Sports

NFC South off-season changes

New Orleans Saints:

We’re seeing the Saints completely redo their offense. After finally finding a running game last year, they’re moving to make it their primary focus and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that unless you have QB Drew Brees in a Keeper league. They realized that they can’t consistently win by throwing the ball 40 times a game. They also realized they had one of the worst defenses in the league and figured it out before the draft and executed a plan to address that. Well, they did after drafting T Andrus Peat out of Stanford with the first pick.

With their second first-round pick, acquired from Seattle in the Jimmy Graham trade that also added C Max Unger, the Saints took LB Stephone Anthony. His draft position may be a little early, but he’ll match up nicely with his second-round pick; Washington’s LB Hau’oli Kikaha, who led the NCAA in sacks last season. Surprisingly, they grabbed QB Garrett Grayson from Colorado St in the third round. With a number of quality quarterbacks on the board for later rounds, this was definitely too high and no one seems sure Grayson can become Brees’ replacement, though he has at least two years to learn. The next four picks were made to bolster the defense and all were solid picks; CB PJ Williams of Florida St, LB Davis Tull of Chattanooga, DT Tyeler Davidson of Fresno St and CB Damain Swann of Georgia. In addition to all of these defensive draft picks, the Saints added CB Brandon Browner from New England via free agency.

After losing Jimmy Graham, WR Kenny Stills and RB Pierre Thomas via trade and offseason free agency, they stayed at those positions except for RB. He picked up CJ Spiller from Buffalo. Spiller has proven to be one of the most hyped players year after year and one of the most disappointing. With Mark Ingram slated to be the workhorse, Spiller will be counted on to fill the old role of Reggie Bush and, if he stays healthy, he will be a game changer for this offense. Josh Hill will never be Jimmy Graham, but he will see a dramatic turnaround at Targets this season.

Fantasy starters: QB Drew Brees, RB Mark Ingram, WR Brandin Cooks

Fantasy bench: RB CJ Spiller, WR Marques Colston

Fantasy Sleeper: T.E. Josh Hill

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

The Bucs got the first pick in this year’s draft after a very poor performance last season. Much of his problems could be attributed to incompetence at QB and throughout the defense. They decided they would roll the dice on QB Jameis Winston and hope he would solve their QB riddle. Winston has a lot of questions about maturity and whether or not he’s mentally capable of handling being the No. 1 pick in the draft and the face of the franchise. He definitely has the physical tools to be successful and he has great weapons at wide receiver in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. However, that didn’t stop them from using their fifth and sixth round picks on additional WRs; Nebraska’s Kenny Bell and Utah’s Kaelin Clay. Clay will be remembered for his brain fart against Oregon, where he dropped the ball before it crossed the goal line and Oregon returned it for a TD, resulting in a 14-point swing in the first half, which cost him a good 1st . half of Utah’s bet.

While the offense is getting in shape, the defense still has a long way to go. The Bucs added DE Henry Melton via free agency from Dallas and DB Chris Conte from Chicago, who played under coach Lovie Smith when he was with the Bears. However, neither of them plan to add that much to that unit. One area to watch is what Tampa will do with its running game. Will they fully commit to Charles Sims or will Doug Martin have a chance to reclaim his starting job?

Fantasy starters: WR Vincent Jackson, WR Mike Evans

Fantasy Bench: QB Jameis Winston, RB Charles Sims, RB Bobby Rainey

Fantasy Sleeper: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Atlanta Falcons:

Atlanta had two clear needs before the draft; improve their defense and improve their running game and they did both. They wisely focused on defense first and grabbed LB Vic Beasley from Clemson. Just as WR Kevin White fell to the Bears with his No. 1 pick, the Falcons’ hand was presented to them because of the problems associated with Randy Gregory and Shane Ray. Beasley will start immediately for them, as will second-round pick CB Jalen Collins out of LSU. The draft worked perfectly for the Falcons when RB Tevin Coleman fell to them in the third round. As a member of the Big Ten, I will tell you that Coleman’s stats in 2014 (2,026 yards and 15 TDs) were even more impressive than they sound, as quarterback Nate Sudfeld was sidelined for the season and the Hoosiers they were a one-trick offense and Coleman was still churning. big numbers even though he was the focal point of every defense. He will solve your current RB dilemma.

The Falcons really only lost WR Harry Douglas in free agency, but quickly replaced him in the draft with their fourth pick; WR Justin Hardy of East Carolina. With Coleman, his offense will once again be one of the best in the league; as long as his WR stays healthy for a season. His defense will not be good, but it will be better. As last year showed, this division is ideal for any team that can win half of its games. That should be Atlanta this season.

Fantasy starters: QB Matt Ryan, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Julio Jones WR Roddy White

Fantasy Bench: RB Devonta Freeman

Fantasy sleeper: WR Justin Hardy

Carolina Panthers:

The Panthers had little opportunity to improve through the draft, having only five picks available after trading two to St. Louis for promotion in the second round. Unfortunately, they didn’t recruit any real difference makers. Their defense declined last season and they will be lucky to play at that level. They selected LB Shaq Thompson from Washington with their first-round pick, which seemed like a range since he’s a bit small. Aside from the Cam-to-Kelvin connection, there’s nothing scary about his offense. They have been unable to maintain a consistent running game for the past several years due to injury. With their second round pick, they selected WR Devin Funchess from Michigan. Funchess is almost a close Benjamin as he is 6’4″ 232 lbs. They have big WR’s but need some speed out of the slot as Cam seems to be under constant pressure. They added T Daryl Williams from Oklahoma in the fourth round hoping that he can work in the starting lineup soon and help.

The Panthers dove into free agency and seemed to have a philosophy that experience and wisdom will prevail. They added Blind Side T Michael Oher to the offensive line and Charles “Peanut” Tillman to the secondary. Needless to say, they’ve both been stars in their prime, but they’re long past it. Don’t get me wrong, I admire both players, but I don’t see them providing much benefit to either unit at this point in their careers. The Panthers lost RB DeAngelo Williams in free agency, so they added RB Cameron Artis-Payne from Auburn with his latest pick (Round 5). She becomes the immediate wife of RB porcelain doll Johnathan Stewart.

Fantasy starters: QB Cam Newton, RB Jonathan Stewart, WR Kelvin Benjamin, TE Greg Olsen

Fantasy Bank: WR Devin Funchess

Fantasy sleeper: RB Cameron Artis-Payne

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