ADP Analysis: NFC South Players to Watch in 2023

ADP Analysis: NFC South Players to Watch in 2023

This article is part of our ADP Analysis series.

The preseason consensus for the weakest division in football starts and ends with the NFC South. Last year, the Buccaneers won the division with a losing record. Since the middle of last year, this division has lost three of its top offensive players. Tom Brady retired while the Panthers traded  Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore. Both the Bucs and the Saints seem to be making an effort to win this year while the Falcons and Panthers are in rebuilding mode. When thinking about teams going into 2023, check out the current Super Bowl odds on the RotoWire Gambling page.  Let's  look at a few of the interesting fantasy options in the division.

Atlanta Falcons

Drake London

In the 2022 draft, the Falcons selected London with the No. 8 pick. Despite playing in a low-volume passing attack with marginal quarterback play, he posted a respectable 866 yards. He had a solid start to the season by averaging 5.3 receptions, 71 yards and 0.66 touchdowns in the first three games. Afterward, he was quiet until a late-season surge. His poor performance in the middle of the season coincided with Marcus Mariota proving incapable of acceptable quarterback play. In the last five games, mostly with Desmond Ridder at quarterback, he recorded at least 70 yards four times. In three of those games, London had 95-120 yards. London was targeted five times per game in Weeks 3-12, but that number jumped to 9.6 in Weeks 13-18. Despite being the Falcons' only

The preseason consensus for the weakest division in football starts and ends with the NFC South. Last year, the Buccaneers won the division with a losing record. Since the middle of last year, this division has lost three of its top offensive players. Tom Brady retired while the Panthers traded  Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore. Both the Bucs and the Saints seem to be making an effort to win this year while the Falcons and Panthers are in rebuilding mode. When thinking about teams going into 2023, check out the current Super Bowl odds on the RotoWire Gambling page.  Let's  look at a few of the interesting fantasy options in the division.

Atlanta Falcons

Drake London

In the 2022 draft, the Falcons selected London with the No. 8 pick. Despite playing in a low-volume passing attack with marginal quarterback play, he posted a respectable 866 yards. He had a solid start to the season by averaging 5.3 receptions, 71 yards and 0.66 touchdowns in the first three games. Afterward, he was quiet until a late-season surge. His poor performance in the middle of the season coincided with Marcus Mariota proving incapable of acceptable quarterback play. In the last five games, mostly with Desmond Ridder at quarterback, he recorded at least 70 yards four times. In three of those games, London had 95-120 yards. London was targeted five times per game in Weeks 3-12, but that number jumped to 9.6 in Weeks 13-18. Despite being the Falcons' only dangerous receiving threat (Kyle Pitts was out for the season at that point), defenses struggled to contain London: 

  • London played in the slot 49 percent of the time, giving him different ways to win.
  • He showed he was a big-play threat with 10 of his 72 catches gaining at least 20 yards.
  • His 29th-percentile yards after the catch was disappointing but could improve if the quarterback's ball-placement improves.

London was a physically dominant player as a rookie and proved he can perform well with Ridder. The Falcons didn't feature Pitts as a receiver, which should ensure that London continues to see a high target share, even with Pitts expected to return to full health. It's not optimal that the Falcons likely will continue to be a run-heavy team. However, his 117 targets from last year should be his floor this year. I expect him to be more consistent this year with Mariota gone and project him to finish in the top-24 WRs.

Carolina Panthers

Miles Sanders

Sanders was in a great situation in Philadelphia. He had an elite offensive line, and Jalen Hurts had exceptional running ability as an RPO quarterback, which helped create optimal running lanes for Sanders. And we can't forget the trio of receiving weapons the Eagles had that kept defenses from selling out against the run. As a result, Sanders had a career-high 259 carries for 1,269 yards,  finishing as a top-12 running back. 

