Fantasy football: AFC South division storylines to watchESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)
Key fantasy offseason movement--Start at quarterback in this division, as the Jacksonville Jaguars proudly used the first selection in the draft to secure future star Trevor Lawrence, while the Indianapolis Colts used draft picks to trade for controversial Philadelphia Eagles starter Carson Wentz. As for the Houston Texans, well, that situation remains unclear at this point. Controversial Deshaun Watson remains on the roster, but between his trade demands and his legal issues, it may not be for long.
--The Tennessee Titans have no such issues at quarterback, as Ryan Tannehill finished seventh at the position in PPR points, ahead of Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert. Yeah, Tannehill was exceptional and now he gets to add future Hall of Famer Julio Jones to his stable of options to target. Jones came from the Atlanta Falcons for draft picks and should upgrade from what Corey Davis (now on the New York Jets) achieved, but Davis had a solid season. Jones must share attention with electric A.J. Brown and in an offense that was second to the Baltimore Ravens in rushing yards. In Derrick Henry, we all trust.
--The Jaguars hardly stopped with a new quarterback. New coach Urban Meyer, in his first foray into the NFL, made sure another talented Clemson product joined the crew by drafting running back Travis Etienne Jr., and he may see extensive work in the passing game. Former Detroit Lions veteran Marvin Jones Jr. should aid the young wide receiver corps led by DJ Chark Jr. as well. Assuming Lawrence is as good as most everyone believes the Jaguars may end up in myriad shootouts this fall, which is just fine in fantasy.
Something to prove--Wentz neither won nor even finished the opening quarter of a playoff game with the Eagles and could not wait to start over somewhere else. He becomes the Colts' fourth starting quarterback over the past four seasons, following Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers. Two of them are now retired, while Brissett backs up Tua Tagovailoa with the Miami Dolphins. The pressure is really on for Wentz, an MVP candidate back in 2017 who has battled injury and erratic play much of his career, but few doubt his impressive skillset.
--Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was once a fantasy star, but he enters his 10th NFL season coming off several frustrating campaigns. Hilton boasts three NFL seasons averaging 90 receiving yards per game. He led the league in 2016. The past two seasons, he has averaged 50 receiving yards per game. He turns 32 this fall and this may be his final chance. Meanwhile, running back Marlon Mack, on the mend after tearing his Achilles' in Week 1, also may be running out of time in the fantasy world, especially with Jonathan Taylor entering his second year expected to reach stardom.
Whose fantasy stock may fluctuate?--Fantasy managers may presume Etienne racks up tons of fantasy points, but it is not as if James Robinson just went away. There is competition! Robinson, the undrafted rookie and fantasy find who finished seventh at running back in PPR points, and fifth in PPR points per game among qualifiers last season, figures to remain a key part of the offense and should end up the better bargain in drafts, PPR or otherwise. Watch the Jaguars tout his positives all summer, even as Etienne flies up draft boards. Lawrence offers tremendous skills, and he should approach QB1 status in drafts, which seems optimistic.
--Watson's season seems far from clear at this point, so investing as if he will produce another top-5 fantasy season is dangerous. There are larger things going on here. Fantasy analyst rankings on him are all over the place, some presuming all will work out and he delivers top-10 numbers, others wanting no part of this. My hand is up for the latter scenario. We should point out journeyman Tyrod Taylor likely starts for Houston in Week 1. Taylor used to be intriguing because he accumulated rushing yards, though he is 31 and far from his starting days. Stanford's Davis Mills came via the recent draft and may get his shot sooner than anyone expects, for deeper fantasy formats in which every starter matters.
--Meanwhile, the Texans still need to fill a football team, and they a jolt in the running game after finishing 31st in rushing yards, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Steelers. Enter former Denver Broncos undrafted surprise Phillip Lindsay. His is a one-year deal and he must battle overrated incumbent David Johnson, former Raven Mark Ingram and former Patriot Rex Burkhead (yep!), but I like Lindsay's chances here. Fantasy managers keep gravitating to Johnson, but 2016 was such a long time ago. Johnson is 29.