Training Camp Preview: NFC South

Mon Jul 27 11:13am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Gronk joins Brady in Tampa


This is the seventh preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Falcons

The Falcons will look to get things going in the right direction again this year after a few disappointing seasons. Atlanta made a big change at running back, getting Todd Gurley. He should be the player to watch this camp. Can he regain the form of past years and provide a big lift to the Falcons rushing attack? We’ll get an idea, starting in camp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia.     

Position battle: Todd Gurley is the clear lead back for the Falcons, but his backup is up in the air. Brian Hill and Ito Smith are the top candidates to be the No. 2 back, but Qadree Ollison should also be in the mix. This job is wide open. And the winner has some fantasy value because Gurley has some injury concerns.

Injury watch: Ito Smith missed much of last year because of a neck injury. He is making his way back from the injury but might not be 100 percent recovered by the start of camp. Smith is battling for the top backup job, so he will need to get up to health in a hurry if he hopes to win that job. Nothing is certain with Smith right now. 

Saints

The Saints have very high expectations this year, looking to make another run at the Super Bowl. And time might be running out for the Saints because Drew Brees is nearing retirement. This might be the last chance the Saints have to win another title with Brees at the helm. The Saints hold training camp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility in Metairie, Louisiana.

Position battle: Tre’Quan Smith has not lived up to expectations to date, so he won’t be handed the No. 3 receiver spot. He will have to earn it. And he has some competition in Deonte Harris and Krishawn Hogan. Smith is going to need to up his game and show more consistency on the field if he hopes to hold off Harris and Hogan for the slot receiver spot.

Injury watch: Drew Brees missed five games last year because of a thumb injury. He is 41 years old and hasn’t played a full season in two years. You have to wonder if he can hold up at this stage of his career. He is not battling an injury right now, but you’ll want to monitor his health in camp to make sure he doesn’t get dinged, giving him an injury going into the season.

Panthers

Carolina has a new quarterback for the first time in several seasons. Teddy Bridgewater takes over for the Panthers, replacing Cam Newton. Plus, the team has a new head coach (Matt Rhule) for the first time in a long time. These two big changes should be the focus of training camp for the team, seeing how the key pieces adjust to their new surroundings. Carolina will hold training camp this year at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Position battle: The Panthers offensive side of the ball is pretty sorted out when it comes to starters. There isn’t much debate. The one spot to watch is the top backup quarterback spot. Will Grier and P.J. Walker are the candidates for the job. Walker was arguably the top player in the XFL, turning a lot of heads with his great play. He gets a shot to make an NFL roster. Don’t discount Walker to win the backup job for the Panthers. 

Injury watch: Graham Gano missed all of last season because of a knee injury. He is making good progress in his rehab and should be near full strength for the start of camp. Gano will compete with Joey Slye for the kicking duties in Carolina. Gano will need to prove he is healthy and over his injury if he hopes to start this season.

Bucs

The Bucs made quite the splash this offseason, adding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to their team. Tampa might be the most watched team this training camp, seeing how Brady adjusts to his new team. There are going to be a lot of eyes on this team to see if Brady can lead his new squad to a Super Bowl title. Brady and teammates train at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida.

Position battle: The Bucs have a real battle on their hands for the starting running back spot. Ronald Jones and rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn will battle it out for the right to start for the Bucs. This is a wide open competition. This might come down to the back that blocks the best. Tampa will need to keep Tom Brady upright, so the back that can pass protect best probably has the best chance to start.   

Injury watch: The Bucs were able to get Rob Gronkowski out of retirement. He should be a big part of the offense, but health is always a concern for Gronk. He has not played a full season since 2011. Gronk has missed 13 games his last three seasons in the NFL. The year off should have done him some good in getting back to full strength, but you never know with Gronk. He has taken a lot of punishment throughout his career.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
Vic Beasley Aug 7 11:53am ET

Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley reported for COVID-19 testing Friday, Aug. 7.

From TheHuddle

James Washington Aug 7 11:13am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: Washington could start opposite of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he'll need to step it up to stave off Chase Claypool. Washington figures to be a WR4 or WR5 in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

Corey Davis Aug 6 7:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (toe) is on the Physically Unable to Perform list as a result of offseason toe surgery. He's not expected to miss any games.

Fantasy Spin: This would be a greater concern if Davis was actually missing meaningful practices while on the PUP list. There shouldn't be any major concern, and he'll still enter the season as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Brown.

From TheHuddle

M.J. Stewart Aug 6 5:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart was released Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rod Smith Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders RB Rod Smith was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Josh Doctson Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Updating a previous story, New York Jets WR Josh Doctson was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rashaan Melvin Aug 6 5:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars DB Rashaan Melvin was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Ricardo Louis Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent WRs Ricardo Louis (Dolphins) and Chester Rogers (Colts) have been contacted and put through physicals by the Miami Dolphins, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

J.J. Wilcox Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent S J.J. Wilcox (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Shaq Lawson Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Shaq Lawson and WR Kirk Merritt were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Zach Sieler Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Robert Woods Aug 6 4:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods said he has had preliminary contract extension talks with the Rams and wants to finish his career with Los Angeles.

Fantasy Spin: Woods has played very well since joining the Rams and has posted at least 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He will be one of the main options in the passing game this season and should be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Leighton Vander Esch Aug 6 1:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch said he will be playing middle linebacker this season with LB Jaylon Smith moving to weakside linebacker.

From TheHuddle

Clay Matthews Aug 6 12:43pm ET

Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) and LB Everson Griffen (Vikings) have received interest from the Seattle Seahawks.

From TheHuddle

Tee Higgins Aug 5 8:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Aug 5 8:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Aug 5 8:00pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Aug 5 7:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is still without a new deal as the team heads toward the 2020 season. However, according to director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, the organization views the 24-year-old as a "cornerstone piece of the franchise." Mixon is looking for a contract that would pay him north of $8 million per year, a significant increase from the $1.2 million that he is expected to earn in the final year of his rookie deal. The former Sooner is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is projected by many to be a fantasy breakout by year's end.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Aug 5 7:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was quick to respond to Ed Werder's Twitter post regarding a potentially reduced role for the former rushing champ, quipping "we all gonna eat." Though Elliott is a shoo-in, first-round pick in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, many still wonder how he will co-exist on an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed, notably Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 17th overall pick, CeeDee Lamb. Elliott finished 2019 as a top-five back in the majority of formats. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, who has overseen some productive runners throughout his career, the 25-year-old could be in store for another productive year.

From RotoBaller