Top 5 Player Picks From Each Team: NFC South
If I was drafting today, These are the guys I prioritize, in order, from each NFC South team.
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- Julio Jones – The best player on his team, and maybe the NFC South, Jones is coming off of his third left foot surgery – fortunately, it’s just for a bunion and not a fracture this time. He’ll remain the focus of an Atlanta offense that will focus on getting him the ball in the endzone more often, allegedly.
- Devonta Freeman – Freeman has managed to put up top ten number in yards and TDs for RBs over the last two seasons on a high octane offense, even with Tevin Coleman working in. We should see more of the same in 2017.
- Matt Ryan – Matty Ice had his career best season in 2016, a good enough campaign to earn him an MVP designation. He’ll be operating without OC Kyle Shanahan this year, but all the same pieces are in place otherwise. Ryan probably fall back to earth this season, but he’ll still be better than most QBs.
- Tevin Coleman – Coleman doesn’t get the yardage that Freeman dabbles in, but he’s not far behind in the TD department. He had 11 in 2016, and that kind of nose for the endzone keeps him relevant in 2017.
- Taylor Gabriel – Gabriel didn’t get involved as a playmaker until a third of the way through the 2016 season, but he still ended up surpassing Jones in TDs on the season – 7 to 6. He’ll stay busy on an offense short on WR talent.
- Greg Olsen – Olsen is embroiled in a salary conflict that may see him holding out for some time – maybe into the beginning of the season. Even in that case, he’s worth the top tight end pick in your draft as Newton’s favorite target. He hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season 10 years ago, which is more than I can say for the other contenders for the top TE pick.
- Cam Newton – Even after a down year, his most down year, Newton is still the best running back who also throws TDs. He has some shiny new toys to play with too, so expect a bounce back year.
- Kelvin Benjamin – Benjamin quietly posted a more than serviceable season in 2016 after sitting out all of 2015, brushing up against 1,000 yards and grabbing 7 TDs. With defenses likely making the newly enhanced Carolina running game a top priority in 2017, Benjamin has the opportunity to go bigger than ever.
- Christian McAffrey – If McAffrey can do half as much as what people are expecting of him, it’ll be a win for fantasy owners. He’ll be involved in multiple assets of the game, and he’s in line to be the first Panther to catch at least 30 passes in over 5 years. He’ll be tempered by Stewart’s potential hogging of goal line carries.
- Jonathan Stewart – JStew is no stranger to a crowded backfield, he spent many a year splitting time with DeAngelo Williams, so the McAffrey add won’t hurt him as much as people think. I think he’ll best the rookie in TDs.
New Orleans Saints
- Michael Thomas – Thomas led the Saints WRs in yards and TDs in 2016. He was also top 5 amongst rookie WRs in broken tackles. He’s added 10 lbs of muscle in the offseason, so you can expect him to be at the top of that category this year. The loss of Brandin Cooks just makes him more integral to the offense.
- Drew Brees – He keeps getting older, but his stats stay the same. If I didn’t hate drafting QBs in the early rounds, he’d be at the top of this list.
- Mark Ingram – Ingram will be pushed by AP all year for the lion’s share of carries in New Orleans, but Ingram’s positive pass catching history gives him the edge. He’ll maintain the primary role in the backfield, as long as he can stay off the exercise bike.
- Willie Snead – Snead is going to surprise a lot of people who aren’t me when he gets top 15 WR numbers this year. He gets the biggest boost from Cooks’ exit.
- Adrian Peterson – All-Day makes a strange fit for the Saints, but they’ll find a way to get the most out of him. Once considered the best athlete on the field, you have to imagine he’s still got the juice until he shows you the opposite. There’s more than enough offense to go around in New Orleans for both backs… and Alvin Kamara.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Mike Evans – Evans was a man amongst boys in 2016, even when he was the only player the defense was trying to stop in Tampa. With DJax in the mix, he’ll get less attention – but even if he doesn’t, he’ll still put up his usual monstrous numbers – he can only be contained.
- Doug Martin – Team sources say Martin is the bulkiest yet most explosive form of himself we’ve seen. Who knows if that’s really true, but with a dangerous passing game to contend with now, he’ll get some more breathing room in the backfield.
- DeSean Jackson – DJax gets a new lease on life with another QB who can air it out. As the counterpart to arguably the most dominant WR in the game, Jackson stands to return to All-Star form in 2017.
- Jameis Winston – Even with a slew of interceptions on deck, Winston has the most potent arsenal of pass catchers he could ever hope for. There’s no chance this isn’t a career year for him.
- O.J. Howard – We have a general rule at RosterWatch that TEs don’t become viable fantasy contributors until year 3. We have to make an exception with Howard, a once in a decade talent, and throw that rule out of the window. Hopefully the tour de force that we all wished Austin Seferian-Jenkins had been in Tampa, Howard will contribute often, if not early, for the Buccaneers. The only thing that will slow him down is the consistently solid performance of Cameron Brate, who should start the season as the primary tight end.