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Fantasy Football Pop Quiz - NFC South


It's about time for the NFC South to get rolling again, with another year of high expectations that the division will almost certainly have a hard time living up to. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. A fourth team that I'm contractually obligated to mention.

The NFC South has been heralded for years as the land of milk and honey for the all-important fantasy production through the air or ground. Many of us remember drafting guys like Michael Turner for Atlanta and Pierre Thomas or Reggie Bush in New Orleans. You remember staking your hopes in guys like Vincent Jackson or Tim Wright. Surely, these dudes were going to soar. Or you'll read some of the names on that list, and have a violent flashback of, I dunno, Jackson in 2015. Or Michael Turner in 2012. Because while this division has given up arguably some of the best individual player performances in the last decade, it's also a world of hurt for overrating errors and infamous quotes like "With this QB throwing to him, he's sure to rebound."

While I've mentioned a few of these divisions are "the most talented" or are "stacked," the NFC South is both loaded with talent and ripe for pratfalls. Let's see how it breaks down.

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Atlanta Falcons

FILL IN THE BLANK: Pick __________, not _________

I've learned a lot about myself in this column series, such as I have a very "get off my lawn" view of the 2018 fantasy football season. The guy who prided himself on guessing right about every rookie he drafted (ok, there's enough of my columns from the last few years to show that's just not true) has now become very risk-prone as drafts tend to swallow more of these guys up.

So I'm saying that, in re-draft leagues, avoid Calvin Ridley and instead take Mohamed Sanu. The file on Ridley has been pretty specific; yes he'll be good, but he won't be anything more than a #3 receiver this season, and it's best to go with Sanu while he's still the number two pass catcher working. There's quietly an argument to take Sanu without involving Ridley at all, factoring in that the 29-year old receiver saw his usage start to quietly increase following week 12 of last year, a sign that he's a bigger factor offensively than most drafters are giving him credit for.

Sanu is being drafted outside of the top-62 WR's according to Fantasy Football Calculator, so while there certainly may be a case for drafting both players (especially in any format with keepers), it makes more sense to avoid the hype in 2018 and simply grab Sanu.

 

Carolina Panthers

I have abandoned all logic in favor of drafting ____________ in all leagues

A. Christian McCaffrey
B. Devin Funchess
C. Cam Newton
D. Jarius Wright

I told myself that I wouldn't make this column all about players that everyone already knew were going to be awesome or were already being overdrafted. In this case, Christian McCaffrey is both. Everyone's heard the 25-30 touches a game quote from head coach Ron Rivera by now, though the validity of it remains a bit uncertain. What we do know is that, on average, he was seeing 14 touches a game before. While his running was so-so and not likely to improve behind the offensive line, even the biggest skeptic can relent to saying that McCaffrey should see an average of at least double-digit carries alone, up from 7.3 in 2017.

So even if you don't buy into what Rivera is saying, an increased workload means he remains the most targeted back in terms of receptions. An increased workload, even in a modest capacity, could also vault McCaffrey into double-digit touchdown work. And even if the Panthers don't want to use McCaffrey on a large volume of possessions, there isn't a lot of reliable RB depth behind CJ Anderson that could come in and carry the ball.

Now here's my caveat; much like Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, I think that every McCaffrey owner should also draft CJ Anderson, if only just to have a handcuff to McCaffrey after getting a better understanding how the goal line work may shake out. While I still think McCaffrey will be the guy across the board, ensuring that investment with Anderson is worthwhile and, best case scenario, may produce peak LeGarrette Blount numbers which may be good enough for FLEX rotation in many leagues.

 

New Orleans Saints

For dynasty leagues, add __________ to your watch list.

A. Teddy Bridgewater
B. Boston Scott
C. Tre'Quan Smith
D. John Kuhn

There are actually two guys who I played with here, so before I start into my pick, I do urge you to keep an eye on Boston Scott. The RB made the team over Jonathan Williams, and has reportedly earned the primary backup role. Given how crowded the backfield is in the Big Easy, it's tempting to ignore 6th-round Scott, but it may be advantageous to add him to your watch list as well.

For me, it's Tre'Quan Smith. Smith finished the 2018 preseason in a quietly interesting predicament. He's the holder of the best stats in preseason, with 15 receptions on 189 receiving yards and a touchdown. It doesn't look like a lot, but given how preseason shifts personnel frequently to get a better understanding of talent, it's a very impressive workload that means he was being targeted with regularity. Take into account that the two guys in front of him, Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Meredith, likely won't be around next year, it would behoove you now to take a guy you won't be able to get halfway through the season.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Save your final dollar for ___________

A. OJ Howard
B. Chris Godwin
C. Peyton Barber

Oh yeah, it's All of Them. Now, small caveat, Peyton Barber's stock has skyrocketed when it comes to how he's being drafted, with Fantasy Football Calculator basically seeing the RB going from round 14 in a 12-man PPR league all the way to round 7. Now if you're in a league that hasn't bought in on the hype, and see him falling to the double-digit rounds, that's where to take him. Barber is now playing backup to Ronald Jones II, but fantasy football junkies have seen a back that was utilized well in the second half of last season outplaying the guy who just got drafted. It's why I still have Barber in the dollar category; just because he's playing better doesn't mean he's playing ahead when it comes to the depth chart, so make sure not to draft him that way when other starters are being drafted in that same zone.

Now OJ Howard and Chris Godwin are still being largely left for dead. If Barber was being used well in the second half, Godwin was a masterclass, and while he wasn't rewarded with many opportunities to dance in front of the pirate ship, his targets and receptions promises that the young receiver could easily be WR2 in this offense. A similar boost could be coming to OJ Howard, who is seeing some more usage (credit to Pat Thorman at PFF for pointing this out) that could mean increased playing time and receptions for the highly regarded second year tight-end. Howard is plummeting compared to Browns TE Njoku, and while I think Njoku does have a better season, I find myself ending up with Howard as a late or backup TE with some serious upside that may finally mean he swaps places with Cameron Brate. Given that it takes rookies TE's until the second or third year to arrive, count on Howard to see a big step forward.

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