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State of the Team by Fantasy Position - NFC South
David Dorey
July 29, 2008
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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.
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Atlanta Falcons
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 28 56 0 555 336 61% 3573 10.6 18 15 17 20

Quarterback - This is a huge training camp for the Falcons and not the least for the quarterbacks. This is the first time since Michael Vick was drafted that the team can enter training camp to establish a passing game. Last year was still heavily affected by the Vick fiasco and most coaches and many players are gone now. Chris Redman will likely be the week one starter and Joey Harrington was kept for depth mainly because he already had the uniform. But the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan with the 1.03 so it is merely a matter of when the Falcons opt to start his career as the franchise quarterback. The offensive line is still not the best and the entire team is learning a new system, so it is reasonable to expect Redman to take the start in week one and hold it for at least half the season. Since a new coaching staff all get a "pass" on year one of a rebuilding season, no need to push Ryan onto the field earlier than needed. Expect to see him get playing time in preseason games and make your dynasty league decisions based on those but this is slated to be a power running team so when (if) it all works to plan, the Falcons won't be one of the more productive passing teams in the league.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 349 1383 4.0 7 108 71 66% 551 0 27 28 29

Running Backs - On the plus side, the Falcons want to showcase their running game and make Michael Turner become the focal point of the offensive attack. On the downside, he's never had more than 80 carries per year and up until now had the benefit of relieving LaDainian Tomlinson when the defenses breathed a sigh of relief. Now Turner will be the player that every defensive coordinator will plan to stop. Jerious Norwood remains but his role is unchanged - third down and relief work. Turner will be the workhorse here and gets to prove who he will most closely resemble? Priest Holmes getting out from under the shadow of Jamal Lewis or Troy Hambrick no longer backing up Emmitt Smith. His biggest success factor will be his offensive line which still has much work to do.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 232 118 51% 1608 13.6 9 31 27
2006 221 97 44% 1372 14.1 8 32 29
2007 355 206 58% 2476 12.0 13 13 18

Wide Receivers - Roddy White had a breakout season in 2007 and the rookie Laurence Robinson flashed enough to ensure that the duo are the starters for 2008. The first year without Michael Vick was a nightmare in many ways for the franchise but for the first time since Vick showed up, the Falcons were not in the bottom five for all passing categories. The wide receivers - and that is almost entirely Roddy White - combined for an above average 2476 yards from the wide receivers last year. The power rushing game installed by offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will still use the wide receivers though almost entirely just the two starters. Robinson is the interesting one to watch in camp to see how much he will improve on the 37 catches for 437 yards he had as a rookie.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 123 69 56% 907 13.1 6 7 9
2006 114 62 54% 856 13.8 8 8 4
2007 88 58 66% 542 9.3 5 20 18

Tight Ends
- The days of Alge Crumpler being the lead receiver are gone (as is he). Since Michael Vick traded his helmet for a striped jumpsuit, the Falcons struggled in their new offense of 2007. But the new scheme being installed by OC Mike Mularkey won't feature the tight end as much more than a blocker. With Crumpler gone, expect even worse tight end production this year.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The Falcons are going for a "make over" and year one will be all about rebuilding and getting all the new parts working correctly. The offensive line is a central concern that likely will take a season or two to rebuild but Michael Turner will be the object of most attention during camp. Knowing that the Falcons are likely to fall behind and need to throw in a majority of games, the progress of Robinson and White are important. Obviously preseason games are critical here if Matt Ryan is going to make a play for starting this year.

Carolina Panthers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 35 112 0 505 285 56% 2941 10.3 19 17 28 18

Quarterback - Jake Delhomme had Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow in October last year and has made an amazing recovery. Delhomme claims his elbow is pain free and stronger than it was before the injury. The Panthers need it since they slopped in yardage and completion percentage last year. This is also bound to be an interesting year since not only is Steve Smith returning, but Muhsin Muhammad has come back and D.J. Hackett takes over the slot at least until Dwayne Jarrett decides not to be a bust. This is a stocked set of receivers and the best set that Delhomme has had in Carolina. Also helping out anywhere from a little to a great deal will be the rushing game with the rookie Jonathan Stewart. The better the team rushes, the better Delhomme plays. He probably has a ceiling if the running game really comes together will with Stewart but the worst he does is still solid in fantasy terms.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 406 1635 4.0 7 90 61 68% 429 2 15 22 24

