Fantasy football is just around the corner. Be sure to check back frequently for up-to-date fantasy football rankings. Keep those rankings in mind as we take a look at each division’s players on the rise, on the decline and ones to watch for all 32 teams. Here’s a look at the NFC South.
Matt Ryan, QB—He regressed last season, as I predicted, but a second year with his offensive coordinator should help Ryan and the Falcons improve on offense. Ryan threw a touchdown pass on 3.8 percent of his throws last year. That was a big drop from 7.1 in 2016. His career average is 4.6 percent, so I expect him to get closer to that number this year. Ryan is getting drafted after the likes of Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford. He looks like a value pick in the ninth round.
Mohamed Sanu, WR—Taylor Gabriel is no longer a Falcon, but Atlanta drafted a solid wide receiver in Calvin Ridley. That could affect Sanu’s value. He should still be the second best receiver for the Falcons, but his value depends on how much the rookie can take from the veteran. I don’t think 700 yards and five scores would make me happy if he was my second WR.
One to watch
Calvin Ridley, WR—Though I think Ridley probably ends up better than Sanu, I don’t know if he’s a candidate to be your WR2. I think the two receivers combine to make for a good season for Ryan, but it’s hard to say if one is worthy of a start on your team. Ridley is being drafted in the 10th so you might be able to take him after you’ve solidified your starters.
Ronald Jones II, RB—Jones is the sixth rookie running back getting drafted, which is a bit surprising to me given that he’s virtually guaranteed to start for the Bucs. His fifth-round price might be a little high for an unproven commodity, but he’s got every opportunity to make an impact. He doesn’t have to worry about Doug Martin, who left for Oakland, and he should beat out Peyton Barber for touches.
Jameis Winston, QB—Winston will miss the first three games of the season and probably wasn’t going to be a QB1 anyway. His play has somewhat regressed recently. Winston only threw 19 touchdowns last season and has thrown no less than 11 interceptions in each of his first three years.
One to watch
O.J. Howard, TE—The second-year tight end is still getting drafted behind teammate Cameron Brate, but it will be interesting to see how he performs in the first three weeks with Ryan Fitzpatrick calling signals. The veteran QB is good at connecting with tight ends. Howard will be cheap in drafts so he may be worth taking a flier on late.
Christian McCaffrey, RB—McCaffrey should be a solid RB1 this season if he at least matches his first season production. He gained 1,086 yards from scrimmage and caught a whopping 80 passes. McCaffrey rushed just 117 times last year so it’s likely that number increases with Jonathan Stewart now with the Giants.
C.J. Anderson, RB—One factor that could keep McCaffrey from taking the next step is the presence of Anderson. Last season with the Broncos, Anderson actually rushed for 1,007 yards, but he scored just four overall touchdowns. He’d likely have to earn the goal line role in order to become a RB2 option. Problem is Cam Newton can often serve as the Panthers goal line back. I see Anderson as falling in terms of value since he is being drafted too high with a lot of questions surrounding his productivity.
One to watch
D.J. Moore, WR—The rookie wide receiver enters a nice situation, looking to compete for the No. 1 spot as a wideout. Kelvin Benjamin is in Buffalo now so that helps Moore’s value. Devin Funchess is still in Carolina and Greg Olsen is a favorite target of Newton, so you’ll have to see how Moore competes in the preseason.
Michael Thomas, WR—Thomas was expected to improve last season and he did, catching 12 more passes and gaining 108 more yards in his second year. His targets also increased to 149 from 121 in his rookie season. The only question is if Drew Brees can continue to keep slinging the ball around like he’s done year after year. It will be interesting to see how Thomas starts the season since the Saints are likely to throw a little more given that they’ll be without Mark Ingram.
Mark Ingram, RB—I was wrong about him last season, of course, that was when Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara were supposed to share the backfield with him. Peterson left and Ingram and Kamara turned into one of the best 1-2 punches we’ve seen in a while. That said, Ingram is set to miss four games due to suspension. That’s not a good way to start the first quarter of your fantasy season, especially with him being drafted in the fifth round.
One to watch
Cameron Meredith, WR—The third-year receiver is a possible sleeper candidate as he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. But he has to start practicing soon if that’s going to happen. Meredith is expected to be healthy enough to start the season, though. He had a good 2016, catching 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns. Imagine what he could do with Brees tossing him the ball instead of Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.