What happened this NFL offseason? How does it relate to your Fantasy Football and DFS study as we knock off last year’s rust? Our DFS Army 2021 Summer Stock Reports aim to get you up to game speed quickly while your competition falls further behind…
This week we head to the South for the final NFC installment of our Summer Stock Report series. If you missed any of the previously covered divisions, the links can be found here. I am using Underdog ADP when referenced. If you aren’t already firing away at their best ball contests, we have an awesome offer for a free month of DFS Army VIP access when you try them out.
NFL DFS Summer Stock Report – NFC South
New Orleans Saints
I began last week’s NFC West preview by mourning my Cam Akers shares. Sadly, this week we must start by pouring a little out for Mike Thomas fantasy owners. NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported that Thomas had an ankle surgery in June that will cause him to miss an estimated 4 months. That vague timeline would have him likely returning sometime in October. The Saints have a week 6 bye. A logical guess, based on our limited information, would be that Slant Boy misses the first 5 weeks and returns after the bye for a week 7 Monday night game on October 24 verse Seattle.
The glass half full view is that this is not a death sentence for your Mike Thomas shares. Losing your 3rd round pick for 5 weeks certainly sucks, but it doesn’t completely bury you like losing your 1st round round pick for the season, as with Akers.
Thomas has been consistently going in the 3rd round all offseason. Underdog tweeted yesterday that Thomas’ current ADP is 48.3. That seemed surprisingly high, but the most recent Best Ball Mania draft I did confirmed it. Thomas went at pick pick 4.3, ahead of DJ Moore, Godwin, Cooper Kupp, etc. I am full fade, going forward on Michael Thomas at that price. If he has any small setback in his recover he could miss half the NFL season. I can’t find any logical reason for taking him above the other healthy receivers going in that 4th/5th round range.
We must assess how the Thomas news affects the rest of the Saints offense. I was taking some Jameis as a late QB flier, but I’ll stop that now. I am less confident in him being the locked in starter. With no Thomas, we could see Sean Payton pivote to a more run heavy, ball control offense which favors Taysom Hill.
I view the Thomas injury as a net-neutral for Alvin Kamara. He should see more targets and carries, but the offense as a whole will likely be less efficient. Stalled drives could lead to less opportunities in the redzone. I’ll continue to take Kamara in the top five without hesitation. The increased focus on the run should bode well for Latavious Murray. I’ve been buying him at his 11th round ADP since the Thomas news dropped.
Adam Trautman is one of the more divisive prospects in the fantasy industry. I’ve listened to analysts that I consider sharp make the cases for and against him. I lean toward the bullish view on him. I don’t think it’s crazy to project Trautman to be second on the team in targets, behind Kamara, until Thomas returns. That said, you are paying full price for the unproven tight end. He’s all already going as the TE 12 on Underdog, ahead of the likes of Bob Tonyan and Irv Smith.
It’s difficult which, if any Saints WRs will breakout in Thomas’ absence. Tre’quan Smith likely has the clearest path to a starting role. That said, we’ve seen enough of Smith to know that he’s a one tricky pony (vertical field stretcher). If you were drafting Smith previously, that’s great, but I’m not going to buy at a premium. I prefer Marquez Callaway, who flashed in very limited snaps as a rookie out of Tennessee. I think Callaway is a more versatile receiver than Smith and can be had at a significant discount. I selected Callaway in the 19th round of a DraftKings best ball contest yesterday. Smith went in the 11th round of the same draft.
Christian McCaffrey is the NFL consensus number one overall pick, with upside for 1,000 receiving yards. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are rock solid 4th and 6th round picks respectively. Terrace Marshall is promising rookie. Joe Brady is massive upgrade as a play caller. This sounds like an ideal situation for a quarterback to succeed. So, why is Sam Darnold going as the QB 27 in the 16/17th round? Probably because most people think Sam Darnold sucks. And he might, but I still like him at this price If you are taking a third QB in best ball or season long super flex.
