Fantasy News  

 

Fantasy Exit Interviews: NFC South

Print


NFC South


Atlanta Falcons (7-9)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks Total offense: 10th
Passing: 4th
Rushing: 27th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Matt Ryan -- 4,924 yards, 35 TD, 7 INT (QB2)
Rushing: Tevin Coleman -- 800 yards, 4 TD (RB18/RB18)
Receiving: Julio Jones -- 1,677 yards, 8 TD (WR5/WR4)

What went right: The answer in 2018 is the same as its been for a number of years now ... Julio Jones. The Falcons' top playmaker continued to occupy space among the elite pass-catchers in the game, finishing with his second-highest single-season receiving mark. Even bigger, Jones' eight receiving scores quieted critics who downgraded him before the season for a lack of touchdowns. He wasn't the only Atlanta pass-catcher to turn heads, however. Rookie Calvin Ridley made a splash in Week 3 with 146 yards and three touchdowns. Ridley's consistency left something to be desired but he ended the season with a team-leading 10 scores.

What was under-discussed from the Falcons 2018 season was just how good Matt Ryan was. In his second season with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Matty Ice found a groove and just missed setting new career-highs in passing yards and touchdowns. When the season ended, Ryan was the second-best quarterback in fantasy football. It's the kind of season that normally would have gained a lot of attention -- if only Patrick Mahomes wasn't around.

What went wrong: True to the name of their mascot, the Falcons were pretty adept through the air but on the ground, not so much. The trouble started when Devonta Freeman suffered a knee injury in Week 1 and would only play one more game the rest of the season. The workload then fell to Tevin Coleman. However, the once-and-future Falcons star didn't quite seem up to the task. His 800 rushing yards were a career-best but his low usage rates (12 touches per game) made him difficult to start consistently. It didn't help Coleman's cause that Ito Smith started to earn touches as the season wore on. But on the whole, the Atlanta ground attack never amounted to much.

What needs to improve: First and foremost, the Falcons need to get healthy. It seemed like hardly a week went by without Atlanta losing a key player to injury. Many were on defense but it undoubtedly had an impact on both sides of the football. It would also behoove the Falcons to find some upgrades on the offensive line. As a pass-blocking unit, the guys up front were middle-of-the-pack but left much to be desired when it came to run blocking.

Carolina Panthers (7-9)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 14th
Passing: 16th
Rushing: 4th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Cam Newton -- 3,395 yards, 24 TD, 13 INT (QB12)
Rushing: Christian McCaffrey -- 1,098 yards, 7 TD (RB3/RB2)
Receiving: Christian McCaffrey -- 867 yards, 6 TD (RB3/RB2)

What went right: Before the season began, the narrative was that Christian McCaffrey wasn't built to carry a full workload. When the season ended, McCaffrey was a top three fantasy back and starting to earn dark horse consideration as the top overall pick in next season's fantasy drafts. The release of veteran C.J. Anderson paved the way for CMC to nearly double his carries from the previous season while topping 1,000 rushing yards for the first time.

What was less of a surprise was McCaffrey's impact in the passing game. The second-year runner led the Panthers in every major receiving category on his way to becoming every PPR manager's new favorite running back not named Saquon Barkley. Elsewhere, the Panthers might have found something with rookie receiver D.J. Moore. The week-to-week numbers for Moore featured the typical first-year player ups-and-downs but he ended the season second on the club in targets, receptions and yards, offering hope for bigger things in 2019.

What went wrong: The Panthers offense (beyond McCaffrey) in 2018 wasn't much to look at. Cam Newton's rushing numbers were down and a shoulder injury tanked the Carolina passing game in the second half of the season. Not that things were great early in the year, mind you. Veteran tight end Greg Olsen missed much of 2017 with a foot injury and suffered a number of ailments that eventually landed him on injured reserve again in 2018. Carolina traded receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills to open things up for Devin Funchess, but the Michigan product never quite made the leap to being a WR1.

