The Fantasy Points staff recently welcomed NFL Films legend Greg Cosell and NFL Insider Adam Caplan to talk about the NFC South as part of our Virtual Pow-wow Series. I highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.
Greg and Adam joined John Hansen and company to break down the NFC South from front to back to help us get a deeper understanding of every roster heading into the summer. John has been holding these closed-door meetings with Greg and Adam for the last 15+ years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain during these exclusive Livestreams! Here are the notes I compiled from the NFC South meeting, and I included my biggest fantasy takeaways for each team.
The Falcons don’t have much behind Calvin Ridley so his target share is going to skyrocket if Julio Jones is traded before the season. Graham added that Ridley has averaged 107 receiving yards and 11 targets per game in the last eight games that Julio has missed.
Adam said Arthur Smith was a very strong voice in drafting Pitts. The big question is how much volume could Kyle Pitts get as a rookie if Julio is gone. Greg believes they’ll play a lot of 12 personnel since they still have Hayden Hurst, but they’ll move Pitts around like a receiver to make it like they have 11 personnel on the field.
The Falcons like Russell Gage a lot and Greg added that he was the most targeted Falcon on third downs last season. The question is if they go more 12 personnel this season is Gage the other wideout after he primarily played in the slot last year. Adam said the recently signed Tajae Sharpe can’t run very well but he can factor in as a blocker and they also drafted Frank Darby.
Dave Ragone will handle the passing game concepts, and Adam said the coaching staffs in Chicago and Tennessee spoke highly about him.
Greg said that Matt Ryan has lost some velocity on his deep passes but he can still function fine. He’s never had what you call a big arm.
Smith doesn’t have a Derrick Henry in the backfield, but Greg called Mike Davis a big guy who can be a grinder for this offense. Greg said he’s talked to people in the organization and they like UDFA Javian Hawkins. Greg finds him intriguing because of his balance and home-run hitting ability. good balance. He doesn’t think he’ll be a feature back but he could be a good complementary back next to Davis.
Joe thinks Davis’ price in the sixth round is fair. He won’t kill your draft at that spot if he gets overtaken in this backfield, but he could elevate fantasy teams if he can hold onto the job.
Adam said the Falcons are in salary cap hell right now and they can’t do much adding at this point because they’re tapped out on contract restructures. They’ll add some bodies potentially to the backfield (and at other spots) before training camp but they’re in a dire spot right now, which is another reason why they’re shopping Jones.
The organization has spent a lot of high picks on the O-line so they have some talent up front. They’ve thrown it too much in recent years, which has put too much pressure on the offensive line.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
If the Falcons do in fact trade Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley is going to be my WR4 ahead of DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Brown and I’ll be targeting him in the mid-second round. I’m also bumping up Kyle Pitts a little closer to T.J. Hockenson into the mid-sixth round, and I’m giving Russell Gage a significant bump to the 150 range in my rankings. I’m expecting Arthur Smith’s offense to be a little less pass-heavy than Atlanta’s offense has been in recent seasons, but their defense is still going to force them into more passing scripts than Smith would like.
Mike Davis isn’t going to be exciting for fantasy but he’s setting up to get plenty of volume based on the current makeup of Atlanta’s backfield. I’m typically attacking quarterback in the fifth and sixth round, but I’ve drafted him a few times when he’s fallen into the late sixth/early seventh round as my RB2.
Greg believes Sam Darnold is going to be in a much better position to succeed with an actual running game with Christian McCaffrey. They can run a totally different offense than the Jets did last season with all of their weapons. Darnold’s mechanical and processing issues will be worked on but the question is can he take what he practices onto the field. Darnold doesn’t have an elite arm but he certainly can make every throw, and he has a much better arm than Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater didn’t want to throw it deep and it drove them nuts but the big plays should be back with Darnold.
D.J. Moore became the team’s deep threat last season while Robby Anderson caught the quietest 95 passes. A big question is who's going to be the primary slot receiver because Darnold loved throwing to the slot in New York. Moore could explode if he plays more in the slot this season.
Greg described Terrace Marshall as a long and fluid, easy mover who can line up all over the field. He thinks he has the ability to develop into a volume #1 WR down the road, and he could take Anderson’s job next season. He’s on the last year of his two-year contract with the Panthers but added that they’re happy with him after one season.
Greg compared Shi Smith’s competitiveness to Panthers legend Steve Smith, but they have the same physical attributes. Shi Smith doesn’t have loose hips and he’s a straight-line player but he has excellent hands.
Carolina’s left tackle spot could be an absolute disaster. Adam said he’d bet the house that it won’t be Greg Little at left tackle. We’ll see if third-round pick Brady Christensen is ready to play Day One. Greg loves third-round pick Tommy Tremble, who is going to be a big help to this rushing attack. He thinks this offense will start with the running game this year.
FYI, the Panthers could transition to more man coverage on defense after drafting Jaycee Horn and Keith Taylor.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
- I don’t have any major thoughts on the Panthers heading into the summer until I get a longer look at Sam Darnold in August. I’m fine with drafting D.J. Moore (45.9 ADP in May) and Robby Anderson (74.2) at or after their current ADPs, but I’m not actively looking to draft them since I’m worried about their ceilings with Darnold at quarterback. I was ready to draft Moore heavily this summer if they had selected a quarterback in the draft but I’ll likely be a bit underweight on him now. That could change if we hear talk out of training camp that he’s going to be the team’s primary slot receiver, but I suspect they’ll rotate their top four WRs (Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall, and David Moore) all over the field this season.