I particularly like pairing Darnold with Trey Lance or Justin Fields. The first half of the Panthers schedule is ridiculously soft. They start with home games against the Jets and Saints. Then travel weeks 3 and 4 to play the Texans and Cowboys, two of the worst defenses in the league, in domes. Weeks 5 and 6 are home games verse the Eagles and Vikings. They are at the Giants week 7 before another indoor road game against a bad Falcon defense week 8. Not a single matchup for the first 8 weeks that scares you. Darnold could easily put up some useful scores while you wait for the upside rookies.
The Panther that I have the most exposure to so far is Terrace Marshall. In a draft filled with small receivers, the 6’3”, 201 pound Marshall has the size the play on the outside. LSU wide receivers just seem to produce at the next level. In 2019, in an offense the featured Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and CEH, Terrace Marshall still scored 13 touchdowns.
He already knows Joe Brady’s system and steps into a third receiver role that allowed Curtis Samuel to produce over 1000 yards from scrimmage last season. Marshall has a chance to be a steal at his current 13th round ADP.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs bring back all 22 NFL starters to defend their Super Bowl title. They are a great at real life football, but they are not a team that I target from a fantasy perspective. There are simply too many chefs in the kitchen. They have 3 receivers who can each be the lead dog on any given day. There are going to employ 3 man committees at both RB and TE. They even have secondary receivers like Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, and Jaydon Mickens who could fight for targets.
Brady will pass for plenty of yard and TDs, but provides zero rushing upside. It is also tricky to create stacks with him because there are so many pass catchers involved. If you are going to draft an immobile quarterback in that range, I prefer Stafford, who should have a much more narrow target distribution.
I am not overweight on any of the Tampa receivers, but I do like Antonio Brown at an ADP of 83.3 as opposed to Mike Evans at 34.8 or Godwin at 39.0. The Buccaneer that I have the most shares of is Gio Bernard. Rojo has hands made of stone and Lombardi Lenny’s aren’t much better. Gio is going to be be the 3rd down back, and as James White can attest, Tom Brady will make use of him. You won’t find many other running backs going in the 16th round with such a secure role and a path to spiked weeks when game script dictates it.
The Falcons offense should be more efficient in 2o21 with new head coach Arthur Smith calling the plays. Second round fantasy picks don’t get much safer than Calvin Ridley. He averaged 11 targets and 109 receiving yards in the games that Julio missed last season. You know what you are getting with Ridley. Kyle Pitts, the next Falcon off the board, is a bit riskier. Fading rookie tight ends has been, almost without exception, the right move. Is Pitts the unicorn exception to the rule? He’s certainly being drafted as such. No TE has ever been drafted 4th overall in the real draft or carried a 4th round ADP in fantasy.
If you’ve watched Pitts’ tape, it’s hard see how he doesn’t succeed. I admittingly, don’t have a great feel for whether or not he’ll put up the DFS numbers right away to justify his draft position. There is real opportunity cost to taking a TE in the 4th round. You are potentially passing up on the DJ Moore, Cooper Kupp, and Tee Higgins of the world. Those receivers are safer bets, but obviously play a less scarce position.
Mike Davis in the 5th round (ADP 56.4) is fine, but doesn’t excite me. I have a hard time taking him over Odell, Golladay, Bradon Aiyuk, the wide receivers going in that range. I think the market is too high on Russell Gage (ADP 106.2). I don’t think he has the ceiling of Darnell Mooney or Elijah Moore, who are going at a similar value.
If you’ve totally whiffed on tight end, you can do worse than taking Hayden Hurst for free in the last round. Atlanta will play a ton of 12 personnel and Hurst will still be on the field, running routes in these two TE sets.
You are getting a 30 pick ADP discount on Matt Ryan (139.0) compared to the other veteran pocket passers such as Brady (103.1) and Stafford (109.5). I don’t mind stacking Ryan with Ridley (in the 2nd) and Pitts (in the 5th, when he falls a few spots). That is how is am getting most of my limited exposure to the Atlanta NFL offense.
Next Up for NFL DFS Summer Stock Reports – The AFC
Training camps are open and the season is fast approaching. We’ll be back next week to start breaking down the AFC. In the meantime, check out the Bold Calls NFL Podcast, and the unbeatable deal we are running on our full VIP DFS content.