The AFC South could be in the midst of a truly insane quarterback shakeup:

Jacksonville is surely taking a QB (probably Trevor Lawrence), Philip Rivers announced his retirement hours before I started writing this, and Houston is in the middle of driving their star slinger out of town.

Ryan Tannehill is the only starter returning next year most likely.  

Quarterback issues and question marks aside, the AFC South has some truly intriguing spots — so let’s dive in!

Houston Texans 

If you want one of the best breakdowns of the Houston Texans from last off-season go back and give ‎RotoUnderworld Radio – Fantasy Football Show: Bill O’Brien cooking the books on Apple Podcasts a listen as the Podfather and Evan Silva deep-dive for us.

While much has changed, it helps make sense of how the Texans got here. As it stands now, they don’t have a draft pick until the 3rd round and Deshaun Watson has asked to be traded.  

Quarterback 

What an absolute mess! 

Let’s assume they trade Watson for a package that includes a 2021 1st and/or a starting quarterback. That means Watson gets to play anywhere else. That’s a huge win for him, so I would love to get one of the best signal-callers in the league if the Watson owner in your league is freaked out.  

What else is there to say about Watson? He’s fantastic.

Running Back 

At this point, sadly, it’s just not happening for Duke Johnson. He should continue in his satellite back role, but he’s not moving the dynasty needle much. 

As for David Johnson, the kickback in the horrific DeAndre Hopkins trade last year, he was actually decent when he played, and ended on an impressive heater, going over 20 fantasy points in each of his last three games.

We’ll see what Houston does with him ([David] Johnson) in the offseason. He’s currently under contract through the 2021 season, but the Texans would only incur a $2.1M dead cap hit if they move on. If he sticks around, he could provide some production when he plays (his injury history is frightening).

Johnson was a solid receiver per usual with his 9.5 YPR (No. 1). He also showed there was a little juice left in the tank with his 9 Breakaway Runs (No. 7), but it’s hard to get too excited about an almost 30-year old running back. If there’s even a hint of interest in Johnson around your respecitve leagues, I’d move on. The cliff is right around the corner.  

The hope is that the Texans can land an interesting replacement in the draft or free agency.

Wide Receiver 

With Watson on the way out the door, we need to pay special attention to who the Texans land, because it could drastically impact this receiving corps. Also of note is that there could be huge personnel changes. 

Will Fuller is a free agent heading into the offseason, so we will need to track his movements.

I’m Team Fuller for life. When he plays, he’s awesome, and will go down as a guy I just can’t quit. With Watson leaving, I’d love to see Fuller move on (maybe even follow Watson!), and he’s shown that he can produce extremely well in the second wide receiver chair.

Before his suspension, he was logging 17.2 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 7) and a hefty 11.7 Yards Per Target (No. 1). Add in his +44.8 Production Premium (No. 1) and +27.2-percent Target Premium (No. 9) and you’re looking at a criminally underrated receiver. Again, I know he can’t stay on the field, but he’s a straight baller. Scoop him up with his value suppressed thanks to his suspension.

Brandin Cooks, on the other hand, is likely staying in Houston. While the Texans can unload him without taking on the dreaded dead cap, I don’t expect them to do so after he rebounded in 2020.

No one was certain how Cooks would do after the debacle that was the 2019 season, and the slew of concussions that he sustained along the way. Fortunately for his believers, he came through in a big way. Cooks has always been good, and just reminded the football world that he wasn’t dead yet: His 15.4 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 16) constituted a nice return to relevancy and opposing corners also seemed to respect him giving him a 4.26 Average Cushion (No. 9). Going into his age 28 season it’s encouraging that he still is burning defenses deep as seen by his 786 Completed Air Yards (No. 11) and 22 Deep Targets (No. 12).  

We do need to see who will be throwing his way, but Cooks has produced 1000-yards on four different teams with four different quarterbacks. I’m not worried; get Cooks anywhere you can.

Tight End 

The tight end room performed admirably with Jordan Akins and Darren Fells. However, neither seem to be TE1 material.

