Fantasy Football Need to Know: NFC South

Fantasy Football Need to Know: NFC South

NFC South - What You Need To Know

New Orleans Saints (13-3, 547 Points For, lost in Divisional Playoffs): How much does an elite offense rely on the coaching staff? We'll get a perfect guinea pig to study this year, as the Saints work through a season without mastermind Sean Payton. Given that the club still has quarterback Drew Brees and most of the key skill players, there's no reason to make a radical fantasy adjustment to your New Orleans expectations. But some dropoff from last year is to be expected, especially if the offensive line is slightly compromised (it looks weaker on paper). The Saints love a deep backfield and a rotating backfield, so don't expect too much from any one option. Darren Sproles is a dynamic receiver, but his size requires a modest role. Pierre Thomas is superb from an efficiency standpoint, but the club likes to watch his workload, too. Mark Ingram only managed 3.9 YPC as a rookie, a shockingly-low number given what his teammates managed. Top targets Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore look like reasonably safe picks; keep in mind Graham is still relatively new to football, playing just one year at the University of Miami. There is no reasonably way for defenses to account for him.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6, 402 PF, lost in Wild Card Playoffs): You have to be careful about what you see and take away from the preseason, but Matt Ryan has been terrific through two games. He might be ready to step up to a Pro Bowl level, a Top 5 at the position level - especially if sophomore Julio Jones turns into the breakout star many are projecting. Roddy White will have to share more with Jones this year, but it also will result in a little less defensive attention, in theory. Both wideouts look like Top 10 options at the position. Michael Turner was moving at a turtle's pace late in 2011, but a Week 17 romp over the give-up Buccaneers protected his stats. He'll probably lose some of his gross output this year, with Jacquizz Rodgers ready to take on a meaty change-of-pace role. Turner should score 8-10 times anyway, but his yardage upside is probably gone for good. Rodgers is a dynamic receiver, a skill Turner has never had. Tony Gonzalez has been steady his entire Atlanta career, but doesn't the aging curve have to kick in at some point? He's 36, entering his 16th season.

Carolina Panthers (6-12, 406 PF): You can say just about anything you want with arbitrary endpoints, so take our Cam Newton stat survey with a grain of salt. That established, it's interesting to note that his YPA dropped from 8.3 to 7.2 in the second half of 2011, and his rushing scores dipped in the final four weeks. Newton's raw ability and rushing chops can't be denied, but will the Panthers want to limit his goal-line collisions at some point? Buzzy sophomores can break your heart. New fullback Mike Tolbert isn't expected to see a lot of carries - the club has Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams for that - but he might steal some goal-line work. Keep in mind Tolbert knew the current Carolina coaching staff back when all were in San Diego; his signing wasn't a big surprise. Steve Smith remains a dynamic playmaker into his mid-30s, but the rest of the Panthers wideouts are suspect. Brandon LaFell has shown deep speed and a knack for big plays, but he needs to be more consistent. Greg Olsen is a talented but somewhat-erratic tight end, but he should see increased snaps and targets now that Jeremy Shockey is gone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12, 287 PF): A new coach and a new attitude were clearly needed here, as the Bucs quit on Raheem Morris about halfway through 2011. Look at the defensive tapes in the two Atlanta games; the effort level was appalling. Quarterback Josh Freeman lost 20-30 pounds and he's gained a bunch of skill players, so a modest bounce back is to be expected. Rookie RB Doug Martin has an outstanding chances to settle in as the team's starter and three-down option, though LeGarrette Blount has been more focused this summer and is getting positive feedback from new coach Greg Schiano. Vincent Jackson was imported to be the No. 1 wideout, but how many free-agent receivers break out immediately on their new club? Mike Williams needs a strong rebound after a messy second season; his off-field focus was openly questioned last year. Don't bother with TE Dallas Clark, who can't seem to stay healthy.

Dusty Baker says Nats have to 'ride the wave' of Strasburg's win streak

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Dusty Baker says Nats have to 'ride the wave' of Strasburg's win streak

The formula has been a simple one for the Nationals of late: if Stephen Strasburg takes the mound, Washington will emerge victorious. It's been the case in the 27-year-old right hander's last 13 outings, a streak that sets a new franchise record for wins during a pitcher's starts. 

Whether or not Strasburg's remarkable run is sustainable, Dusty Baker is willing to enjoy it for however long it lasts. 

"Whatever Stras is doing," the Nats manager said, "you just ride it. It's like surfing. You ride the wave to the beach and jump off and just catch another wave."

