Season-Long Fantasy Football Outlook - NFC South

Check out this post for a breakdown of my philosophy on each position

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are always pretty solid and that should hold true this year. Their regular season win total is set at 8.5 and they should be bringing back most of the key pieces from past years. I think this team should be good and this offense should be high-powered as usual.

Quarterback: Matt Ryan is an awesome fantasy quarterback but he’ll be drafted long before I consider taking a QB.

Running Back: Devonta Freeman is only 27 years old, so there’s no real reason to expect him to take a step back from a performance standpoint. That means this is just a question of how good this offense is going to be this year. If they’re as good as they’ve been, Freeman should be more productive than he has been in previous years due to the departure of Tevin Coleman. If they struggle, then Freeman will naturally struggle.

I think the uncertainty is the reason Freeman is getting drafted toward the end of the 2nd round. He should be serviceable, but it is tough to say whether or not he’ll be a top 15 running back this season. If Freeman is available and I need a running back, I’ll take a shot on him in the late 2nd/early 3rd round range, but I’m not going to be reaching on him.

Wide Receiver: Julio Jones is Julio Jones. I won’t be picking him this year because I prefer either OBJ, Deandre Hopkins, or a running back this early in the draft, but you can’t go wrong with Julio.

After Julio is Calvin Ridley, who showed signs last season that he might live up to his full potential. If he worked hard this offseason, I think he could take another step forward and be right alongside Julio as the top guys on this offense. He falls in this weird range of receivers being drafted in the late 4th/early 5th round and I just don’t know what to do in this range. I don’t have a lot of strong opinions on anybody in this range, so I’m just going to let the draft come to me. If Ridley falls, I’ll snag him, but I’m not going out of my way to get him.

Tight End: Austin Hooper is just so incredible Austin Hooper it’s not even funny. He should be the same old inconsistent fantasy tight end we are used to. Don’t let him be your top option at the position. It’s not fun.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers should have a pretty decent offense this year considering they have two of the most dangerous weapons in the NFC in Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, but their projected win total of 8 doesn’t give me too much confidence in this squad.

Quarterback: Cam Newton is one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in football but, much like Matt Ryan, he’ll be drafted long before I even consider drafting a quarterback this year.

Running Back: Christian McCaffrey should be the first or second overall pick in every draft this season. He’s fantastic and they run their entire offense through him.

If you draft him, it makes sense to handcuff him with either Cameron Artis-Payne or Jordan Scarlett, however I don’t see either of those guys having too much value even if McCaffrey goes down.

Wide Receiver: This receiving corps is somewhat of a mess to figure out heading into the 2019 season. 2nd year receiver D.J. Moore figures to be the number 1 receiver heading into his sophomore campaign following a fairly successful rookie season. Moore saw 8+ targets in 6 of his final 7 games in 2018 and it’s reasonable to believe he should take a step forward with another year under his belt.

The only issue with Moore is predicting how much of a role he can play in this offense. This team will continue to run everything through Christian McCaffrey and the run game, but that doesn’t mean they’re afraid to throw the ball. If McCaffrey wasn’t on this team I would be more inclined to reach on D.J. Moore, but I think I’m just going to take the “take him if he falls” approach and see what happens.

The other receivers on this team are in a similar boat but in much smaller roles. Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Chris Hogan, and Torrey Smith will all compete for targets, and other taking a late-round flyer on the speedy Samuel, I don’t see myself drafting any of these guys.

Tight End: Just a few years removed from being one of the most reliable tight ends in fantasy, Greg Olsen finds himself ranked as the 15 overall tight end. I love Greg Olsen, but he’s 34 years old and has battled injuries for several seasons in a row and I don’t believe he can get back to the player he used to be. He’s a smart football player who can find ways to get open, so you can take a late round chance on him, but I don’t think he should be your only tight end in 2019.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints regular season win total is set at 10 and I don’t see any reason to believe they won’t be one of the toughest teams in the NFL this year. This win total trails only the Patriots, Chiefs, and Eagles, so Vegas agrees that the Saints are once again a top team in this league.

Quarterback: I love Drew Brees and he’s one of the best players in the NFL, but he’ll be drafted long before I consider taking a quarterback.

Running Back: After Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara is the next best fantasy running back heading into the 2019 season. He is a fantastic player and will see his role in this offense grow even more this year with the departure of Mark Ingram. The number 2 running back is Latavius Murray, who will likely cut out a small chunk of this offense, but I don’t expect him to have nearly as big a role as Ingram did in 2018. Kamara should be the 3rd pick in your fantasy draft.

