Entering any new NFL season, so much is unknown. As the infamous quote from former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora Sr. goes: “You think you know, but you don't know, and you never will.” The best fantasy managers need to know what they don’t know and be able to research and ask questions before investing draft capital in a player. Sometimes it’s simply finding out about a player’s health. Other times it’s more complicated and one is forced to project how a player may be used differently in a new offense because of a trade, free agent signing, or a new head coach.
This division-by-division series will look at each of the NFL’s 32 teams and ask one fantasy-relevant question that needs to be answered this season. Some will be answered by or before Week 1, others may take 17 weeks to flesh out. Let’s take a look at the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints
Will Emmanuel Sanders Finally Be True No. 2 Option For Drew Brees?
Since the New Orleans Saints traded Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots before the 2017 season, the No. 2 wide receiver on the Saints behind Michael Thomas has averaged 37 receptions per season (29 over the last two years). That’s beyond unacceptable for an offense as potent as New Orleans’. To be fair, running backs (Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in particular) have garnered huge target volume in past seasons and tight end Jared Cook emerged as a viable option in 2019, but the lack of a true alternate weapon to Thomas at wide receiver has been a glaring issue.
Enter: Emmanuel Sanders. He hasn’t averaged fewer than 62 receptions per 16 games since 2012 and is coming off a 17-game season with a stat line of 66-869-5, split between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. It was his first season post-Achilles injury, so he should be healthier heading into this season. Drew Brees hasn’t thrown too many passes to wide receivers not named Thomas in recent years. Sanders’ usage is not only important for his own production, but the potential production for Brees and the target share for Thomas.
Does Todd Gurley Have One More Elite Season In Him?
After his unceremonious release from the Los Angeles Rams this offseason, former top fantasy running back Todd Gurley signed a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons. His prove-it deal will truly live up to that moniker since he has no real competition for carries in the backfield. The only thing that will limit Gurley is his own health. Obviously, that is a major concern for all fantasy managers in 2020.
It really hasn’t been that long since Gurley was a consensus No. 1 overall fantasy pick. Now he’s a risky RB2. He still ranked as the RB14 in both total and average points per game in 2019 and, as previously mentioned, has no competition for carries. He has a nose for the goal line and should produce plenty of touchdowns in a very good Falcons offense. But if he’s a shell of his former self, none of the above really matters.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ronald Jones Or Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Which Bucs RB Can You Believe In?
Ever since Bruce Arians arrived in Tampa, the fantasy community has been clamoring over which Buccaneers running back would be the next David Johnson. There were high hopes for Ronald Jones last season after a brutal rookie year, and while he did show flashes, he wasn’t a consistent option week in and week out. Peyton Barber was who he was, didn’t have much hype, and now plays for Washington. In essence, the original question was never answered.
This year, the same hype for the Buccaneers backfield is out there. Although many were hoping to see players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire or D’Andre Swift in Pewter, the Buccaneers spent a third-round pick on Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn. On the surface, the fit isn’t as seamless as many had hoped, but Vaughn is rising up fantasy draft boards in the hopes he can be the next great value in the high-powered Tampa offense. However, Jones will get the first crack at being the feature back, so it remains to be seen which player emerges as a potential fantasy star in 2020.
How Will Wide Receivers Fit In New Offense?
Despite very mediocre quarterback play last season, both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel had very successful fantasy seasons. Moore finished as the WR12 with 230.5 PPR fantasy points and Samuel ranked as the WR34 with 168.4 fantasy points. Four spots behind Samuel in last year’s rankings was former New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson, who signed in Carolina as a free agent this offseason.
Also joining the Panthers for the first time is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, offensive coordinator Joe Brady, and head coach Matt Rhule. There’s a lot of talent at the skill positions on offense (not so much on the other side of the ball), so it’ll be intriguing to see how Brady and Rhule get them all involved. Who will be the non-Christian McCaffrey breakout star of this new offense?