Fantasy Football: NFC South Division

Many fans play fantasy football, but few take the time necessary to dominate. Here, get an expert's look at the breakout players and where they've landed now that the smoke has cleared from the offseason.

Atlanta: The Falcons didn't make any big splashes for fantasy players in free agency, but they did make some noise on draft day by selecting running back Jerrious Norwood from Mississippi State in the third round. The team shopped running back T.J. Duckett after making the pick of the speedy Norwood, but was unable to consummate a deal. Duckett has been the short-yardage back, spelling Warrick Dunn the past few seasons, but the team apparently feels Norwood can fill that role before eventually taking over for Dunn. Keep an eye on this situation, especially if Duckett feels slighted by the team's attempts to move him. If Norwood impresses in training camp, the Falcons could look to deal Duckett again. If he lands in the right situation, he could improve his fantasy status dramatically.

Carolina: The Panthers stuggled last year to find a receiver to complement the explosive Steve Smith. They may have found that player in Keyshawn Johnson, who was signed after his release by Dallas. Johnson is a great red zone target and should thrive opposite Smith, one of the best in the business. His presence could hurt Smith's touchdown total, though. With Stephen Davis gone, the Panthers needed a backup running back for injury-prone starter DeShaun Foster. They got one in the first round in former Memphis star DeAngelo Williams. Williams should be a solid late-round sleeper this season because Foster can't stay healthy for 16 games. Also don't forget about last year's second-round pick Eric Shelton. Shelton could factor as a short-yardage back. The team gave Foster a big contract, though, so he'll open as the unquestioned starter – at least until he gets hurt.

New Orleans: Those who held on to Deuce McAllister in keeper leagues despite his knee injury in 2005, cringed when Reggie Bush fell into the Saints' lap in the draft. But the Saints will likely have them both on the field at the same time, taking advantage of Bush's receiving skills. Keep an eye on the situation in the preseason to see how much each back is used and to see if McAllister's knee is sound. If it's not, Bush becomes a top-10 pick. As it is, he's a top-25 pick – especially in keeper leagues and ones that give extra points for receptions – figuring they'll find a way to get him 10 to 15 touches per game. Bush's arrival kills Michael Bennett's value. Bennett came over from Minnesota as a free agent as McAllister's backup, but is now No. 3 on the depth chart. The Saints finally tired of Aaron Brooks never living up to his potential and let him walk in favor of free agent signee Drew Brees. Brees, who's coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum, should work well with veteran receiver Joe Horn and will be a top fantasy quarterback this season considering the Saints will likely be playing in a lot of shootouts. Donte Stallworth is also worth keeping an eye on now that the Saints have a QB capable of moving the ball consistently.

Tampa Bay: The Bucs didn't do much offensively this offseason other than dumping former starting quarterback Brian Griese. But 6-4, 216-pound wideout Maurice Stovall, a third-round draft pick, could be a nice red zone target for quarterback Chris Simms and may be a nice late-round pick in scoring leagues. In fact, letting former starting QB Brian Griese go and sticking with Simms was the biggest fantasy move of the offseason for Tampa Bay. You won't want Simms as your starter, but with Cadillac Williams drawing plenty of attention from opposing defenses, Simms will have opportunities to throw the ball against one-on-one coverage.

(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)


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