NFC South Division Preview: Some of fantasy's top options available here

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Staff
·10 min read

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all eight NFL divisions during the 2020 fantasy football draft season. Here, we’ll tackle each team’s most pressing fantasy question, and team win totals. Be sure to also check out each team’s full preview linked up below. Next up, the NFC South.

New Orleans Saints: Is age-41 the year Father Time catches up with Drew Brees, or do you buy another top-10 QB finish?

Scott: I lean against a top-10 finish, because the position is so deep, the age is mildly concerning, and Sean Payton seems to have an unbreakable crush on Taysom Hill. It’s not that I don’t like Brees, or trust him. But the quarterback pool is so deep, why draft anyone you’re not totally enamored with? The younger options have more tantalizing upside.

Matt: Brees would have found himself in the top-10 for yet another year had he played 16 contests in 2019, ranking seventh in points per game. The Saints offense remains loaded with two superstars in Thomas and Kamara and even added a strong veteran route runner in Emmanuel Sanders. The pathway to another efficient season remains as clean as ever for Drew Brees, even if his own individual skills might be slightly diminished.

Andy: If he hadn’t missed five games last season, it would have been his 16th straight year as a top-10 fantasy QB. I’m not about to bet against him. He’s at the controls of a loaded offense, likely to again average 28-30 points per week. Brees averaged 270.8 YPG last year and threw 27 TD passes in only 11 games. He also produced a career-best passer rating of 116.3. If you’re a believer in Thomas, Kamara, and offseason addition Emmanuel Sanders, then you’d better believe in Brees.

OVER/UNDER on 10.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: In general this is the type of number I reflexively shade under, a nod towards the how difficult a climb 11 wins is in the NFL. But the Saints probably have the deepest roster in the league right now, and it’s a continuous roster, with starters (and even bench players) you know by heart. I think New Orleans has one more deep run in the Brees era. Punch me an OVER ticket.

(Click here for our full, in-depth New Orleans Saints team preview)

Atlanta Falcons: Do volume and a fresh start change the Todd Gurley narrative or are you fading at any cost?

Matt: Remove the name on the back of the jersey. “Falcons starting running back” is a great fantasy asset. The player should have little to no competition for touches, as no tangible competition was brought in via the draft. The player should have a passing game role. The player will find himself attached to a proven quarterback who should be at the controls of a high-octane offense. That is exactly what you want in fantasy back.

The problem is, you can’t take the name off the back of the jersey. This is Todd Gurley. Risk comes with this territory. If you want to be risk-tolerant and select Gurley, you need to just insulate the rest of your roster from that trouble. I personally wouldn’t take him as anything more than an RB3 in a running back-heavy start.

Scott: Unless the price is dirt cheap, I’ll sit this one out. Very early in a running back’s career, it can be too late. Gurley doesn’t turn 26 until August, but his body has been through a car wash of injuries and mileage. For my sure-thing starter running backs, I want someone with a neutral or up-facing arrow. Gurley’s obviously headed in the wrong direction.

Liz: BUYING. I’m definitely a sucker for an underdog … but is Gurley really a longshot to replicate what he did in 2019 (1,064 total yards and 14 TDs) and thus finish just inside of the top-15 fantasy RBs? He could absolutely be washed. Heck, his own OC doesn’t know the condition of his knees. But he is also a player with a known body of work, who is attached to a potent offense, and figures to work as the team’s undisputed RB1.

The options provided by the running back landscape are far from bountiful. Rather than holding on to strong absolutes about players being “washed” and therefore needing to fade them “at all costs” I’d rather lean into volume and value. Right now Gurley is coming off the board at the end of the seventh round, which is where guys like Sony Michel and Ronald Jones are also being selected. Y’all can keep your #burnt takes and I’ll draft the RB likely to see at least 15 touches per contest.

OVER/UNDER on 7.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: If there’s reason for Atlanta optimism, I’ve completely missed it. The division looks nasty — the Saints might be the NFC’s most complete team, Tampa obviously looks improved, and Carolina likely can’t be worse than 2019. The other games are no bargain, either; the Falcons face the toughest schedule in the league. Atlanta returns a defense that was below average last year, and even offensive stalwarts Matt Ryan and Julio Jones might be an eyelash past their peak. I can only go UNDER on the Falcons.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Atlanta Falcons team preview)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady has his best supporting cast in years. Are you buying him as a top-10 fantasy QB or fading him at 43?