If you’re looking for a tight end dart throw, Kahale Warring is interesting and finally getting healthy. I wrote more words on him here.

I wouldn’t expect the Texans to take a tight end in the draft, though they could certainly surprise me. 

Recap: Sell [David] Johnson; buy Fuller and Cooks and throw a dart at Warring.

Indianapolis Colts 

The Colts nearly pulled off an upset in the Wild Card Week. The tight ends went off and Jonathan Taylor was solid, but it just wasn’t meant to be in Rivers’ last game in the league.

Now, the front office has the offseason to figure out how to build on a successful season. It begins with finding the next gunslinger to take the helm. 

Quarterback 

The Colts hold the 21st pick in the draft, so we’ll have to see how things play out. A passer there might make sense, or the front office may be ready to acquire a vet who can step in day one and get them back to the playoffs. 

It’s likely not Jacoby Brissett, who is more suited to the backup role. Are there Jacob Eason Truthers out there?

My guess is next season’s starter isn’t on the roster currently.

Running Back 

Boy, I hope you didn’t give up on Taylor.

If so… ouch.

It took Taylor a bit to really take off, but when he did, he showed us that he is the cream of the crop in a great class. He finished at 16.9 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 8) thanks to gaudy rushing totals. His 1169 Rushing Yards and 12 touchdowns were both top-5. Taylor also flashed his elite athleticism by rattling off 14 Breakaway Runs (No. 2) and 64 Evaded Tackles (No. 10).

However, where he proved the most was in the passing game. We knew he was an excellent rusher; we weren’t sure about his receiving chops. Despite ceding passing work to Nyheim Hines, Taylor shined when Rivers looked his way. An 87.8-percent Catch Rate (No. 2) paired with 8.3 YPR (No. 6) should alleviate any concerns that JT can be the workhorse we thought he would be when selecting him at the 1.01 in rookie drafts. 

Hines for his part impressed by finishing third for running backs in both receptions (64) and receiving yards (482). The main concern will be losing Rivers who loves throwing to his backs. If a passer less-inclined to target the running back comes to town, Hines will become practically useless. I’d be nervous if I owned him anywhere.

Wide Receiver 

T.Y. Hilton was hopefully traded off your rosters months/years ago. 

I wrote many words on the idea of grabbing both Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman here. I still like that idea. Campbell hasn’t been healthy since entering the league but has elite athleticism and outperformed Terry McLaurin at Ohio State. Pittman flashed multiple times this season and looks poised to fulfill the alpha role in Indy next year.

Tight End 

From the trio of Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Trey Burton, only Doyle is under contract next year, opening up the possibility that he will dominate tight end touches.

However, it’s hard to get excited about him unless you’re in tight end premium and even then, meh.

Cox balled out in Week 2 but then was essentially forgotten; Burton was completely touchdown dependent. Unless new blood arrives I’m not interested in this crew.  

Recap: Hopefully you have Taylor; buy Pittman and Campbell.

Jacksonville Jaguars 

The 2020 season was absolutely woeful, but for their troubles, the Jaguars walk away with the privilege of selecting Clemson star Trevor Lawrence. With that the future is looking up, and the offense has some nice pieces to complement their (assumed) new cornerstone. 

Quarterback 

Lawrence’s arrival will be a breath of fresh air for the Jags, who suffered through mostly awful quarterback play between Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, and Jake Luton. As soon as Lawrence is selected, he’s a top-10 dynasty quarterback (maybe higher), and the 1.01 in superflex rookie drafts.

Let’s go!

Running Back 

James Robinson, undrafted rookie out of Illinois State, took the fantasy world by storm this season:

Replacing Leonard Fournette, Robinson went on to post 17.7 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 5) on a mammoth 85.2-percent Opportunity Share (No. 1). He also flashed actual talent by evading 79 tackles (No. 5) and creating 423 yards (No. 6) thanks to his 130.5 Brust Score (95th) and 11.22 Agility Score (No. 69th). He was also active in the passing game, showing off a 11.8-percent Target Share (No. 15) and reeling in 49 Receptions (No. 9).

