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Sparknotes: NFC South

The NFC South has produced two Superbowl teams in the last two years, and looks to be a competative division again with four strong football teams. As usual, the South should be strong in the fantasy representation as well, with high flying offenses and high ranking individuals.

Atlanta Falcons

Notable Fantasy Stars: Julio Jones (WR2), Matt Ryan (QB4), Devonta Freeman (RB5), Austin Hooper (TE20), Tevin Coleman (RB22),  Taylor Gabriel (WR64), Mohamed Sanu (WR75)

Synopsis – Some may be concerned with where this team is mentally after blowing a monster lead in the Superbowl, but I’d argue that the talent trumps any kind of hangover. The offense is led by the triumverate of elite players in Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman, and they all look to offer early round values. Coleman and Sanu are likely to carve out minor fantasy roles with Austin Hooper being the likely breakout candidate following Jacob Tamme’s departure. Expect fireworks in Atlanta again this year.

Carolina Panthers

Notable Fantasy Stars: Greg Olsen (TE3), Cam Newton (QB10), Christian McCaffrey (RB16), Kevlin Benjamin (WR31), Jonathan Stewart (RB34), Devin Funchess (WR72)

Synopsis – Cam Newton suffered a litany of minor injuries and his stats suffered as a result. His expectations have been adjusted but with the addition of Christian McCaffrey, fans are hopeful we’ll see more plays from the pocket and less vicious hits at the end of short runs. A healthy Kelvin Benjamin looks to rebound, and Jonathan Stewart returns to his role as underdog, and figures to excel despite the precipitous drop in the rankings. Ole reliable Greg Olsen returns as my TE3, and could quietly finish as the top TE considering his role in this offense.

New Orleans Saints

Notable Fantasy Stars: Drew Brees (QB3), Michael Thomas (WR8), Mark Ingram (RB18), Willie Snead (WR36), Adrian Peterson (RB40), Ted Ginn (WR56), Coby Fleener (TE14)

Synopsis –  It was an interesting offseason by the Saints as they traded former first round WR Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, and signed 32 year old Adrian Peterson to fill out what they hope to be a more balanced offensive attack. Mark Ingram may suffer slightly if AP is more than advertised, but considering the lower number of touches last year, one can expect a RB2 finish regardless. Michael Thomas slides into the WR1 spot but Willie Sneed and Coby Fleener should be the big winner as their targets should rise significantly as Brees is still likely to throw the ball 600 times.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Notable Fantasy Stars: Mike Evans (WR3), Jameis Winston (QB6) ,O.J. Howard (TE17), Cameron Brate (TE22), Doug Martin (RB33), Charles Sims (RB57), DeSean Jackson (WR30)

Synopsis – The Bucs are a tough team to get a handle on, but Mike Evans and Jameis Winston no longer qualify as both guys should finish in the top ten at their positions. Doug Martin and Charles Sims should split time (again) with the Muscle Hamster tackling the early downs and Sims cleaning up the passing situations. Beyond Evans, the Bucs have two young TE’s (OJ Howard is likely the most valuable in a fantasy sense) that should be heavy in the passing game, and DeSean Jackson seems to find his way onto the fantasy radar despite his WR3 ranking.

NFL Draft: First Round Fallout

With the excitement and surprise of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft in the rearview, it’s finally time to start looking into the impact and fallout of the skill position players taken early in the draft.

Amitchell-trubisky-042717-getty-ftrjpg_1kgm9a8ct8wsa1vfjfrx72fq4qs I say every year around this time; be mindful when drafting rookies… for every Ezekiel Elliot there’s two or three Bishop Sankeys torpedoing your squad. Do your research and don’t committ to the rookie class too heavily (a mistake I’ve made myself).