New Orleans Saints
Both Adam and Greg think Taysom Hill will be the starter in Week 1 but the competition is obviously wide open and is going to go to the end of training camp. Adam said you can do so much more with Hill at quarterback and Sean Payton and the organization have invested a lot of time into him since 2017.
Greg said Hill still needs work but he looked like a pro quarterback last season and not just a gadget guy. The offense was well-schemed when he was in the lineup and Payton did a good job of designing plays for him. Greg thinks he’ll get the job because he expands the offense and because second-reaction skills are more critical now, which isn’t a strength for Jameis Winston.
Graham drafted both quarterbacks in the NFFC Cutline draft and he thinks Hill could be the value pick in fantasy drafts if he’s the guy.
Joe points out that Alvin Kamara averaged four targets per game with Hill and just under eight targets with Drew Brees last season. Running QBs just don’t check it down as much since their first instinct is to run it themselves. Greg does think they’ll work on getting Kamara more involved when Hill is in the lineup, and they’ll also have more practice time to get on the same page this off-season.
Greg said the Saints have one of the best O-lines in the league, which is a great starting point for this entire offense.
The Saints brought in Nick Vannett to be the in-line blocking tight end, which will free Adam Trautman to be the move tight end. Adam thinks they could go more 12 personnel this season without Drew Brees in the lineup.
Greg doesn’t think Tre’Quan Smith is a volume receiver. He liked Marquez Callaway coming out of Tennessee. He wouldn’t be surprised if he gets more involved this season. Callaway had two different knee injuries last season.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
I’ve been drafting quarterbacks earlier than I’ve ever done so I haven’t been drafting three quarterbacks very often with my best ball teams. However, Taysom Hill has typically been my QB3 when I do take a third quarterback late in drafts. I lean toward Hill opening the season as the team’s starter and, even if he doesn’t, how long is it going to take for Jameis Winston to piss off Sean Payton with a mistake-filled performance. Hill accounted for 209/4 rushing and he averaged 7.3 YPA in his four starts for Drew Brees last season, which ranked him as the QB7 in Weeks 11-14 with 22.3 FPG. Hill is a free pick in best ball drafts right now with an ADP of 226.1 but he offers way too much upside to be selected that late.
I’m typically stacking Hill with Adam Trautman and Tre’Quan Smith late in drafts, who are each phenomenal values at their current ADPs of 168.4 and 208.8, respectively. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook got squeezed out of New Orleans because of their cap situation, which promoted Smith and Trautman to larger roles. The Saints then passed on drafting receivers through the first four rounds of the draft to solidify their positions in New Orleans’ new-look offense in 2021. Trautman and Smith should also be the biggest beneficiaries of Drew Brees’ retirement. Winston and Hill will be much more aggressive downfield passers, and Brees had the tendency to lock in on his top two targets, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.
Speaking of Kamara, I’m going to be a bit underweight on Alvin Kamara this season because of Brees’ retirement. I have Kamara ranked as the fifth overall player and his ADP currently sits at 3.7 in May so I’m just not going to have him a ton. His massive role in the passing game is going to take a hit with Brees not around looking to check it down, and we got an early taste of it last season. He averaged four targets per game in Hill’s four starts and 7.4 targets per game in 11 contests with Brees. Hill is also a threat to steal more goal-line carries after he accounted for four rushing TDs in his four starts. I’m just not seeing Kamara’s massive upside that he’s shown with Brees in his first four seasons.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have too many backs and not all of them are going to make the roster out of training camp. Adam said to forget it with Ke’Shawn Vaughn, at least for this season.
Greg said they made Leonard Fournette the guy in the playoffs and he executed what he was asked to do. Fournette has been a good pass protector, which was why he played in third-down situations. Giovani Bernard will certainly challenge him for that passing-down role. This offense isn’t going to run through any individual back but the run game still matters to them. Bruce Arians believes in a balanced offensive attack.
Graham doesn’t want any of these backs in season-long leagues but he’s expecting Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones to have a couple of big games for best ball leagues.
Tampa Bay is also deep at receiver and it’s going to be an offense that spreads the ball around. Greg loved fourth-round pick Jaelon Darden’s tape. He played at a small school (North Texas) but he reminded Greg of Jaylen Waddle.
Greg said Tom Brady has a way better arm than he gets credit for and he threw the ball really well again last season. He had just one down game at the end of the season against the Packers and they still won.
Greg said their offensive line got better as the season went along and Brady wasn’t under meaningful duress at the end of the season. He also liked third-round pick Robert Hainsey, who will probably move to guard in the NFL.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
- Man, this offense is absolutely loaded with 15 legitimate options at the skill positions. It’s almost too loaded for fantasy purposes. By my count, they’re seven deep at wide receiver, three deep at tight end, and five deep at running back. I’m having a difficult time justifying drafting Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in the first four rounds of drafts because of their depth. I’m going to have a lot more shares of Antonio Brown at his cheap ADP (108.4 in May) than I will of Mike Evans (38.8) and Chris Godwin (43.0) this season since Tom Brady should be busy spreading the ball all over the field this season. I also don’t mind getting access to this offense by drafting Brady in the ninth round if I miss out on drafting one of the big-five QBs or Jalen Hurts to start my drafts.