He now moves to the Panthers. They seem set to draft a quarterback with the first pick in this year's draft, but otherwise, Sanders is currently the best player on the offense. Carolina has a solid offensive line, but defenses likely will make Sanders the priority as they are unlikely to fear the receiving weapons. Regardless, he should get volume, and unlike in Philly, he could be heavily involved in the passing game. Sanders was a very good receiver as a rookie, but the Eagles decreased his work last year as he was targeted just 26 times. If he can boost those targets to at least 50, his fantasy value would help overcome any loss in rushing efficiency:

  • 4.9 yards per carry was his first time lower than 5.3 in three years.
  • 11 rushing TDs was more than his first three seasons combined (nine).
  • He had a career-low 78 yards as a receiver last year, but he had 509 yards in 2019.
  • He had a 72nd-percentile broken-tackle rate but was 56th percentile in yards after contact.

Coach Frank Reich said he views Sanders as a three-down back. Even though preseason statements don't always end up being the reality, the Panthers signed Sanders to a four-year, $25.4 million deal. If the team's spending reflects its intention, he'll see heavy usage. Despite the Panthers projecting to have a middling (at best) offense, I have Sanders ranked as a top-18 running back, and he's worth selecting outside the top-36 picks.

New Orleans Saints

Chris Olave

Olave played 15 games and had 1,042 receiving yards as a rookie last year. With Andy Dalton at quarterback, that was a great accomplishment. He'll now catch passes from Derek Carr. Sure, Carr isn't a superstar. However, he has a much better arm than Dalton and has shown the ability to help his top receivers put up strong numbers. Dalton's struggles with ball placement may have had a direct result on Olave posting a 17th-percentile yards after the catch rate. This is one area in which Carr should benefit his top receiver. Olave recorded 13 catches of more than 20 yards with four of those grabs going for at least 40. This year's offense should provide more downfield opportunities. But Olave proved he was much more than a deep threat last year. Early in the season, he dominated while seeing at least 13 targets in three of his first six games. However, as the offense regressed, he only had one game with more than nine targets in his last nine games:  

  • Olave only had 3-5 catches in each of his last seven games.
  • He had three 100-yard games, but only with more than 106 yards.
  • He also had at least 40 yards in every game.

Olave's diminished usage in the second half of the season kept him from having a remarkable rookie season. That will suppress his draft value just enough to make him a player to target this year. He has the look of a superstar who's on the verge of a breakout. Adding Carr will help him reach his potential. He could finish as a top-10 receiver this year, though he's typically being selected outside the top-18 at his position. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin

With elite agility and excellent speed, Godwin is a player I've been high on since investing heavily in him before his 2019 breakout season. But, mostly due to injuries, he hasn't been the same player since that breakout. He missed nine games the last three years, and it appeared that he wasn't fully recovered from his 2021 ACL iunjury until the latter part of the 2022 season. Despite him not looking his best, he had plenty of volume last year. Behind a struggling offensive line, Tom Brady got the ball out quicker than ever, and the direct beneficiary was Godwin, who played in the slot 67 percent of the time. As a result, he posted a career-high 104 catches. This year, the Buccaneers  likely will go with either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask at quarterback. Trask is a complete unknown while Mayfield struggled the last few years. Currently, it appears that Tampa Bay is ill suited to get the best out of Godwin based on quarterback play:

  • Godwin posted a 72nd-percentile yards after the catch rate.
  • He had a career-low 7.2 yards per target (8th percentile).
  • He had at least 54 yards in his last nine games and in 14 of 15 games.

He'll come into this season healthy while also being in his prime at age 27, I expect Godwin to be a solid-floor option at wide receiver. I was recently in a best-ball draft where he went off the board as the 32nd receiver at pick 68. With his ability to get open quickly and gain yardage after the catch, he still should be a top-24 receiver. He won't fall as late as he did in my recent draft frequently, but when he begins to slide down the board, he'll be an excellent WR2.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jim Coventry
Coventry was a finalist for the FSWA football writer of the year in 2022. He started playing fantasy football in 1994 and won a national contest in 1996. He also nabbed five top-50 finishes in national contests from 2008 to 2012 before turning his attention to DFS. He's been an industry analyst since 2007, though he joined RotoWire in 2016. A published author, Coventry wrote a book about relationships, "The Secret of Life", in 2013.
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