IDP Divisional Preview: NFC South
As the season draws closer, we continue our divisional preview series by turning our attention to the studs, sleepers, breakouts, and busts in the NFC South.
Next up in our divisional preview series is the NFC South. If you missed the last installment, we’re looking at studs, sleepers, breakouts, and busts from the four teams in each division. This round, we look at the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, and Buccaneers.
Drew Dodson helped us cover this division on the podcast, and in this blog post, he walks us through eight players who’ve caught his eye from his favorite division.
Sleeper: Arnold Ebiketie
Ebikete has shown what he can do as a pass rusher at Penn State, but I believe there is further room for improvement here, as long as the Falcons coaching staff can actually handle proper player management. He also has absolutely no competition other than DeAngelo Malone for the starting job. Ebikete could offer immediate upside in terms of sacks, but I believe with development we would be looking at a Chandler Jones-lite type of stat line or maybe Ngakoue without the turnovers. The kind of guy who can give you 10+ sacks in any given season, but will have overall low tackle totals.
This caps his potential value, but I could see him consistently finishing as a DE2/3 each season—but that’ll be a nightmare trying to pick the weeks he goes off.
Sleeper: DeAngelo Malone
This isn’t going to be a rave review. It just speaks more to the weakness that is the Falcons defense outside of AJ Terrell. The LB situation is full of questions, the safeties are a bunch of nobodies, and who knows what version of Grady Jarrett we’re going to get this year. Malone is not a high-upside player like Ebikete, but he has the potential to be almost as useful because he has a lot more to offer in the run game. It remains to be seen whether Malone will be able to handle the move from Conference USA (shout-out WKU) to the NFL. But if he continues to be a strong run defender, then he could provide a solid tackle floor while still getting some splash plays here and there.
Depending on how deep your rookie drafts went, Malone may still be on waivers, and if so, he’s worth the roster spot to see what he develops into.
Bust: Brian Burns
Let me get this out of the way before you screenshot this blurb and send it to Old Takes Exposed: Burns is a very good edge rusher. Unfortunately, he is being billed as elite, whether it be in rankings (I’ve seen him as high as DL3) or it’s reflected in his cost during trade negotiations. Don’t be misled by his DL6 finish in 2020—that 2020 finish would have ranked as DL12 after 17 weeks in 2021.
I believe we’ve seen close to Burns’ ceiling, which is still very very good (he’s still damn sure a DL1), but I think his 10 sacks in 2020 is going to end up being his career high, and I don’t expect to see much fluctuation in his tackle numbers either. I don’t mean this as a dig on Burns, but I think he’s shown us what he’s got as a player on a significant number of snaps and it’s pretty much what we saw in 2020 and 2021.
Stud: Jeremy Chinn
I’ll be the first to say that I thought Chinn’s stat line and ranking going into 2021 was inflated. He succeeded a lot because of volume in his rookie year, but he took a step forward as a player in 2021. Now the combination of talent and usage makes him one of the most appealing safety options, for dynasty and redraft. I’ve never been someone to pay up for top-tier DBs, and Chinn is no exception. If I were to go out and try and get him on my team, I would likely send something like my 2023 2nd and 4th and my DB2/3 (depending on how good the 2 is) and ask for Chinn and their 2023 3rd. If their roster isn’t in the best shape, there’s a good chance you can get that deal done.
New Orleans Saints
Stud: Marcus Davenport
It’s been a long time coming, but Davenport finally put himself on the map last year. He’s also firmly put himself in that category where you probably shouldn’t expect them to play all 17 games. But I’m becoming more interested in players like Davenport and Danielle Hunter, whose value is somewhat suppressed because of the injury-prone concerns. I’ve started to not care as much if I’ll get a full season out of a player as long as he’s a bonafide starter when he’s on the field. Davenport was a DL1 in PPG last year. He had 3 weeks under 10 points and one around 10, but in his other 6 games, he gave you 17, 22, 22, 30, 17, and 18, good for 14.6 PPG by my scoring.
Breakout: Pete Werner
This is the only other project player on the Saints defense I have any belief in, but boy, do I believe in him. Werner quietly put in a very solid showing his rookie year despite being the 3rd LB on the depth chart behind established vet Kwon Alexander. Werner got in a respectable 394 snaps due to rotation and injuries.
With Kwon out of town, this opens up a lot of snaps for Werner, and he’s sure to be deployed in a multitude of ways. Dennis Allen has shown he trusts Werner in coverage, which will keep him on the field. Werner’s ceiling may be slightly capped in the short term with Demario Davis still there to take the majority of the snaps, but Davis is 33 years old, and though the decline hasn’t hit yet, it will—and Werner will be there to step in as the LB1 in New Orleans in the next year or two.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stud: Shaquil Barrett
Shaquil Barrett has been a stud every year he’s been in Tampa Bay, but he has been slept on because he gets the LB designation. With the rise of true position and dual designation, though, he really gets to shine. A lot is going to be asked of Barrett with Jason Pierre-Paul gone. He’s now the only established EDGE in Tampa and he’ll likely see an increase in snaps because of it. Maybe not to 2020 levels where he took 1,064 snaps, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with 900+ snaps if he stays healthy.
He puts up an insane amount of pressures, and he’s already shown he can get home in 2019 with his 20 sacks. I’m not saying expect 20 sacks again, but I am saying he’s one of the few players in the league that are even capable of it. Barrett’s value rarely lines up with his production, so when you finish reading this, send out some offers and see what happens. I think you might be surprised at how easily he can be acquired.
Breakout: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
I’m glad saved this one for last because this feels like my most questionable pick. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has not impressed me as a player, but he is in a fantastic situation to establish himself in a starting role. He is the next man up to replace JPP, so he will likely see a starter’s share of snaps, but what he does with them is another question.
The biggest factor in his favor for further development is having Todd Bowles as his head coach. He is one of the best defensive minds in the game right now, and I think if there’s a starter hiding in there, Bowles will drag it out. On the negative side, he graded poorly on PFF in 2021 and he had a 27% missed tackle rate. He has to take a big step forward if he wants to prove he’s fantasy viable, but there’s a chance.
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