Roster Roundup – Round Three: AFC South

Taking A Dive Into The Rosters From Around The League

Author: Chris Wolf

This time of year is typically the time when teams, trainers and agents hype up their players. We know how the world has changed in recent months and the NFL is no different in its approach to returning to “normalcy”. With the news of NFL staff and players testing positive for the Corona Virus, fantasy news is taking a backseat. As a result, fantasy players are missing out on the typical hyperbole surrounding pre-season roster news and notes.

In this series we’ll take a look at who’s who on rosters and how that may help in your drafts and early waivers.

Each week we’ll examine a division’s skill position current roster and predictive depth chart heading into training camp to see how that relates to their fantasy outlook.

Houston Texans

HC: Bill O’Brien OC: Tim Kelly

QB: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron, Alex McGough, Nick Tiano

RB: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Karan Higdon, Scottie Phillips, Cullen Gillaspia

WR: Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, Steven Mitchell Jr, DeAndre Carter, Chad Hansen, Isaac Whitney, Isaiah Coulter, Tyler Simmons

TE: Darren Fells, Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins, Kahale Warring, Dylan Stapleton

With the departure of DeAndre Hopkins, this is now clearly Deshaun Watson’s team. There aren’t too many other NFL QB’s as clutch as Watson. He is a gamer whose leadership will be on center stage this season. He doesn’t have a true Alpha WR this season so it will be up to him to make quicker, more assured choices without Hopkins as his safety valve. McCarron is a competent clipboard holder and is on his 4th NFL team since starring at Alabama. 

David Johnson’s short time as a fantasy stud is nearing an end. He has caught unlucky breaks with seemingly unrelated injuries over the last few years, but he is in a great situation to go out with a bang. The former Cardinal was a top 5 running back in the first 5 games of last season, injuries struck, and he appeared to come back too soon as we all witnessed his horrible performance before being shoved aside for Kenyan Drake. Fast forward to 2020 where Johnson claims to be fully healed and the Carlos Hyde-less Texans have 245 vacated rushing attempts. If the 28-year-old still has any juice left, he could be in for an ample workload.

His receiving skills are a bit redundant with Duke Johnson also in the mix. Duke Johnson did pull down a respectable 52 grabs on 72 targets for 463 yards and 3 TD’s. He was only targeted outside of 10 yards just once on the year, so he clearly operates in the shallow flat/check-down zone. Carlos Hyde only caught 14 catches for 65yds. So, this backfield may be hard pressed to find targets for their RB group even with the 168 vacated targets of Hopkins.

Which brings us to my next point; Bill O’Brien likes opening up the longball by lulling you to sleep with a grinding run game and short passing game. This team has a few guys that will go deep.  The newly acquired Brandon Cooks figures to operate as the #1 option in the passing game. The same Brandon Cooks that is coming off of his worst statistical season as a pro and is on his fourth team since entering the league in 2014. He is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands, but he has an unfriendly contract and is concussion prone. Will Fuller has been the team’s resident deep threat and he is a threat. Tyreek Hill is possibly the only other NFL receiver that absolutely crushes DB’s as well as Fuller can when going deep. Fuller is a gamble every year due to mostly lower body injuries but when he hits, he hits. He is a bonafide week winner, but you have to take the bad with the good and be willing to gamble.

Randall Cobb is another new arrival and is a sneaky good pick if you’re looking for a somewhat affordable short-term option. He is the fourth highest paid receiver on his team, and he will operate in the same area of the field as the departed Hopkins. Coming off a nice season in Dallas, Cobb could be primed for decent usage. Kenny Stills is a good player but will be pushed down the depth chart. The coaching staff seems to absolutely loathe Keke Coutee and his best days as a Texan could be behind him. The tight end group is a moderately skilled one, but it lacks high level talent. Darren Fells put up 7 TD’s, good for third best in the NFL and a 71% catch rate. Jordan Akins could be considered the chain mover of the group. 2018 pick Jordan Thomas was supposed to operate as the starter in 2019 but his season was cut short due to a rib injury. Thomas is an absolute monster of a human being, but he will need more quality playing time to move up the depth chart. Second year TE Kahale Warring is the future of this group but is essentially a rookie again after sitting out his first year due to injuries (concussion, hamstring). He is currently working out with Deshaun Watson during the pandemic along with Cobb, Cooks and Coutee.

