This week we move to the NFC South during our “So-Called” look at each team as we prep for Fantasy Football season.
We are cranking through the divisions now and have plenty of information on the AFC/NFC East, North, and Central in previous posts by all our best football minds.
Keep watching this week for articles on rookies, free agent movement, and other topics.
Here we will look at the coaches for each team in the NFC South and any clues they might give us for draft day.
Head Coach: Dan Quinn, 1st Year
Offensive Coordinator: Kyle Shanahan, 1st Year
Defensive Coordinator: Richard Smith, 1st Year
New blood has been injected in to the Falcons in the form of Dan Quinn. He brings Super Bowl experience from running Seattle’s defense after Gus Bradley left for his own head coaching job. While Quinn is a defensive minded guy, he brought in Kyle Shanahan to set up his offense. Shanahan the younger, is in the process of stepping out from his dad’s shadow and will try to continue that with Atlanta. He worked as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator last year and was with Washington and Houston prior to that.
While Quinn will be the head honcho, it will be Shanahan that will impact our Fantasy players the most as he installs a new offense in Georgia. This will include a zone-blocking run-game and historically a dominant wide out. We can put Julio Jones right into that feature wide receiver position as he continues to glide to elite status each year.
Zone blocking schemes favor a decisive, one cut runner and can be difficult for some running backs to adjust to. For now Devonta Freeman is ahead of Tevin Coleman, but that could very well change as the season approaches. This may start as a close to 50/50 committee until one back emerges as the more natural runner for this scheme. I lean towards Coleman winning this competition as he is more talented and a draft pick of the new regime. Also, Freeman sucks, which may limit his upside.
Zone blocking schemes have a history of discovering unheralded backs so maybe even Antone Smith or some guy off the street will end up with 1,000 yards for the Falcons this year. While the run game is a bit of a question mark I think we can all agree that Julio Jones is going to be the focus of this offense this season and an excellent bet for 1,500 yards and 12-plus touchdowns.
Head Coach: Ron Rivera, 5th Season
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shula, 3rd Season
Defensive Coordinator: Sean McDermott, 5th Season
The success of the Panthers revolves around Cam Newton and his progress during his fifth year in the league. Both Ron Rivera and Mike Shula have been around the block with this team so we won’t see big changes in scheme or philosophy. When Cam has been healthy and played well the Panthers can be a real threat on offense while producing some decent Fantasy production. When he struggles and moves into his head hanging introspective phases, the team can look as bad as any in the NFL.
I’m thinking as Newton matures the skin thickens and he could be ready for a bounce-back season. When healthy he is the best dual threat QB in the league and has a shot at being the single highest fantasy scorer in any given week. The addition of Kelvin Benjamin last year gave Newton a big target that can go up for the ball to add to old reliable, Greg Olsen. Both should be relevant again this year, again, as long as Cam can stay upright and continue to progress as an NFL caliber quarterback. Olsen actually had his best year last season, just breaking the 1,000 yard mark to pair with six TDs. Not bad numbers at all for a tight end. Devin Funchess is a second round rookie wide out that will factor in at the other receiver position, but is probably not going to be draft worthy this season.
I haven’t drafted a Carolina running back for years and I don’t intend to break that streak this year. Newton vultures rushing touchdowns, the Panthers split the ball between backs, and their lead guy is due for an injury any time he steps onto the field. If you live life on the edge go ahead and draft Jonathan Stewart and use him until week three when the injuries kick in.
New Orleans Saints
Head Coach: Sean Payton,10th Season
Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael, 7th Season
Defensive Coordinator: Rob Ryan, 3rd Season
The Saints made no major coaching changes and return all of their senior level coaches. We should expect the same sort of approach to the offense that we have seen for the last decade in New Orleans. This is a team that will pass first and run once the defense is on its heels. While the Saints have had elite offenses over the years, it has been tough at times to mine Fantasy points from the team outside of Drew Brees.
Jimmy Graham gave us a target for a few years but he has departed for Seattle. Brees will likely go back to spreading the ball around with a different receiver reaping the rewards from week to week. Brandin Cooks is penciled in as the No. 1 guy, but he is young and somewhat unproven, although still a dynamic talent. Marques Colston witnessed Moses part the Red Sea, but will attempt to throw yet another season together. Josh Hill might be interesting as Payton has mentioned him repeatedly and he steps into the starting tight end role vacated by Graham.
If Payton continues to use running backs like he has in the past C.J. Spiller could be a breakout candidate in this offense. I’m hearing hype already though so he may not come at a discount in drafts unfortunately. He will still split time with Mark Ingram so both will probably have boom and bust weeks. The bottom line for me with the Saints is that there will be points, but who’s going to generate them beyond Brees each week? If you draft skill players here prepare for some ups and downs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Head Coach: Lovie Smith, 2nd Season
Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter, 1st Season
Defensive Coordinator: Leslie Frazier, 2nd Season
Lovie Smith enters year two at the helm of the Buccaneers ship. He now has No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston to build his franchise around and will sink or swim with this quarterback. Dirk Koetter is the big coaching change here and joins the team from Atlanta and will bring a more up tempo passing offense along with him.
While I am concerned about Winston in year one, he has a shot at back-end QB2 numbers based just on Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson manning the wideout spots for him. Both of these guys have size and will minimize mistakes for the rookie quarterback. I expect the tight end to actually be targeted from time to time in Tampa now and think Austin Seferian-Jenkins is worth a late flier as an upside TE2. Still, drafting receivers from this team is a risk with a rookie starting from day one. I will take the receivers at a discount but don’t want to pay full price on draft day.
Doug Martin is still the lead back but has been a disappointment overall so far in his NFL career. We will see if Koetter can find Martin’s mojo, but I wouldn’t count on it. At least this year you won’t have to spend a second round pick to find out. If you burn a mid round pick on him and he is still the same Doug Martin, so be it. I will likely avoid him after being torched in the past unless he drops big time in my drafts.
Overall for the Bucs I’m looking for discounts. I might take one here or there, but definitely don’t want to pay full price with a lot of questions on offense in Tampa.