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Dynasty Draft Primer: NFC South Roundup & Trade Advice (2023 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Draft Primer: NFC South Roundup & Trade Advice (2023 Fantasy Football)

It’s no secret that NFL teams often build their rosters with divisional opponents in mind. 35 percent of the scheduled games are intra-divisional clashes, where familiarity is a two-way street.

Much to the chagrin of my IDP-playing friends, most of the focus in dynasty leagues is squarely upon offensive skill positions. There weren’t many divisions that saw the same level of turnover in that realm as the NFC South. After a tumultuous 2022 campaign, where exactly none of the four teams sported a winning record, the South has been reshaped entirely.

There is still a lot of free agency movement to settle, along with the all-important positional battles in training camp. For what it’s worth, we can still peg down the key players to look out for at this stage of the offseason.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Kit

Dynasty Draft Primer

Check out our dynasty fantasy football draft outlook for each team in the NFC South.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If it really was Tom Brady’s swan song in 2022, it was rather embarrassing. The division champs still ended with an 8-9 record and the second-worst scoring offense in the NFC. The GOAT has hung up his cleats and left this offense in the hands of a new offensive coordinator (Dave Canales), along with the enthralling QB room of Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. The team also signed John Wolford to a camp invite. Canales is a Pete Carroll disciple who is religious about ball control and limiting turnovers. Translation: rostering a Buccaneers QB is probably a terrible idea.

Ball control types of offenses typically lean on the running game, which would be nice if Leonard Fournette were still here. Rachaad White caught 50 passes last season but was miserable on the ground with 3.73 yards per carry. It has been rumored that Ezekiel Elliott is on the radar to follow his position coach Skip Peete from Dallas to Tampa Bay, but he has yet to sign. Chase Edmonds is a new arrival but appears to be in the twilight of his career as a scat back by his performance last season. Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s reign as a dynasty sleeper has long been snuffed out. UDFA Sean Tucker is intriguing if his medical concerns subside enough to earn a roster spot, but the explosive Syracuse star is far from a well-rounded RB anyway.

The strength of the Bucs on offense is still their receiver room. Mike Evans is refusing to show his age, now with nine consecutive seasons of 1,000 receiving yards under his belt. Chris Godwin is still one of the most underrated WR talents in football and is worthy of a roster spot, if not for the visions of a plethora of slot targets from a stunted QB. Russell Gage is also here, but now has some younger incoming competition for snaps from rookies Trey Palmer and Rakim Jarrett.

Cade Otton is one of the winners of the offseason for Tampa Bay. He was a standout option as a rookie last season when Cameron Brate was on the shelf. Now that Brate has retired, Otton stands to be the only viable receiving option at TE for the Bucs. The hope will be that Otton can see a higher ceiling at a position parched for consistent fantasy production, especially in a conservative offense with inhibited QB play.

New Orleans Saints

The 2022 New Orleans Saints were a paradox. Week 1 starting QB Jameis Winston succumbed to multiple injuries and was permanently replaced by Andy Dalton in a baffling move by Dennis Allen. Dalton was his usual unremarkable self, while the team floundered in the standings. The problem? Their first-round pick in the upcoming draft now belonged to the Philadelphia Eagles and turned into game-breaking defensive lineman, Jalen Carter. The team sent Dalton floating in the breeze and retained Winston to backup free agent signee, Derek Carr. Carr is an immediate upgrade at QB, bringing his above-average acumen to a team with some real talent at the skill positions. Carr is very capable of cracking the top-12 QBs in fantasy every once in a while and will be drafted as a QB2 in Superflex leagues without so much as a whimper of scoffing from league mates.

The running back room in Crescent City is a whole mess. Everyone is expecting some kind of suspension for Alvin Kamara stemming from his arrest in Las Vegas last year. Depending on the length of that suspension, there will be ample opportunities for incoming free agent (and notorious touchdown vulture) Jamaal Williams to bring his punishing style to the mix. The team also drafted talented TCU rookie Kendre Miller. Miller is more in the same style as Williams but has plenty of juice to make an impression with some big plays.

Chris Olave is a superstar in the making. There are very few WRs who I will go out of my way to grab ahead of ADP in drafts or spend capital to acquire in trades, but Olave is on that shortlist. Nobody knows if Michael Thomas will ever be the star he was before his multitude of injuries and extended recovery periods. At this point, he’s basically free to acquire if you believe in one last Slant Boy saga. Rashid Shaheed is a vertical dynamo who had some incredible moments peek through the darkness last season and will be a nice late-round dart. Keep an eye on sixth-round rookie A.T. Perry from Wake Forest. He was considered a Day 2 prospect by many and provides the size and speed to make big plays on the boundary, which seems like a perfect match with Carr’s game.

For a moment, Juwan Johnson was a man on an island in the Saints tight end room. New Orleans jettisoned Adam Trautman to Sean Payton’s Denver Broncos, leaving Johnson as the benefactor. That was until former Raider Foster Moreau was given a good prognosis for his cancer, prompting the Saints to sign him to a three-year contract. Moreau is a good athlete but was never a consistent option for Carr in Las Vegas. I still would value Johnson higher in fantasy.

