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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.

Fantasy Team Ranks: 24-32

browns-articleLargeAs the NFL’s dog days settle in, we long for the hooplah that surrounded the draft. We pray to the football gods that a wacky Chip Kelley roster move falls in our laps. We ask that we never have to hear the words “deflated football” again in our lives. Instead we’re left reading reports of how every disappointing player is wowing in whatever camp is being participated in or how backup quarterbacks everywhere are competing to take the starting gig.

So, inspite of my fears that this is far to early to look at the NFL’s fantasy landscap, I’ll begin breaking down the pieces each NFL franchise may showcase come your very own Fantasy draft day. We’ll examine each teams skill positions and rank them from 32 to 1.

Without further adue… drum roll please!

32. Cleveland Browns

No other franchise in the NFL has swung and missed on a QB more than the Cleveland Browns. The most important position on the field, QB is the one position every NFL team focuses on, but Cleveland has a depth chart that has 35 year old journey man Josh McCown on top of their failed experiment of Johnny “football” Manziel. On top of that, Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline were brought in to bolster a dismal WR corps, but achieved nothing but making them more mediocre. Despite having a solid stable of RB’s on the roster, this offense is so disfunctional I’d be surprised if they had room to run. Worth Drafting: Dwayne Bowe is a risky pick, but at least he’s his teams #1 option. Isaiah Crowell should be a top 20 back unless Duke Johnson impresses early. I wouldn’t waste a pick in the first 5 rounds on this team.

31. New York Jets

In a similar fashion to Cleveland, the Jets experimented with Geno Smith, and decided that Ryan Fitzpatrick would give them the best chance to win. No fantasy owner would agree. Brandon Marshall is a marquee name, and Fitzpatrick didn’t kill Andre Johnson’s value in Hou, so he may still be worth a pick, but beyond him Decker and Kerley should prove to be inconsistent. Chris Ivory is a steady back but with the addition of Ridley and Zac Stacy, who knows which guy will lead the team. Worth Drafting: I’m sure someone in your league will draft Ryan Fitzpatrick; don’t be that guy. Marshall is an intriguing pick as the Jets haven’t had a goal line guy for a while and they may lean heavily on him, not a WR1 but could have value if he falls. Ivory quietly put together a decent season last year, so I’d think he’ll come out of the gates on top, but I wouldn’t waste and early pick. Ridley and Stacy are both risky, and may only be valuable as a handcuff if it becomes more clear before the season starts who is the #2.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville is a team on the rise, but will still suffer short term as Blake Bortles and his young WR’s become aclimated to the league. Bortles has the tools to be a good NFL quarterback, but as young as this offense is, he’ll struggle with consistency. TJ Yeldon will likely carry the torch at RB, and should be worth a middle round pick, especially in keeper formats. At WR things are a little murky. There won’t be a huge number of passes to go around, so a big week followed by a zero could have fantasy owners screaming. Julius Thomas should still be a top 10 TE even in this offense. Worth Drafting: Bortles is a project and should be drafted with this in mind. Yeldon has a chance to come out and put up good fantasy numbers, watch carefully as the team may announce him starting over Gerhart before the season starts. Marquise Lee has the most upside of the WR corps but it’s Julius Thomas as a saftey blanket for the young QB who warrants the highest value.

29. St. Louis Rams

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Nick Foles is going to be able to handle the lack of protection that St. Louis has been famous for. He won’t have Chip Kelly’s schemes to protect him either, so I have very little faith that Foles will return to a top 15 QB. Todd Gurley looks to be a generational talent, but inuries should limit him in year one, and Tre Mason is a solid but unspectacular RB for fantasy purposes. WR is a soft spot here with Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt being marginal at best atop the depth charts. Jared Cook could be the one fantasy expection with nearly 700 yards last year. At a shallow TE position, he could be worth a pick. Worth Drafting: Foles was average in Philadelphia’s offense, so I expect him to be worth a late round QB2 or bench spot pick. Todd Gurley should be drafted with the understanding he won’t contribute early, and likely valued too high in keeper leagues. Kenny Britt as a depth WR or Tavon Austin as a hold your breath flier would be later rounds and Jared Cook could be cheap points at the TE position.

28. Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota has some great tools, but he’s still a bit raw when it comes to the NFL game. I don’t expect him to have much fantasy impact early. Bishop Sankey disappointed his NFL owners along with the fantasy world, so they went out and got David Cobb in the draft. Cobb should eat into Sankey’s carries early, but there’s no garuntee that either will see much success. A ton of talent at WR, it’s a crap shoot with who to pick. Kendall Wright should put up solid numbers but with a rookie QB inconsistency could hurt his value, but I’m a firm believer in Delanie Walker and expect him to repeat with a top 10 TE season. Worth Drafting: Mariota should be drafted as a bench QB only. Walker is a safe bet to put up good numbers, and Dorial Green-Beckham as a flier pick could reap huge rewards with his freakish athleticism. Delanie Walker has a lot of value in the red zone, and should be counted on as a top TE in a shallow field.

