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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
Jamison Crowder Sep 18 11:40am ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) will miss his team's Week 2 contest against the San Francisco 49ers. This leaves the Jets really shallow at receiver, with Breshad Perriman taking on the role as the team's No. 1 option this week. Perriman becomes an intriguing flex play, though the 49ers Defense is really good and the Jets passing attack as the ability to be really inconsistent. We might also see more of Braxton Berrios, but he's not really a fantasy option outside of being a cheap punt play in DFS contests.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Sep 18 11:00am ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) "felt fantastic" at practice on Thursday and there is a "little glimmer of hope" that he can play on Monday night against the Raiders, according to a source. It's still unlikely that Thomas plays with his high ankle sprain, but the Saints were pleased with Thomas' progress even though he didn't actually practice. With the Saints playing on Monday this week, you almost have no choice but to bench the All-Pro wideout this week. The 27-year-old is making good progress, though, so there's an outside chance he could be back for Week 3. With Thomas likely out, Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should be quarterback Drew Brees' go-to targets through the air against Las Vegas.

From RotoBaller

Joe Burrow Sep 18 10:20am ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had a terrific showing against the Browns in his Thursday night debut. The rookie threw for three touchdown tosses and 316 yards on 37-for-61 passing. He also had seven attempts for 19 yards. While the first-year signal-caller had issues with ball security by fumbling twice, the Bengals' coaching staff and front office personnel were likely ecstatic with Burrow's overall performance in this one. The former Heisman trophy winner has now racked up four total scores on the year in addition to demonstrating maturity and game management well beyond his years. Fantasy managers in all formats, especially those in need of a quarterback, should take notice, as he likely has some more positive outings in the works throughout the rest of the 2020 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Joshua Kelley Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers No. 2 running back Joshua Kelley is coming off of a nice Week 1 performance and will look to solidify himself as part of the backfield in Week 2 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Although starting running back Austin Ekeler led the team with 67% of the snaps, Kelley chipped in with 24% and made the most of the opportunity presented to him. The rookie rushed 12 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in his Week 1 matchup versus the Bengals. Kelley has been making a strong impression on the coaching staff since training camp and has leap frogged Justin Jackson for the number two spot behind Austin Ekeler. Jackson did have 11 snaps, but that could decrease with the way Kelley is running. Kelley is shaping up to be one of the better insurance policies for managers and should be considered in leagues of 10-12 managers. He also makes for a cheaper option in DFS leagues for the time being.

From RotoBaller

Keenan Allen Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had a rough opening week against the Bengals and will look to get back on track versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Allen was only able to muster four catches for 37 yards on eight targets in Week 1 with his new quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Allen is coming off of a 104-catch season and has consistently been one of the better options at his position. The loss of quarterback Philip Rivers to the Colts is expected to impact Allen, but he should still be able to put up strong numbers with Taylor behind center. The Chiefs are an 8.5-point favorite versus their division foe and thats a good sign that the Chargers could be behind and more likely to pass the ball. Allen also will be going up against a young Chiefs secondary and that could play to his advantage. He should be considered a WR2 heading into Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Mike Williams Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams will look to build off of a solid Week 1 performance with a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Williams was dealing with a shoulder injury last week, but was still able to grab four catches for 69 yards on nine targets. The most important part of that line is that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was looking for his big target a bunch. Taylor isnt the most accurate quarterback, but Williams has shown flashes of being able to make spectacular catches in his young career. With the Chargers likely to be playing behind on Sunday, they may have no choice but to pass and Williams could be a part of that attack. Williams will be going up against a young secondary and could be considered a for the flex position in deeper leagues.

From RotoBaller

Hunter Henry Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry will look to build off his Week 1 performance with a date against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The injury prone tight end put together a team-high 73 yards with five catches and saw eight targets in Week 1 versus the Bengals. Henry was a favorite of new quarterback Tyrod Taylor and is likely to continue to see a decent share of targets in Week 2 as the Chargers could potentially be battling an uphill fight. Henry has shown the ability to be a top-10 tight end when he is healthy and should be rostered in all formats. He will compete with Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams for touches this season and already looks like a favorite of Taylor in the offense.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Sep 18 12:20am ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense picked up three sacks in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Cleveland also recovered a Joe Burrow fumble near the Cincinnati goal line in the game, which wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Myles Garrett led the way as he was the one who forced the Burrow fumble on a sack in the third quarter. The Browns offense cashed in on that turnover two plays later on a Nick Chubb one-yard touchdown run. Cleveland's defense has another plus matchup in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught four of his six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Beckham and Baker Mayfield connected for a pretty 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Cleveland their second TD of the evening. That went in the books as Beckham's first score of the 2020 season. The star receiver has now drawn 16 targets through the first two games of the season, totalling seven catches for 96 yards. He will be a solid WR2 in Week 3 when he faces the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Michael Pittman Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (toe) was a limited practice participant on Thursday after not showing up on the injury report on Wednesday. Pittman should be good to go on Sunday against the Vikings as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. The talented big-bodied receiver played fewer snaps than Zach Pascal in the season opener, finishing with two catches for only 10 yards in his NFL debut. Even if tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) doesn't play, Pittman is too far down the pecking order in Indy's passing game to be considered a viable fantasy starter in most leagues.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught three of his four targets for 46 yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was a quiet game for Landry, who can normally be counted upon to see more than four targets in most games. That being said, the Cleveland offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski wants to be run-heavy, which will cut into Landry's looks. Landry has caught eight of 10 targets for 107 scoreless yards through the first two games of the season. He will take on the Washington Football Team in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Duke Johnson Sep 18 12:10am ET

Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday for the second straight day. Johnson was listed as week-to-week after suffering an ankle injury last Thursday in the season opener, but it looks as though he's made some quick progress. However, even if the 27-year-old winds up playing against a nasty Ravens Defense this week, he'll be a desperation flex play in PPR leagues. Buddy Howell is set to be the primary backup to David Johnson if Duke Johnson has to sit this one out.

From RotoBaller

Austin Hooper Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper caught two of four targets for 21 scoreless yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was another quiet game for Hooper, who only caught two passes for 15 yards in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. There was some hope he would have more chances in Week 2 after David Njoku was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. It didn't help that the Browns only attempted 23 passes in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. With just four catches for 36 yards through two games, Hooper is slipping into low-end TE2 territory in fantasy. He will look to rebound in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Nick Chubb Sep 18 12:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 22 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Chubb also tacked on a nine-yard reception on the way to Cleveland's first win of the season. It was an excellent performance for Chubb, who had a quiet game in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He capped off Cleveland's first drive with an 11-yard TD run and then scored on a one-yard plunge in the third. Chubb now has 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns after the first two weeks of the season. He will be a strong play in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Kareem Hunt Sep 18 12:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt had a big day in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Hunt carried the ball 10 times for 86 yards and a score while adding two catches for 15 yards and another TD in the winning effort. Hunt got wide open behind the closest defender on his touchdown reception, an easy six-yard grab near the right pylon toward the end of the second quarter. He later tacked on what would be Cleveland's final score on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. The veteran running back has been busy over Cleveland's first two games, racking up 23 rushes and six receptions. The new Cleveland coaching staff seems more inclined to use Hunt than the previous regime did in 2019, which bodes well for his fantasy value going forward. Hunt will be a solid option in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Jack Doyle Sep 18 12:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday. The Pro Bowl tight end is now in serious doubt to play in Week 2 against the Vikings. With Trey Burton already on the shelf with an injury, Mo Alie-Cox would be forced into a starting role if Doyle can't suit up this weekend. Doyle played 54 offensive snaps in the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars and was targeted four times, finishing with three catches for 49 yards. For now, consider Doyle a very shaky TE2 this weekend. He'll need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at playing. Receivers T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. could see more targets if Doyle is inactive.

From RotoBaller

Diontae Johnson Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (ankle) and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Diontae Johnson (toe) all returned to practice on Thursday. Conner, who was an injury disappointment in 2019, was injured in the season opener and gave way to an efficient Benny Snell Jr. If Conner can avoid setbacks on Friday, he should be ready to go for Week 2 against the Broncos, although it's fair to wonder how much time he'll split with Snell. Snell will be the more attractive RB3/flex for fantasy managers until the Steelers show that they're willing to go back to Conner as the featured back. Smith-Schuster and Johnson should both be fine and could both feast against a young and inexperienced Denver secondary. Smith-Schuster had two touchdowns in Week 1 and is a must-start WR1. Johnson is more of a WR3/flex with upside now that Ben Roethlisberger is back and healthy.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 16 of 23 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Mayfield was effective in the win, finding Odell Beckham Jr. for a 43-yard score in the second quarter and a wide-open Kareem Hunt for a six-yard touchdown right before the half. It was a much-needed outing for Mayfield, who had begun to hear whispers that his starting job wasn't safe after a Week 1 loss. Mayfield heads into Week 3's showdown with the Washington Football Team with three touchdowns and two interceptions through two games.

From RotoBaller

John Brown Sep 17 11:50pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (foot) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Barring a setback, Brown should be expected to suit up in Week 2 against the Dolphins. The 30-year-old had six catches on a team-high 10 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Jets, but he should see a lot of cornerback Byron Jones this Sunday. Brown beat Miami for three touchdowns in his two meetings with them last year, but things might be a bit more difficult this time around. Don't forget that Stefon Diggs is Buffalo's top wideout. Treat Brown as a WR3/flex this week and don't expect a repeat of his Week 1 numbers.

From RotoBaller

C.J. Uzomah Sep 17 11:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) has been declared out for the Thursday night game after leaving the contest on a cart with an Achilles injury. The only good news here is that Uzomah had four receptions on six targets for 42 yards and a touchdown before departing with what looks to be a serious injury. He finished second on the team in receiving yards (45) in Week 1, too, catching four of his five targets. If Uzomah is forced to miss considerable time, Drew Sample should step in as the primary pass-catching tight end for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. A long-term injury would also likely mean more targets for the receiving corps of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross.

From RotoBaller