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Fantasy Division Update: NFC South

So here we are again, and I know you have nothing better to do than read this fantasy football update as you wait for work (and the lockout) to end on your way to a glorious weekend which hosts little to care about in Chicago Sports. Up now is the NFC South, a division we should be allowed to play against this upcoming season.

Who’s in it? Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan finished as the #7 scoring quarterback while throwing to #3 WR Roddy White and #7 TE Anthony Gonzalez, Michael Turner plowed his way to #9 on the RB list and the D/ST finished #7 all while snatching up the #1 seed in the NFC…Only to get handled, embarrassingly, by Green Bay in the playoffs. What’s New? If you didn’t know, Julio Jones is headed to Atlanta to catch passes. It was kinda a big deal. So 2011… Call me boring, but I see similar fantasy results coming from "#1s" at their positions: Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner. Ryan may be a good later round QB pickup for those who try to get RBs and WRs up first, especially if you can pair him with a solid #2 who has potential to move up to #1 status as well (like Cutler?). Michael Turner will be, and should be, a 1st round RB unless you are in a heavy PPR league, and Roddy White is a stud in all formats. I am not sure how many more seasons Gonzalez continues to be a top 10 at his position, however, and I think this is the time it drops off some. He will still finish in the top 15 I am sure. Julio Jones is a very interesting prospect, but I don’t want him in Fantasy. He will be the third option on a team that really does still prefer to have the running game going more than the passing game. He will get some nice plays in this year, and probably have at least 1 week that turns people into believers, but I don’t see a solid, consistent fantasy season in the rookie year for this young man. I also don’t trust the D/ST to stay top 10. Frankly, watching Atlanta play some last year, they just do not get to the quarterback well enough or have amazing enough ST to hang around with (fantasy) squads like Chicago, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York A, New York B…

Carolina Panthers: It was a rough year in Carolina. Going back over the fantasy stats and looking for a high point was almost as depressing as looking at the actual record. Jonathan Stewart finished #36 among RBs, a far cry from expectations. There was not another top 40 RB, top 40 receiver, top 20 TE, top 20 QB, or even a top 20 D/ST to talk about…What’s New? A coaching staff and hopefully an attitude overhaul to go with it. Not to beat the dead horse, but the team had bad defense and no offense. The draft brings in Cam Newton to lead the offense and a whole lot of (good) defensive help. DT Terrell McClain and Sione Fua can make a heck of a pair, with Fua more of a nose. DB Hogan was a favorite of friends of mine going into the draft too. So 2011… For fantasy purposes, these QBs are kryptonite. Don’t touch Clausen or Newton. Rookie QBs are usually worthless anyway, and this isn’t a loaded offensive machine. If Steve Smith stays in Carolina, and is healthy, he has to be drafted…but frankly I might look at him as a #3-4 receiver this year and he will go higher than that based on ability. DeAngelo Williams, if he stays, will probably be a good #2 RB with a high ceiling, and Jonathan Stewart might join him in the #2 category but is more likely to be a #3. He just doesn’t rip off the big plays like Williams. The D/ST could improve but I am taking a wait and see.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees remains a #1 QB (no surprise) and continues to spread the wealth to guys who make great 3rd options on a fantasy team, like #18 WR Marques Colston or #27 receiver Lance Moore. Chris Ivory was #35 among RBs on a team that had more RB injuries than I have ever seen…but part of the reason this team got bounced by Seattle in the 1st round is because of a D/ST that lost its "pop" and dropped to #15. What’s New? New Orleans wants to fix its two problems: Defense (add DE Cameron Jordan, LB Martez Wilson, CB Johnny Patrick, DE Greg Romeus) and Running (Add Mark Ingram).So 2011.. I think New Orleans did everything it had to do to be ready to fight with anyone else in football for 2011, starting with adding Mark Ingram. Drew Brees is a top 10 fantasy QB who deserves drafting in the first 4 rounds, Colston is a solid #2 and an ever better 3rd receiver for your fantasy squad and Lance Moore is often available later than he should be, in the 8th-9th round range. Ingram is on my list as a 3rd-4th option as a running back that I will take if he is on the board after my starters are set. The offense is too good for him not to get some production worth owning. Not sure the D/ST rebounds fully, and I don’t draft backup defenses.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Surprise team of 2010? Top 10 QB Josh Freeman, #11 Receiver Mike Williams, top 10 TE Kellen Winslow, and #12 D/ST all coming out of Tampa Bay was a big collection of surprises. Add in an inconsistent but sometimes dominant #24 among RB, LeGarrette Blount, and Tampa was the Fantasy Surprise Team of 2010. What’s New? From a fantasy perspective, it’s good to know the defense is getting loaded up but don’t expect impact players yet. DE Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers may be an awesome power end pair and will definitely help this team though. So 2011…A lot of people expect Tampa to fall off in 2011…and so much of what they did seemed inconsistent it’s hard to fault that logic. Would you draft Josh Freeman as your #1 QB in fantasy? I’d take him as a high #2. Mike Williams is a low #2 receiver to me (6th round) and Blount is a good #3 running back for 2011..maybe even a low end #2 in the 6th round as well. I won’t draft their D/ST this year, unless it’s at the bottom of the D/ST unit pile in a 12+ team league…and I trust Winslow about as much as the Packers, but he will be a #2 TE on my lists later in the year.

Final Thoughts: New Orleans is loaded with Fantasy talent, and so is Atlanta, so you won’t go wrong trusting in their QBs, RBs, and WRs at the appropriate spots and rankings. Tampa Bay is a team of ideal depth players, giving you 3rd options at receiver, running back, and a 2nd option at QB for teams. I wouldn’t build a fantasy team around Tampa, but I would sure built out my depth with their playmakers. Good luck to our former DC down in Carolina, he may need it.

Next Up: NFC East, NFC West