Indianapolis Colts

HC: Frank Reich OC: Nick Sirianni

QB: Philip Rivers, Jacobey Brissett, Jacob Eason, Chad Kelly

RB: Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Darius Jackson, Bruce Anderson III, Roosevelt Nix

WR: TY Hilton, Michael Pittman JR, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Artavis Scott, Daurice Fountain, Dezmon Patmon, Chad Williams, De’Michael Harris, Rodney Adams, Malik Henry, Ashton Dulin

TE: Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Matt Lengel, Xavier Grimble, Farrod Green, Ian Bunting

The Colt’s settled on Philip Rivers after kicking the tires on several other QB’s early in free agency. They knew they had to upgrade from Brisset who admirably performed to his ceiling in 2019.Rivers is as tough and fiery as they come but his arm strength was noticeably declining last year. The Colts will rely more on his experience and leadership than his statuesque athleticism and arm cannon. Rivers is known to be a millisecond slow on his reads, often “after-throwing” his open receiver but he doesn’t care. He will fire it in there anyway which bodes well for bigger targets like Jack Doyle and Michael Pittman JR. His 2019 numbers were ho-hum at best but that was under a ho-hum coaching staff. His 4615 yards were good for fourth in the NFL and his TD/INT ranked 15th (23) and 3rd(20) respectively. He is an upgrade over Brissett but in no way should be relied on to help your fantasy team except for a bye week.

If you are a Colts fan, you had to come away with a smile after this year’s draft. The running back position was a bit of a mess and was a tad underwhelming last year despite having an elite offensive line to block for them. By selecting Wisconsin stud RB Jonathan Taylor in the second round, the offense got really exciting. Marlon Mack is a respectable player and he does run hard, but he will never be a bruiser. Taylor is violent and fun to watch. He and Mack should form a solid committee and Taylor’s presence is sure to make Mack a more efficient runner. Nyhiem Hines is the passing game specialist and is sure to get game scripted out of many contests this year. Talented? Absolutely. But this team does not utilize him as the Bears use Cohen. Hines is used more situationally than rotationally like Cohen. Rivers does love checking down, but I really believe that Mack could be more of a benefactor of those passes this season than in years past.

There is room to grow after a tough season for Colts receivers last year. T.Y. Hilton topped the group with just 45 receptions and 5 TD’s. Zach Pascal led the team in yards with just 607 on the season while also hauling in 5 TD’s. There isn’t much talent on the depth chart but there is cause for excitement with the drafting of Michael Pittman JR and the return of Parris Campbell. T.Y. Hilton has been the de facto #1 receiver for some time now and has performed but we know he’s not the most consistent week-to-week fantasy producer. Hilton’s Base salary is the highest on the team at $14,542,000 and is looking at free agency after the 2020 season. The big bodied Pittman joins the team and is slated for the “X” receiver position in Frank Reich’s offense. At 6’4” 225lbs, he will be a welcome addition and a big target for Rivers. He has drawn numerous comparisons to Vincent Jackson and that is pretty high praise for the rookie from USC.

Parris Campbell returns after seeing mixed playing time in just seven games due to injuries as a rookie. The Ohio State product projects to man the slot while Pittman and Hilton operate the perimeter. There was a lot of excitement going into this crafty route runner a year ago and hopefully the former second round pick is fully healthy for the start of the season. Filling out the rest of the possible depth chart are Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson and Dezmon Patmon if they keep 6 WR’s. Pascal performed above expectations last year and provides quality depth at the position. Johnson is a deep threat that was just re-signed and Patmon is a rookie out of Washington State that is a quick receiver that comes from a pass heavy offense. The tight end position is once again anchored by Jack Doyle. Doyle is one of the most boring picks you can make but he consistently produces. He delivers as a low end TE1 to high end TE2 and shouldn’t be cast off this year especially with the tight end loving Rivers throwing the ball. The athletic but underperforming Trey Burton figures to resume his role in Frank Reich’s offense of a move tight end while the massive man known as Mo Allie-cox will continue his role contributing as the TE3 for the Colts.

