This week we reach the last of the AFC divisions, the AFC South. The division formerly dominated by Peyton Manning and Co. is now the stomping grounds for the Houston Texans. This team has been a Super Bowl contender for the past couple years, but late season injuries and lapses on defense caused early exists. Although they have not reached the Super Bowl, I’m willing to bet some of their key players helped some of your Fantasy Football owners reach your respective championships. What other players within the AFC South can help bring you to glory?
Arian Foster is by far the most valuable player not only in his team, but in the entire AFC South. He’s been a top-5 RB ever since he burst onto the scene in the 2010-2011 season and he’d by my #1 RB next season if not for Adrian Peterson. His talent has kept this Texans offense as one of the best in the league and even though his yards per carry has decreased, you can’t ignore 1,424 yards and 15 TDs last season.
Andre Johnson has widely been regarded as one of the best WRs in the league, but injuries have prevented him from reaching his full potential. His 4 TD’s last season aren’t impressive, and if not for his yardage total he wouldn’t have been as useful for his owners. Normally a lock for a top-5 spot, I have Johnson ranked at 10th among WR’s. 163 targets is astounding, but I can’t expect that to happen again next season withhis injury history, the addition of DeAndre Hopkins and the presence of Owen Daniels, who managed 716 yards and 6 TD’s while battling various injuries all season.
No, I’m not forgetting about Matt Schaub, who has been a solid QB over the past few years. Unfortunately for him, the team is extremely run heavy which means he rarely gets to take over games. Shaub finished last season as the 17th QB and I’d say he falls around that same rank this year, meaning draft him as a backup at most. The Texans defense took a dip last season due to their pass defense, but I think Wade Phillips can right the ship this season and bring them back to the way they were two years ago (Ed Reed anyone?).
Last year the Andrew Luck era began and he was able to finish as the 9th best QB. With all the praise he has gotten, people seem to disregard the fact that he threw 18 INTs and had 10 fumbles along with his 23 TDs. No he didn’t lose all those fumbles, but putting the ball on the ground is not good for owners as it can still cost points whether the other team recovered it or not. I wouldn’t draft Luck as my starter, but I do think he’s a fine target for trade bait, as there’s always one team in each league that is desperate for QB help around midseason.
The addition of Luck was a blessing for Reggie Wayne, as his stats rose back to the level his owners were used to seeing with Peyton Manning as his QB. Although he’ll be 35 this season, I still think he can put up high level numbers since he’s clearly Luck’s favorite target, and by far his best option. The other two receivers who’ll get the most action: T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Hilton’s rookie season ended with 861 yards and 7 TDs, and I think he can end next season with a similar stat line. The only reason I don’t think his stats will rise is due to the guy who’ll be filling in for the departure of Donnie Avery, Mr. Heyward-Bey. DHB isn’t a great WR, but he should be a solid fill in for Avery and is a better home run hitter than his predecessor. Avery had 45 more targets than DHB, yet only had 19 more catches. DHB caught a higher percentage of his targets and I think he’ll capitalize on his opportunities more than Avery did.
The starting RB will be a battle between Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, and this battle is partly why I have neither ranked in my top-25. Although Ballard is likely to end up with that spot (at first), he’ll be sharing carries with Bradshaw, and the latter is more likely to get the red zone carries. Bradshaw probably won’t start (at first) due to his lingering foot problems and worries about his ability to manage a full workload for the whole season. If you had to choose one over the other I’d still go Bradshaw. Even with his injuries last season he managed over 1000 yards and 6 TDs, compared to Ballard’s 814 and 2. Keep in mind Bradshaw missed 2 games and dealt with foot issues, and still ended with 10 more carries than Ballard. You can question his durability, but he is still able to be extremely effective. Ballard’s 3.9 yards per carry are not something to look forward to owning.
The Titans have made two very questionable additions this offseason that I truly do not understand. Picking up a reliable backup for Locker is understandable due to his accuracy issues, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a reliable QB. Fitz is another guy who turns over the ball more than he scores TDs, and that isn’t a good addition for any team. It isn’t reassuring for owners knowing that when Locker struggles, Fitz is waiting to “lead” the team. The QB play causes my doubts in the worth of the WRs. Kendall Wright is going to at least be a good Flex option, but whether he becomes more than that is up in the air. Hopefully Locker can improve and Wright can reap the benefits.
Kenny Britt could be a star, but his light hasn’t shined yet and I don’t know if it ever will. By drafting Justin Hunter the Titans are trying to make sure they have another option they can help build this air game around if Britt never gets it together, but I don’t think Hunter will have an immediate impact his first season like Wright did. The QBs here just aren’t good enough for there to be more than 2 WRs of use.
The other questionable signing I mentioned is that of Shonn Greene. Are they making this into a RB tandem? How many carries will he steal from CJ2K and most importantly, how many goal line TDs will he vulture. I’ve never been a fan of Greene, but this moves lowers his and CJ2K’s value. I have the latter ranked 14th and that’s mainly because of Greene and the fact that CJ2K was very on and off last season. It just seems like no one know what they’re going to get from this offense, and I DEFINITELY wouldn’t touch their defense. Not even Rob Bironas, someone who has been consistent throughout his career, can be relied upon for kicking duties as last season was his lowest FG% since 2006.
Your QBs are Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Blaine Gabbert is your starter. Why is Gabbert starting over Henne? The answer to that question is the reason why this team will never even sniff the playoffs, and if you’re relying on anyone on this team to take your fantasy squad to the promise land, you probably won’t sniff the playoffs either. Justin Blackmon could be great, but 1) Blaine Gabbert is his QB, and 2) he’s suspended for the first four games. Coming off of groin surgery isn’t helping his cause either, so the receiving core solely belongs to Cecil Shorts, who I think could actually end up being a nice WR2. The guy managed to end last season with 979 yards and 7 TDs after all, which is huge considering who he’s playing with. The Jags O-line is so bad that Marcedes Lewis has been primarily used to block. Luke Joeckel will help the line out, but enough to allow Lewis to be used in the passing game again, I doubt it.
So the man that’s left now…Maurice Jones-Drew. Will he be healthy, or is he a continuing injury concern? Will he return to his old self if he is healthy, or has the foot injury taken away any speed or ability to really plant his foot to make cuts? I’ve ranked MJD at 15th, as I think he will be a starting RB and that he can get back to his old self. Will I draft him in the first or second round? No, in fact, I’d rather trade for him. I think he’ll start off slow. Justin Forsett may start off the season if MJD isn’t ready yet and even if he is ready, Forsett will still get a good amount of touches as they ease MJD into things. I’d rather let someone reach for MJD early and see how things go along the way. If he hasn’t done much by week 3, try to pry him away from the owner and hope he gets back to speed soon. He and Cecil Shorts are really the only thing this team has to offer.
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