The 2012 season is fast approaching, so it is time to take a look at each team’s fantasy outlook. In this installment, we will take a look at the NFC South and NFC East.
Matt Ryan is looking to take the next step this season. The Falcons are moving to a pass-first offense, putting the pressure on Ryan to perform at a high level. One of the best wide receiver combinations this season, Julio Jones and Roddy White will look to help Ryan. I like both wide receivers to be in the top 15 this season. White may prove to be the better value because he is going almost a full round later in drafts. There is a fantasy question mark surrounding Michael Turner in Atlanta. He has seen at least 300 rushing attempts in three of his last four seasons. With a middle-of-the-fourth-round average draft position, Turner may be a good value this season in non-PPR leagues. Jacquizz Rodgers is a guy to keep an eye on. He could see plenty of targets in the up-tempo offense, making him a sleeper in PPR leagues.
The fantasy player of the year in 2011, Cam Newton looks to repeat his success this season. Sadly, the Panthers did not bring in another wide receiver opposite the aging Steve Smith. I expect that Newton will not get 14 rushing touchdowns again this season; however, he should do better in the passing game. Look for Brandon LaFell to step up as the WR2 for the Panthers. The Carolina running backs cap the upside of one another this season. Both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams look to be flex plays at best unless one goes down to injury. With Jeremy Shockey gone, I expect Greg Olsen to be a TE1 this season.
Tampa Bays Buccaneers
After a rough 2011 season the Buccaneers look to improve their offense this year. They made a splash in free agency with Vincent Jackson and in the draft with Doug Martin. Jackson’s value takes a hit with the downgrade at quarterback. Mike Williams may be a late round steal this season with Jackson seeing double coverage instead of Williams. With the new weapons expect better stats from Josh Freeman this year. He is a player to target as a QB2 late in drafts and in trades.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints were in the news for the wrong reasons this offseason, but I still expect elite production out of many of the Saints’ offensive players. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham are shoo-ins for the top-five production at their respective positions. With Robert Meachem now in San Diego, Lance Moore could be a fantasy bye-week fill-in. Mark Ingram, second year player out of Alabama, looks to be a good value in the middle rounds of the draft as the Saints’ goal-line back. As the passing-down running back, Darren Sproles has RB1 upside in PPR leagues.
The Redskins added key pieces this offseason in Pierre Garcon and Robert Griffin III. Griffin is a high upside QB2 this season, and Garcon looks to be the number one WR in the Redskins offense. Santana Moss may prove to be a good PPR bench option with his move to the slot. The running back situation is a fantasy nightmare. I expect Roy Helu to take over at some point this season. If you are looking for a starting running back for a couple games, look no further then Alfred Morris, who may be the lead back early in the season.
The Cowboys have the weapons but have yet to put it all together. DeMarco Murray has the talent; however, his injury risk makes him just a high-end RB2. He reminds me of Darren McFadden without the top back upside. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin limit the fantasy potential of one another. I expect them to be above average WR2s this season. They also have to compete for targets against arguably Romo’s favorite target, Jason Witten. It looks like Witten will miss the first game of the season. I expect him to put up average to slightly above-average numbers in fantasy. Even with the amount of weapons Romo has, he still is just an average start in fantasy leagues. If you are looking for a deep sleeper Andre Holmes fits in perfectly. He is behind two receivers who seem to get hurt quite a bit, and he had an impressive camp.
New York Giants
The Super Bowl Champions have plenty to offer for fantasy football purposes. Eli Manning cut back on his interceptions and will need to repeat that success this season to be a top ten quarterback. He has a talented receiving group with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. To take a deeper look into these two players, check out our Dynasty Draft Dilemmas series. The running back situation could get shaky for fantasy start/sit purposes. First-round pick David Wilson looked strong this preseason. He should take touches away from Ahmad Bradshaw. If Bradshaw gets hurt, I would not be surprised if Wilson takes the job and runs with it. A sleeper out of New York is Martellus Bennett. Manning relies on the tight end position. The 6’6”, 270-pound Bennett is a red zone target, so take a look on the wire if you need TE help.
Michael Vick disappointed fantasy owners last season, but with a fourth round average draft position he is a good buy candidate. The combination of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will help Vick’s cause. Jackson will not see many red-zone looks so I expect another inconsistent season. There are no problems at running back with LeSean McCoy. If McCoy gets hurt, look at Dion Lewis to get the majority of carries. A fantasy bargain could prove to be Brent Celek. He has top-ten potential and is being selected in the later rounds of the draft.
Stever is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Stever in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of 11stever11.
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