Strasburg is 7-0 on the year with a 2.80 ERA — a very good mark, but still not up there with the National League's elite arms such as Jake Arrieta (1.29) and Clayton Kershaw (1.48). Baker said that one of the reasons the Nats have flourished with Strasburg on the mound is that he continues to be the beneficiary of good run support. Take his last outing, for instance, where the offense jumped on Mets starter Matt Harvey in the third inning to create a 9-1 cushion to pitch through the rest of the way. 

But Baker was quick to point out that, run support aside, Strasburg is displaying an important trait that many aces around the game show when they're on a roll. 

"I don't care what it is, he's still 7-0," Baker said. "I'm sure everybody would trade to do that.....part of the reason he's 7-0 is because he's been out there without his best stuff and still managed to keep us in the ballgame until our offense came through."

If Strasburg is to extend the streak to 14 wins in a row, he'll need to do so against a Mets lineup that will get a second look at him in less than a week. That scenario didn't work out so well for rotation mate Gio Gonzalez, who was throttled Monday night for seven earned runs after faring well against New York's offense just a week ago.

But, sticking with the wave analogy, Baker says Strasburg and the Nats should adopt the surfer's mentality of not worrying about impending disaster. 

"If you think about falling off, you gonna fall," Baker said. "So don't think about falling, don't think about when it's going to end."

Nats' Baker on pitch counts: 'It's like the kid who climbs up in the tree'

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Nats' Baker on pitch counts: 'It's like the kid who climbs up in the tree'

Much is made about pitch counts in Major League Baseball these days with the advancement in how young pitchers are treated both throughout their youth and throughout their professional careers. And, it's no secret that Nationals manager Dusty Baker has been associated with overusing pitchers in the past, particularly during his time with the Chicago Cubs.

Despite him being a decade removed from having an office at Wrigley Field, the reputation has followed Baker. Some still invoke those days when he rides a Nationals pitcher past the 100 mark, a round number that has been synonymous with the limits of a pitching arm. 

In 28 of the Nationals' 45 games this season a pitcher has eclipsed the 100 mark. Max Scherzer has gotten there seven times out of his 10 starts. Stephen Strasburg has made it there in seven of his nine outings. Tanner Roark's done it six times, Gio Gonzalez five times and Joe Ross three times.

Baker understands the significance of 100 pitches in a game, but thinks it's also good to see how far a pitcher can go and still be effective.

"You're not going to find a guy's threshold unless you take him pretty close to that threshold," he said. 

"I do believe that you build a pitcher -- every time you take him out of trouble, it's like the kid who climbs up in the tree. He'll never learn how to get down unless you sometimes leave him up in that tree. And then he'll get hungry and he'll come down out of the tree. But if you send the fire department out to take him down from that tree, he'll never learn to get out of that tree."

Now, that's a colorful way of putting it, but for Baker, it really depends on several factors for when he pulls a pitcher.

"Matchups, score. I mean, the scoreboard dictates how much of everything. How he's fared against this guy. Does this guy have power, does he have speed, can I afford for him to get on base to start a rally, or can I afford for this other guy to get on base," he explained.

It also depends on the pitcher's history, Baker says. Scherzer, for instance, ranks third in baseball in total pitches thrown this season. But he's always near the top of the league, having placed seventh last year, third in 2014 and 12th in 2013. Scherzer has averaged at least 100 pitches per outing for eight straight years. 

Strasburg is averaging over 100 pitches for the first time in his career, but he's got 837 2/3 innings logged as a big leaguer. He's a 27-year-old who has pitched 200 innings in a season before. 

Like Strasburg, Roark and Gonzalez have logged plenty of innings throughout their careers and aren't young pitchers anymore. The one starter who could perhaps use some caretaking is Ross, who at 23 years old is by far the least experienced of the group. It's not a surprise to see he's reaching 100 at a lower rate than his counterparts.

And perhaps it's Ross in particular whom Baker needs to find out what he's made of.

"If you rescue them every time that they're in trouble, then they'll never know how to get out of trouble on their own," Baker said.

When is the 2016 NBA Draft deadline?

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When is the 2016 NBA Draft deadline?

When is the NBA Draft Deadline?

The 2016 NBA Draft takes place on June 23 at 8 p.m. But before players start putting on team hats, college players have to decide if they are staying or going.  

The NBA Draft Deadline is at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25.

This date is not actually an NBA deadline. It is an NCAA deadline, and only applies to college players. International players have additional time to decide if they are keeping their name in the NBA Draft.

Any player that participated in NCAA basketball last season has to make a decision on their eligibility by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday night or forfeit any remaining eligibility, whether they are drafted or not.

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