My heart tells me that he’s a sell, because he’s an undrafted free agent, and his opportunity will likely decrease, but the numbers seem to paint a different picture.

He’s not elite, but he’s at worst above average. It’s not like he performed behind a great offensive line either, as seen in his 72.4 Run Blocking Efficiency (No. 44). The offense should even improve with Lawrence likely giving Robinson more than his 3 Goal Line Carries (No. 46) this year. Unless Jacksonville adds another back (causing us to to revisit this conversation), I don’t see why Robinson would regress drastically next year.

Wide Receiver 

I’ll tell you the truth: I was way overweight on the Jacksonville passing attack heading into this past season. 

I scooped up Laviska Shenault in the second round rookie drafts, I added Keelan Cole off the waiver wire, and I bought up as much D.J. Chark as I could get my hands on. Let’s say it wasn’t my best strategy of the year. 

But maybe it was just a year too early? I certainly hope so, because I’m getting right back on them this offseason.  

Cole is a nice depth piece and as an undrafted rookie in 2017 showed he was #goodatfootball going for 42-748-3.  

Collin Johnson even flashed a bit this year. 

However, Chark and Shenault are the most interesting here.

Chark struggled in 2020 to carry over his success from his 2019 breakout, which was no doubt partially quarterback-play and partially a litany of injuries (chest, back, ankle, rib and shin). His 53-706-5 line was a disaster for those of us who owned him in dynasty.  

So, why should we be optimistic about a Chark bounce-back? 

Firstly, Lawrence provides a much needed upgrade: Chark’s 5.4 Target Quality Rating (No. 64) and 70.2-percent (No. 91) were simply pitiful. Surely, Lawrence can get Chark the ball with better accuracy than that.  

Secondly, Chark is a big play waiting to happen whenever he gets a look. Despite his injuries, he still leveraged his elite athleticism to stretch the defense. He tallied 29 Deep Targets (No. 5) and an Air Yards Share of 34.3-percent (No. 14). He’s the big play receiver in Jacksonville and we can expect a more successful partnership with Lawrence and hopefully getting Chark back to (or exceeding) his 2019 marks.  

Finally, he’ll only be 24-years old by the start of next season. You’ll be hard pressed to find cheaper no. 1 options with proven production tied to a top-10 dynasty passer. Get Chark everywhere you can and reap the benefit for years to come.

If Chark is the downfield threat, Shenault is the opposite image. Laviska’s 6.6 aDOT (no. 102) wasn’t even half that of Chark’s. In that regard, he reminds us of Deebo Samuel. And Jacksonville treated him as such, getting him the ball in as many ways as they could. With the hiring of Urban Meyer, we can’t help but think of how someone like Curtis Samuel was used at Ohio State, reinforcing that image of Shenault (his middle name doesn’t happen to be “Samuel”, does it)?

If that is the case, it likely caps Shenault’s ceiling. That type of low aDOT player has a much harder time rising up to WR1-levels. However, he should be able to carve out a reliable role and provide solid production in our fantasy lineups. Just taking a look at what he was able to accomplish this year gives us hope. Taking out Weeks 6 through 12 where we struggled with hamstring strain and poor production, Laviska had a high floor, finishing with fewer than 10 fantasy points only twice out of ten games.  

Unless the new regime changes how he was used as a rookie (totally possible), Shenault’s ceiling is capped, but he should have a high enough floor that he can be played with confidence. In filling out your dynasty roster, don’t forget about Shenault, especially as he may be getting lost among the other rookies in this impressive class. 

Tight End 

Tight end was a wasteland in Jacksonville this year. Josh Oliver, who hasn’t been healthy in his two seasons is an interesting dart throw, but beyond him we may need fresh faces to make this a position of interest in fantasy.  

Recap: Yay for Lawrence. Hold Robinson. Buy Chark and Shenault. Dart-throw at Oliver.

Tennessee Titans 

The Titans “ground and pound” offense couldn’t get the job done in the playoffs, and architect Arthur Smith has moved on to Atlanta, meaning we may get a slightly different looking offense next year. However, all of the pieces remain the same (except for possibly Corey Davis). This is the sturdiest offensive core in the division, boasting excellent talent across the board.  

