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2018 fantasy football outlook: AFC South

Here’s what I expect from the top fantasy football options on the Texans, Colts, Jaguars and Titans this year.

USA TODAY Sports/Peter Rogers Illustrations

If the AFC North is the exciting division, then the AFC South is the question division. There are a lot of major questions surrounding all four teams heading into this season, all of which will have a significant impact on how the South plays out.

For the Texans, their questions surround two superstars returning from injury. Will J.J. Watt return to dominance and take this defense back to the top of the NFL? Will Deshaun Watson come back fully healthy and build upon what could’ve been the single greatest rookie season by a quarterback ever? Sweet Brady I hope so because that man was fun to watch.

In Indianapolis the question is very clearly centered around their superstar, Commander General Andrew Luck. Will he play? What will he look like when he’s playing? How big will he let his neckbeard get before reconsidering the look all together? These are the important questions.

The question for the Jags is, can they do it again? Or phrased differently: Will they regret sticking with Blake Bortles as their quarterback this year when they had opportunities to draft Lamar Jackson at the end of the first round? The answer to that question is almost certainly “yes”. Yes, they will regret that. But Bortles isn’t all bad and we’ve seen him preform well before in his career. Maybe this will be another one of those fluke years. (That’s the tagline for this year’s Jags: PRAY FOR THE FLUKE!)

And finally, the Titans. Outside of “will Marcus Mariota take that next step?” the Titans seem to be in pretty good shape. They’ve built a strong offense with plenty of weapons and have quietly rebuilt their defense with every cornerback the Patriots didn’t want. Nothings going to crush me more than watching Malcolm Butler playing for a different team this year. [sigh] It’s a business...

Here’s how I see the AFC South playing out this year:

  1. Texans: 10-6 (Watson and Watt come back healthy and ready to EAT!)
  2. Titans: 10-6 (Mariota takes his step forward and the Titans’ defense flourishes)
  3. Jaguars: 9-7 (If only they didn’t have a quarterback holding them back...)
  4. Colts: 7-9 (Luck plays, but that defense still has a loooooong way to go)

Now, let’s get to the fantasy content, since after all this is a fantasy site. I’ve decided to do four different tiers of players for each team: Love, Like, Eh, NOOOO. I feel like those are all pretty self explanatory. Also, let it be noted, not every team will have all four categories AND I likely will not talk about all the players on each team. I don’t want this to be a 3,000 word dissertation so I’m going to try and talk about players who I have strong feelings towards either positively or negatively.

(Each player has their current non-PPR ADP via Fantasy Football Calculator if applicable)

Houston Texans

LOVE: DeAndre Hopkins (WR2, 1.11), Will Fuller (WR25, 6.02)
LIKE: Lamar Miller (RB22, 4.04)
EH/REALLY I’M JUST CONFUSED ABOUT MY FEELINGS: Deshaun Watson (QB2, 4.02)

Let’s start with Watson since I’ve got a lot of feelings here. For the record, I LOVE Deshaun Watson. I picked him up last year off the waiver wire and was able to bask in his fantasy glory for the six weeks he played before we were all harshly reminded that we can’t have nice things and professional NFL players can’t have functioning ACLs. What worries me about him is that people seem to be giving him no kind of injury knock. He’s the second quarterback going despite playing only six games last year and coming back from ACL surgery. But then again, I’ve got him ranked the number three QB in fantasy this year. I could see him taking a step back this year but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him destroy the league once more. I’m just really confused what to make of Deshaun. Some one please help.

Hopkins I don’t feel like needs much explanation. He was a beast last year and will continue to be a beast. Simple as that. But if there’s a receiver I really love from Houston this year, it’s Will Fuller. Fuller is going in that perfect late group where you can comfortably take a flier on him and if he pans out, great, if not, no harm no foul. Never forget that Fuller was a MONSTER when he played with Watson and I’m expecting that connection to come roaring back in 2018.

Oh and the Texans do have to occasionally run the football and Lamar Miller will touch it the most. Honestly, I would not be opposed to Miller being my RB2 after I landed a top back in the first and two solid receivers in the second and third. I could talk myself into him having a solid season.

Indianapolis Colts

LOVE: T.Y. Hilton (WR12, 3.07), Andrew Luck (QB10, 8.09), Jack Doyle (TE13, 12.11)
LIKE: Nyheim Hines (RB51, 12.06),
EH: Marlon Mack (RB31, 6.09)

Wow. Who knew I love the Colts so much?

I’ve come around to the light and have joined Clark in believing—and fully operating under the assumption—that Luck is healthy and will play. Once you accept that for truth, you can see why I love all these guys so much.