What needs to improve: The Panthers have perpetually been in search of a playmaking receiver and it appears that the search might not be over. D.J. Moore gave observers reasons for optimism but whether he's prepared for the duties of a No. 1 wideout remain to be seen. Either way, it'll be key for Newton to come back healthy from offseason shoulder surgery and ready to again help carry the offense.

New Orleans Saints (13-3)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 3rd
Passing: 12th
Rushing: 7th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Drew Brees -- 3,992 yards, 32 TD, 5 INT (QB8)
Rushing: Alvin Kamara -- 883 yards, 14 TD (RB4/RB4)
Receiving: Michael Thomas -- 1,405 yards, 9 TD (WR8/WR6)

What went right: Death, taxes and the Drew Brees-led Saints as a fantasy football juggernaut. Things pretty much stayed the same for this outfit in 2018. Brees remained a solid QB1 -- this year breaking his own record for highest completion percentage. Alvin Kamara continued to be one of the NFL's most dynamic players and firmly in the conversation for draft pick 1.01 next season. Michael Thomas proved that his Twitter handle (Cantguardmike) is one of the more accurate on the interwebs. When it comes to a "Big Three", the Saints are nearly unmatched.

What went wrong: Anyone hoping Mark Ingram would have an encore of his big 2017 was sorely disappointed. His four-game suspension to start the season dropped his draft position a couple of rounds. Yet upon his return, he found Kamara cemented atop the running back depth chart and dominating the snaps and touches. That limited Ingram to his worst totals since 2013 and left fantasy managers wanting. Oh, then there was the weirdness that was Taysom Hill. Head coach Sean Payton found a new gadget in the multidimensional quarterback and would frequently deploy him in short yardage and goal line situations. The moves only succeeded in taking touches away from New Orleans' two running backs while drawing the Twitter ire of fantasy managers everywhere.

What needs to improve: It's hard to find an area where the Saints can get better. On the field, they were one game away from the Super Bowl. In fantasy, they were a nearly perfect scenario -- a productive offense with a predictable arsenal of weapons to use. Ingram's usage might have confounded people but it was far from the typical running back committee that drives managers to distraction. Look for this group to provide several early selections in 2019 drafts.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 12th
Passing: 1st
Rushing: 29th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Jameis Winston -- 2,992, 19 TD, 14 INT (QB21)
Rushing: Peyton Barber -- 871 yards, 5 TD (RB26/RB31)
Receiving: Mike Evans -- 1,524 yards, 8 TD (WR6/WR9)

What went right: The Bucs offense was an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Taken separately, both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick had lackluster seasons. Combined, they led the NFL in passing yardage. That's why it's a little misleading when you see that the Bucs were the league's top aerial attack in 2018. One certain positive was Mike Evans' return to elite status. After a down 2017 in which he barely cracked 1,000 receiving yards, the big wideout roared back to life in 2018 with a career-high 1,524 yards. Evans should be projected in the second round of most 2019 drafts.

What went wrong: If it's hard to figure out what went right, it's very easy to see what went wrong. Between suspensions (Winston missed the first three games) and poor performance, the Bucs rotated quarterbacks at various points of the season. The running game was a mess. Rookie Ronald Jones struggled mightily in training camp, found himself inactive for much of the season and finished the year with just 44 rushing yards. That left the workload to Peyton Barber and while the third-year back had a career year, 871 rushing yards and five touchdowns didn't excite many people.

What needs to improve: After the season ended, the Bucs fired head coach Dirk Koetter and replaced him with former Arizona Cardinals front man Bruce Arians. That should signal an overhaul in the Tampa Bay offense. Whether that overhaul includes wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who underwhelmed in two seasons with the club, remains to be seen. Nonetheless, apart from Evans going early, most fantasy managers are likely to approach this team with caution next season.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who is learning to be one with traffic. Send him your moments of transit zen via Twitter @MarcasG. If you read all of that, congrats. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Print