Depth Preview: AFC South
The AFC South was arguably the tightest division in football last season, with Tennessee and Houston both making the playoffs. They also had Jacksonville finish with six wins which was the highest total for any team who finished last in their division. It’s expected to be yet another tight battle between these teams this season and it should make this depth preview fun!
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AFC South Preview and Draft Needs
DeShaun Watson is easily one of the best quarterbacks in the league, let alone the premier QB in the AFC South. A.J. McCarron is his back-up and he’s only there for emergencies.
Considering they traded their best player to acquire David Johnson, it appears he’s going to be the bell-cow for the Texans. He’s plenty capable of that workload though, being one of the best running backs in the league between 2015-18. An injury-riddled 2019 put him out of favor in Arizona and he shouldn’t be slept on at the ripe age of 28. Duke Johnson was also acquired last season and he’s probably going to lose a lot of playing time with David’s ability to play on third downs and catch the ball out of the backfield. Don’t look for them to do anything else here.
We foreshadowed this in the RB write-up but the DeAndre Hopkins trade was the biggest move of the offseason thus far. That puts the Texans in the market for a number-one WR and they tried to supplement that by adding Randall Cobb. He can’t fill that Hopkins void though, so, look for them to take someone in the draft as well. Will Fuller and Kenny Stills are in much bigger roles now too while Keke Coutee has completely fallen out of favor.
While Jacoby Brissett was fine in the sudden absence of Andrew Luck, he simply wasn’t good enough with all of the talent in the AFC South. That’s why they chose to sign Phillip Rivers, as he’ll carry the load for the next few years. Brissett remains there on a 2-year $30-million deal though, making this one of the most expensive play-calling duos in the NFL. They could be in the market for a QB in the draft though, to have someone for the future.
Marlon Mack is one of the most underrated backs in the NFL and he’ll surely be the guy going forward. Nyheim Hines is still there for third-downs while Jordan Wilkins is there for emergency situations. Don’t look for them to do anything at this position.
T.Y. Hilton’s injuries might have Indy in the market for another wideout, with Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell making up the core. There are five other guys under contract at that position but it wouldn’t be shocking to see them add someone in free agency or the draft to please their new quarterback.
Jack Doyle and Mo Allie-Cox make-up for the TE group, with Eric Ebron being a free agent. Many people are very high on Cox and he could see an expanded role with Ebron unlikely to return. After the Rivers signing, Indy might be done making any fantasy-relevant moves until the draft.
With Marcus Mariota and Tom Brady signing elsewhere, Tennessee made Ryan Tannehill their franchise quarterback. He was fantastic for the Titans last season after being traded from Miami. They rewarded him with $118 million across the next four years and an unknown Logan Woodside is the only other QB on the roster. That means they’ll surely sign a legit backup or grab someone in the upcoming draft.
Derrick Henry was an absolute beast last season and he pretty much made Dion Lewis irrelevant. He’s also looking for a new contract and that’s an iffy situation after giving Tannehill so much money. Lewis is also out of the picture now too though, so, look for the Titans to add an insurance running back sooner rather than later. In any case, Henry is easily the best RB in the AFC South and one of the best backs in football.
A.J. Brown broke out at the end of last season and he’s the go-to guy now. Corey Davis remains the number-two while Adam Humphries will play in the slot. They could try to upgrade for Davis since he’s been such a bust but it seems unlikely that they’ll do anything at this position.
Delanie Walker’s time in Tennessee has come to an end but Jonnu Smith was stellar filling-in for him last season. That slides Cole Hardman into the back-up role but they could add another guy here to fill the void that Walker is leaving behind.
The Nick Foles experiment failed miserably and they chose to cut their ties by sending him off to the Bears. That means it’s Gardener Minshew’s show from here on out and he’s actually the only QB currently under contract. That means they could be in the market for a Jameis Winston or Cam Newton to take over as a starter or could go for a veteran backup to mentor Minshew. In any case, they have to add someone in free agency or the draft no matter what.
Leonard Fournette has established himself as the bell-cow back for the Jaguars. They also have five other RBs under contract with Ryquell Armstead as the primary back-up. With all of the other needs in their defense and offensive line, it would be surprising if they added another back in the offseason.
The Jaguars wide receiving corp has been tough to trust for years now but they seem to have a lot of depth now. Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark, Marquise Lee, Chris Conley, and Keelan Cole are all under contract and it makes it very unlikely that they’ll add here either.
Um, Mercedes Lewis? Are you there? No, he’s been out of the picture and it leaves Jacksonville with Josh Oliver and Charles Jones. Those two combined for four catches for 19 yards last season, with James O’Shaughnessy, Sean DeValve, Nick O’Leary and Geoff Swaim all gone too. This makes this the worst tight end group in the AFC South and maybe the worst in the NFL. That means the Jags are surely in the market for a tight end, with Delanie Walker, Eric Ebron and Tyler Eifert looking like the best fits. They also might address it in the draft or just punt the position altogether.
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