The Fantasy Points staff recently welcomed NFL Films legend Greg Cosell and NFL Insider Adam Caplan to talk about the AFC South as part of our Virtual Pow-wow Series. We highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.
Cosell and Caplan joined John Hansen and company to break down the AFC South from front to back to help us get a deeper understanding of every roster heading into the summer. Hansen has been holding these closed-door meetings with Cosell and Caplan for the last 15 years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain for the first time ever during these exclusive Livestreams! Here are the notes I compiled from the AFC South meeting, and I included my biggest fantasy takeaways for each team.
Deshaun Watson is one of those quarterbacks who makes his O-line look worse than it actually is because of his style of play. Houston’s O-line got better as the season went along last season with Laremy Tunsil getting comfortable at left tackle and rookies Max Scharping and Tytus Howard at left guard and right tackle. It’s an improving group heading into 2020.
They also run a lot of Empty sets compared to other teams, and they mix in the deep passing game. Bill O’Brien has always been a big Empty set coach, and Watson isn’t afraid to run.
Adam said the running joke around the league about O’Brien is that his teams keep doing just enough for him to hang on to his job every year.
Will Fuller is entering his fifth year and they need to make a decision on him. He has an extensive injury history, but he also plays well when he’s on the field. Fifth-round WR Isaiah Coulter is a guy to look at for the future if they move on from Fuller.
Brandin Cooks will line up as the X receiver in DeAndre Hopkins’ old spot. They still have a lot of weapons, and Cooks is still a vertical dimension. Good luck finding many defenses that have cornerbacks that can run with these WRs (Fuller, Cooks, and Kenny Stills).
The Texans could be better than expected if David Johnson has anything left. Graham thought DJ looked better than the public remembers before his injuries last season. Greg thinks he’ll get volume and Carlos Hyde had 250+ carries. O’Brien will run the ball and DJ could be a grinder this season. Graham and Greg think he could get 220+ carries behind an improving O-line.
On the negative for DJ, Watson doesn’t look to throw to his backs. They’ll have to scheme looks to get him involved in the passing game.
Greg wondered how many of Duke Johnson’s carries came out of the shotgun last season? It’s a better usage for him. They don’t want to give Duke too many carries.
The Texans have a defense to target for opposing fantasy offenses. Anthony Weaver is the new defensive coordinator. They played a lot of zone coverage and Cover 4 under Romeo Crennel, and he stayed on the staff to help. Can J.J. Watt still be a factor going forward like he was early in his career? They have to figure out a way to rush the quarterback.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
Watson is a tough player to peg this season without DeAndre Hopkins. I’m warming back up to him as we get more distance from the awful Hopkins trade. This offense still has a lot of weapons, Watson is still going to run a lot (if not more) with all the speed they have stretching the field, and their defense may be a sieve. I think we have him ranked in the right spot as the QB6. He has more downside than ever before, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if he sneaks back into the top three at the position if they’re chasing opponents all season long.
David Johnson should step right into Carlos Hyde’s role from last season as the primary early-down runner in this offense. Hyde posted 245/1070/6 rushing in that capacity last season, but he saw just 16 targets and 10 catches last season. DJ will do more than Hyde as a receiver, but I won’t be projecting huge catch totals for him this season. Duke Johnson is the better receiver at this stage of his career, and he’ll still be handling passing situations. Watson has also always preferred to run himself than to dump it to his backs out of the backfield. It’s weird to say but DJ is looking much better for non-PPR formats.
Houston Texans Livestream Highlights coming soon
The Colts told us they’re going to run the ball a ton when they drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round. They’re going to run the rock with this offensive line. It's perfect for Philip Rivers, who isn’t a featured player at this stage of his career. He’s more of a complementary player.
Greg said Taylor is comparable to Ezekiel Elliott coming out of college. Taylor should get to 250+ carries if they play how they want to play.
Taylor and Marlon Mack should see the field together. Mack is the better perimeter player. Greg saw him as change-of-pace back coming out of South Florida and not as a 250+ carry player like Taylor.
They could phase out Nyheim Hines. He hasn’t been explosive as a receiver, and Mack could be the moveable chess piece. Graham points out that Mack lined up as a receiver quite a bit in college. They could play more to Mack’s strengths going forward. Reich hasn’t been one to scheme looks to his backs in the past.
Greg run-game sidebar: Analytics is a results-based business while putting together an offense is a process-based business. If you want to run the ball and if it helps you to get to other facets of your offense, you should want a good back in your backfield. Taylor is a better runner than Mack.
Greg loved the Michael Pittman pick, calling him an ascending prospect.
Adam said T.Y. Hilton is still tough as nails and he’ll play through a variety of injuries, but he’s now in his 30s.
Parris Campbell suffered four different injuries last season. They had plans for him to play both inside and outside. He was a shallow cross and screen guy at Ohio State. He wasn’t used enough downfield. They’ll want him to work on the outside off of play-action.
Tre Burton could fill the Eric Ebron role as the detached TE. He could catch a lot of seam balls — the Patriots bang pass to the tight end.
