NFC South Preview
Looking at offseason changes
Now that camps are opening and we have finished our rookie rankings, we thought it was a good time to start rolling out our team reports, which are being released by division. Old Rotobahn readers know the drill, but for you newbies, the goal here is to get you back up to fantasy speed. If you’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping baseball, we’re here for you. Let’s play a little catch-up. The key things on the docket are coaching changes, rookies and key free agent moves.
Atlanta has full continuity on the coaching staff with both coordinators returning. The offseason has been key when you look at the Falcons chances of winning and when you look at the team’s fantasy dynamic. The usual suspects are back, but they upgraded at their main position of weakness in 2012 by replacing starting tailback Michael Turner with Steven Jackson. The transaction makes them a year younger and a lot better in the backfield. Just watch the two players on film and the difference is stark. Turner was never Jackson’s equal anyway, but Turner’s decline has been quick, while Jackson still has a lot of his skill left. It’s an upgrade for Atlanta and a boost to Jackson’s fantasy value.
Atlanta wisely went heavy on the defense at the draft, and really, there’s not much to tell offensively for redraft purposes. TE Levine Toiolo, taken in round four, is a project and QB Sean Renfree had better not see the field in 2013 for the team’s sake. The 7th round QB has some long term potential, but if he ever has fantasy value, it most likely won’t be with Atlanta barring an injury to the newest zillionaire QB Matt Ryan. And, that’s about it for the Falcons. With Tony Gonzalez’s retirement only lasting a matter of weeks, the Falcons end up returning the same big three in the passing game.
The big change to the coaching staff, other than the return of HC Sean Payton, is the addition of DC Rob Ryan. They’ll need to shake up their personnel a bit switching from Steve Spagnuolo’s defense to Ryan’s 3-4, but for fantasy footballers, this is a positive change. Ryan will bring risk-taking and aggression. Sack totals and turnovers will rise. If the Saints continue to be a powerhouse offense with coach Payton’s return, Ryan’s defense could prove to be a decent matchup play for fantasy.
The Saints’ notable losses are LT Jermon Bushrod, who signed with Chicago, RB Chris Ivory, who took his services to the Jets and WR Devery Henderson, who landed in Washington with RGIII. Ivory was a bit of a spare part albeit a talented one. Henderson will be replaced by one of the younger receivers on the roster. Our favorite of which is rookie Kenny Stills, who was a steal in round five, but was the only significant skill player the Saints brought in this offseason apart from backup tight end Ben Watson. It was a slow and uneventful Spring, and, after 2012, I bet that’s ok with GM Mickey Loomis. Very ok.
With OC Rob Chudzinski leaving to become the HC of the Browns, the Panthers decided to stay in-house and promote QB coach David Shula. While this may not be a scintillating hire, it does provide continuity for Cam Newton, who has obviously worked well with Shula so far. The issue for Cam and company is the skill talent on hand. The Panthers keep adding tailbacks. Good ones too. Still, when your QB runs for 700-800 yards a year, how many tailbacks do you need to neglect? As much as we like rookie RB Kenjon Barner, we wonder if a receiver would have been a better call, and they were definitely still some good ones on the board. The one receiver brought in was Dom Hixon from the Giants. It was a good move, but Hixon is fragile and they needed more anyway. This is all outstanding news, and a solid vote of confidence for Brandon LaFell, who looks like a good bet to hold on to his starting spot opposite Steve Smith. Hixon and Barner pretty much wrap up the Panthers’ offseason as far as skill talent goes. That is, unless Ted Ginn excites you.
They lost TE Dallas Clark to retirement and, based on his play last year and the current state of the roster, they may miss him a bit. No viable replacements are currently on the roster, unless Luke Stocker or ex-Packer Tom Crabtree get you excited. Both men have some ability, but neither can run routes like Dallas Clark. The third option in the receiving game probably needs to come from this group....
- Tiquan Underwood
- Kevin Ogletree
- Derrick Hagan
Hagan’s the longshot, and if I had to bet, I’d go with Underwood because he’s a favorite of HC Greg Schiano from their days at Rutgers. Ogletree was brought in from Dallas and certainly has some talent. Getting a good year out of one or more of these guys is key for Josh Freeman, who has mostly positives everywhere else. Both starting guards, Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph will return for 2013. That’s huge and perhaps the key thing to remember when you start doubting Tampa’s skill players, especially Freeman and starting tailback Doug Martin. Both players lives get a whole lot better with the return of Nicks and Joseph.
The draft yielded two significant players for the offense. The first is QB Mike Glennon, who we are not big fans of due to his utter lack of mobility. The other is RB Mike James out of Miami. James was a nice value in the 6th round and we think he’ll be the main backup to Martin in time. Peyton Hillis could also factor in. Hillis, recently added to the fold, is practicing at both RB and FB positions. The backup RB spot and the battle for the 3rd receiver gig are the two big camp battles to watch. There could be a battle at tight end too if Crabtree picks things up quickly after three years as a Packer.
The defense is obviously improved with the additions of CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson. If ever a secondary got two better players in free agency in the same year, I'd like to know. The Bucs, already with a stingy run defense, should be a nice sleeper for fantasy purposes.
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