Latavius Murray will be one of the more valuable handcuffs in the league this season. If you draft Kamara, make sure nobody swoops in and grabs Murray before you do. He is nowhere close to the player Kamara is, especially in the pass game, but he is still an explosive back who would excel as the top back in a high-powered offense.

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas is in the top tier of receivers alongside Deandre Hopkins and Odell Beckham Jr. entering the 2019 season. I actually have him just behind OBJ, but you can’t go wrong with Mike. He averaged 9.2 targets per game last season and should at the very least maintain his enormous role in one of the best offenses in football. Do not be afraid to take Michael Thomas.

After that things get a little messy. Tedd Ginn Jr., Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, and Austin Carr are the next 4 receivers on this team. We know what we’re getting out of Ginn, he can blow up at times but he is sure to get behind the defense and drop a wide open touchdown at least once per season.

Tre’Quan Smith is the guy I have the most interest in entering his 2nd season in the league. The main reason is because I can’t get his 10 catch, 157 yard outburst against the Eagles last season out of my head. It was the one game he had more than 6 targets, and he made it count. If he sees his role in this offense grow in year 2, he has the potential to be a consistent 12-16 point per week receiver, so I think he’s an incredible value this year. He’s currently projected to go late in the 15th round and is going undrafted in plenty of leagues. I’m confused.

Keith Kirkwood and Austin Carr are just worth mentioning because if either of them get their names called to take on a larger role in this offense they could easily be great just because it’s Drew Brees. But I’m not drafting either one of them.

Tight End: Jared Cook is a mystery to me. He’s gigantic and he’s shown he’s a great receiver, but I am honestly just a little bit hesitant to draft him because I have no idea what his role in this offense is going to be. It’s going to depend entirely on whether or not Drew Brees falls in love with him. He could be a top 5 tight end or completely irrelevant. Basically what I’m saying is that I’m afraid to take a stance on Jared Cook. I strongly prefer Evan Engram, but if I still need a tight end and Cook is sitting there then I’ll give him a shot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Vegas has the Bucs regular season win total set at 6.5 for the 2019 season which is pretty much where you’d expect it to be. This team is pretty average all around, but they sling the ball around and as a result they have some pretty interesting fantasy options.

Quarterback: I’m sure I’ll wind up with Jameis Winston as my quarterback in at least one league and I won’t be one bit mad about it.

Running Back: This is one of the more interesting and uncertain backfields in the league heading into the 2019 season. It’s looking like it will be a timeshare between Peyton Barber and 2nd year back Ronald Jones. Barber bet on himself this offseason by inking a one year deal rather than something long term, which means he believes he’s primed to go off this year. He was not too impressive last season, but I’m willing to pick a guy who bets on himself like that. I will take him earlier than he’s projected (8th round).

Ronald Jones is an absolute wild card here. The Bucs took him in the 2nd round last season after an impressive year at USC, but he really hasn’t done much since. There were bizarre stories during last year’s training camp that he was completely incapable of catching the ball, which is very concerning when you’re looking for fantasy value. He’s a talented kid, but I just don’t believe in him at all this season. I think Peyton Barber will win this backfield yet again.

Wide Receiver: The sure-fire number one receiver here is Mike Evans. I’m very surprised how low he is getting drafted this season in the mid-to-late 2nd round. My interest in Mike Evans will be largely dependent on my draft position. If I am able to get a high-end running back in round 1, I’ll be more than happy to snag Evans in the 2nd round. If I land on a receiver in round 1, then I think I’ll be forced to take a running back in round 2. I love Mike Evans this year.

After that it’s a guy who’s been wildly hyped up this season in Chris Godwin. I don’t really understand what’s going on with this guy. He’s entering his 3rd season in the league and has never really done anything to make me think he’s a special player. He’s guaranteed to play second fiddle to Mike Evans in this offense and I just don’t know why people are drafting him in the same range as Stefon Diggs. I’m tempted to act like an expert and say “ohhh you don’t want to sleep on Godwin this year.” But I truthfully don’t understand the hype and will not be taking him unless he falls a longgggg way this year.

Tight End: O.J. Howard is being smushed into a group of 6th round tight ends this year along with Evan Engram, Hunter Henry, and Jared Cook. If I’m taking a guy in this range, it will be Evan Engram, but if O.J. Howard happens to fall in my lap and I need a tight end then I think I’ll snatch him up. He’s a talented player and a former first round pick whose role in this offense has slowly grown over the course of his first two seasons. I’m not prioritizing him, but he’s worth a shot.

About the Author

  • Matt Shanahan (mshanahan)

  • Matt Shanahan is an engineer by trade and firmly believes in data-driven analytics. He grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. His betting strategy is to develop theories, create models to test those theories, and then collect data to see what works and what doesn’t.


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