AFC South: Divisional Nuggets

Intro/Methodology

Every week, I’m going to break down an entire division, focusing on their play on the field that week. Specifically, I’ll go through each team and focus on their dynasty assets, especially anybody who suffered injuries or a massive value change. I won’t look at any player or team in too much detail. This article is more of a summary piece. I also included links to all my previous divisional nuggets articles at the bottom of the page. With that said, let’s jump right in!

Titans

Summary

The Titans boat raced the Lions 46-25, putting them at 10-4. They didn’t suffer any new injuries, although Darrynton Evans did finally return from his litany of injuries in this game. The Titans are a solid NFL team, and they have the inside path to an NFC South title.

Quarterback

Ryan Tannehill had an excellent game. He completed 21/27 of his passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and he also added three carries for 21 yards and two rushing touchdowns. I currently rank Tannehill as my dynasty QB11. He’s locked into his current situation through 2022, and I don’t see him slowing down. I’m perfectly comfortable with Tannehill as my QB1 in a 1QB league and my QB2 in Superflex leagues.

Running Backs

Derrick Henry ran wild once again, taking 24 carries for 147 yards and a touchdown, with two receptions for five yards. I always struggle to rank Henry in dynasty leagues, as he doesn’t participate much in the receiving game, and he will turn 27 years old in January. I personally prefer to avoid rostering older running backs, so Henry is my dynasty RB12. However, if you want to rank him as a top-five dynasty running back, I can’t fault you too much.

I enjoyed seeing Evans get involved as the Titans’ RB2. He provides receiving upside, and he will be an excellent complement to Henry. Evans had eight carries for 30 yards and two receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown. But Evans’ return doesn’t lower Henry’s value at all. The Titans didn’t use Henry in the passing game without Evans, so nothing has changed for Henry. Just keep Evans in mind if Henry ever goes down, as the Titans spent a third-round pick on him in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Receiving Weapons

Corey Davis led the Titans’ receivers with four receptions on six targets for 110 yards and a touchdown. Davis is a free agent after 2020, and I’ve been conflicted about whether the Titans will retain his services. I believe that Davis plays better as a secondary receiver, behind someone like A.J. Brown. Davis would likely find a value increase if he signs as the WR2 somewhere like Green Bay, but I’m okay with him if he returns to the Titans. I doubt we see many trades with Davis, making him a nice dynasty hold.

Brown is a dynasty WR1, coming in as my WR4 behind only D.K. Metcalf, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill. I wish Brown had a more consistent floor, although he still saw five receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown on six targets. Brown has 73.4 yards/game, pacing for 1,174 yards over a full season. I think Brown has so much innate talent, and I believe he will continue to develop in his third season.

I also enjoyed seeing a bounce-back game from Jonnu Smith. Smith tied his season-high with five receptions, totaling 52 yards on those catches. The Titans have to decide on Smith, as he’s also a free agent after 2020. As the Titans are 10-4, I think they will try to retain both Davis and Smith, although they may have to choose who to keep. 

Smith is currently my TE11, but I don’t have confidence in him. He’s a tier down from players like Hunter Henry and Evan Engram. I see Smith as similar to players like Mike Gesicki and Irv Smith Jr. The athletic talent is there, but he’s never truly put it together on the field for a lengthy stretch, let alone a full season. If someone sees Smith in that higher tier, I would love to move on for the right price. He’ll never be a top-five tight end in my opinion.

Colts

Summary

The Colts kept pace with the Titans with a 27-20 victory over the Texans, going to 10-4. Overall, the Colts are a solid NFL team, with few weaknesses on either side of the ball. They are also remarkably healthy, as Parris Campbell is their only major fantasy-relevant player dealing with an injury at the moment.

Quarterback

Philip Rivers had a strong game in Week 15, completing 22/28 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers provides little ceiling in fantasy football, although he’s been a solid QB2 in Superflex formats. However, it’s more interesting to look forward to the Colts’ 2021 quarterback situation.

At this point, the only clarity is that Jacob Eason will be the Colts’ 2021 backup quarterback. The Colts spent a fourth-round pick on Eason in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they have him under contract through 2023 on a cheap rookie deal. Jacoby Brissett is a free-agent after 2020, and I doubt the Colts re-sign him with the salary cap going down in 2021. He will likely command a decent contract as a backup quarterback elsewhere.

However, the Colts still need to find a 2021 starting quarterback. At 10-4, they have fallen so far in the NFL Draft order. I doubt any relevant quarterback falls to them, and I can’t see the Colts trading up for a quarterback. They are a team built to win-now, so spending highly on acquiring a first-round rookie quarterback makes little sense.

Therefore, the Colts essentially have two options: re-sign Rivers to another one-year contract or acquire a new veteran quarterback to take his place. I don’t believe there are any free agents superior to Rivers unless the Cowboys somehow allow Dak Prescott to hit free agency. The Colts would need to trade for a new starting quarterback, with Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, and potentially Jimmy Garoppolo as the available options.

