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State of the Team by Fantasy Position - NFC South
David Dorey
July 19, 2006

This series of analysis on the 32 NFL teams takes a look at where teams have been over the last three years for each position - where they have ranked in the most notable categories and the hard statistics produced. This is to give a view of each team heading into training camp and what they most likely need to improve on this season and where their strengths lie that likely won't need any changes. Ending each team review is a brief summation of what to watch in training camp in August to uncover those developing situations that you can take advantage. Combining where teams have come from and what they have done in free agency and the NFL draft gives you the very same thing that NFL coaches are looking at as they attempt to improve their team for 2007.

Atlanta Falcons
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 129 928 3 391 214 55% 2642 12.3 15 16 30 28
2005 111 677 6 451 247 55% 2907 11.8 19 13 28 19
2006 126 1060 2 415 223 54% 2682 12 21 15 32 15


Quarterback
- What should be a strength may be a huge liability this year. The Falcons cut ties with Matt Schaub who no longer could be kept from a starting gig in the NFL and brought in Joey Harrington to back-up Michael Vick. The new coaching regime with Bobby Petrino still stands behind Michael Vick but the legal issues surrounding him and his love of pit bulls still lingers out there. Vick had a great 2006 season in the sense that he set the all-time NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 1060 yards and he did have a career high 21 passing scores but he only scored twice via the run and had a very standard passing season. His completion percentage never changes and his passing yardage remains below average but all those rushing yards are a fantasy bonanza even if it doesn't get the Falcons into the playoffs. Vick has to learn yet another new offensive scheme with a major distraction thanks to the dog fighting situation. He needs a good camp but so far it's not known if the federal authorities are going to involve him or not in a court case. Not an ideal way to start a new era in Atlanta.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 388 1694 4.4 17 83 59 71% 562 2 13 15 4
2005 416 1860 4.5 11 80 59 74% 406 4 9 11 14
2006 405 1881 4.6 7 76 60 79% 454 5 8 15 25


Running Backs
- HC Bobby Petrino comes from Louisville where he loved his power running game with Michael Bush (and last year Kolby Smith). But there's no running backs in Atlanta that truly fit the mold. Warrick Dunn is 32 years old and only weighs about 180. He's enjoyed his best years in the NFL over the last three seasons when the zone blocking scheme afforded him the room to scoot but that goes away this year and realistically, Petrino is not likely to rebuild the Falcons using an over-aged, under-sized tailback. That leaves only Jerious Norwood who had an impressive rookie season. He gained 633 yards on only 99 carries for an NFL best 6.4 yards per carry but he played at only around 205 pounds last year. He has blazing speed but he's not really a power runner. However - he is about the closest there is in Atlanta and the Falcons did not grab any free agent running backs and only drafted one in the final round with the 7.34 pick. This should be Norwood's opportunity to shine though Dunn's role is still undetermined. Training camp should help give more clues as to the rotation that Petrino will use. The Falcons have a nice rushing schedule and a decent offensive line, but the first year of a new offense could complicate the transition to Norwood. It's critical for the Falcons to have a good camp and determine that Norwood can carry the load or if he'll need to perpetuate the committee backfield with Dunn.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 80 52 65% 809 15.6 6 7 13        
2005 123 69 56% 907 13.1 6 7 9        
2006 114 62 54% 856 13.8 8 8 4        


Tight Ends
- While there is a new scheme this year, it still has to involve Alge Crumpler if it wants to have any success passing. Vick to Crumpler trumps all other passing combos and the Falcons consistently post top ten numbers for the tight ends. Crumpler has turned in at least 750 yards and five scores in each of the last three seasons and that dwarfs what any wideout has done in that time. Vick may yet again be asked to become a complete quarterback but it would be foolish to take away his biggest weapon.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 196 105 54% 1322 12.6 7 32 29        
2005 232 118 51% 1608 13.6 9 31 27        
2006 221 97 44% 1372 14.1 8 32 29        


Wide Receivers
- There's no argument here. The Falcons wideouts have consistently been the worst group over the last three years and have never been better than 31st in combined yardage. Chad Johnson alone had as many yards as all Falcons wideouts combined last year. It would be great to think that Petrino could what Dan Reeves and Jim Mora Jr. could not, but that's pretty optimistic after five years of Vick leading the Falcons. Michael Jenkins had a breakout season of sorts last year when he scored seven times (he only had three touchdowns over his first two years) but he still only had 39 catches for 436 yards. He's the most talented wideout of the lot but that doesn't mean much when Vick is either overthrowing him or taking off on a run. The Falcons brought in Joe Horn for his swan song but Horn is stepping away from the most productive passing game in the NFL last year to playing for consistently the worst one. Horn's glory days are gone and Atlanta will ensure that is true. Figure that no Atlanta wideout had more than 506 yards last year in the third year of the same system and now they have to learn a new offense with a quarterback who may or may not be wearing a suit to court.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The most interesting aspect of training camp will be what Norwood does. If he shows up big and looks strong in preseason games, then he's going to be reliable as a fantasy starter. If not - the sharing continues with Dunn for this year anyway. Petrino will try to install a passing game of course, but nothing in Vick's past says it will really matter. He is going to run far better than he will pass and bringing in Joe Horn won't matter at all unless Harrington gets the call. Training camp is critical here to install the new scheme, but outside of Norwood the expectations have to be low for what will happen.

