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Buccaneers Fantasy Corner: NFC Southern Hospitality

Posted Aug 7, 2013

The NFC South boasts some of the biggest names in fantasy football, so we take a look at how the Buccaneers’ division rivals might perform from a fantasy perspective this season


In an exercise so laser-focused on individual performances as fantasy football, it is easy to overlook a simple fact: When it comes to the fantasy game, the NFC South has a whole lot of firepower.  In fact, it just might be the NFL's most targeted division on fantasy draft day.

 

Nine. That might be the most powerful number in the argument for the NFC South’s supremacy in the fantasy football universe. Based on the ADP rankings put forth by ESPN.com, the NFC South boasts nine players in the top 36.

 

Yes, in the first three rounds of the draft in your 12-owner league, 25% of the players to come off the board, on average, will be either Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, or members of your very own Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not bad considering there are seven other divisions in the NFL.

 

Buccaneer heavy-hitters Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson both make the cut, coming off the board as the fifth-highest drafted running back and ninth-highest receiver, respectively. Martin finished 2012 with the second-most points from a running back in the entire NFL in both standard and PPR formats.

 

If you were to create the ideal fantasy football team for each division, filling in every position with the highest point-getter in 2012, the NFC South would have compiled 114.8 points each week. That is second only to the NFC North which boasted Adrian Peterson (top scoring for RBs) and Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall (top two scorers for WRs).  Here's a look at the optimal fantasy team for each division last year (kicker and defense not included):

 

NFC North

 

NFC South

 

Pos.

Player

Pts.

Pos.

Player

Pts.

QB

Rodgers (GB)

20.6

QB

Brees (NO)

21.1

RB

Peterson (MIN)

21.1

RB

Martin (TB)

18.6

RB

Forte (CHI)

13.2

RB

Sproles (NO)

12.9

WR

C. Johnson (DET)

21.0

WR

White (ATL)

16.3

WR

Marshall (CHI)

20.5

WR

Jackson (TB)

15.8

TE

Rudolph (MIN)

9.5

TE

Graham (NO)

14.3

FLEX

Cobb (GB)

14.4

FLEX

Jones (ATL)

15.8

TOTALS

120.3

TOTALS

114.8

NFC East

 

NFC West

Pos.

Player

Pts.

Pos.

Player

Pts.

QB

Griffin (WAS)

19.0

QB

Wilson (SEA)

16.2

RB

Morris (WAS)

15.1

RB

Lynch (SEA)

16.1

RB

McCoy (PHI)

11.8

RB

Gore (SF)

13.6

WR

Bryant (DAL)

18.3

WR

Crabtree (SF)

15.3

WR

Cruz (NYG)

15.5

WR

Fitzgerald (AZ)

10.6

TE

Witten (DAL)

14.1

TE

Davis (SF)

7.5

FLEX

Maclin (PHI)

11.8

FLEX

Jackson (STL)

11.8

TOTALS

105.6

TOTALS

91.1

AFC North

 

AFC South

 

Pos.

Player

Pts.

Pos.

Player

Pts.

QB

Dalton (CIN)

14.9

QB

Luck (IND)

16.5

RB

Rice (BAL)

16.8

RB

Foster (HOU)

18.0

RB

Richardson (CLE)

14.9

RB

C. Johnson (TEN)

12.4

WR

Green (CIN)

18.2

WR

A. Johnson (HOU)

18.0

WR

Wallace (PIT)

11.7

WR

Wayne (IND)

16.5

TE

Miller (PIT)

12.3

TE

Daniels (HOU)

10.1

FLEX

Boldin (BAL)

11.0

FLEX

Shorts (JAX)

11.7

TOTALS

99.8

TOTALS

103.2

AFC East

 

AFC West

 

Pos.

Player

Pts.

Pos.

Player

Pts.

QB

Brady (NE)

20.6

QB

Manning (DEN)

19.0

RB

Spiller (BUF)

15.1

RB

Charles (KC)

14.2

RB

Ridley (NE)

12.3

RB

McFadden (OAK)

8.9

WR

Welker (NE)

17.6

WR

D. Thomas (DEN)

17.8

WR

S. Johnson (BUF)

13.1

WR

Decker (DEN)

16.3

TE

Gronkowski (NE)

12.1

TE

Myers (OAK)

11.0

FLEX

Bush (MIA)

12.1

FLEX

Floyd (SD)

10.1

TOTALS

102.9

TOTALS

97.3

 

 

The NFC North and South divisions were the clear class of the league when just using the seven starting positions.  Widen that out to include some of the players who will be your key reserves, and the NFC South takes over.

 

Last season all four of the South's quarterbacks could be found in the top 13 point-scorers at the position, giving you at least 14 points per week and each of them besting names like Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is being taken as the 21st quarterback off the board this year, making him one of the most valuable picks you can make in the later rounds considering his top-13 performance last year.

