saquon Barkley Sep 22 6:40pm ET

After leaving the game shortly before halftime with an ankle injury suffered against Tampa Bay, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley returned to the sidelines with a protective boot on his right foot. While the results of his x-rays have not yet been released, Barkley was using crutches to get around on what appeared to be a severely sprained ankle. If this is the dreaded high-ankle sprain, Barkley could be in for an extended absence and his owners are in for an extended punch to the stomach. Backup Wayne Gallman needs to be added in all leagues until more is known about the severity of Barkley's injury.

From RotoBaller

Frank Gore Sep 22 6:20pm ET

Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore saved his best production for last, plunging in for a late one-yard touchdown to put Buffalo up for good over the Cincinnati Bengals 21-17 on Sunday. With Devin Singletary declared inactive prior to the game, Gore rushed 14 times for 76 yards, outpacing T.J. Yeldon who rushed eight times for thirty yards - and who also had a costly second-half fumble. With the likely return of Singletary in Week 4 and facing a Patriots teams that will likely require a pass-heavy game script, Gore will be relegated to the fantasy doldrums.

From RotoBaller

New York Jets Sep 22 6:10pm ET

The New York Jets Defense got shredded by Tom Brady and the Patriots but salvaged their fantasy day late. With the Patriots up 30-7 in the fourth quarter backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham came into the game. His third pass hit Jamal Adams right between the numbers and the star safety returned it 61-yards for a garbage-time touchdown. The Jets also scored a touchdown on special teams after Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt and Arthur Maulet fell on it to score the Jets first touchdown since Week 1. Despite the scores, the Jets defense only recorded one sack and looked like a defense that shouldn't be owned in fantasy, especially with a bye in Week 4 followed by a tough matchup at Philadelphia.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen Sep 22 6:10pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen completed 22-of-36 passes for 243 yards on Sunday, with one touchdown and an interception as the Bills held off the Cincinnati Bengals for a 21-17 victory. Allen also added 46 yards on nine rushes and a two-point conversion, with Buffalo moving to a surprising 3-0 on the season. Allen still has trouble with his decision-making at times but continues to have a high floor considering how often he's willing to run. Allen and the Bills will get their first real test of the year in Week 4 when the Patriots come into town for a showdown of the AFC East undefeated.

From RotoBaller

Saquon Barkley Sep 22 5:40pm ET

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is questionable to return after suffering an ankle injury against the Tampa Bay Bucs. He suffered a minor injury earlier in the game but returned. This one appears to be more severe and with the Giants already down 25-10, they may choose not to rush their star back. This would obviously be a massive hit to the entire Giants offense if it proves to be a multi-week injury.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Griffin Sep 22 5:40pm ET

New York Jets tight end Ryan Griffin caught his only target for five yards in a loss to the Patriots Sunday afternoon. Griffin now has four catches for 15 yards on the season and continues to be a non-factor in fantasy. Griffin had an opportunity to start with Chris Herndon serving a four-game suspension but has done nothing to prove he should be more than a blocking tight end when Herndon returns in Week 6. The Jets are on bye in Week 4 and Griffin will make one more start in Week 5 vs the Eagles but should not be owned in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Jamison Crowder Sep 22 5:20pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder made two catches for 25 yards Sunday afternoon against the Patriots. The Jets struggled to move the ball all afternoon with Luke Falk making his first career start as they had only 105 net yards against a strong Patriots Defense. Crowder made 14 catches in Week 1 but has only six since as starting QB Sam Darnold (mono) has been sidelined. The Jets will have a bye week next week and hope Darnold will be back for a game at Philadelphia in Week 5. If Darnold plays, Crowder is in the WR3 discussion in fantasy but it will be hard to trust him the Jets continue to trot out backup quarterbacks.

From RotoBaller

Sam Ficken Sep 22 5:20pm ET

New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken made two extra points and didn't attempt a field goal in a loss to the Patriots Sunday. Ficken has now made all three attempts as a Jet after signing with the team prior to Week 2. That should be enough to keep Ficken employed with the team given the Jets kicker struggles in the preseason, but fantasy owners should look elsewhere as the Jets offense will severely limit Ficken's scoring opportunities.

From RotoBaller

Mohamed Sanu Sep 22 5:20pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught all six of his targets for 75 yards during the Week 3 loss to the Colts. Despite failing to score a touchdown yet this season, Sanu continues to be a reliable option for quarterback Matt Ryan. He isn't the best option in 10 or 12-team leagues, but his ability to pull in receptions in a pass-first offense gives him some credibility moving ahead.

From RotoBaller

Julio Jones Sep 22 5:10pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had eight receptions (nine targets) for 128 yards and a touchdown against the Colts in Week 3. After catching 11 passes and racking up three trips to the end zone coming into this one, Jones caught a 10-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan late in the game for his fourth score of the year. He will look to keep it going against the Titans in Week 4. Obviously, keep him starting in all fantasy formats.

From RotoBaller

Braxton Berrios Sep 22 5:10pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios made two catches for 29 yards in a loss to the Patriots Sunday. Berrios led the Jets with six targets but couldn't get much done against a stout Patriots Defense. Berrios served as the team's third wide receiver today, but would see his role decrease if Demaryius Thomas (hamstring, knee) gets healthy and joins the active roster after a bye in Week 4. Despite leading the team in targets, Berrios doesn't need to be owned in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Austin Hooper Sep 22 5:10pm ET

Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper had six receptions for 66 yards and two scores during the loss to the Colts on Sunday. After failing to score a touchdown through the first two weeks of the year, Hooper finally came to life against Indianapolis. His absence in the end zone up to this point has been somewhat troubling, but his ability to haul in passes gives him some PPR appeal moving ahead.

From RotoBaller

Robby Anderson Sep 22 5:00pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson made three catches for 11 yards in a loss to the Patriots Sunday. Anderson was targeted five times but could get nothing done as the Jets had just 105 yards of total offense with third-string QB Luke Falk making his first career start. Of all the Jets offensive weapons, Anderson has suffered the most with starting QB Sam Darnold (mono) out of action as Anderson has always been a receiver reliant on big plays and the Jets simply can't throw the ball downfield given their current QB situation. The Jets have a bye in Week 4 but will face another tough matchup in Week 5 at Philadelphia. If Darnold plays, Anderson is a boom-or-bust WR3 but he should be avoided as long as Darnold is out.

From RotoBaller

Jalen Richard Sep 22 5:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard was on the field for a season-high 29 snaps in the team's Week 3 loss to the Vikings. It helped that Josh Jacobs was dealing with an illness and a hip injury earlier this week, not to mention the team trailed by three scores for most of the game. Richard didn't do much with his playing time, however, picking up 29 scrimmage yards on two rushes and three catches as his involvement in the passing game has faded this year. Owners of Jacobs shouldn't worry about the rookie losing his bell-cow status, as Richard is no threat to his workload. The 25-year-old doesn't carry any standalone value and will be off the fantasy radar as long as Jacobs is active.

From RotoBaller