Running Backs - This should be one of the most interesting seasons in the Panthers backfield. Jonathan Stewart was selected with the 1.13 pick this year and DeShaun Foster was sent packing. DeAngelo Williams remains but hasn't carried the ball more than 144 times in either of his two seasons. This will be a committee backfield at least initially but it is up to Stewart to win a bigger share of the carries. That should happen sooner than later and his play in preseason games is a must watch. The running game in Carolina has been declining the last two seasons and Stewart was brought on to reverse that trend. At 5'11" and 230 pounds, he's the power back that fits John Davidson's offense.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 298 167 56% 2473 14.8 20 10 3
2006 342 191 56% 2457 12.9 15 12 11
2007 318 169 53% 1967 11.6 11 26 22

Wide Receivers - How the presence of more than one decent wideout affects Steve Smith remains to be seen, but in year's past the Panthers have seen big seasons from a wideout whenever there was just one. Muhsin Muhammad took over in 2004 when Smith was injured and had a career year before heading off to Chicago. He's back now and joins Smith who has been the lone decent wideout in Carolina for the last three years. In 2005, Smith had a career year with 1563 yards and 12 touchdowns but no other wide receiver had more than 25 catches that season. Now it will be Smith, Muhammad and D.J. Hackett as likely starters and Dwayne Jarrett gets one more year to show he is not a bust. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Smith has lower numbers since 2005 was his best ever and that was the year that Carolina had their best rushing game using both Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster. A better rushing game makes it easier to complete passes and most of those will always be thrown to Smith.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 55 35 64% 357 10.2 4 25 17
2006 59 37 63% 317 8.6 2 31 29
2007 93 57 61% 553 9.7 6 18 14

Tight Ends
- The tight end has never matter much in Carolina since the days of Wesley Walls but the new offensive scheme installed last year did use the position more. Jeff King caught 46 passes for 406 yards and two scores but that partially reflected the lack of credible wideouts and the injury to Delhomme.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - This camp needs to prove that Delhomme is truly as healthy as he claims and he needs to get on the same page with Muhammad again while also integrating Hackett. But the obvious attention-getter here will be Jonathan Stewart. His work in preseason games has to be reviewed because Stewart stands an excellent chance of being the most productive rookie running back.

New Orleans Saints
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 26 49 1 652 440 67% 4423 10.1 28 18 3 9

Quarterback - 2007 was an odd year because Drew Brees ended up with roughly the same season as he has in 2006 but his first four games combined for only one touchdown and never had more than 260 passing yards in those weeks. He made up for it with five games of three or more touchdowns though. This season all Brees has to do is avoid a slow start. The Saints have brought in Jeremy Shockey to give the offense a new complexion and that can only help Brees even if it may come at the expense of another receiver.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 366 1442 3.9 12 191 147 77% 898 3 26 11 10

Running Backs - Last season was tough on the Saints with Deuce McAllister blowing out his knee and Reggie Bush eventually was lost for the season with a torn PCL as well. Overall the Saints rushing game was okay but it required seven different running backs. McAllister is back and while his knee is supposed to be healed he had some swelling when camp opened and needed an MRI. That test revealed no damage but wasn't a good sign. Bush is healthy again and wants to prove that he can shoulder a heavier workload without getting injured but he can't and the Saints know it. They tried that last year. Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker remain as primary back-ups that could either become starters if 2007 repeats.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 344 178 52% 2494 14 13 9 15
2006 286 169 59% 2965 17.5 21 4 4
2007 345 219 63% 2831 12.9 21 8 8

Wide Receivers - No major changes here with Marques Colston taking the #1 role and pairing with David Patten. But Colston had 98 catches for 1202 yards and 11 scores last year and Patten only managed 54 catches for 792 yards and three scores. What hopefully happens here is that second-year player Robert Meacham can stay healthy and at least claim the #3 spot if not challenge Patten at some point. Brees has been deadly at spreading the ball around and four different wideouts here had over 20 catches, 300 yards and two scores. The one caveat here is that Jeremy Shockey will be added to the mix and that will come at the expense of some wideout catches. Colston will get his, but the rest may find it harder to match already low numbers from 2007.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 90 54 60% 597 11.1 2 18 24
2006 70 45 64% 411 9.1 1 24 31
2007 102 75 74% 706 9.4 4 13 22