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have hitched their wagons to Arthur Smith, hoping he can create some of that Tennessee magic in the ATL. He failed miserably with Matt Ryan at QB, then again with his former Titans signal-caller Marcus Mariota in 2022. The concepts seem to be effective, but the players who have been brought in to run it have been an exercise in fitting square pegs in round holes. Coach Smith is now assumed to be turning to Desmond Ridder in 2023. Ridder looked decent in spots after Mariota was benched and left the team in the lurch last season. If Ridder isn’t the answer, the Falcons also added Taylor Heinicke. Whichever of the QBs is starting will have ample weaponry at his disposal, but will they be able to facilitate Smith’s offense well enough? If history is any indication, Smith is much too stubborn to fit his ideas to his players’ skill sets and will go down with the ship.

The running backs in Atlanta have most of the fantasy community very excited. Tyler Allgeier rushed for over 1,000 yards as a rookie last season. No small feat, except when you consider the Falcons ran the ball so much that they actually accelerated their own demise in multiple games in 2022. Bijan Robinson stands to take over the backfield post haste, with his cape flapping behind him. Yes, Robinson is a remarkable prospect who has earned every bit of the hype around his landing spot. He is too good for the Falcons. Smith runs a wide zone scheme to a fault, which homogenizes RBs into a committee of one-cut robots. Bijan ran mostly gap at Texas, which allows for an RB of his caliber to be creative with his timing and setting up his blocks. If there was a single non-elite blemish in his tape, it was when he was running in a zone concept. Still very good, but far from his effervescent best. The only way for Bijan to hit his peak in Atlanta would be if he was deployed more as a receiver than Arthur Smith has ever used one of his RBs.

The WR group in Atlanta is just how Arthur Smith likes it. One alpha stands head and shoulders above a bunch of guys cast as extras in the movie. Drake London is that alpha, flashing some of the elite production that excited us coming from USC. The sincere hope is that Ridder is slightly better than his predecessor and can put more catchable passes in the air for London. Mack Hollins and Scotty Miller are here too. Hollins is a great run blocker and was productive for the Raiders last season. Miller will look to stay in the league a bit longer.

Kyle Pitts. He is the unicorn and the best TE prospect ever. I’ll give Coach Smith some credit and mention he did put a bit more effort into getting the ball to Pitts more down the field in 2022. Unfortunately, Mariota was abysmal at hitting the 6-foot-6 gazelle with a gigantic catch radius. Only about half of Pitts’ targets were catchable last season before a knee injury put him on the shelf. Pitts was only deployed as an inline TE on 25.7% of his passing down snaps but was still unceremoniously taken off the field in the red zone too many times. Like with London, the hope is that the Falcons’ QB is merely average or better at getting the football to the team’s best playmakers. Pitts has all the God-given ability required to produce a staggering deluge of fantasy points.

Carolina Panthers

Among the NFL teams in obvious rebuilding situations this year, I have considerably more confidence in the Carolina Panthers to right their ship sooner rather than later. From the moment they acquired the number one pick from Chicago, there was a glimmer to their future outlook. Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore aren’t here anymore, but that’s okay. Bryce Young is a prolific passer with an elite QB acumen. His size is of no concern to me, nor should it be. Carolina has built around the offensive line first, which bodes well for Young’s first foray into dissecting professional defenses. The Panthers are in great hands, especially if they accumulate some more weapons along the way.

This could be it for Miles Sanders. Not the end, but instead the beginning of his career as a full-time NFL RB. He was never properly utilized in Philadelphia, leaving us all wondering why the team didn’t trust him. His 2022 breakout was the outlier, and it got him paid. Now he shares a backfield with Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear and will once again run behind a great offensive line. Hubbard has good speed but is not a strong receiver or tackle-breaker and should not be considered a fantasy option except as a handcuff.

This receiver room is under construction. Moore’s departure for Chicago means that only Terrace Marshall and Shi Smith remain as leftovers from the 2021 season. Laviska Shenault arrived here last season and actually led the NFL in target percentage (minimum 200 snaps). He is more of a Swiss Army knife who will be used as an extension of the running game. Newcomers this season are veterans Adam Thielen and DJ Chark. Thielen will be a very reliable big slot and push Marshall for those targets, while Chark is a downfield specialist at flanker. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these WRs are retained for the long haul after this season.

The Panthers also finally addressed their tight end position. They seemed to have a room full of big blocking specialists, without a reliable option to deploy into the route tree. Hayden Hurst is a very good blocker in his own right but will be asked to be more of the athletic seam presser he was as the first-round pick of the Ravens back in the day. Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble act as a jumbo set nightmare for opposing defenses at the goal line and other short-yardage situations, while Hurst will have a chance at some fantasy relevance late in fantasy drafts.


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