Right now, I think the Colts would like to re-sign Rivers, although it’s possible Rivers decides to retire. Either way, this quarterback situation will consume the 2021 offseason, especially as Colts’ head coach Frank Reich has a history with Wentz. I hope either Darnold or Wentz gets a chance to start in Indianapolis, but I suspect the Colts run it back with Rivers.

Running Backs

The Colts finally removed Jordan Wilkins from their rotation, going to a two-man backfield of Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. Taylor took 16 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown, and he had four receptions for 12 yards. I love Taylor’s long-term future in dynasty leagues. He’s my dynasty RB5 and 10th overall player. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m betting on his upside and college profile to carry him to a star career.

Hines had five carries for 43 yards, but he only had two catches for 11 yards. I believe that Hines is a solid pass-catching back with some rushing upside, similar to Tarik Cohen or James White. Hines had 63 catches as a rookie, 44 in 2019, and now has 53 in 2020, so he’s produced receptions no matter the quarterback and system. I believe Hines is an excellent complement to Taylor, and he could have flex value moving forward. He’s a perfect cheap buy, as players like Hines are always undervalued in dynasty leagues.

Receiving Weapons

Recently, T.Y. Hilton has re-emerged as a threat in the Colts’ offense. I thought Hilton had reached the end of his career, but he’s had at least four receptions and 71 yards in each of the previous four games. Hilton only turned 31 years old in November, so he could easily sign a new contract for 2021. I now think the Colts will retain Hilton to make another championship run. I’m not interested in Hilton in dynasty leagues, but he could affect the rest of the offense.

Michael Pittman has dominated snaps for the Colts’ WRs when he’s been healthy in 2020. I think he’s the Colts’ long-term top receiver, whether Hilton comes back or not. However, he’s only caught two passes in each of the last two games. I like Pittman long-term, and I’ll gladly buy him low if he continues to fall off the radar over the rest of the season.

Unfortunately, I’m not super interested in the rest of the Colts’ receiving weapons. They spent a second-round pick on Campbell in 2019, but he hasn’t done much yet. I prefer Campbell to the rest of the players on their roster, although he may never carve out a significant role. I’m incredibly concerned that the Colts might re-sign Hilton and potentially bring in another receiver in free agency or the 2021 NFL Draft.

Given that thinking, I don’t care about Zach Pascal and his five receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns. He’s a nice depth piece for the Colts, but he doesn’t belong in a relevant role. He’s just someone to keep around in case of injuries, like what happened to Campbell in 2020.

The Colts also have three tight ends in Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, and Trey Burton. Burton is a free agent after 2020, and the Colts probably won’t retain him. Doyle is extremely overpaid and old, so the Colts might cut him. Alie-Cox is a restricted free agent, and I think he’s better as a backup. This team needs a real, every-down tight end to get rid of this nightmare committee. None of the current players are worth anything in dynasty leagues.

Texans

Summary

The Texans are simply running out the season, as they just went to 4-10. They have a bright future with Deshaun Watson at quarterback, but they also came into this game down multiple offensive pieces. Will Fuller is serving a six-game suspension for PED use, Duke Johnson had a neck injury, and Randall Cobb remains on injured reserve with a toe injury. Luckily, nobody else got hurt, as the Texans would barely have an offense with any more injuries.

Quarterback

Watson is a stud quarterback. He completed 33/41 of his passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns while adding six carries for 25 yards. I have Watson locked in as my dynasty QB3, behind only Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray. Hopefully, the Texans add some weapons and an offensive line around him, but there’s no doubting Watson’s talent.

Running Backs

Duke Johnson missed the game with his injury, but he’s not a long-term factor for the Texans. He was a product of the old Bill O’Brien regime, and the Texans can release him to save $5.1 million with zero dead cap before 2021. I expect the Texans to do precisely that, as paying over $5 million for a backup running back makes absolutely no sense in today’s NFL.

David Johnson actually had a solid game. He only had eight carries for 27 yards, but he finally got involved in the receiving game with 11 receptions for 106 yards. The Texans can also release Johnson in the offseason to save $6.9 million against the cap. However, they don’t have a draft pick until the third round, and they have so many needs before an additional running back. At this point, I expect them to retain David Johnson as their 2021 starter while perhaps adding a cheaper backup through free agency or a late-round draft pick.

Receiving Weapons

The Texans’ most valuable receiving asset remains Will Fuller, who I expect them to re-sign during the offseason. They miss Fuller, who developed into a real top receiver during the 2020 season. Fuller’s price should be significantly lower after his PED suspension, potentially making it easier for the Texans and Fuller to reach an agreement.

Brandin Cooks led the receivers that managed to play in the game with six receptions for 59 yards. The Texans essentially have Cooks on a series of team options with no dead cap for three years, worth $12, 13, and 14 million. I can’t imagine that they can replace Cooks’ production for less than $12 million, so he’ll be back in Houston. I like Cooks as a cheap dynasty buy, as nobody seems to want him on their dynasty rosters.