Impact listings are in order of their draft position

1. Mitchell Trubisky – QB, Chicago Bears: If the Bears are smart (and there’s been precious little in past seasons to suggest that they are) Trubisky will be nothing more than a first round clipboard holder for a year or two. With Mike Glennon on the roster and lowered expectations, there’s no scenario that Trubisky starts or plays meaningful football this year. Don’t Draft

2. Leonard Fournette – RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Following the failed Yeldon/Ivory experiment (they combined for 4 TD’s and 904 yards) the Jaguars got aggressive and selected the first RB off the board. Touted as an Adrian Peterson clone, his size and speed make him and intriguing pick for a team looking to get more balanced. If you believe he played hurt last year and has more to offer even than he did, this could be a day one fantasy asset, assuming you don’t have to draft him too early. Draft: Middle Rounds

3. Corey Davis – WR, Tennessee Titans: This team was in drastic need of a top end wideout to pair with Marcus Mariota, and they think they got him at the 5th spot in the draft in Davis. A sizable reciever at 6’3″ and 210 lbs I expect Mariota to look his way early and often. If he can improve on his drops (16 across his college career), his route running ability and verticle speed should make him a decent NFL player. Draft: Late Rounds

4. Mike Williams – WR, Los Angeles Chargers: Arguably the top receiver in the draft, Williams is now the new face of the LA Chargers as they make the move from San Diego. While he’ll be battling Travis Benjamin and Keenan Allen for snaps, it’s only a matter of time before he sits atop the depth chart. Temper early season expectations, but don’t be surprised if he’s looking like a fantasy stud sooner rather than later. Draft: Middle Rounds

5. Christian McCaffrey – RB, Carolina Panthers: A Jack of all trades, McCaffrey is a perfect fit for a Carolina Panthers team desperate for some spark other than from the helmet to helmet shots Cam Newton takes when he runs the football. McCaffrey provides that being a fantastic options to line up in the slot or next to Newton as a flexible starter who can run the ball and catch it out of the backfield. If your league awards points for return yards he’ll be even more helpful. Draft: Late Rounds

6. John Ross – WR, Cincinnati Bengals: While laking the size of his contemporaries, the speedy Ross will line up opposite A.J. Green and should be in line for plenty of looks thanks to doubleteams and defensive schemes that will be forced to focus elsewhere. His production will likely be boom or bust in year one, so he’s probably more of a matchups play. Serious risk of being a bust if drafted too early though as the Bengals offense can become one dimensional at times when A.J. Green is right. Draft: Late Rounds

7. Patrick Mahomes – QB, Kansas City Chiefs: The same argument made against drafting Trubisky should be in play here as well; Alex Smith is still the starter of this playoff caliber team. The advantage is I believe Mahomes tracks to have a better NFL career than Trubisky, and his destination with the Chiefs is more enviable in the long run. Still, he’s no more than a dynasty stash. Don’t Draft

8. DeShaun Watson – QB, Houston Texans: If any of the three first round QB’s have a chance to play meaningful minutes this year, it’s Watson. Bill O’Brien has some work to do in rehabilitating his image with young quarter backs, but this Texans team will expect to win this year, and if Savage and Wheedon (Assuming both are on the roster by pre-season) there’s a reasonable chance Watson will find himself under center before long. Draft: Last round flyer

9 O.J. Howard – TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One of the best TE in the draft, Howard will likely be the best pass catching TE on a team who often times trots two of them on the field together. With another year under his belt, Winston could be looking Howards way often, and with Mike Evans the only other real red zone threat, Howard could find a nice number of TD’s be years end. Draft: Late Rounds

10. Evan Engram – TE, NY Giants: The Giants have a lot of pass catchers after adding Brandon Marshall in the offseason, but Engram is by far the best TE on the roster. He’ll find immediate playing time but will likely have to be evaluated week to week based on matchups. I predict plenty of 100 yard, 2 TD weeks followed by 5 yards on 1 target. Draft: Late Rounds

11. David Njoku – TE, Cleveland Browns: The biggest knock against Njoku is that he’ll be playing for the Cleveland Browns. Maybe it’s not fair to expect a rough start for the athletic TE, but without consistency at the QB position, it’s a crap shoot to expect more than below-average fantasy statistics. IF the Browns add a QB via trade (Kirk Cousins for example) then I’d bump Njoku up on my board, but as of right now, he’s a dynasty/keeper pick but not in redrafts. Draft: Late Rounds (Keeper/Dynasty only).