Let’s start with Luck since he’s the lynchpin of this entire shindig. When healthy, Luck is a top five fantasy quarterback year in and year out. Yes there are a lot of question marks surrounding him heading into this season but he’s had a full year off from football and if he’s even 80% of the QB he once was, he’s going to outplay his ADP of QB10. Plus, added bonus, the Colts have finally invested in the offensive line which will not only help keep Luck healthy, but also give him the time to throw the ball downfield, which leads me to T.Y. Hilton.

Hilton was the fifth best receiver in fantasy just a year ago when Luck was fully healthy and on his game. He has become not only a deep threat receiver, but a do it all guy, someone who can run every route in the route tree and get separation even against the best cornerbacks. I would take him in front of Tyreek Hill and Devante Adams, both of whom are going before him. (Adams is going 2.07 which seems real early to me, but maybe I’m just crazy.)

Jack Doyle has quietly developed into a top 10 fantasy tight end and that was without Luck at the helm. People have almost certainly forgotten about him since they’re drafting the injured bros, Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed, ahead of him. Yea, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

Jacksonville Jaguars

LIKE: Leonard Fournette (RB7, 1.08), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE19, 14.08)
EH: Marqise Lee (WR52, 12.05)

The Jaguars are pretty bleak when it comes to viable fantasy options. Obviously Fournette is going to be THE guy in Jacksonville and we already saw the start of that with Fournette getting 268 carries in 13 games last year. It’s clear the Jaguars are going to do one thing and one thing only. And why wouldn’t they? Like I mentioned, how much faith do you really want to put in Blake Bortles being a successful NFL quarterback? (It just sucks to watch because you hate to see a great defense like this Jags have go to waste because on offense they can’t score points. Not really ideal team building if you ask me.) However, defenses will be keying in on Fournette and actively stacking the box to prevent him from running and forcing the Jags to pass. I still think Fournette will be productive but he’ll have to work hard for it this year.

With Fournette clearly the top fantasy player you should draft from the Jaguars, you might be asking, are there any others I should be paying attention to?

Good question Turk.

Marqise Lee will likely be the number one receiver in Jacksonville but does that really excite you? Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook could be guys who make some noise after strong rookie seasons but neither are going to light the world on fire right from the word go, meaning you’d be smarter to add them off waivers than spend a late pick on them. If you’re a Jags fan and NEED to take a receiver from your team, I’d go with Lee since he was the favorite target last year.

I liked ASJ last year as a sleeper and he did alright in New York. Now in Jacksonville he could easily be a go-to receiver for Bortles, especially in the redzone thanks to his huge frame. I’ll happily take a tight end who could get me six plus touchdowns in the 14th round.

Fun fact: Blake Bortles isn’t even being drafted according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Honestly, don’t be surprised if he becomes a waiver wire add during the season. He may suck on the field, but the boy does know how to put up stats occasionally.

Tennessee Titans

LOVE: Derrick Henry (RB12, 3.01), Dion Lewis (RB29, 6.01), Marcus Mariota (QB17, 11.12)
LIKE: Corey Davis (WR29, 6.11), Delanie Walker (TE8, 7.04)

I am very excited for the 2018 Titans. Like, very very excited. Obviously a lot of that excitement comes from the players that the Titans have, but the biggest cause for my excitement comes from the biggest move they made this offseason: firing Mike Mularkey. Replacing Mularkey’s “exotic smashmouth” offense with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s “I fixed Jared Goff, made Todd Gurley an MVP candidate and actually made Matt Ryan an MVP” offense is going to do WONDERS to this Titans offense.

If LaFleur can do with Mariota what he did with Goff, then I’m 100% buying him in the 11th round. As for running backs, I’m starting to convince myself that the Titans are going to perfectly replicate the Saints’ rushing attack from last year and we’re going to end up seeing both Henry and Lewis in the top 12 of fantasy running backs, which would be huge boosts to both backs based on their current ADP. Henry is going to put out his best season of his career while Lewis will be the perfect complement to him in the backfield. I know people are worried about a running back committee but we’ve seen it be successful fantasy-wise before and I trust we’ll see it again in Tennessee. Don’t forget Lewis was RB12 last year in New England, the wasteland of fantasy running backs.

Davis has WR1 upside but given that we didn’t really see much his rookie year, I’m predicting it’ll be another year before he truly makes his presence felt. That being said, he is exactly the kind of flier I’d take in the sixth round given what he could be. Delanie Walker will always get you points so you can’t go wrong drafting him.

Poll

Which AFC South running back will have the better fantasy season?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Leonard Fournette
    (7 votes)
  • 26%
    Derrick Henry
    (4 votes)
  • 13%
    Dion Lewis
    (2 votes)
  • 6%
    Lamar Miller
    (1 vote)
  • 6%
    Nyheim Hines
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Marlon Mack
    (0 votes)
15 votes total Vote Now