Despite being the urinal puck of the NFL last season, the AFC South is overflowing with fantasy goodness for 2016. Jump into my fantasy van (Hint: It has no windows) and I’ll guide you through the land of elite wide receivers and shiny new quarterbacks. Allow Honcho – your new and most favorite fantasy football bestie to help you navigate the numerous story lines that make up one of the most fantasy rich divisions in football. Can Andrew Luck keep his spleen in one piece this season? Will Blake Bortles remember he’s Blake Bortles or will he continue his ascent up the QB ladder? Can Marcus Mariota deliver through the air? If so, who will he throw to? Finally, is $72 million enough to convince you that Brock Osweiler actually knows what he’s doing? The suspense is too much! Let’s get started. As always, we’ll review the teams in order of predicted finish.
Well, here we are again. Some of you might believe that this is Houston’s division to lose. I’m here to tell you why the Colts will prevail in the South. Andrew Luck. It’s really that simple. Now, the popular narrative is to bash Luck and talk about how overrated he is – that’s fine if you’re on board with that. Just remember that he’s only two years removed from throwing 40 TDs and leading his team to an AFC title game they had no business being in. His ceiling is as high as any other QB in the league and he has a plethora of weapons at his disposal. Then we have this nugget from TJ Hernandez: “Andrew Luck has been a QB1 in 71% of his games played over the last three years. Aaron Rodgers is next at 63%. No other QB was over 60% for that same period.” Just something to think about the next time you hear someone casually mention to stay away from Luck. You’ll likely need to reach in the early 4th round of most drafts to nab a share of the Colts signal caller as his ADP currently sits at 38. Expect Luck to throw for 4000+ yards and 30 touchdowns this season.
Frank Gore heads up the backfield for Indianapolis and with no serious competition in sight he’ll have a clear path to 15 carries each week. What he does with those opportunities is an entirely different conversation. He’s 33. I’m sure that point has been pounded into your brain all draft season. There’s no avoiding Father Time. He’s currently undefeated. Here’s my take on Gore: He’s one of the most durable backs in the football – having not missed a game since 2010. That’s the assurance we’re all looking for in fake football. His ADP sits at 90, which means he’s being scooped up in the middle of the 8th round. Depending on how your draft room works, that’s not a bad price to pay. He might be considered a “boring” pick by most, but on volume alone his floor is pretty safe. Robert Turbin will presumably be his back up although Stevan Ridley might prove valuable in the passing game. Jordan Todman and Josh Ferguson will battle it out for the 4th RB spot.
Call TY Hilton what you will – small, electrifying, impossibly fast, but the one thing he’s proven to be is consistent. Hilton has seen at least 130 targets and surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his last three seasons. Hilton also reeled in six passes of 40 yards or more and finished 2015 with 134 targets, which ranked 13th in the league. All of that happened with Matt Hasselbeck making 8 starts. Hilton is tagged with an ADP of 29 and considering the race to stock up on receivers, this seems right. Donte Moncrief is everyone’s pick to explode this season and that should be the case now that Andre Johnson has been shipped off to the Antique Gallery. I’m erasing last year from the memory bank and figuring on a healthy workload now that Coby Fleener has taken his “talents” to New Orleans. Early in the 5th round is where Moncrief has been jumping off the board and that could be a bargain price for a player likely to exceed his projection. Phillip Dorsett’s rookie season was derailed by injury, but look for the burner (4.33 40) to make a name for himself in the Indianapolis passing game.
I’m lukewarm on Dwayne Allen. Like we mentioned above, Fleener is gone so Allen will almost assuredly receive a bump in production. The key to that happening hinges on two things: 1. The O-line is stable enough that Allen doesn’t have to live in pass protection 2. He can stay healthy for an entire season. He’s done that just once in his four years in the league so I’m skeptical about him pulling this off. The one thing Allen does bring to the table is steady red-zone production. He’s 15-of-20 inside the red-zone for his career with 9 touchdowns. Keep an eye on the 6-5, 220lbs Erik Swoope if you’re in a deep or two tight-end fantasy league. He could become an under the radar hero considering the Colts pass happy attack.
Everything and I mean everything is in Osweiler’s hands this year. There’s no “safe place” to run to and hide on the bench when things get tough in Houston. He’s the man. For better or worse. Osweiler is purely a pocket passer and he has the arm to pull this off. The only question here is his decision-making abilities. Last year, while riding the Broncos’ defense to glory, Osweiler compiled a 29.2 completion percentage on passes greater than 15 yards. That was good enough for second to last in the league. He did manage to finish as a top 12 QB three times last year and pulled off a top 5 finish in Week 15 vs Pittsburgh. He’s currently being selected as the 24th QB off the board. The good news is that he’ll have plenty of help from the receiving corps. DeAndre Hopkins and newcomers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller should take some of the pressure off Osweiler with their above average route running abilities.
