"NFC South Help Wanted" is the second in an eight-part series throughout the offseason where Fantasy Football Trader's Columnist Ernie Estrella will be touring the NFL by division and identifying key positional battles with Fantasy Football implications up for grabs.
New Orleans Saints: No. 2 Wide Receiver
Candidates: Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore
Drew Brees put the ball in the air 514 times in the regular season and eventually won the Super Bowl. That formula is not changing in 2010. There has been a different order of receivers one through four in each of the four years Brees has been the Saints QB.
Outside of Marques Colston, the rest of the Saints are a collective crew who has been as much unpredictable as it is productive.
None of them are older than 27 and in 2008, the No. 2 to No. 4 receivers accounted for 110 catches, and in 2009 that number was 91.
How many ways can you split 100 receptions three ways? You can pencil 30 touchdowns for Brees in 2010 and for the sake of this argument, let's attach 10 of those to Colston, leaving 20 touchdowns up for grabs.
Meachem is as good a horse to bet on as any for the Saints No. 2 receiver. He's the youngest and is the second tallest of the four at 6'2”.
Both Meachem and Henderson's statistics were very similar but Meachem converted a higher percentage (70.3 percent) of his targets into receptions than Henderson (61.4 percent) and caught seven more touchdowns. That's why I like him as Brees' second receiver option this year.
I still think Henderson will get his fair share, but Meachem is ready for a breakout.
Prediction: Robert Meachem
Fantasy Implication: 8/10
Again, looking at Brees' touchdown total, there are plenty of points left on the table after Colston gets his share. So, this is a position that will be a big score if the right receiver is chosen.
Meachem has just begun to show that he can rise the occasion between the 20s and in the red zone. Because Brees spreads it around so much though, Meachem is a No. 2 or flex receiver at best from a fantasy standpoint.
Carolina Panthers: No. 2 Wide Receiver
Candidates: Mushin Muhammad, Dwayne Jarrett, Charly Martin, Kenneth Moore
There's not a lot of wide receiver action on the Carolina Panthers beyond Steve Smith, who had 129 targets in 2009. Mushin Muhammad was second with 89 targets, and Dwayne Jarrett was third with 31.
Hey if it's working, why change it, right?
Well it sure isn't working in Carolina, and with a new quarterback the Panthers have a new opportunity to grow the team around Matt Moore. Muhammad is going to be 37-years-old. Staring at his 15th NFL season is a road rarely traveled by NFL receivers.
Much like Isaac Bruce did in San Francisco, I think the best thing for the growth of the Panthers organization is for Muhammad to step aside and make it sink or swim time for one of these young guys.
Kenneth Moore and Charly Martin are unknowns, but could see more playing time.
I think we finally see Jarrett get a real shot at the bona fide No. 2 role for the Panthers. The flash in the pan USC product is in his fourth season, but he is still a spring chicken turning just 24 in September. He's got the prerequisite size and skills; he just needs the football instincts to kick in.
It's now or never and if he can't make it work in Carolina, it's doubtful another team will give him a better chance. More than anything, the Panthers need Jarrett to take the reigns.
This team will continue to take steps back with the 37-year-old Muhammad as the second best option. In that scenario, everyone in the Panthers' offense loses.
Prediction: Dwayne Jarrett
Fantasy Implication: 5/10
Right now, this is a bit of a dead position as far as fantasy goes just because the three candidates outside of Muhammed have done so little. We're still not clear as to how much Matt Moore is going to be throwing the ball, especially with two great running backs lining up behind him.
Let's suppose that Moore isn't just a great backup quarterback and becomes everything the Panthers expected; then Jarrett's fantasy implications grow larger. In fact, he could fly under the radar of most drafts and be ripe for the free agent picking at the beginning of the season.
Atlanta Falcons: No. 2 Wide Receiver
Candidates: Michael Jenkins, Eric Weems, Brian Finneran, Harry Douglas
There are a lot of people out there who are high on the Falcons, thinking they'll continue to fly to new heights this season. After a surprising 2008, the league rewarded them one of the toughest 2009 schedules and they paid dearly when Michael Turner and Matt Ryan suffered ankle and foot injuries.
Battered and bruised, there was one position that could have helped the team tremendously and that was a solid No. 2 receiver.