The Colts played a ton of zone last season because of their personnel and they could be in the same boat this season. DeForest Buckner was a critical trade for them this season because they want to play with a four-man pass rush. Kenny Moore is one of the best slot CBs.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
We have Taylor aggressively ranked as the RB16 with 245 carries this season, and Greg appears to agree with the assessment since he thinks Taylor could be a 250-carry back as a rookie. The Colts haven’t given too much of an indication of what they’re going to do with their backfield, but we think there’s a solid chance they could use Mack more as a change-of-pace back and as a receiver while phasing out Nyheim Hines. This backfield will be fascinating to follow once training camp starts.
T.Y. Hilton has been very good to my teams through the years, but I think I’m jumping off the bandwagon this season. I’m expecting a much more balanced passing attack than we’ve seen since Hilton came to town with Andrew Luck back in 2012. Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell are essentially free picks at the end of drafts. I’ll be taking my shots with them to see if one of them can emerge as the next primary receiver here.
Indianapolis Colts Livestream Highlights coming soon
Tom Coughlin wanted a smash-mouth, power-running team and that’s why he drafted Leonard Fournette. GM Dave Caldwell tried to trade him. They’re now flipping the roster and redistributing their money.
Adams says they love Ryquell Armstead and that he should be a dynasty pick up. He’s tough, he can catch the ball, and he’s faster you think.
Devine Ozigbo went undrafted out of Nebraska but Greg liked his tape. He’s a big kid that can run powerful and, stylistically, he reminded Greg of Todd Gurley coming out of college.
They’d like more raw speed across from D.J. Chark.
Laviska Shenault is a moveable piece. He’s a big, explosive, and competitive athlete who lined up all over the field. Greg doesn’t know how many snaps he’ll run as a true receiver. He thinks he could be used as a Cordarrelle Patterson type early as they let him grow into being a receiver.
Adam says Gardner Minshew would’ve been the starter this season regardless if they kept Nick Foles around. It’s kind of a make-or-break season for Minshew to show he’s the future since they could be drafting early if they struggle. OC Jay Gruden did a good job with Andy Dalton and his early development. Minshew got humbled after Minshew Mania died down after the London game — they lost 26-3 to the Texans. They eventually gave him as much of the playbook as they would with a third-year QB toward the end of the season.
Greg said Minshew showed a lot last season. He was a late-round pick so he’s not being given the benefit of the doubt, but he throws with accuracy and timing.
They should have raw volume in the passing attack because they should be trailing quite a bit.
Josh Oliver had a torn hamstring last season. Greg liked him coming out because of his athleticism. The Jaguars wanted to use him last season, and they think he could be a detached receiver for them.
Drafted K’Lavon Chaisson for down the line because of the Yannick Ngakoue situation.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
Stay away from Leonard Fournette. Select Ryquell Armstead at the end of drafts. Add Devine Ozigbo in dynasty leagues.
Gardner Minshew has been my second favorite low-end QB2 in best-ball drafts behind Teddy Bridgewater, and I’m feeling better about him after our discussion. The organization wants to give him a chance this season, and they have just Mike Glennon, Josh Dobbs, and Jake Luton behind him. The organization was impressed with him coming out of his rookie season, he has an intriguing cast of receivers, and he’s going to get some passing volume if they stink — he finished fifth in QB rushing yards (344) because of his scrambling.
I’m not feeling too optimistic about Laviska Shenault’s chances of climbing into fantasy relevance this season. It could take him some time to develop into a true receiver, and they could be manufacturing touches for him this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars Livestream Highlights coming soon
Can Ryan Tannehill replicate his extremely efficient play from the end of last season? OC Arthur Smith drew up a perfect offense last season, using heavy play-action off of an effective running game. Graham points out that Tannehill played well, but he also got a little lucky. Titans receivers didn’t drop passes and his completion rate was very high (70.3%).
Running the football is the clear foundation for this offense and that’s why they drafted tackle Isaiah Wilson (talent meeting a need). The basic foundation of this offense won’t change with their outside-zone principles. Darrynton Evans was also an outside-zone runner coming out of Appalachian State.
Nothing is going to change conceptually. Will they be able to hit on all the big-pass plays again? The running game certainly helps to create them. They’re going to play very similarly to last season.
Greg liked that A.J. Brown played a ton of X at the end of his Ole Miss career after playing primarily in the slot, which proved he was more than an inside tough guy.
Corey Davis should be much better but the Titans also don’t have a lot of passing volume to go around. Tannehill could average 25-30 dropbacks per game this year. Adam says Davis can’t get off of press coverage, but he’s a great route runner against zone coverage. Davis dominated against Stephon Gilmore two years ago against the Patriots — it’s in him but it doesn’t always come out.
Adam says the Titans are so high on Jonnu Smith, but it’s a low-volume passing game. He’s like Irv Smith stuck in Minnesota. He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal. Bill Belichick said Smith was the best TE in the league after the catch last season, which is lofty praise. Adam said he’s built like Mr. Olympia — he’s rocked up.
Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways
- The Titans are pretty cut-and-dry for fantasy this season. Derrick Henry is going to get the ball a ton, and we’ll see if Ryan Tannehill can play anywhere close to the level he achieved last season when he completed 70.3% of his passes with a 7.7% TD rate and a 9.6 YPA average. Both A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith have the looks of potential studs and they could take big leaps this season, but their fantasy fortunes will be dependent on the amount of volume in this passing attack.
Tennessee Titans Livestream Highlights coming soon