There is only one division to go in the DraftBuddy.com fantasy football team reports, showcasing team-by-team player projections and rankings from Dave Stringer and Mike MacGregor, plus player commentary by Dave. Accompanying those reports, this is the sixth in a series of “Second Opinion” articles where I review the forecasts and identify one player from each team the guys are too high or too low on. The last article covered the NFC South, and here is my review for the AFC South.
Between the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, there isn’t a strong Super Bowl contender amongst them. The Colts are favored to repeat as Division Champs but they could have their work cut out for them. The Texans stumbled through 2013 but are just a year removed from being considered one of the best teams in the AFC. The Titans and Jaguars are young and have the potential to surprise.
Team Report – July 14
Last year, former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw an interception returned for a touchdown in four consecutive games and then was rightfully benched for Case Keenum, who did okay for a backup quarterback. The reigns have now been handed over to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Arian Foster was sensational 2010-2012, however nagging injuries held Foster to only 8 games. He is expected to have a bounce back year in 2014, and I am on board with that idea. Andre Johnson continued his trend of consistently posting solid receiving stats as he has throughout his career, but threatens a possible holdout.
The above named Texans players are all forecast about where I would expect, but one player who is projected and ranked somewhat higher on my cheatsheets is sophomore wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
In 2013 Hopkins posted a decent stat line considering it was his rookie season and the turmoil at quarterback. His two touchdowns should definitely increase this year, along with his receptions and receiving yards. Fitzpatrick exceeded expectations last year quarterbacking the Titans. Whether Hopkins is the number one wide receiver due to a Johnson holdout, or the number two wide receiver opposite AJ, I expect Hopkins to top 1,000 yards and post a better touchdown number than last year.
Currently, Hopkins is ranked 37th at wide receiver behind T.Y. Hilton (regresses due to more weapons on the Colts), Sammy Watkins (rookie plus still raw E.J. Manuel at quarterback), Kenny Stills and Marques Colston (more spreading the ball around in New Orleans). I expect Hopkins to finish the year better than all of these receivers.
Team Report – July 15
Last year the Indianapolis Colts made huge waves through the NFL and fantasy football community with an in-season trade acquiring Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns. The move to the Colts was supposed to be a dream come true for Richardson, playing with a quarterback that teams can’t stack the box against. The dream quickly turned to a nightmare for T-Rich and his fantasy owners. Richardson failed to get acclimated with the offense all season, and he ended up behind Donald Brown on the depth chart.
With 2013 in the rearview mirror, Richardson is determined to get back to being a top running back in the league. After an entire offseason to study the playbook and develop some chemistry with his teammates, Richardson should be much more in sync with the offense.
In addition to better chemistry, Richardson should benefit from the return of Reggie Wayne and addition of former New York Giants WR Hakeem Nicks. Between the trio of Wayne, Nicks and T.Y. Hilton plus QB Andrew Luck, defenses need to make stopping the passing game their number one priority.
Most fantasy experts are extremely pessimistic ranking Richardson after last season, including this website which ranks him 27th at RB. I consider last season a blip for the talented runner, and expect him to finish in the Top 15 in 2014.
Team Report – July 16
Jacksonville Jaguars are struggling to compete, but are undergoing a major rebuilding to turn their fortunes around. Blake Bortles was the 3rd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Chad Henne is their starter while Bortles watches and learns, but it would be surprising if Bortles doesn’t get some game experience under center this season. Recently signed free agent Toby Gerhart has the opportunity to show his skills, and could provide a spark this offense needs. With Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely, the receiving corps is relying on Cecil Shorts and rookie wide receivers Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson. All the youth is there, except at tight end.
At 30 years of age and coming off a career low season in receptions and yards, excluding his rookie year, it is time for the Jaguars to replace TE Marcedes Lewis. Admittedly, health was an issue for Lewis in 2013 as he missed six games, but it is optimistic to forecast Lewis with 50 receptions, 550 yards, and 5 touchdowns at this stage of his career. I do not think Lewis will contribute that much. Gerhart and the young receivers are the future and will be doing all the work for this offense. Lewis has no fantasy appeal to me.
Team Report – July 17
Tennessee Titans haven’t given us much to talk about from a fantasy perspective outside of Chris Johnson and his six consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards rushing. Ask any former CJ?K owner and they will tell you even those recent seasons were more disappointing than the stats indicate on the surface. Now that the Chris Johnson era is behind the Titans, a new era is in order. This season could hail the beginning of the Kendall Wright era.
After watching Kendall Wright last season, he looks very similar to a young Wes Welker and Danny Amendola, who were considered PPR gold in their prime. If the Titans can avoid a quarterback carousel and get a full season out of Jake Locker, the chemistry that can and will develop between the two will put Wright among the short list of elite PPR wide receivers. Wright finished 20th in 1-PPR leagues last season on just two touchdowns, recording perhaps one of the quietest 1,000 yard seasons in recent memory.
Last year we saw Ken Whisenhunt ignite a fire under Phillip Rivers, who had a very nice season through the air. The Titans are hoping he can do the same with Locker, which translates into more success for Wright. If all goes according to plan, Wright can finish amongst the Top 15 wide receivers after the season is complete.