Camp starts July 25th; Preseason Games: 1-@NYJ, 2-@BUF, 3-CIN, 4-BAL

 

Carolina Panthers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 26 70 1 534 311 58% 3889 12.5 29 15 10 5
2005 32 26 1 448 269 60% 3485 13 25 16 16 5
2006 23 30 0 538 325 60% 3486 10.7 19 16 14 17


Quarterback
- For all the complaints about Jake Delhomme last year, the reality in fantasy terms is that he still had about the same season as he always did other than lagging on touchdowns and missing three games. The Panthers brought David Carr on board in the offseason but there should be no confusion as to who the starter is here. The worst year by Delhomme is still better than the best season Carr ever had. Jeff Davidson is installing a new offense this year after the implosion of 2006 and the team is genuinely enthused about it. If Delhomme can just get back to his normal 25+ TD mark, last year will be forgotten and the new offense has the look to accomplish just that.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 393 1487 3.8 9 110 78 71% 668 3 23 19 24
2005 449 1630 3.6 15 103 67 65% 655 1 16 10 9
2006 389 1546 4 5 129 96 74% 707 2 22 18 29


Running Backs
- When the Panthers spent their 1.27 pick of 2006 on DeAngelo Williams, the expectation was that finally they had realized what fantasy fans could have already told them that DeShaun Foster was not worthy of being a primary back. But the Panthers rushing game mirrored the rest of the team when it fell flat, mysteriously chugged along in fits and starts and never used anyone consistently. Complicating matters was the high ankle sprain sustained by Williams in early October. Williams only had five games with more than ten carries and excelled in each. But he also had numerous bad games where he was given only a handful of carries and did little with them. Foster was used far more and as always he had a mediocre season of 897 rushing yards on 273 carries and scored only three times (though that tied his career best). The optimism this year is that the new offense will be a scheme very similar to what Williams excelled with in college and should be tailor made to his running style. Training camp should show just how true that is and if Williams can look good in a few preseason games, he is destined to become the primary runner that could surprise. Last year was a lost cause for the entire Carolina team that imploded and never got out of their funk but the new offense already has the players excited and feeling fresh again. If Williams can deliver on his promise, he will be a steal in fantasy drafts and training camp is where that will become apparent.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 80 51 64% 480 9.4 5 21 18        
2005 55 35 64% 357 10.2 4 25 17        
2006 59 37 63% 317 8.6 2 31 29        


Tight Ends
- The nice thing here is that regardless of what Davidson wants to do, there are no decent fantasy tight ends to use so the position will continue to be one of the worst in the league in receiving stats. They block and that's all they need to do other than catch the odd touchdown.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 338 182 54% 2741 15.1 21 8 5        
2005 298 167 56% 2473 14.8 20 10 3        
2006 342 191 56% 2457 12.9 15 12 11        

Wide Receivers
- The wide receivers led by Steve Smith is always a strength for this team but 2006 wasn't kind to any position here. Still they managed to end up just outside the top ten in yards and scores and that was not helped by Steve Smith missing the first two games of the season. Smith ended with 1227 yards but his production waned later in the year when the Panthers had all but thrown in the towel and Delhomme missed time. This year has Keyshawn Johnson gone and replaced by Drew Carter despite him only having 32 career NFL catches in his first two years. Carter has shown brief glimpses of great play but mostly just has overtaken Keary Colbert as the #3 last year. The Panthers drafted Dwayne Jarrett with their 2.13 pick and he's almost a clone of Keyshawn. But he is just a rookie. While some rookies make waves in their first season thanks to speed and the ability to snare long passes, that won't happen much with Jarrett whose strength will be using his 6-5 frame in traffic over the middle in a possession role. Training camp will get Jarrett indoctrinated and there is a chance he could overtake Carter as the #2 eventually but the process should take most of the season if it even happens this year. The Panthers lose a veteran presence with Keyshawn gone, but together Jarrett and Carter should be able to compensate. It is a new scheme and all the receivers have to learn the playbook so training camp will be crucial. Smith is a given but Carter and Jarrett desperately need as many reps as they can get.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Installing a new offense means everyone will need to learn the playbook and get in synch. Training camp should be most notable to see how well Williams is taking to the new scheme that should favor him and a few good showings should reverse the roles with Foster from last year. Both Carter and Jarrett are worth a watch to see how well they are taking to the new roles but neither is likely to have too much fantasy value this year. They mostly need to combine enough to make Smith not be the only concern for the opposing secondary. The third game against the visiting Patriots should be a good measure of what to expect.