27. Buffalo Bills

Matt Cassell is a slight upgrade on paper over E.J. Manuel, but he’s not good enough to elevate the offense into the middle of  the pack. The biggest question in this offense is LeSean McCoy. He had a ton of touches last year for Philadelphia and could’t put together a season worthy of being a top pick last year. Now he’s wearing a bills logo and things should only be tougher for him. Sammy Watkins is a stud, but opposing teams will be focused on the talented wideout even more now. I’m intrigued by Charles Clay as well. The converted back has tools to make him a mismatch, but Cassell can’t be counted on to keep his numbers up either. Worth Drafting: I’d stay away from either QB unless in a 2QB format league. LeSean McCoy should be counted on to touch the ball 15-20 times a game, but is a huge risk at his current ADP. Sammy Watkins is a no brainer, but Charles Clay is the toughest to put your finger on. In the later rounds sure, if overvalued due to his success in Miami last year, I’d look elsewhere.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston is a fine talent, but he’s young and he’s taking over for a team that allowed 52 sacks last season. Mike Evans was a revelation and Vincent Jackson is still a deep threat, but Doug Martin is still a question mark. If the team can’t use him to spell Winston, there could be some growing pains early. I’m not convinced that Austin Sefarian-Jenkins failure to turn into a fantasy option was a result of a terrible passing game. Winston may help revive his prospects. Worth Drafting: Mike Evans will be an early pick based on his athletisism and high ceiling. Vincent Jackson is going to regress eventually, but he’s still worth a WR3. Winston should outperform Mariota in terms of fantasy, but he’s a project that may not reach his hype. Sefarian Jenkins could fall to late in the draft and I’d say he’s a steal there.

25. Washington Redskins

What a mess this organization has become as Dan Snyder wants nothing more than to torment the fans of his storied franchise. Robert Griffin may not have the backing of his Head Coach but ownership has ensure he’ll get the first crack at the job this year. His talent is undeniable, his mental toughness is. If he’s playing his game, defenses can’t defend all of the areas he can attack, adding value to their small but quick recievers. Garcon is a valuable volume reciever when the football is in the air, and DeSean Jackson can still torch a secondary. Two talented TE’s in Jordan Reed and Paul Niles provide nice targets for Griffin but damage each others value significantly if both are healthy. Worth Drafting: Despite not passing the eyeball test, Griffin had a few solid performances down the stretch that show he might be able to turn this thing around. He may be worth a flier if you think so to. Alfred Morris is as boring a pick as they come, but he’s a safe bet to touch the ball 15 times a game. Garcon may have more value in PPR leagues, but DeSean Jackson has shown he can be a difference maker regardless of who is throwing the ball. Injuries derailed Reed’s season and allowed Niles Paul to showcase his skills, but Reed is the more complete fantasy player and warrants a TE2 pick.

24. Houston Texans

Sure, they have Arian Foster who when healthy is among the best at his position. But they lost Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins is being asked to step into his shoes. Last year he was a stud, compiling WR1 numbers with an anemic passing offense. Adding Brian Hoyer may give them a better chance to win, but he’s not going to light up the score board, and this could hurt the WR’s. Jaelen Strong could be a sneaky pick if teams take Hopkins out of games as Cecil Shorts is really only there to stretch the feild. Worth Drafting: Arian Foster should still be considered one of the best in the game, but age and injury concerns could hamstring a fantasy team. DeAndre Hopkins is buzzing now that he occupies the number one spot, but I’m not sure that he’s ready to be the man yet. Jaelen Strong as a rookie has the tools to outperform a flier pick if your filling out your bench.

Way Too Early Rankings: QB

More than any other position, the QB position feels the least amount of fluctuation as starting gigs are usually wrapped up before the NFL draft. With the two rookies sliding into starting spots, lets see where our QB’s stand in terms of Fantasy Rankings in our Way Too Early Rankings.

  1. Andrew Luck – IND
  2. Aaron Rodgers – GB
  3. Peyton Manning – Den
  4. Russell Wilson – Sea
  5. Drew Brees – NO
  6. Ben Roethlisberger – Pit
  7. Matt Ryan – Atl
  8. Tom Brady – NE
  9. Cam Newton – Car
  10. Ryan Tannehill – Mia
  11. Eli Manning – NYG
  12. Tony Romo – Dal
  13. Philip Rivers – SD
  14. Matthew Stafford – Det
  15. Carson Palmer – Ari
  16. Colin Kaepernick – SF
  17. Joe Flacco – Bal
  18. Andy Dalton – Cin
  19. Jay Cutler – Chi
  20. Derek Carr – Oak
  21. Alex Smith – KC
  22. Teddy Bridgewater – Min
  23. Sam Bradford – Phi
  24. Robert Griffin III – Was
  25. Blake Bortles – Jax
  26. Nick Foles – StL
  27. Jameis Winston – TB
  28. Marcus Mariota – Ten
  29. Brian Hoyer – Hou
  30. Ryan Fitzpatrick – NYJ
  31. Josh McCown – Cle
  32. Matt Cassell – Buf

Three Up:

  • Derek Carr – A young team with some exceptional weapons, Carr could very well vault himself into the top 15 conversation.
  • Blake Bortles – Jacksonville seems committed to creating an offensive culture that will see Bortles succeed. He certainly has the intangibles.
  • Alex Smith – He may have shown age last year, but I think cleaning the slate with his receiving core could work wonders for Smith this year.

