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
Zach Pascal Aug 18 2:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal was dead silent in their Week 2 preseason matchup against the Cleveland Browns. He was targeted twice, and he registered no catches. With the injury to wideout Daurice Fountain, there is a role open for a number of wide receivers to capture. With the performance fellow wide receiver Deon Cain put up, this was not the type of performance that he needed.

From RotoBaller

Eric Ebron Aug 18 2:00am ET

Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron was a touchdown machine last season, and he maintained that performance during the team's Week 2 preseason matchup with the Cleveland Browns. He caught just two passes for 28 yards during his limited work, and one of those two catches was for a touchdown. Regardless of the presence of fellow tight end Jack Doyle, Ebron will continue to have a role especially down in the red zone.

From RotoBaller

Deon Cain Aug 18 1:50am ET

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Deon Cain has been showing out throughout training camp. That remained true during the team's Week 2 of the preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. He was their best offensive player with seven catches for 80 yards. Behind wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess, there is a role available for someone to capture, and Cain is doing his best to make his case. If he's able to maintain similar levels of performance moving forward, he can become a great weapon for this offense.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Wilkins Aug 18 1:40am ET

Indianapolis Colts running back Jordan Wilkins (foot) was expected to miss the team's Week 2 preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, and that remained true. With a cluster of running backs fighting for roles behind the two lead backs of Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, he needs to get himself back onto the field. As long as he's able to show the consistency we saw from him last year, he should be fine.

From RotoBaller

Tony Pollard Aug 18 1:30am ET

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard led the backfield in Saturday's preseason game, running the ball five times for 42 yards and a touchdown. He added a nine yard catch as well. Pollard got the most carries and yards and the only touchdown among Cowboys running backs. With Ezekiel Elliott possibly on the sidelines for Week 1 or more, Pollard could be in for a couple of RB1 weeks.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Aug 18 1:30am ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed all five of his passes in Saturday's preseason game, gaining 64 yards. As expected, Prescott didn't play much but he should get a larger share of at least the first half in the Cowboys dress rehearsal next week. With Ezekiel Elliott far from a sure thing for Week 1, Prescott may have a bit more on his shoulders than expected to start the season.

From RotoBaller

Diontae Johnson Aug 18 1:10am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson caught three of five targets for 46 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's preseason win over Kansas City. Johnson's touchdown didn't come until the fourth quarter when fellow rookie Devlin Hodges was throwing to him, but Johnson made a spectacular catch in the end zone. The third-round pick from Toledo has been opening eyes in training camp in both offensive drills, as well as in the return game. He doesn't hold any redraft value but his dynasty value has seen a nice tick upward over the preseason.

From RotoBaller

Alex Barnes Aug 18 1:00am ET

Tennessee Titans undrafted free agent running back Alex Barnes led all running backs in rushing with seven carries for 42 yards in the team's Week 2 preseason matchup with the New England Patriots. Barnes showed an excellent combination of power and patience in only his second NFL game, but he is still considered a long shot to make the roster. Barnes' impressive combine and preseason showing help his chances at landing on a practice squad if he is cut by the Titans, but he should be considered droppable even in deep dynasty formats.

From RotoBaller

Delanie Walker Aug 18 1:00am ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker only played two drives in his first action since Week 1 of the 2018 season, but that was enough for him to catch two passes for 26 yards and a touchdown. It seems Walker and quarterback Marcus Mariota are picking up right where they left off prior to Walker's season-ending injury. Walker remains a solid late-round value pick at tight end, but expect his ADP to start to creep up as we get closer to fantasy draft season.

From RotoBaller

Donte Moncrief Aug 18 1:00am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught one pass for three yards before fumbling in Saturday's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the first play of Pittsburgh third drive and Moncrief caught the short pass to the right and was stripped. He only played the first quarter before James Washington saw the majority of the work from there on out. Even after fumbling, the fact that Moncrief only played one quarter means that the team is comfortable with where the veteran is at in his first year with the team. He's batting with Washington to be the second starting wide receiver besides JuJu Smith-Schuster but Moncrief continues to be the favorite to win the job. If he can earn the starting role, his 11th round ADP could prove to be an absolute steal for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Vance McDonald Aug 18 1:00am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald caught his sole target for five yards on Saturday against the Chiefs. The starting tight end job is all McDonald's now that Jesse James is gone. McDonald is set to improve upon his 2018 season of 60 receptions for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Naturally, he's been climbing up fantasy draft boards recently due to the increase in opportunity. The 29-year-old has jumped into the seventh round of mock drafts and presents great PPR value.