Liz: BUYING. Last year Brady completed just 61 percent of his passes ... and still posted top-15 fantasy numbers. His receivers also averaged two drops per game. For reference, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin combined for eight total drops in 2019. I’m not going to argue that Brady isn’t in decline, but a top-nine deep ball completion percentage (41.7%) suggests that there’s still plenty left in the tank.

When taking into account his upgrade in red-zone weapons (17 TDs between Evans and Godwin in 2019, which was just seven shy of Brady’s total last season), a reunion with Rob Gronkowski (one of his most effective and cherished security blankets), and Bruce Arians’ “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy, low-end QB1 production feels attainable. He’s the Yahoo Consensus QB11.

Dalton: Last season Brady had the lowest completion% of his career despite having the second-highest expected completion% and the lowest aDOT of his career. If his atrocious CPOE (-8.7) and anemic YPA (5.9) in the second half at his extremely advanced age weren’t enough red flags, he also has to deal with changing teams/leagues/systems during a shortened offseason. Especially at this insane ADP, I’m fading Brady in a big way this year (and buying Jarrett Stidham at a much cheaper cost).

Andy: We shouldn’t need to tell you that Brady, entering his age-43 season, is nowhere close to his peak. Literally no quarterback in NFL history has ever excelled at his age. But it’s obviously possible for a quarterback to be a disappointment in reality while being incredibly useful for fantasy purposes. Last year, the Bucs allowed Jameis Winston to put the ball in the air a league-high 626 times, leading to a 5,109-yard season. Winston was verifiably terrible in several important ways (30 INTs, 47 sacks, 60.7 comp%), but he treated fantasy managers well. Brady should have volume on his side in the season ahead, plus he hasn’t had a receiving corps this talented in over a decade. If you can draft him in the QB10-QB14 range, I’m in.

OVER/UNDER on 10 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The evidence so clearly points toward Brady being in massive decline, and while the Bucs have an emerging defense, I don’t trust Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, and the coaching staff to overcome it, even with two superstar receivers on the roster (and some version of the best TE of all time). Getting to play the Panthers and Falcons 25% of the schedule definitely helps, but Tampa Bay also drew the short straw when it comes to rest this season, and the team enters with a bunch of hype and high expectations. The Bucs “UNDER” is one of my favorite totals of the year, and I’ll also be betting their “No” to make the playoffs at +260.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Tampa Bay Buccaneers team preview)

Carolina Panthers: What percentage chance do you give Christian McCaffrey finishing anything less than the top-scoring RB?

Matt: 75 percent. He’s the odds on favorite to lead the position once again in 2020. However, repeat performances of campaigns like he just had are not common. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if he caught a bit few passes than he did last year or simply saw a small decrease in his snap rate. That would be enough to see him be the second or fourth-highest scoring back in fantasy. MCaffrey should be the No. 1 pick in every fantasy draft this summer but don’t be surprised if another back edges him out for the top-scoring spot.

Dalton: 80%. That may seem high, but in reality, giving CMC a 20% chance of beating the field again is extremely high praise. He’s in his prime, has no durability concerns, and already appears to be one of the most dynamic backs in league history, but McCaffrey is also on a team that projects to be among the worst in football (with a below-average line) and is switching coaching staffs and quarterbacks. It’s also really hard to sustain the same production/circumstances that result in a No. 1 performance like last season, which is why such “curses” exist from being on the covers of Madden and SI. Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, and others (including Derrick Henry) are also in line to put up huge seasons, and the odds are simply stacked against McCaffrey vs. the field as the top-scoring back in 2020.

Andy: 85 percent? 90? Look, McCaffrey is at the top of my RB ranks, but it should go without saying that I’d take the field over any individual player. We’re just two years removed from Saquon leading the NFL in scrimmage yards, scoring 15 touchdowns and catching 91 passes. He’s a contender. Zeke Elliott has finished in the position’s top-5 in three of his four seasons. Derrick Henry just scored 18 touchdowns and won the rushing crown. Dalvin Cook looked like the game’s best back through 10 games last season. CMC is terrific, but he’s obviously not alone in his tier.

OVER/UNDER on 5.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: This number is about right, but I’ll take the UNDER. The new coaching staff has preached the importance of a running game and spent a top-10 pick on an interior lineman, so the early signs aren’t exactly encouraging. The schedule looks unfavorable, while Bridgewater remains mostly an unknown with just six starts since 2015, and he’s an injury away from Will Grier. Carolina looks like a 5-11 or 6-10 team, with the former a bit likelier.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Carolina Panthers team preview)

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