NFC South fantasy football preview: Top draft targets, sleepers and more

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Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) runs drills during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp, Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The NFC South is one of the weaker divisions on paper, and that appears to be the case for fantasy football as well with lots of unproven talent.

There are still some interesting fantasy plays on the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers though, and we’ve broken down the key players from each team along with four draft day targets and four sleepers.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints’ offense will have a new look with Derek Carr at quarterback, who’s more exciting for reality than in fantasy since he doesn’t offer any rushing upside. Alvin Kamara is suspended for the first three games, which opens up the Saints backfield to new addition Jamaal Williams and rookie Kendre Miller early on, but Kamara should return to the lead back role once his suspension concludes. Chris Olave had a successful rookie season and is on track to build upon that with an upgrade at quarterback, and Michael Thomas returns to a prominent role when healthy with not much depth at wide receiver outside of big-play threat Rashid Shaheed. The tight end room will be led by Juwan Johnson and Taysom Hill, who are still the name to watch for fantasy since they carved out significant red zone roles last season, but veterans Foster Moreau and Jimmy Graham are lurking.

Atlanta Falcons: Desmond Ridder will be given a shot to lead the Falcons offense, and he showed enough as a rookie to give us confidence in the offense taking a step forward with several elite weapons. Rookie Bijan Robinson is the newest of those weapons, and he should take over the backfield right away despite last season’s running back tandem of Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson returning. The receiving corps is thin, but they’ve got a future stud leading the way in Drake London, who’s in line to take a step forward in his second season as Ridder’s go-to weapon and be peppered with targets with Mack Hollins the only other sure thing at the position. Kyle Pitts will be heavily involved at tight end as he looks to return to the level that got us so excited about him as a rookie, and he makes for an intriguing bounce-back candidate if healthy.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are committed to handing the keys of their new-look offense to rookie Bryce Young, but it’s not a strong bet for fantasy considering Young will likely face growing pains in the new system. The running game should be the strength of the offense thanks to free agent addition Miles Sanders, who’s set up for another strong season with the underwhelming Chuba Hubbard his main threat for touches. The receiving corps is a mystery despite the additions of Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, as young wideouts Terrace Marshall and Jonathan Mingo could end up being more fantasy relevant than the veterans depending on who Young takes a liking to. The tight end position could be featured more with free agent addition Hayden Hurst in the fold, but he likely won’t see enough targets to be relevant on a weekly basis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady’s retirement leaves the Bucs’ offense in a tailspin highlighted by the nightmarish quarterback competition taking place between Baker Mayfield and Kyle Trask. The unreliable passing game will force the running game to be utilized more this season, and promising second-year back Rachaad White is expected to be the clear lead runner over Chase Edmonds and Ke’Shawn Vaugn. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans will be back as one of the most reliable wide receiver duos, but they likely won’t put up their usual strong numbers with so much uncertainty as far as who will be throwing them passes. There’s not much to like behind them, but wideout Trey Palmer could be worth watching if current No. 3 wideout Russell Gage misses time, and the tight end position doesn’t look promising either led by Cade Otton since it’s crowded.

TOP DRAFT DAY TARGETS

Bijan Robinson, Falcons RB: This is one is obvious being that Robinson normally goes in the first round of drafts, but his talent is off the charts to where he should be going as high as fourth overall despite being a rookie.

Chris Olave, Saints WR: Olave shined as a rookie and is poised to shine even brighter in his second season with Derek Carr throwing passes his way, as Carr’s skill set meshes perfectly with Olave’s ability to stretch the field.

Miles Sanders, Panthers RB: Sanders landed in a great spot since the Panthers plan to lean on the run in Bryce Young’s rookie season, and he’ll see the bulk of the backfield touches being that the depth behind him is lacking.

Drake London, Falcons WR: London’s rookie season wasn’t perfect, but he showed enough to where we feel comfortable getting him in the middle rounds in hopes that the chemistry he developed with Desmond Ridder down the stretch will carry over.

DEEP SLEEPERS

Kendre Miller, Saints RB: It will be tough for Miller to carve out a consistent role with both Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams on the roster, but we’ll bank on his talent winning out at some point, and he’ll have an early opportunity while Kamara is suspended.

Terrace Marshall, Panthers WR: The Panthers receiving corps is up in the air with Bryce Young still searching for a go-to option, but Marshall could end up playing a significant role as someone who can stretch the field and has room for growth.

Taysom Hill, Saints TE: It’s tough to know how much of a role Hill will play on a weekly basis, but there’s talk of him seeing more consistent looks as a receiver, which could lead to him being fantasy-relevant most weeks at a thin tight end position.

Desmond Ridder, Falcons QB: We’re fading NFC South quarterbacks for the most part, but Ridder is the one that’s somewhat intriguing since he’s got dual-threat ability along with elite weapons surrounding him.

OTHER FANTASY FOOTBALL DIVISIONAL PREVIEWS

AFC North

AFC East

AFC South

AFC West

NFC North

NFC East

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