Camp starts July 27th; Preseason Games: 1-@NYG, 2-@PHI, 3-NE, 4-PIT

New Orleans Saints
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 57 199 4 542 309 57% 3810 12.3 21 16 11 16
2005 53 296 2 553 308 56% 3604 11.7 15 24 15 26
2006 41 32 0 579 373 64% 4632 12.4 27 12 1 4


Quarterback
- No questions here for a quarterback that led the NFL in passing yardage last year - and that was with minimal play in the final two weeks. Drew Brees was nothing short of amazing in an offense that was supposed to sputter as it went through a rebuilding phase. Brees himself ranked #3 in passing scores with 27 and comes into the 2007 season with a much more settled offense that already knows the scheme. Joe Horn is gone but Brees has everyone else back plus the rookie Robert Meacham and tight end Eric Johnson. Add back in Bush, Colston, Henderson and Campbell and the passing attack should be just fine.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 342 1396 4.1 11 95 69 73% 444 0 26 30 15
2005 367 1381 3.8 6 100 76 76% 513 0 23 26 28
2006 426 1700 4 18 210 159 76% 1256 5 15 2 5


Running Backs
- The Saints enjoyed a double bang when Deuce McAllister returned from knee surgery none the worse for wear and the rookie Reggie Bush added an entirely new dimension to the offense that defenses are still trying to get a handle on. McAllister had the heavy lifting with 282 carries for 1057 yards and ten touchdowns while Bush was a barely adequate runner and a devastating weapon as a receiver. Bush only gained 558 yards on 154 carries (3.6 YPC) but he added 89 catches for 748 yards and scored a total of eight touchdowns. What even scarier was that Bush did not really get into gear until the second half of the season and now he'll already be a big part of the offense. The Saints are paying a steep price for their backfield but the money has bought one of the most productive running back attacks in the league and easily the most difficult to defend against. There is a reason why Brees could throw for so many yards. Either Bush was catching it or a good chunk of the defense was just trying to defend against Bush or McAllister as runners. It should get even better this year.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 93 44 47% 468 10.6 4 23 25        
2005 90 54 60% 597 11.1 2 18 24        
2006 70 45 64% 411 9.1 1 24 31        


Tight Ends
- The Saints did not use their tight ends much last year and the numbers above used five different tight ends with Mark Campbell in the lead with only 18 catches for 164 yards. You can thank Reggie Bush for much of the reason that the tight ends do not act as receivers often in this offense. He's a better outlet than a tight end and can take it to the house on any given pass. The Saints brought in Eric Johnson this year and while Johnson is still favorable in the minds of many fantasy fans, the reality here is that Johnson is an often injured average player that turned in two monster games in 2004 and not much since. Johnson will as such be a sleeper pick in many leagues but unless the Saints show in preseason games that they are going to change their ways and throw more to the tight ends - and thereby less to Bush - then this unit is likely to just repeat 2006.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 339 195 58% 2897 14.9 17 4 8        
2005 344 178 52% 2494 14 13 9 15        
2006 286 169 59% 2965 17.5 21 4 4        

Wide Receivers
- With an aging Joe Horn and after Donte Stallworth left, this unit was expected to struggle initially learning a new offense with new players in place. Quite the contrary. While Horn only managed to catch 37 passes for 670 yards (and miss six games), the 7th round rookie Marques Colston became the sleeper wideout of all time when he had 70 catches for 1038 yards and eight scores which came mostly in the first ten games of the season before he sprained his ankle. Colston not only came within four picks of not being drafted, he wasn't even the first wideout that the Saints selected that year. Now that Horn is in Atlanta, Devery Henderson steps up into a starting role. With Colston there to attract the most coverage, Henderson is in an excellent spot for a surprise big year and he already had three big games in 2006 when he replaced Colston for a time. The Saints also added Robert Meacham out of Tennessee with their 1.27 pick. He was the fourth overall wideout drafted in April and brings all the pedigree desired to a team that already is the best passing offense. Meacham deserves a close watch in training camp because he was not initially too impressive in minicamp and had to have surgery to repair his medial meniscus at the start of June. He is expected to be ready for camp and that he will eventually be the replacement for Joe Horn but it is starting slowly and Henderson already has shown he can contribute. In such a great passing offense, training camp will be very worth following to see if Meacham can reverse his direction and give the team enough confidence to use him more this season.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The scheme is now entering its second year and the only player missing is Joe Horn. The Saints have brought in Meacham as a replacement when he is ready and will rely on Henderson until that happens. Watch for the development of Meacham in August and unless he really looks good, expect Henderson to be the hot sleeper in your fantasy drafts.