From RotoBaller

Eli Rogers Aug 18 12:50am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers caught two of his three targets for 31 yards in Saturday's preseason win over Kansas City. The 26-year-old is looking to earn a spot in the offense after missing the majority of 2018 with an injury. However, he earned a start in the final three games and caught 12 passes for 79 yards. Rogers is fighting with Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, and Diontae Spencer for work in the slot this year. Even though Rogers has never truly broken out in his three years with the team, they seem to really see something in him and will likely continue to target him heavily this preseason. Either way, he doesn't hold any fantasy value but could develop into a streamable flex option down the road if he can gain enough chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger.

From RotoBaller

Ka'imi Fairbairn Aug 18 12:40am ET

Houston Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and 3-for-3 on extra point attempts in Saturday's preseason win over the Detroit Lions. His longest field goal was a 50-yarder. Fairbairn's one of the most promising young kickers in the NFL and has a chance to break into the top tier of fantasy kickers this season based on his accuracy and the opportunities he'll have in Houston's offense. If you're someone who doesn't want to stream kickers, Fairbairn is worth a look.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Switzer Aug 18 12:40am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer caught his only target for five yards in Saturday's preseason win over the Chiefs. Switzer didn't see any action in the first preseason game but his limited role on Saturday causes some questions about his role on the team. The 24-year-old made his money in the return game last season but with the team's addition of Diontae Johnson and Diontae Spencer, Switzer is going to have to work extra hard to carve out a role on the offense. He's battling both previously mentioned as well as Eli Rogers for the slot position. Regardless, he holds no fantasy value and even if he's on the field he'll likely be the fourth and sometimes fifth best option for Ben Roethlisberger.

From RotoBaller

DeAndre Hopkins Aug 18 12:30am ET

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught two passes for 17 yards and a touchdown on Houston's first series during Saturday's preseason win over the Detroit Lions. Hopkins continued to show good rapport with quarterback Deshaun Watson and reminded fantasy owners why he's the first wide receiver being drafted in most leagues. Notably, Houston ran a sharp, sped-up offense that could provide Hopkins with additional playmaking opportunities if it carries over to the regular season.

From RotoBaller

JuJu Smith-Schuster Aug 18 12:30am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was unable to catch any of his three targets in Saturday's preseason win over Kansas City. The 22-year-old saw his action in the first quarter before sitting the remainder of the evening. Smith-Schuster is the team's top pass catcher and is being targeted in fantasy drafts accordingly. His early-to-mid second round ADP has the chance to provide great value in PPR formats. However, he hasn't scored more than seven touchdowns in his first two season but now that Antonio Brown is out of town, the USC product has a chance at a career year in Pittsburgh.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Thomas Aug 18 12:30am ET

Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas has missed most of training camp and the preseason, but he was active in Saturday's preseason win over the Detroit Lions. Thomas caught two of his five targets for 17 yards and also had a touchdown called back by penalty. Thomas was originally expected to be Houston's top tight end, but he was third on the depth chart on Saturday. How fast he manages to work his way back consistently into the rotation will determine how much -- if any -- fantasy value Thomas will have. For now, he's somewhere in the high TE3 range but with upside to finish as a TE2.

From RotoBaller

Taiwan Jones Aug 18 12:20am ET

Houston Texans running back Taiwan Jones started Saturday's preseason win over the Detroit Lions. He rushed once for five yards. While Jones wasn't very involved offensively, head coach Bill O'Brien's decision to go with him as the starter with Lamar Miller and Duke Johnson out suggests that Jones may be in the lead for the third running back role in Houston. His ability to make an impact on special teams -- something O'Brien wants from the third and fourth back -- will be what gets him a spot if he earns one. Don't expect Jones to see much usage if Miller and Johnson are healthy.

From RotoBaller

Benny Snell Jr. Aug 18 12:20am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed seven times for 16 yards and caught two passes for five yards in Saturday's 17-7 win over Kansas City. The 2019 fourth-round pick is getting a strong look this preseason as the team knows what to expect from incumbent James Conner and Jaylen Samuels. Snell Jr. is Kentucky's all-time leading rusher so his talent is undeniable, but it might be awhile before he gets a solid workload in Pittsburgh. He has solid dynasty value but can be forgotten about in redraft, unless something were to happen to Conner or Samuels.

From RotoBaller

Vyncint Smith Aug 18 12:20am ET

Houston Texans wide receiver Vyncint Smith caught a 31-yard touchdown in Saturday's preseason win over the Detroit Lions. It was Smith's only catch on his four targets. Smith is embroiled in a tough battle to be Houston's fifth receiver, and Saturday night was a reminder that he has the big-play ability to perform in that role. There's still a chance someone like Steven Mitchell winds up beating him out, and even if Smith makes the team, he'd be too inconsistently used to be worth a fantasy roster spot unless injuries occur.

From RotoBaller