Jacksonville Jaguars

HC: Doug Marrone OC: Jay Gruden

QB: Gardner Minshew II, Mike Glennon, Joshua Dobbs, Jake Luton

RB: Leonard Fournette, Chris Thompson, Devine Ozingbo, Ryquell Armstead, Tavien Feaster, James Robinson, Nathan Cottrell

WR: DJ Chark, Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook, Laviska Shenault Jr, CJ Board, Keelan Cole, Collin Johnson, Josh Hammond, Terry Godwin, Michael Walker, Marvelle Ross

TE: Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver, Charles Jones II, James O’Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Ben Ellefson

The legend of Gardner Minshew got a boost when the Jaguars traded away Nick Foles. New OC Jay Gruden seems pleased with his new QB stating “(Minshew) has got the intangibles you want in a quarterback”. Minshew was a 6th round pick and was thrown into the fire week one when Foles left with a broken clavicle and the mustached legend was born. He finished with a 6-6 record while proving that he was capable of putting a team on his back and showed his toughness and grit. He was the 10th ranked QB under pressure and had the highest QB rating in the NFL when throwing deep. He appears to be safe at the moment with not much of a starting threat behind him on the depth chart. But when the Jags are picking in the top 10 (or higher) range in next year’s draft, they may find it incredibly difficult to pass on one of the big three QB prospects.

Fournette is coming off of one his best years as a pro. Keeping the injuries at bay, he played in 15 games, running for 1152 yards while catching 76 passes for an additional 522 yards. The only bad part of his 2019 campaign was the lack of TD’s (3). He was the centerpiece of this offense but was supposedly being shopped last spring. If he remains on the team, the receptions are sure to take a hit with pass specialist Chris Thompson joining the team. Thompson reunites with Gruden and like Fournette, has struggled with injuries. Ryquell Armstead is someone who the dynasty world was keeping an eye on during the Fournette trade talk and he should be kept on watch lists. He didn’t offer much as a rookie, but he also didn’t get much of an opportunity with Fournette commanding the bulk of the snaps. Ozigbo, like Armstead, has the frame to handle a heavier workload if anything were to happen to Fournette. Additionally, at 225lbs he turned in a 4.54 forty at his Nebraska Pro Day prior to last season.

DJ Chark became the go-to receiver in his second year in Jacksonville. After boasting only 14 receptions as a rookie in 2018, he came down with 73 grabs for 1008 yards and 8 touchdowns.   It was a true breakout year for the young receiver and Gruden has already said that he’ll be used in every position in the receiving game. Dede Westbrook was the next receiver in line with 66 catches for 660 yards and 3 touchdowns. He figures to maintain a similar role in 2020 as the longest termed Jag in the receiving corps. The #3 receiver is Chris Conley who quietly had a career year with high in both receptions (47) and yards (775).  He offers big play potential while also showing his reliability as a route runner.

Laviska Shenault is an excellent athlete and could prove to be a very dangerous weapon in the NFL if used right. Coach Doug Marrone promised to line him up all over the field which always sounds good. Shenault’s versatility was showcased in college albeit in limited fashion. Nearly ¾ of his receptions were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage with many coming from bubble screens. His injury history is a bit concerning due to the pummeling he received in his quick pass role while at Colorado. If given touches in space, allowing him to use his athleticism, he could be a wildcard for fantasy position eligibility in the next few years. Tyler Eifert and Josh Oliver are the notable tight ends for Jacksonville. Eifert was a former scoring machine when he was with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati. He offers a good, reliable veteran presence with a nose for the endzone. Oliver is the more athletic of the two and should be the future TE1 on this team. He is a natural pass catcher with upper-end athletic talent. Although he missed much of 2019 due to a back fracture, the coaching staff has been quick to point out that he will be a big part in this year’s passing game.

