The AFC South is more recognizable by the youngsters at quarterback than almost any other position on the field. Houston drafted Deshaun Watson, officially making him the youngest quarterback in the division, but don’t forget about dynasty climber Marcus Mariota (Tennessee), perhaps ceiling-topper Blake Bortles (Jacksonville), and of course annual stud Andrew Luck (Indianapolis).
The statistics show the division struggled on the defensive side of the ball, allowing the most points of any division in the AFC. With that in mind, the draft priority was to secure defensive players. Here, we’ll cover the few options selected on offense.
Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson (Round 1, Pick 12)
D’Onta Foreman, RB Texas (Round 3, Pick 89)
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After last season’s debacle of paying Brock Osweiler a truckload of money for very little results, it became time to invest in a rookie Houston think will be the leader and face of their team for years to come. Watson knows how to lead a team, and is a winner. The biggest examples are the championship games against Alabama. In those two games in the last two seasons, Watson gained 472 yards of total offense with eight total touchdowns and one interception.
Watson has a plethora of wide receivers to utilize in the Texan offense. DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and C.J. Fiedorowicz are all solid targets. Watson is in a great system that should fit him well. He also has the running game of Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman to keep defenders from blitzing and teeing off on him. The Texans want Watson to learn the system and grow, so coach Bill O’Brien has announced that Tom Savage will start the season at quarterback.
Speaking of Foreman, he may not fit for dynasty leagues that stress PPR. Foreman, who already has reported to camp out of shape, is not off to a good start. My other concern is his role. He doesn’t block at an NFL level and has cement for hands. Therefore, an active third down role is out, and Lamar Miller is good enough to be a bell cow. What he should do is give Miller rest and be a touchdown collector for Houston. Look for the powerful Foreman to play in sub packages and get the goal line work.
Marlon Mack RB, South Florida (Round 4, Pick 143)
Marlon Mack (5’11” and 213 pounds) was the Colts’ only fantasy offensive selection. Being a Colts fan, I am extremely excited about this pick. The Colts missed having a third down back last season. Indianapolis brought in Josh Ferguson as a UDFA, but it didn’t work out as well as they thought. Mack will bring legitimacy to that role in 2017.
The importance of Mack is two-fold. First, it will give Luck someone he can trust catching the ball out of the backfield – the South Florida running back caught 65 passes in his three seasons as a Bull. He also totaled 3,609 yards on the ground which set USF all-time record. Second, Mack will give the aging but hard working Frank Gore a breather, and perhaps take the reigns if the 34-year old Gore moves on. He is in his final year of his contract. Mack put up 33 touchdowns and 6.16 yards per carry average while at South Florida, so perhaps he can cross that goal line. Mack also has experience in a variety of offensive schemes. The downside is he has trouble holding onto the ball as he had one of the highest fumble rates in the draft class according to PFF.
Leonard Fournette, RB LSU (Round 1, Pick 4)
Dede Westbrook, WR Oklahoma (Round 4, Pick 110)
Marquez Williams, FB Miami (Round 7, Pick 240)
Fournette brings a threat to the running game that Jacksonville hasn’t had since Maurice Jones-Drew. Fournette is a bull (6 feet and 228 pounds) and I feel pity for any defender that tries to take him on. For a team that averaged the fewest yards per game and for the second fewest touchdowns, this is excellent news.
Fournette was a production machine at LSU. He tallied 3,830 yards 40 touchdowns while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. According to PFF, he had the second-most yards gained after contact in 2015, behind Alabama’s Derrick Henry, and averaged more after contact per carry than Henry.
TJ Yeldon will most likely be given the third down responsibility as Fournette has shaky hands, especially on wheel routes. He is also not the best in pass protection, even though he will be physical and not shy away from such assignments. My biggest worry is how he will respond with a shaky offensive line. He did struggle when LSU did not have the line to blow the gate open for him
The Jacksonville Jaguars love their troubled wide receivers. Players such as Justin Blackmon, Jimmy Smith, Ace Sanders and R. Jay Soward all struggled with substance abuse, and Dede Westbrook has had similar problems. Twice he was arrested for domestic violence, but he was never convicted. Westbrook may take over return duties from Rashad Greene and take pressure off the receivers with his 4.4 speed. The Jaguars are deep at receiver, and they are young.
Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan (Round 1, Pick 5)
Taywan Taylor, WR Western Kentucky (Round 3, Pick 72)
Jonnu Smith, TE Florida International (Round 3, Pick 100)
Khalfani Muhammad, RB Cal (Round 7, Pick 241)
Davis automatically becomes Mariota’s primary weapon. This position has not been kind to the Titans over the years, but Davis should be different. He has sharp route-running, and sells them well with good head fakes. He will constantly extend to grab the ball, rather than using his body to catch it, which allows him to have a large catch radius. Quarterbacks can find comfort that Davis will adjust to the ball and is capable of running all kinds of plays, including jet sweeps. He also fumbled only once in his career at Western Michigan.
While both Corey Davis and Tajae Sharpe will man the wings, Taylor will slide into the slot. Taylor is fast and explosive, and rounds out the receiving options for Mariota. He has a good breakaway ability and can hit the home run once he gets his mitts on the ball. Unfortunately, his small hands don’t allow him to always to catch the ball away from his body.
Taylor was very productive at Western Kentucky, catching 253 passes for 4,234 yards and 41 touchdowns. As senior, he exploded for 98 receptions, 1,730 yards, and 17 scores. His totals would be much higher if he didn’t have the drops.
Jonnu Smith brings many options to the Tennessee offense. He is a move tight end, but also knows how to take on the block. At Florida International, he lined up at several positions, including the slot and tight end on both sides of the field. He will replace Anthony Fasano, who left to Miami as a free agent. Look for Smith to be more active in the passing game than Fasano, but he will likely be needed to block more than catch.
Muhammad will add fire to the smashmouth weapons of Henry and Murray. He is a spitfire of a running back, standing at 5’8” and weighing in at 175 pounds. With the Cal Bears, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry. He also adds some value in the passing game as he caught one pass per game. Muhammad is lightning quick, and ran a 4.35 forty in the combine. He won’t give Tennessee much in a full rounded game, but he can give potential excitement to the offense when called upon.
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Thanks, Mike. Curious about the Titans WR corps; outside of Davis, how do you see playing time shaking out between Matthews, Taylor and Sharpe? Is Sharpe the big loser in terms of Taylor? Matthews had a very good year in ’16.
I personally feel that we are going to see a Raiders situation from when Amari was a rookie. Davis and Matthews will be 1A/1B. That would be great for fantasy. I think Sharpe is the big loser and Taylor will get scraps. Delanie Walker and Demarco Murray are not to be forgotten in this mix either