Tight Ends
- We finally get to see what the Saints are like when they have a pass-catching tight end. Jeremy Shockey joins the team and the Saints already had increased use of the position since OC Doug Marrone came on board in 2006. Preseason should be all about figuring out how to include Shockey and getting some chemistry going with Brees. On the plus side for Shockey is far fewer bad weather games than he had in New York.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - This camp is interesting mainly to see how healthy Bush and McAllister are after both could not finish 2007 due to knee injuries. Shockey and Brees only have a month to get used to each other so their relationship may grow as the season progresses. After last year, the best thing to come out of training camp is everyone remaining healthy.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
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
2007 54 253 1 490 316 64% 3579 11.3 18 8 16 19

Quarterback - This is an area of current drama since Jeff Garcia wants more money and Brett Favre is the subject of trade rumors that end up in Tampa Bay. Garcia did help the Buccaneers passing game in 2007 but even with the jump from terrible to almost average, the Buccaneers still had little fantasy value in the passing game. What Garcia did was to play nearly error free. But he also only passed for scores in nine games and never more than two touchdowns per week. He rarely had more than 200 yards per week as well and missed three full games because of injury. Barring Favre showing up, Garcia mans this rather pedestrian passing attack that doesn't have many turnovers or scores.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
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
2007 468 1883 4.0 15 185 130 70% 928 2 7 2 5

Running Backs - Carnell Williams is not yet out of the picture entirely, but he certainly isn't in it this summer. He is expected to start the year on the PUP list and allow Earnest Graham to continue his fine play from 2007 when he rushed for 898 yards and scored ten times. The Bucs signed him to a new contract in the offseason but $2.5 million for a season is hardly "the guy" sort of money. And the Buccaneers brought back Warrick Dunn to add to the mix. What will be interesting here is that Dunn was a tremendous receiver when he played in Tampa Bay but the Falcons rarely used him in that capacity. Dunn caught 68 passes for 557 yards and three scores in his final season in Tampa Bay (2001). Training camp is all about seeing where Dunn fits in.

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 273 156 57% 2044 13.1 12 23 20
2006 279 141 51% 1917 13.6 10 21 21
2007 257 164 64% 2251 13.7 8 20 27

Wide Receivers - This unit is one of the worse in the league and Joey Galloway keeps them from the bottom. But Galloway is 37 years old this season and somehow defies the injury bug in his waning years after being dogged by injuries for much of his previous career. Galloway gained 1014 yards last year but only had 57 catches. Ike Hilliard was the lead receiver but only needed 62 catches to get there. There are no notable changes here other than the group is another year older. Michael Clayton still languishes in the shadow of his rookie year that he has never remotely replicated and Maurice Stovall is little more than roster depth. The Bucs are all about rushing and defense and that shows with this crew. Galloway hasn't lost any speed so far but when he does, he'll drop off the map since his main benefit in the offense is catching a bomb every third game or so.

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD
2005 84 58 69% 484 8.3 2 23 25
2006 78 55 71% 381 6.9 4 25 21
2007 81 55 68% 594 10.8 9 17 7

Tight Ends
- While the wideouts had more catches and yards last year, the tight ends combined for one more touchdown (9) than the wide receivers had. But in fantasy terms, there still was no reliable value here because three tight ends combined for the decent showing and all three had at least two and no more than four touchdowns. And none had more than 32 catches. Just to make it a bit worse, Ben Troupe has been added to the pack to replace Anthony Becht. Jerramy Stevens and Alex Smith remain.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Since the passing game here has never been that productive outside of Galloway, the only real watch in fantasy terms (barring a Favre trade) is the rushing game. Earnest Graham is a known quantity but Warrick Dunn's return will at least replace Michael Pittman's numbers (26 catches for 191 yards and 68 carries for 286 yards). But HC Jon Gruden suggests it will be a bigger role for Dunn who is playing for the same amount of money as the re-signed Graham. Watch Dunn in camp - he will at least decrease Graham and may end up with decent fantasy value himself.

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