With the Summer Sleeper series at its conclusion and the preseason underway, it’s time to review what we’ve learned since the beginning of camp and take a closer look at position battles, emerging players or roster surprises. With that in mind, we’re going to fire up the DLF RV and go division-by-division with some news and notes. While we won’t mention every single player (we have our player news feed for important news), we’ll take some time to run down some important dynasty information for each team. If you have a question on a particular player, ask below and I’ll do my best to answer it as well. If you missed a previous report, just click on it below.
Dynasty Fantasy Football Training Camp Update: NFC East
Dynasty Fantasy Football Training Camp Update: NFC West
Dynasty Fantasy Football Training Camp Update: NFC North
Dynasty Fantasy Football Training Camp Update: NFC South
Dynasty Fantasy Football Training Camp Update: AFC North
We continue with the AFC South.
All eyes are on Andrew Luck, who hasn’t thrown a football since around 1985. In all seriousness, Thursday will be a big night for him as he gets back on the field for the first time in nearly two years. At one time, Luck was the overall QB1 to own in dynasty leagues but his injury has thrown some cold water on that idea. Jacoby Brissett is waiting in the wings if there’s a setback. At this point, Luck’s surgically-repaired shoulder has been pain free throughout camp. With a re-tooled offensive line, he’s primed to return to QB1 status if he can remain upright.
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The Colts running back competition is a very interesting one. Marlon Mack is the de facto starter at this point and should have every opportunity to win the job. However, it seems like every explosive play from Mack is followed by three or four featuring him getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Indy also drafted two young running backs in Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. Hines is a prototypical third down back and offers a lot of big play potential from the backfield and the slot- many have compared him to Tarik Cohen. Wilkins has been the talk of camp as he’s routinely been mixed in with the first team in practice. I’m always intrigued by productive running backs from the SEC and Wilkins has major sleeper potential. With Robert Turbin suspended the first four games, someone may emerge from this committee and it could very well be Wilkins. If anything, I’m trying my best to own him at least in any league where I have shares of Mack. However, the ADP of Wilkins is starting to climb as news continues to be positive on him. Oh, Christine Michael is also on the roster and that fulfills my obligation of typing his name at least once each quarter at DLF since around 2006.
The Colts look like they’re planning on starting Ryan Grant opposite TY Hilton. Outside of those two spots, it’s all up for grabs as KJ Brent, Dres Anderson, James Wright, Krishawn Hogan, Chester Rogers, Daurice Fountain and Kasen Williams battle it out. Rogers is obviously going to get his targets but it seems his upside may be limited. The one player I didn’t mention there is the early star of camp and that’s none other than former Clemson standout Deon Cain, who is getting glowing reviews and looking like a draft steal for the Colts and for dynasty owners who burned a late round rookie pick on him, despite him falling all the way down to round six in the 2018 NFL Draft. The other player I’m keeping an eye on with this group is Brent, who has also shown excellent route running combined with great speed thus far in camp.
The Colts signed Eric Ebron in the off-season and are looking to pair him with last year’s breakout, Jack Doyle, who caught 80 passes last year. Ebron has always flashed greatness but typically disappointed whenever he suited up on Sundays. He’ll get his fair share of targets but I look at this similarly to the situation in Tampa Bay where trying to find real dynasty value for two tight ends on the same team is pretty tough. The Patriots did it once but it’s a tough task to pull off. Meanwhile, Erik Swoope is likely going to be the odd man out in some fashion – I’ve seen his name kicked around as a possible trade target but I’d expect the Colts would be hard pressed to find a taker since the league figures they may not want to keep all three of these tight ends. Still, Swoope is said to be much improved.
Blake Bortles proved to be “good enough” last year for the Jags as they really put it all together behind a great defense and a talented young running back. Bortles posted a decent campaign last year and the coaching staff has promised to be more aggressive this year, though that may not be a great thing. Jacksonville will be counting on more from him and this is a pivotal year for his dynasty value.
Leonard Fournette posted 1,040 rushing yards, 302 receiving yards and scored ten touchdowns as a rookie in just 13 games, which has to be considered a success. He’s come into camp lighter this year and is vowing to get out of bounds more, something his owners surely like to see since the risk with Fournette is clearly his injury history, most notably his ankle woes. Regardless, we know what to expect here. The real intrigue to me lies with Corey Grant, who has major sleeper appeal, despite still likely being behind TJ Yeldon for the time being. All Grant does is make a play every time he touches the ball and the Jags seem to be more and more aware of that, seemingly going out of their way to make sure everyone knows he’ll get his touches this season. While Grant could take a few snaps away from Fournette, the net effect could be a healthier RB1 in the end, something dynasty owners of Fournette will gladly take.
This group is reconfigured after the loss of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in the off-season. It looks like the Jags will keep six receivers and that will likely include Donte Moncrief, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, DJ Chark and Rashad Greene. One player who could throw a wrench into that plan is Allen Lazard, who has reportedly come on strong over the past week. Jaydon Mickens is also a favorite of the coaching staff. I’ll be watching this group closely as one of these players is likely to emerge. At this point, the Jags seem most interested in seeing what Westbrook can do after he showed some flashes of brilliance last year.
