Fantasy Files: Divisional Previews – AFC South
To help prepare for the upcoming season for all you fantasy footballers, we will examine every team in the league before the start of the season. This effort will be organized through divisions and we will go roughly in order of overall strength of offenses from worst to best. Since teams in the same division play roughly to same schedule, it can be helpful to consider the defenses each division will face. I use team stats from Football Outsiders (DVOA), Average Draft Position (ADP) from Fantasy Football Calculator, and standard fantasy scoring on Yahoo. As always, comments, disagreements, and questions are welcome.
We move to the AFC South, where the best team offensive ranking was in Tennessee of all places. Exotic Smashmouth actually works! This division has been somewhat of a laughing stock the past couple seasons but there are some talented players for your fake teams here.
30th Passing DVOA, 27th Rushing DVOA
QB: Tom Savage / DeShaun Watson
RB: Lamar Miller, D’Onta Foreman
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Jaelen Strong, Braxton Miller
TE: CJ Fiedorowicz
It’s truly amazing that the Houston Texans were able to make the playoffs with the Brock Osweiler offense last year. Watching the Texans offense, well, it made the Bears offense look like the Patriots. It was so bad that they gave Cleveland a high draft pick to take Osweiler off their hands…and I think that they got away cheap! The Texans gave up a lot of draft capital to move up for Watson, so you know that he’s eventually going to take the job. Savage will enter camp as the starter but the only question is just how pro-ready is Watson? If he’s Carson Wentz-like, he’ll start week 1. If he needs more time to adjust, we’ll likely see a Jared Goff situation. Either way, Watson will inherit DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller when he takes over. Those guys should help him stretch the field (Fuller) and provide an always open outlet (Hopkins).
Lamar Miller was a popular target last year early in drafts, and for good reason. He’s a relatively fresh back who’s per carry efficiency jumped off the page in Miami. Miller suffered from the circumstances of the offense last season so his price should come down at draft tables this year. Plus, the Texans sunk a 3rd rounder into Foreman, a raw talent out of the University of Texas. Foreman needs to learn how to pass protect but could represent a legitimate threat to carries that Alfred Blue never was. Still, I would expect a team with a stellar team defense like the Texans to try and lean on Miller, justifying his status as a low end RB1.
22nd Passing DVOA, 29th Rushing DVOA
QB: Blake Bortles
RB: Leonard Fournette, TJ Yeldon, Chris Ivory
WR: Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Marquise Lee, Dede Westbrook
TE: Marcedes Lewis, Mychal Rivera
The star of this offense is Allen Robinson. He struggled last year after seeing more concentrated coverage his way and the regression of Blake Bortles. Still, he’s got so much talent that I think he’s being undervalued at the draft table and in the rankings right now. If he’s your WR2, you’re in excellent shape. Allen Hurns is worth a late round pick as he’ll be useful in soaking up yards during the inevitable Blake Bortles garbage time stats. As for Bortles himself, can you really feel good about winning with garbage time stats? I certainly couldn’t.
All of the talk coming into the draft was of the Jaguars taking Leonard Fournette. I didn’t think it made a lot of sense after signing Chris Ivory to a big free agent deal and drafting TJ Yeldon in the 2nd round in 2015. I was wrong, obviously, and now Fournette is at the front of a complex backfield. Fournette will have every opportunity to succeed in this offense and he’s clearly the most interesting dynasty league play out there this year. I rarely seem to value high rookie draft picks as much as others in my league, so while I personally won’t see any shares of Fournette, I’m certainly interested in his career.
15th Passing DVOA, 10th Rushing DVOA
QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Frank Gore, Marlon Mack
WR: TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett
TE: Jack Doyle
The Colts finally did the obvious and drafted a running back to compete with and eventually replace Frank Gore. Mack was compared to Jordan Howard and given Gore’s age and miles, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a similar opportunity for Mack in this Colts offense. I probably won’t invest in Gore this year but I can see trying to sneak Mack onto the back part of a roster and play the long game.
Andrew Luck is the obvious key to this offense. He still needs to learn to play QB less like a linebacker and more like someone who cares about his body surviving a 16 game slate. It sure seems like there would be some potential profit with Luck at the draft table, but he’s still frequently drafted in the top 5 of signal callers. I like Luck a lot but I’m not going to take him that high. The price on Hilton has centered as a mid-tier WR1, and that seems about right. Donte Moncrief did not meet expectations last year but if you can buy into a post-hype sleeper as your WR3/4, he represents the best chance at profit in this passing game. Phillip Dorsett is a one trick pony, stay away.
9th Passing DVOA, 6th Rushing DVOA
QB: Marcus Mariota
RB: DeMarco Murray, Derek Henry
WR: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, Harry Douglas, *Eric Decker
TE: Delanie Walker
I reluctantly bought a share of DeMarco Murray last year as I waited on running backs and took “the Murrays” (DeMarco and Latavius) at the turn in rounds 5-6. Of course, I was rewarded with one of the top backs in the league. Murray was fantastic and recaptured his form he had with the Dallas Cowboys. I thought that Derek Henry would be a bigger factor, but he was largely held at bay by Murray. The only concern I’d have here is that the split moves more toward an even timeshare and Mariota takes another step forward and shoulders a heavier load. Murray will likely go at the end of round one or top of round two so you’ll be betting on a repeat of last year’s numbers to get your return.
In the passing game, Mariota has shown that he can be efficient on a level apart from his draft mate, Jameis Winston. With no real receiving weapons to speak of outside of Delanie Walker, Mariota delivered a fantastic sophomore campaign before breaking his leg at the end of the year. Expectations are sky-high for year 3 and his new weapon, Corey Davis, steps into a clear starting opportunity. Davis was absolutely over drafted with the pick from the Rams, but Davis represents the best talent Mariota has thrown to thus far in his career. I’d be tempted to sink a mid-round pick into Davis and hope for a quick rapport to develop.
AFC South Review
This is one of those divisions that seem to be up for grabs. I’m personally on the Titans bandwagon here and I expect to sneak some shares of Walker, Mariota, Davis, and even Derek Henry onto my roster. The wildcard in this division is DeShaun Watson and what he can bring in his rookie year.
All AFC South Fantasy Team – The ideal roster as chosen from only AFC South squads:
QB: Andrew Luck
RB: DeMarco Murray
RB: Lamar Miller
WR: TY Hilton
WR: DeAndre Hopkins
WR: Allen Robinson
TE: Delanie Walker