Camp starts July 25th; Preseason Games: HoF-@PIT, 1-BUF, 2-@CIN, 3-@KC, 4-MIA

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 42 54 0 512 340 66% 3773 11.1 24 18 12 12
2005 32 43 0 487 303 62% 3171 10.5 17 14 24 25
2006 49 171 1 535 296 55% 2994 10.1 14 18 28 29

Quarterback
- The Buccaneers passing game has been getting worse every year until it has almost bottomed out. For two seasons now, the Buccaneers entered the season without a decent back-up and both times watched the starter get injured and the passing game fall apart. While the Bucs are standing pat on their backfield and receivers, Jeff Garcia used a nice showing in Philadelphia to become the new starter in Tampa Bay - at least most likely. Chris Simms landed on injured reserve with a ruptured spleen last year and Bruce Gradkowski played very much like the sixth round rookie that he was. While the team has been hesitant to name Garcia as the outright starter, the last two years have already shown with Simms can do when he does have a complete spleen. Camp will secure Garcia as the starter here and should prove an upgrade since there's almost no where to go but up in Tampa Bay.
RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 344 1386 4 9 142 93 65% 738 4 27 20 22
2005 422 1777 4.2 13 123 88 72% 646 3 11 8 11
2006 346 1273 3.7 5 147 100 68% 696 0 29 23 31


Running Backs
- The continued stumbling of Carnell Williams had him only gain 798 yards on 225 carries (3.5 YPC) but that cannot all be lumped on Williams. The passing offense was so bad that teams freely loaded up against the run and dared, almost begged really, for the Bucs to pass. The offense lost almost all its punch and the running backs scored a paltry five times last year - three of those coming from Alstott. This is the same crew returning for 2007 and as long as Garcia can re-energize the passing game, there should be an improvement with Williams numbers in 2007. Tampa Bay has a much more favorable rushing schedule this year and Williams should benefit. Not much to watch here in August though with Williams taking the primary role and Michael Pittman hanging onto the third down duty so his pass receptions can water down with Williams could have done.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 82 59 72% 530 9 4 18 24        
2005 84 58 69% 484 8.3 2 23 25        
2006 78 55 71% 381 6.9 4 25 21        


Tight Ends
- This could be an area worth noting. Alex Smith enters his third season and while he's never had more than 367 yards or three scores in a season so far, he's also never had a decent quarterback. Smith was a high draft pick by the Bucs in 2006 and comes from a successful college career as a receiver. The Bucs also brought on Jerramy Stevens from Seattle who had finally wore out his welcome. Stevens has talent but suffered through mental lapses, dropped passes and more than a few legal issues that prevented him from realizing his supposed potential in Seattle. Most likely there will not be a tight end here with fantasy relevance but Stevens or Smith could step up. And now there should be better passing with Garcia as well.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 275 186 68% 2505 13.5 16 13 11        
2005 273 156 57% 2044 13.1 12 23 20        
2006 279 141 51% 1917 13.6 10 21 21        


Wide Receivers
- The Tampa Bay wide receivers have been below average the last two years and that's really just Joey Galloway exceeding expectations and no one else mattering. Michael Clayton still cannot stay healthy or once again find the same form he had as a rookie in 2005. Ike Hilliard is window dressing good for around 300 yards per year. The rookie Maurice Stovall only had 102 yards on seven receptions last year but is already expected to take the next step in 2007 which doesn't need to be much on this team to compare favorably. It's always hard to evaluate wideouts without considering what sub-par quarterbacks did to them in the past though. Galloway remains the only consistent player and though he's an ancient 36 years old, his level of play has yet to really fall off. He just needs someone else to join him in being productive. With Garcia on board, there's a better chance that can happen in 2007 and Stovall and maybe Clayton are the candidates.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Garcia needs to get familiar with the new offense but it is a West Coast scheme anyway so that shouldn't take too long - it didn't in Philly last year. The only notable that can come out of training camp is how well Garcia appears to be meshing with the receivers and if Stevens will take advantage of a second chance or if he'll just get arrested in a different state from now on. The #2 wide out here needs to be determined and the only players likely to become fantasy significant this year will be either Maurice Stovall or Michael Clayton if it happens at all. And Clayton has been one injury after another since his solid rookie campaign.

Camp starts July 26th; Preseason Games: 1-NE, 2-@JAX, 3-@MIA, 4-HOU

Related Articles

State of the AFC East
State of the AFC North
State of the AFC South
State of the AFC West
State of the NFC East
State of the NFC North
State of the NFC South
State of the NFC West
a d v e r t i s e m e n t