Hopkins is a mid first round pick in just about every league and if he sees anywhere close to the 193 targets he did in 2015 he’ll produce a healthy return for his owners. He scored 11 times on a league leading 29 red-zone targets last year and was third in yards and catches trailing only Julio Jones and Antonio Brown. Will Fuller has a chance to produce right away provided he catches the ball with any regularity. Braxton Miller is a dart you can throw at the end of most drafts as he’ll battle with Jaelen Strong for WR3 duties. Tight end duties for the Texans’ remains an absolute mess. CJ Fiedorowicz is listed as the starter so they might be better off just throwing to an orange cone at this point.
Lamar Miller is the sexy beast the fantasy community has been drooling over all summer. The underused, former Dolphin will be the primary option in Houston and owners are swooping him up in the early 2nd round. Miller has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over the last two seasons, but has reached the 20 carry mark just once. The amazing thing here is that Miller has topped 200 carries just once in his career, but he’s finished as a top 10 RB in each of the last two seasons. Miller also grabbed 47 of his 57 targets last season for an average of 8.4 yards per reception. Alfred Blue will be the No.2 RB in Houston and he should be added only if you have an extra bench spot. Jonathan Grimes and Akeem Hunt will find it difficult to be fantasy factors outside of a major injury situation.
Crank up the Hype Machine to eleven, the Jaguars are the most promising 5-11 (2015) team since, well……The 2011 Jaguars? They went 5-11 as well. Know what else? Gus Bradley is back for his fourth season as Head Coach. He’s been consistent thus far, losing at least 11 games in each of his three previous seasons. So let’s talk about the talent. After all, that’s why you’re here. Blake Bortles threw for 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns in 2015 and showed improved pocket awareness as the season progressed. However, Bortles was sacked 51 times which is a problem and he led the league in interceptions AND fumbles. Woof. He’s currently coming off the board late in round 7. I’m not a huge fan of that price, so shop responsibly friends.
Chris Ivory packed his beach towel and shades and arrived in Jacksonville ready to shine. The only problem with that is he’s sharing time with TJ Yeldon. Both have the potential to be a top 15 back, but they’ll eat into each others workload. If you need to hit up the Jags backfield for some fantasy help; Ivory did manage to average 4.8 yards per carry over his final 5 games in 2015 and he handled 39 red-zone carries for the Jets as well. He managed to lead the AFC in rushing yards with 1,070. Yeldon touched the ball 218 times in 2015, but came away with only three touchdowns. He did manage to produce a 78% catch rate with his 46 targets so he’s probably carved out a place in Jacksonville’s offense on passing downs. There’s nothing flashy about either back, but they each carry just enough upside to keep things interesting. Yeldon has an ADP of 100 while Ivory has been coming off the board later in the 9th round.
Make no mistake about it….The Jaguars will be a fun team to watch when they go to air. Allen Robinson broke out in 2015 catching 31 passes of at least 20 yards, while scoring 14 touchdowns. He also averaged 17.5 YPC, which ranked 1st among all receivers with at least 100 targets. He’s been slipping into the top of the 2nd round and I have no idea why. He’s a legit 1st round talent. Allen Hurns will man the opposite side of the field and he’ll look to build on the 16.1 YPC and 9.8 YPT he produced in 2015. Both numbers ranked 4th among WRs with at least 100 targets. Hurns’ is being drafted in the 7th round which seems about right for a player with his ceiling. Marqise Lee carries a small amount of value for those in deeper leagues, but he’ll be waiver wire fodder for anything else. Julius Thomas will find his value almost exclusively in the red-zone, but he’ll have to turn in a better effort than his 3-for-9 effort in 2015. Before you invest an 8th round pick on Thomas remember he only surpassed 50 yards four times and only had one game of 100 yards last season.
Welp. Here we go again. Reservations for last place have been booked and there’s not much anyone can do about it. If there’s one ray of hope it’s that Marcus Mariota is the QB. He’s good – and he’s only going to get better with each snap. If you’re waiting on a QB and I mean really waiting, Mariota has an ADP of 128. I like that….a lot. He’s not blessed with an elite arm, but he has tremendous footwork and athleticism which could develop into the leagues premier running QB when he leaves the pocket. In a surprising move, the Titans acquired DeMarco Murray from the Eagles for a 4th round pick. Although last season was a complete disaster for Murray, he’s managed to play in 31 or 32 games over the last two years and the Titans want to run – making Murray a nice value if you can grab him after the 6th round. He’ll have to fend off rookie Derrick Henry for the bulk of the carries as the Titans will look for a 60-40 split of the groundwork in favor of Murray.
Rishard Matthews leads a rather weak passing attack for Tennessee, but they’ll have to pass often as they’ll play from behind most of the year. Rookie Tajae Sharpe has jumped Kendall Wright for the No.2 WR spot as the Titans hope Sharpe can provide the same spark he did at UMass when he caught 12 TDs and collected over 2,600 receiving yards over his last two seasons. Wright is simply not an option in most formats outside of 14 team PPR leagues. Delanie Walker will be the most popular of all Titan pass catchers this season – he lead all TEs in targets (133) and receptions (94) while compiling 1,088 receiving yards. He’s ranked as the 4th TE by most in the industry and he’s coming off the board in the 6th round. He’ll be an important part of any fantasy team, especially those in PPR leagues.
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