Quarterback 

I was wrong about Ryan Tannehill. Read all about it here 

He should be a rock solid (if slightly boring) option moving forward in superflex leagues.

Running Back 

Derrick Henry is majestic. You don’t need me to tell you that he is awesome. He looks like he has no intention of slowing heading into his age 27 season next year, even after toting the rock 378 (No. 1) times this year. He doesn’t really catch the ball but who cares?  

Take a good long look at your dynasty roster. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Now be honest: Is your team elite? Are you the favorite to win next year, or at least close? If so, keep Henry and ride him to the title. I don’t even mind going out and buying him if you’re legitimately the favorite.

However, if your roster is a little thin, fringy, or if you’re in a rebuild, the time to think about trading Henry is now. Again, he’s half running back-half Greek god, a tank on the field. I won’t blame you for holding him until he dies dragging three defenders into the end zone, but for mortal running backs, the cliff always comes.

Look, he’s 27-years old, and that’s getting to be old for guys who get hit as often as Henry does. As we saw with Ezekiel Elliott this year, when the cliff hits it hits hard. So, consider getting a haul for Henry while you can. It’s always a tough call to unload your stud backs, but I’d rather get off a year early than a year late. 

Wide receiver

Corey Davis’ future in Tennessee is uncertain and his departure could clear up room for a WR2 to land either in the draft or free agency. And Davis showed this year that it is a role with some value, so keep an eye on how things develop. 

Regardless, the “alpha” on the Titans is A.J. Brown.  

Despite missing two games, Brown put together a solid sophomore campaign with a 70-1073-11 line. This is the type of progression seen in his 17.2 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 7) we all hoped for after a tantalizing rookie season. 

The most impressive (albeit a little reckless) part was that he did while fighting through a knee injury. He seems to be recovering well, though!

A healthy Brown could utterly set the league of fire next season as he looks to build on an already sturdy resume. This year the efficiency metrics pointed to a guy that can’t be stopped and Tannehill recognized that giving Brown plenty of looks enroute to a 25.8-percent Target Share (No. 8) and Brown repaid the attention with a 126.0 QB Rating When Targeted (No. 8). Combining his 426 YAC (No. 11) and a 34.4-percent Air Yards Share led Brown to an outstanding 2.76 Yards Per Route Run (No. 2).

Quite simply get the ball in Brown’s hands and good things happened. He is a locked and loaded stud in dynasty. Don’t overthink it. Get him anywhere and everywhere you can. 

Tight End 

Since 2017, I’ve had Jonnu Smith everywhere. He’s an incredible athlete, and it felt inevitable that he would shine when given the change. However, we were left to wait. Delanie Walker blocked his path as a rookie, but in 2018 and 2019 things were open for Smith to smash, but it never quite materialized.

Finally, this season, Smith broke out scoring 9 times (No. 3) on his way to 10.0 Fantasy Points Per Game (No. 12). 

However, his production was fueled mostly by his scoring prowess as Tannehill loved looking his way to the tune of 18 Red Zone Targets (No. 5), but mostly ignored him in favor of Brown and Davis in the other areas of the field. He managed just 1 Deep Target (No. 52), an egregious misuse of his 4.62 40-Yard Dash (88th) and 130.0 Burst Score (94th).

The good news is that Smith will only be 26-years old heading into next season and if Davis leaves, the Titans will have 92 vacated targets. Smith likely won’t ascend to the elite tier at the position, but should continue to produce low-end TE1 numbers at the very least.

He is good as seen by his +7.2 Production Premium (No. 8), but with Tennessee’s low volume passing attack, Jonnu’s ceiling remains capped. That makes him a solid add in tight end premium leagues, but just don’t get your hopes up too high unless something drastically changes with his situation. 

Recap: Hold Tannehill and Henry if you’re competing next year; consider, contemplate, chew over the idea of trading Henry if you’re rebuilding. Buy Brown and cautiously buy Smith.   

  

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