Three Down: 

  • Tom Brady – We’ve seen Brady play with a chip on his shoulder, but at 38 and facing a possible suspension, Brady may not be worth his draft day value.
  • Nick Foles – If Sam Bradfords fall from grace was any indication, St. Louis could be a bad spot for Foles. They also have a brutal schedule for QB’s fantasy production.
  • Drew Brees – Age is certainly a factor here, but losing Jimmy Graham and the news that New Orleans is looking to dial back on the reliance of the passing game could see Brees dropping out of the top 10.

NFL Draft 2015: First Round Impact

With the first overall pick, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers select… QB Jamies Winston *queue the applause*. 

Just like that, the first round of the 2015 NFL draft got underway. On day one we saw 10 skill positions find their first NFL immediately impacting the fantasy landscape surrounding several NFL players. As Zac Stacy so elequently put it on twitter: “yikes”.

What do these picks mean for the teams making them? Keep reading to find out.

Jameis Winston-QB / Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay had two talented WR’s that put up good fantasy numbers in rookie Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. What Tampa Bay lacked on offense was a steady QB under center. What Winston means to this team is that at some time down the road, consistency will develop and those guys will continue to beat defenses down the side lines. More importantly, it could open up the field for oft-maligned RB Doug Martin. Martin has had to deal with a sub par offensive general and constantly stacked boxes. I expect him to bounce back this year with an added focus on a QB who should be able to contribute.

Marcus Mariota-QB / Tennessee: I’m not sure that Mariota has the tools to be a good fantasy QB right away. Physically he’s gifted but he’s not your prototypical pocket passer, and with the issues Tennessee had keeping it’s QB’s healthy last year, Mariota is going to have to be doing a ton of scrambling. May have some value late, but I imagine inconsistinceny will keep him from being relevant right away. Expect some down weeks out of Wright and Douglas.

Amari Cooper-WR / Oakland: Oakland needed a WR to pair with QB Derek Carr, and they grabbed the best one on the board. What Cooper lacks in speed, he makes up for in crisp route running, good body control, and the ability to beat defensive backs. He’ll make an immediate impact as the defacto #1 receiver in an offense that had too many 2’s and 3’s.

Kevin White-WR / Chicago: This is a perfect marraige of player and team. Chicago has had most success when Jay Cutler can use his big arm to hit long, physical recievers down the side lines. To replace Brandon Marshall, the Bears snagged Kevin White who’s size and speed match up perfectly across from Alshon Jeffery. Expect Mike Evans kind of numbers.

Todd Gurley-RB / StL: I’m not sure this wasn’t just a pick and pray selection hoping Gurley pans out at number 10. His ACL injury clouds his ability to contribute this year, but when healthy he should be a workhorse back. In contrast, Zac Stacy, an in-vogue pick last year has aske to be traded, and if so could throw a wrinkle in elsewhere.

DeVante Parker-WR / Mia: A raw talent with elite skills, Parker won’t be asked to do too much in an Miami Offense that has two solid WR’s in Landry and Stills, and a top end pass catching TE in Cameron. A late grab and stash candidate, would only be relevant in fantasy terms if there were an injury ahead of him.

Melvin Gordon-RB / SD: I like this pick in the same vein as Chicago’s Kevin White pick. What SD likes out of it’s backfield is a quick, shifty back that can play in both running and passing downs. Most experts have pegged Gordon as the early “offensive rookie of the year” leader and in San Diego he should have plenty of opportunities to touch the football.

Nelson Agholor-WR / Phi: So much for the “future to Tennessee for Mariota” tade. Agholor makes a ton of sense to a Philly team that hadn’t replaced DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin but still found a way to win games. The big question will be who starts under center. Mark Sanchez hurts any one’s fantasy value in terms of consistency, but who knows if Sam Bradford would be any better in Chip Kelly’s offense. Expect power outages along with huge fantasy weeks.

Breshad Perriman-WR / Baltimore: Not a big physical receiver, Perriman has + speed (ran a sub 4.3 40) and will slot in nicely where Torrey Smith left. Paired with Joe Flacco’s monster arm, expect moderate fantasy numbers mostly in bunches.

Phillip Dorsett-WR / Idianapolis: Small and speedy, Dorsett may make the Colts a more formidable offense, but it does him no favors to be buried on an offense with TY Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief and Dwayne Allen eating up a chunk of the passes. With as deep as the talent pool is and as many sleeper candidates as there are, Dorsett won’t be on my draft watch list.