06 Aug Fantasy Football Pre-Season Primer: NFC South
By: Mike Stromme – @stromme_93
Grown-ass men riding bikes built for children, pimped-out whips, heavy humidity and player “X” in “the best shape of his life” can only mean one thing… TRAINING CAMP!
Can you hear the sputtering tick-tick-tick of the sprinklers and the thumping grunts of pads, helmets and egos colliding? I certainly can! Let’s get it! Just one more month until the bullets start flying for real, are you ready? No? That’s alright, we’ll get there.
With the Hall of Fame game is officially behind us, IT’S GO TIME! Here are some training camp story lines with fantasy implications to keep an eye on this August:
Despite their epic Super Bowl collapse and change in offensive coordinator, the Falcons didn’t really address the offense from a personnel standpoint.
Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel and Austin Hooper are all back together and looking to repeat a phenomenal offensive output from a year ago (31.8 Points per game in 2016).
It will be interesting to see how this unit transitions from Kyle Shanahan’s offense to Steve Sarkasian’s. Personally, I suspect that the changes made (if any) will be subtle. Hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
But hey, what do I know? It’s something to keep an eye on this August.
While the backfield battle between grizzled vet Jonathan Stewart and the team’s first round pick Christian McCaffrey intrigues me, it seems to me that the preseason won’t reveal the true starter in this backfield. Unfortunately, this running back situation looks like one where we’ll have to take a wait-and-see approach.
Things we can watch this month: the conditioning of Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess and rookie Curtis Samuel’s ability to develop as the “Ted Ginn” in this offense.
Benjamin and Funchess are a couple of oak trees, standing at 6′-5″ and 6′-4″ respectively, they’re both terrible at creating separation and getting open for Cam Newton. Let’s see if they’ve improved in their ability to get off the
line of scrimmage, create separation from defenders and find open space. If so, look out!
New Orleans Saints:
One person of interest to watch will be former All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson. Peterson, who seldom participated in pre-season games during his Vikings tenure, will likely see action this August.
After leading the league in rushing in 2015, Peterson’s 2016 season was derailed by injury. He averaged 1.9 YPC and didn’t find the end zone once.
With RBs Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara in the fold, HC Sean Payton probably won’t indicate which RB will take the “lead role” in this offense this month. But what we can watch for, is how Peterson physically responds to his new offense. We can use the “eye test” to see if AP still has anything left in the tank. He is, after all, one of the most freakishly athletic RBs this generation had to offer.
Peterson’s new teammates have been reportedly “gushing” over his athleticism during OTAs. It will be interesting to see if the 32-year-old RB has a second (or third) wind left in him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a few offseason changes to their offense, signing free agent WR DeSean Jackson and adding RB Jeremy McNichols and TE O.J. Howard through the draft.
While the Tampa Bay backfield appears to be in-flux, it seems apparent that this situation won’t really resolve itself until the conclusion of Doug Martin’s three-game suspension. Jacquizz Rodgers appears to be the feature back to start the season, and it will more than likely take an unbelievable effort from Charles Sims, Peyton Barber or Jeremy McNichols to unseat him from the starting gig given that HC Dirk Koetter brought in Rodgers from their time together in Atlanta. When Rodgers was given an opportunity to start for this team, he set an NFL RECORD for touches in a single series for a RB.
What really intrigues me about this team going into the preseason is the development of rookie TE O.J. Howard out of Alabama. While donning the Crimson Tide, Howard was an offensive juggernaut who looked like a man among boys.
Not only does he possess the physical tools, but he’s a cerebral TE as well. He also earned Dean’s List Honors in his final semester of school at Alabama, majoring in sports business management. On multiple occasions, he was the Home Depot SEC Scholastic Player of the Week.
He’ll compete with TE Cameron Brate for a starting gig as the main TE in this offense. Brate, who had a career-high 57-660-8 on 81 targets, has an obvious rapport with QB Jameis Winston; especially in the red zone. Where he was targeted 7 times inside the 10 yard line, tying WR Mike Evans for the team lead.
I really want to see how this team will deploy Howard and/or Brate this pre-season.