The Jaguars have been spending a ton of time in camp working on their red zone offense and peppering new tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins with targets in the process. ASJ has breakout potential after a decent 2017 with the Jets. Jacksonville went out of their way to give him a two-year deal and certainly expect him to improve on his 50/357/3 line he posted in New York last season. ASJ is in line to be a full-time player on an offense that should suit his skill set – this makes him a potential breakout player, even with so many receivers hogging targets. I’ll take younger players with upside over veterans who don’t have elite potential at this position every day of the week.
Deshaun Watson took the fantasy world by storm with 19 touchdown passes in just seven games before tearing his ACL in practice last year. All reports have been positive thus far and it looks like Watson is on track to start the season under center. His presence is the key to everything in this offense as the Texans will clearly struggle to score without him. If Watson can even come close to the stats he put up early on last year, he’s a franchise quarterback in reality and fantasy. So far, it’s been all systems go in camp and he’s likely going to play on Thursday night.
The Texans have actually led the league with 1,236 rushing attempts over the past three seasons. Unfortunately, they haven’t found much success since Arian Foster left town. They enter 2018 with Lamar Miller, who posted a career worst 3.7 yards per carry last year, eventually losing work to Alfred Blue. D’Onta Foreman is still recovering from a torn achilles and it’s tough to know exactly what he’s going to look like when he returns off the PUP list as well. Tyler Ervin seems to have an edge on Troymaine Pope and remains in the mix for a roster spot after returning from a torn patellar tendon as well. Miller seems to be the incumbent starter but you’d imagine the Texans want to take a good look at Foreman this year as well. Miller is said to be in great shape and has changed his off-season diet. However, I have my doubts about any running back who has seen his yards per carry average drop four years in a row. This looks like a bit of a hot mess at the moment.
DeAndre Hopkins had the season of a lifetime last year as he posted 96 catches for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns, despite not playing the final week of the season and losing his franchise quarterback halfway through the year. Will Fuller will play opposite Hopkins and will look to finish the year healthy, something he hasn’t done in his two years in the NFL. Those two receivers will be at the epicenter of this offense but aren’t the only names to watch here. Bruce Ellington and Keke Coutee seem to be locked into the top four on the depth chart, which leaves players like Jester Weah, Vyncint Smith, Chris Thompson, Sammie Coates and DeAndrew White to battle it out for one or two more spots. That’s an interesting group that includes a Nephew of the President of Liberia (Weah), a grad from Limestone College (Smith) and a player who played high school football less than 20 miles away (White), which begs the question as to why Hard Knocks isn’t in Houston? Regardless, this race is too tough to call at the moment.
I love this competition right now. The loss of CJ Fiedorowicz has opened up the depth chart for someone to establish themselves as a real weapon at the position and vault into dynasty relevance in the process. The candidates include draft picks Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas, as well as incumbents Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson. Griffin is the likely starter but has limited upside. Anderson is small for the position but struggles being a full-time player. The two rookies are major projects but both have talent. Akins is the most intriguing of the two and I’m really looking forward to seeing how all these players do in the preseason. It seems like we’re destined to get some dynasty relevance here at a spot that hasn’t really provided any since the days of Owen Daniels.
Much like the Texans, the success of the Titans is going to fall squarely on their quarterback staying healthy and consistent. Marcus Mariota is looking for a bounce back season after he threw just 13 touchdown passes and posted 15 interceptions last year. A new coaching staff is promising an offense that utilizes his skillset, so a resurgence could come. In Mariota’s defense, he’s already playing under his third Head Coach in four years. At this point, Mariota has had a bit of an up and down camp.
For about twenty minutes, Derrick Henry was the talk of dynasty leagues this Spring as it looked like he was slated for true bellcow duties this year. Unfortunately, the Titans then signed Dion Lewis, which has to be regarded as one of those dreaded football moves that’s good in reality but terrible for fantasy purposes. Tennessee can talk all they want about making Henry a workhorse, but Lewis is going to get his touches and will probably post more all-purpose yards while Henry scores more touchdowns. After all, the Titans paid Lewis top ten running back money and he won’t get that paycheck to watch from the sidelines. Still, there should be enough value for both of them to be in a lot of fantasy lineups this year. Camp hasn’t really given us any answers as to how these two will be utilized, so the preseason is going to be important. One player I’m tracking is Akrum Wadley, who was one of the most talented undrafted running backs this year.
The Titans are expecting a lot more from Corey Davis and he’ll look to build on his two touchdown playoff performance against the Patriots last year. Other than that, it was a lost season for Davis, who battled an early hamstring injury and had a hard time carving out targets at less than 100%. The news from camp on Davis has been very positive as he’s dominated at times, though an undisclosed injury has hampered him this week. We pretty much know what to expect from Rishard Matthews and it looks like Taywan Taylor has taken a step forward as well. The sleeper from the wide receiver group may be Deontay Burnett, who has reportedly shown great improvement this off-season.
We know what we’re going to get from Delanie Walker, who continues to be one of the most underrated players in dynasty leagues. The news from camp in regards to the tight end position is the fact Jonnu Smith was listed as a co-starter on the Titans’ initial depth chart. The Titans could bery well utilize two tight ends as part of their base offense and that would put Smith clearly on the dynasty map, even as he plays second fiddle to Walker.
Ken is on Twitter at DLF_KenK