Sure, it's great to have Roddy White, and tight end Tony Gonzalez is still solid, but defenses got smart to that and dared someone else to make a play. There simply wasn't anybody left to space out the opposing defense.
Finneran avoided free agency and will play in his 10th season, but outside of being a situational third down receiver, his value is very low.
Other guys like Eric Weems and Harry Douglas have done spotty work, be it due to injuries or lack of readiness that there's just not enough known about these guys to bank any expectations on them.
Michael Jenkins seems like the logical choice, but only by default. Seriously, when was the last time he posed a threat?
Could we see the Falcons using one of their eight draft picks on a receiver? Anything is possible but they have so many holes on the defense that it's unlikely a high draft pick gets spent bolstering this position.
I'd love to see some fresh young blood at the No. 2 spot like Douglas; but for now, I think the Falcons settle on the status quo in Jenkins...again.
Prediction: Michael Jenkins
Fantasy Implication: 4/10
Unless Douglas and/or Weems can come out of nowhere and become a training camp star, my gut feeling tells me Jenkins is again the weakest link of this potentially potent offense.
A true threat at the second receiver spot affects the fantasy numbers of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, but with no immediate and apparent competition, Jenkins will likely mail in another season of 50 receptions for 600 to 700 yards and three touchdowns.
Fantasy owners are looking for a lot more production than that.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No. 1 Wide Receiver
Candidates: Sammie Stroughter, Maurice Stovall, Reggie Brown and Michael Clayton
Antonio Bryant's one-way departure to Cincinnati left a gaping hole in the offense for Raheem Morris and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs dealt with the Eagles in recent weeks and now have the underachieving Reggie Brown in the mix with two green receivers, Stroughter and Stovall.
The Bucs are not going to be players in the free agent market, although they will probably try to catch a falling star or two when teams make their cuts.
Stovall has incredible size at 6'5” but is mostly valued as a special teams player.
Brown hasn't done anything since 2007 and that was with one of the better quarterbacks in the league.
I'll be honest, in the current bunch, none of these have the luster of a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but Stroughter appears to me to be the most promising.
Stroughter is entering his second season and has already made some spectacular catches. I'm willing to risk it on a young receiver with his whole career ahead of him than expect one of the others to all of a sudden wake up and realize they can be a leader of men.
And no, I haven't forgotten about Michael Clayton, but apparently the Bucs have, as they have yet to get a whiff of what he posted his rookie season.
Prediction: Sammie Stroughter
Fantasy Implication: 6/10
Given that it's a No. 1 position up for grabs, there's a top 25 fantasy opportunity waiting to be seized here, especially if Freeman starts to post bigger numbers on a consistent basis. He's certainly not afraid to throw and Kellen Winslow will try to remain the top target as long as he can.
Still, this offense will remain in second gear unless one of these young receivers steps up and asserts himself into a major role. Stroughter could really use a seasoned veteran who's been a winner and can show him the tricks of the trade.
But if this kid catches on, the Bucs offense may prove to have some dark horse fantasy potential.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No. 1 Running Back
Candidates: Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, Earnest Graham
At the beginning of the 2009 season, there was some real debate over this position. Derrick Ward had just come over as a free agent from the Giants and looked to have found a team where he'd be in control of the running back situation from the start.
Still, Cadillac stole the starting nod at the end of training camp when he was originally believed to still be recovering from his second torn patella tendon in three years.
Ward was simply disappointing to fantasy owners and Bucs fan alike. He averaged just over seven carries and 3.6 yards per game. Ward is older than Williams by two years and will hit the 30 year wall for running backs when the 2010 season opens.
Graham is in an even worse spot.
Since they are being the “Cheap-aneers” this offseason, the 2009 runner up to “Comeback Player of the Year” should easily get slotted in for the Bucs starter and post a solid if unspectacular campaign.
Prediction: Cadillac Williams
Fantasy Implication: 7/10
Even though he won't have the entire rushing load on his shoulders, Williams will get the start and hold onto it all year. Without the presence of a competent passing game, Williams will be forced to try and move a wall of eight defenders in the box, at least until Josh Freeman can effectively make them pay for doing that.
Cadillac will be what you'd expect out of a realistic No. 3 fantasy running back, which is how he should be targeted.
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