Tennessee Titans

HC: Mike Vrabel OC: Arthur Smith

QB: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Cole McDonald

RB: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Dalyn Dawkins, Khari Blasingame, Shaun Wilson, Senorise Perry, Cameron Scarlett

WR: AJ Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Trevion Thompson, Cody Hollister, Kalif Raymond, Nick Westbrook, Kyle Williams, Cameron Batson, Kristian Wilkerson, Rashard Davis, Mason Kinsey

TE: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firsker, MyCole Pruitt, Cole Herdman, Parker Hesse, Tommy Hudson

Ryan Tannehill capped off his impressive season from backup to leading the team to the AFC championship game with a four-year $118 million salary and $62 million guaranteed. That was a huge payday from the Titans for a position of uncertainty the last few years. Marcus Mariota was to be their future but never really put it together in Tennessee. Tannehill delivered when he got the call off the bench. More than just a game manager, he did well under pressure and pushed the ball down the field when needed. He was PFF’s #1 rated QB with a 91.0 passing grade while throwing for 22 TD’s and rushing for another four.

Derrick Henry’s contract was the talk of the early offseason. He is set to perform under a $10.2 franchise tender in 2020 but both sides are looking to get a contract done sooner rather than later. Henry is an absolute monster and has the build to take a beating as the NFL’s premier grinder. He led the league in attempts (303), yards (1,539), and tied for 1st in touchdowns with 16. He also chipped in 18 catches for 206 yards and 2 TD’s. Undervalued as a passer, the Titans have been looking elsewhere for backfield pass catchers. Pairing Henry with former Titan Dion Lewis made for an interesting duo but Lewis never seemed to fit in Tennessee’s scheme.

In the 2020 draft, the Titans went out and selected Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans in the third round. Evans offers versatility in the run, receiving, and return game. He is a decisive runner and will lower his pads but lacks the wiggle and big play threat ability. What he does offer is reliability. With just 2 fumbles in nearly 600 touches, he is a sure runner that avoids big hits but doesn’t avoid contact. He is a fantastic complement to Henry since he is accomplished in different facets of the RB game.

The 2019 Titans were not exactly a passing juggernaut, but they were fairly efficient. Rookie standout AJ Brown led the way with 1051yds on only 52 receptions. He sported an outstanding YAC total of 462yds, good for 6th best in the NFL as well totaling 8TD’s tied for 7th best. Brown’s yards per reception were equally impressive at 20.2yds per clip and his 38 first downs on 52 receptions equals a stud in the making. Brown’s production was what the Titans had hoped for when they drafted Corey Davis in round 1 (5th overall) in 2017. Davis has been just eh so far but has the skills and athleticism to put it together if he can just find that missing ingredient. So basically, he is the Mitch Trubisky of wide receivers. In the three years Davis has been with the Titans, he has amassed 157 receptions, 2,033 yards and just 9 TD’s. After declining his fifth-year option, the Titans are forcing Davis to prove he is worth keeping beyond 2020.

Adam Humphries is the elder of the Titans receivers at 27 years old. He was a coveted free agent after the 2018 season when he departed Tampa to join Tennessee. The former Clemson product was third in the team in receiving snaps while operating almost exclusively in the slot. Tied with Jonnu Smith for third on the team with 41 receptions, Humphries is a good NFL receiver shackled in a run-first offense. Speaking of Jonnu Smith, many are excited about his potential for this year after his mini breakout in 2019. He set career highs in receptions (41), yards (498), TD’s (4) and first downs (18). You would like to see your #1 TE with a slightly higher 1st down to reception ratio but this will be his first year as the true #1 and he certainly has the talent to fit the bill. Anthony Firkser is the #2 TE and showcased his red zone ability by bringing in two touchdowns in this year’s playoffs while averaging 8.5 yards per target. He won’t see much volume in the passing game but will receive his fair share of snaps along with H-Back MyCole Pruitt in the run heavy scheme of Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans.

That is the AFC South! We hope you enjoyed the read. Check back soon! We will continue with the NFC South next week.

Chris Wolf is a freelance writer for Dynasty Owner.

Follow us on Twitter: @CKWolf21 and @Dynasty_Owner