 

The same dominance can be seen at wide receiver, where six of last season’s top 20 scorers at the position hailed from the NFC South. Both Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams (sleeper alert!) made the cut, posting 15.8 and 13.1 points per game, respectively. Even the tight end spot has a good dose of dominance, with three of the top six scorers coming from the division, and Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez holding spots one and two.

 

Now that we've established how important the NFC South ranks will be to fantasy football this year, let's take a look at the fantasy situation for each of the Bucs' three competitors in the division.

 

**

 

Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Outlook

 

The biggest change for the Falcons on the fantasy front would be the arrival of new running back Steven Jackson. On the cusp of 30 years old, Jackson appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank and will more than likely see his numbers swing upward with the new scenery. Last season, Jackson found the end zone just four times behind the St. Louis Rams line but still managed to put up more than 1,000 yards on the ground.

 

Michael Turner, the Falcons' running back last year, managed just 800 yards but scored 10 times. Should Jackson have the same goal line opportunities as his predecessor, he could see his overall fantasy numbers surge. Jackson also is much more of a pass-catcher than Turner, adding another weapon for quarterback Matt Ryan and potentially improving his draft stock.

 

Ryan and his three trusty pass-catchers – tight end Tony Gonzalez and wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones – formed one of the top passing attacks in the league last year.  It is a little difficult to predict the output for Gonzalez, given that he was on the verge of retirement at the end of last year, but it would be unwise to bet against him being a standout once again.  Obviously, Jones and White will be early picks at the receiver position.

 

It must be pointed out for the Falcons, and the Saints and Panthers as well, that they will be facing a very different team twice this season. The Buccaneers held opposing offenses to just 82.5 yards per game last year on the ground and a mere 3.5 yards per carry, both the best in the NFL.  The pass defense, on the other hand, struggled significantly.  Now, however, the Bucs have added Darrelle Revis, Dashon Goldson and Johnthan Banks to their secondary, so moving the ball against them will likely be a tougher task in 2013 than it was a season ago.

 

**

 

Carolina Panthers Fantasy Outlook

 

With the incredible influx of rookie quarterback talent in 2012, 2011 sensation Cam Newton became somewhat overlooked as he quietly finished the year with the fourth most fantasy points at his position. His 3,869 yards through the air and an additional 741 on the ground should be marks he can at least duplicate this season.

 

Newton's cast is largely the same, with wide receiver Steve Smith serving as his top target. Smith finished 2012 rounding out the top 20 point-scorers at the receiver position. Again, the Panthers seem to lack a solid second target with Brandon LaFell looking to take the next step and newcomer Domenik Hixon angling for some of the targets.

 

The running back spot has always been a red flag, fantasy-wise, for the Panthers, despite the fact that it is usually quite successful in real-life terms. The Panther backfield has a number of playmakers in a timeshare system, and have for years. That's a headache for fantasy owners, wondering which back will find the end zone in any given week.

 

Last season the Panthers fell to the Buccaneers in both matchups. In their season-opening matchup, the Buccaneer defense held Cam Newton to just 12 fantasy points, forcing two interceptions and holding the mobile QB to just four yards rushing. As a team, the Panthers rushed for just 10 yards against the Buccaneers' front in that game.

 

**

 

New Orleans Saints Fantasy Outlook

 

Drew Brees enters 2013 as last year’s number one point-getter in fantasy football, with 5,177 yards passing, 43 touchdowns and 337 fantasy points. He is joined once again by a familiar cast of running backs and receivers.

 

Tight end Jimmy Graham also ended the season with the most points at his position. He played just one game against the Buccaneers, missing the contest in Tampa due to injury. In the December matchup, he caught five passes for 69 yards. This year, he might be part of one of the most intriguing Buccaneer matchups as he will face the Buccaneer safety duo of Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson, along with the rest of the Buccaneer secondary.

 

Like Carolina, the Saints have a gifted group of running backs that makes fantasy owners lose sleep. Last season, running back Mark Ingram led the team in rushing with 602 yards and five scores. However, Pierre Thomas also saw a lot of work, posting 473 yards. PPR darling Darren Sproles had 244 yards on the ground and added 667 more through the air on 75 receptions.

 

As with all NFC South rivals, the Saints will have to contend with an improved Buccaneer defense. Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy leads the NF's best run defense into the 2013 season. Lavonte David comes into his second season having posted the second-most solo tackles and stuffs last year. And the “No Fly Zone” will look to change the numbers of last year’s secondary.

 

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers home opener being against the New Orleans Saints, a lot of eyes in the fantasy football world will fall on Raymond James Stadium to see what they can expect in 2013 from the superior NFC South.