Behind Cooks, Keke Coutee and Chad Hansen replaced Fuller and Cobb in the starting lineup. Hansen played as the second outside receiver while Coutee took Cobb’s slot snaps. Coutee recorded five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown, and Hansen had two catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Unfortunately, the Texans still owe Cobb $10.6 million for 2021, and they would eat $12.2 million in dead cap if they released Cobb. Therefore, Cobb will almost certainly return as the Texans’ slot receiver, completing their trio of Fuller, Cooks, and Cobb. But Coutee and Hansen have shown signs of life, and they are now both solid dynasty stashes. I prefer Coutee, as he had more dynasty value in the past.

Lastly, the Texans still employ an annoying tight end committee approach. Jordan Akins significantly out-snapped all the other players, landing at a 58% snap share. Akins recorded five receptions on six targets for 50 yards. However, I have little to no interest in Akins in dynasty leagues. He will turn 29 years old in April, and he’s just a replacement-level tight end for an NFL team.

Darren Fells, Pharaoh Brown, and Kahale Warring split snaps behind Akins. Of those players, only Warring has any dynasty appeal, as he was a popular sleeper in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, I suspect that the Texans will fill this tight end vacancy with a real player, superseding all of these guys. Warring is worth a roster spot in TE-premium formats, but nothing more.

Jaguars

Summary

At this point, the Jaguars’ attention is clearly on 2021, not 2020. They lost their 13th straight game to the Ravens 40-14 to drop to 1-13 in a putrid performance. There’s just nothing to say about the real-life Jaguars right now; other than that they’re horrible, and they need a complete overhaul. However, the Jets defeated the Rams in Week 15, giving the Jaguars the inside track to the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Quarterback

Gardner Minshew completed 22/29 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He also contributed two carries for nine yards. Minshew did lose a fumble and took five sacks, but he played far better than the Jaguars’ other quarterbacks, Jake Luton and Mike Glennon. However, the Jaguars will draft a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, likely Trevor Lawrence. I’ll save the Lawrence discussion for other articles, but he’s obviously a massive upgrade over Minshew.

Minshew was only a sixth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, so he’s on a cheap contract. There’s no reason for the Jaguars to trade him away, as he’s a competent backup at a reasonable price. Therefore, Minshew’s Superflex value is about to go up in smoke, and he’ll join the tier of good backup quarterbacks. In 1 QB dynasty leagues, Minshew won’t have a roster spot for much longer.

Running Backs

James Robinson struggled on the ground in this game, taking 16 carries for 35 yards. He saved his fantasy day with three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown, but he didn’t look effective. I like Robinson, although the Jaguars should bring in a complementary back to keep him fresh.

Robinson’s dynasty value will ultimately depend on what kind of complement the Jaguars add. I doubt they draft someone like Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, but that would tank Robinson’s value. I believe that the Jaguars more likely spend a mid-round pick or sign a competent veteran free-agent like Carlos Hyde to spell Robinson. If they do that, Robinson’s value will be stable, and he won’t have to take every touch in 2021. Plus, Robinson will have more touchdown upside if Lawrence is the Jaguars’ 2021 starting quarterback.

Receiving Weapons

Speaking of Lawrence, if he comes to the Jaguars in 2021, all receiving weapons will benefit. DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault led the Jaguars in receiving this week, although neither had a massive game. I’m incredibly concerned that Chark has struggled all season after his 2019 breakout, but I hope he can revitalize his career under Lawrence. 

I see Chark and Shenault with similar dynasty values, at WR32 and WR35, respectively. I have some concerns that neither player is a true WR1, and a new player will quickly surpass them. However, with Lawrence coming in, I can’t drop their value too much. Shenault is an intriguing rookie, and Chark produced with terrible quarterbacks in 2019. They both have promise.

As for everyone else, there’s practically nothing there. Tyler Eifert had three catches for 51 yards, but the Jaguars can release him after 2020 to save $5 million. Whether they do that or not, the Jaguars need a better receiving tight end. Eifert doesn’t matter for dynasty purposes.

Keelan Cole has had some good games in his four-year Jaguars’ career, but he’s a free agent after 2020. He only had two catches for 22 yards, although he has 593 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2020. I expect him to sign as a depth option elsewhere, so he won’t be on the Jaguars moving forward.

I also think that fifth-round rookie Collin Johnson is an intriguing sleeper. He had just one reception for eight yards in this game, but he’d previously had a role in the Jaguars’ offense. However, Johnson only played one offensive snap this week, so he might be purely a deep-league option. Keep his name in mind, though.

Thanks for reading this article. You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Karp. I love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out at any time! I take fantasy questions and help with all formats, so keep sending those questions my way.

Previous Divisional Nuggets Articles: NFC East (Week 2), AFC North (Week 3), AFC South (Week 4), NFC West (Week 5), NFC East (Week 6), AFC North (Week 7), AFC South (Week 8), NFC West (Week 9), NFC East (Week 10), AFC North (Week 11), AFC South (Week 12), NFC West (Week 13), NFC East (Week 14), AFC North (Week 15)

jkarp

Columbia SPS Sports Management graduate. Director of content, writer, and ranker for @DFF_Redraft and writer for @DFF_Dynasty. #DFFArmy #FantasyFootball You can find me on Twitter @DFF_Karp.

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