One Big Fantasy Question – AFC South Edition

Amar Desai
Colts at Redskins 09/16/18. Photo Credit: KA Sports Photos | Under Creative Commons License
Colts at Redskins 09/16/18. Photo Credit: KA Sports Photos | Under Creative Commons License

Fantasy drafts are just around the corner so let’s answer the most concerning questions for each team, specifically teams in the AFC South division.

One Big Fantasy Question – AFC South Edition

Indianapolis Colts – Does Eric Ebron Finish In The Top-Five For Tight Ends Again?

General manager, Chris Ballard, looked like a genius when he signed Ebron in the offseason during 2018. Ebron put together a fantasy season that fantasy owners were looking for since he came into the league back in 2014. Finally becoming one of the premier tight ends in the league, Ebron scored 13 touchdowns through the air which was tied for second in the NFL. Now as good as he was, Ebron benefited from Jack Doyle being on the sidelines for the majority of the year. Also when your team was second in the league in passing attempts, this can lead to tons of targets going Ebron’s way.

So the question has never been if Ebron was talented, he has physical gifts that fit the mold of a receiver but in a big body. Heading into 2019 though, the target share is going to be spread across multiple options.

T.Y. Hilton will, of course, get a large amount of the targets and newly signed Devin Funchess will be looked at often in the red zone compared to Ebron. Also as mentioned earlier, Doyle was hurt a good amount of the year last season. If he is healthy in 2019, he has built a solid rapport with Andrew Luck and should command a good amount of targets. The cherry on top of this passing offense is the newly acquired WR Parris Campbell through the NFL Draft. You don’t draft a guy like Campbell in the second round unless you think he can contribute early to your offense.

So while Ebron is going to get a good amount of targets in the offense, he may not be worth a high investment in the draft. He finished as the fourth-best tight in fantasy last year, but the chances of that happening again this year are slim. While there is the aspect of Luck developing a new relationship with Ebron, there are a lot of other options in this offense now and it may not be long-lasting. Not to mention Marlon Mack is emerging as a great running back in the league so this offense has a chance to be a lot more balanced.

So let other people take Ebron early and if he slips into the later rounds, then he may have enough value to warrant a selection. Should he be drafted? Of course. Will he be worth a high investment, like the fifth round? Probably not.

Projected Draft Round:

Eric Ebron – 7th, Andrew Luck – 5th, T.Y. Hilton – 3rd, Devin Funchess – 13th, Parris Campbell – 12th, Marlon Mack – 4th, Jack Doyle – 8th 

Houston Texans – How Does Duke Johnson Jr. Affect The Texans Backfield?

Lamar Miller had one of his more successful seasons in Houston in 2018. He rushed for 973 yards and scored six total touchdowns. He was able to translate this success into his first Pro Bowl bid as well. With all that said though, the future for this team was in D’Onta Foreman and not Miller. While Miller has been playing well for the Texans, he has not been that electric or dynamic runner that they were hoping for when they signed him in free agency a couple of seasons ago. It turns out that neither is Foreman, as he was released by the team and signed with the Indianapolis Colts in less than a week. Right after that, the Texans acquired a disgruntled Duke Johnson from the Browns. 

Johnson was hoping for more of an expanded role in Cleveland and the emergence of Nick Chubb and then the offseason signing of Kareem Hunt pushed Johnson’s chances for touches out the door. Coming into Houston, he will need to compete with Miller for touches in the offense. Johnson is a dynamic pass-catcher but has yet to develop as a runner in the NFL. So this should be an interesting position battle to watch as Johnson comes in with a chip on his shoulder and could push Miller.

So while Miller is the current starter in the Texans backfield, he may not hold onto it too long. Miller is a more capable running back and should be the running back to own from Houston. Johnson is going to be used in the offense and will cannibalize more touches as the season progresses. Johnson is not as strong a runner, which is why Miller should be selected first in fantasy drafts, over Johnson.

So both running backs are valuable in fantasy football, but Miller will be on the field more when it comes to establishing the run. Johnson is in a prime opportunity though to seize control of the running back duties, as the Texans are looking to bring a little more excitement to the backfield. Johnson can split out wide and act as a receiver, even when Miller is on the field at the same time. So for PPR purposes, Johnson is going to be sought after as his new team brings him added value. Expect Miller to lead this offense to begin the season and then Johnson to slowly creep in and steal the show.

Project Draft Round:

Lamar Miller – 8th, Duke Johnson Jr. – 9th

Jacksonville Jaguars – Is Nick Foles Going To Be The Real Deal?

Foles has had an interesting career. He went from being the lead quarterback in Chip Kelly’s system in Philadelphia, gets traded to the Rams to ultimately get replaced by number one overall pick Jared Goff, contemplates retirement, comes back to the Eagles again to lead them to their first-ever Super Bowl win (also wins the Super Bowl MVP), and then signs a huge deal in the offseason with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Whoa, that’s a bit of a mouthful! With having a bit of an up-and-down career, everyone is wondering if Foles is going to succeed or falter in his new role.

One thing that helped Foles lead the Eagles on their Super Bowl-winning run, was that the run game was one of the best in the league. With Leonard Fournette suffering from injuries and also suspensions last year, the Jaguars fortified the backfield with the likes of Alfred Blue, Thomas Rawls, and rookie Ryquell Armstead. This means that Foles can rely on having a stable running game to take the pressure off him putting the entire team on his shoulders.

When Fournette is on the field, he is a beast to worry about every down. So the hope is he can stay on the field the entire 2019 campaign, as opposed to on the sidelines in street clothes. Regardless, Jacksonville took the precaution to have a bevy of backs behind Fournette, just in case.

Another thing that will help Foles succeed is being reunited with John DeFilippo. DeFilippo was the quarterback’s coach for Foles back in Philadelphia. Now the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville, DeFilippo will know how to make the most of Foles skills and will put him in the best position to excel. Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson and DeFilippo were good at working with Foles to make sure he was given plays to take advantage of his abilities. The comfort of knowing DeFilippo can hopefully let Foles be the same quarterback we have seen the past couple seasons instead of the journeyman type we saw earlier in his career.

Expect Foles to play well in Jacksonville, but maybe not well enough to warrant him being a weekly starter. A match-up based play is more likely and also being a BYE week replacement. The potential is there, but maybe we need to see him in the offense before expecting the most out of him.

Projected Draft Round:

Nick Foles – 14th, Leonard Fournette – 3rd, Thomas Rawls – Undrafted, Ryquell Armstead – Undrafted, Alfred Blue – 14th

Tennessee Titans – Which Derrick Henry Will We Get This Year?

Henry finished the 2018 season hotter than any other running back in the league. A Thursday night performance against the Jaguars was one of the most prolific stat lines in the 2018 fantasy world. He totaled 238 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 17 carries. He followed this up with a 170 yard, two-touchdown performance against the Giants the very next week. So with this type of performance, he is going to be one of the more sought out players in fantasy drafts to be their lead running back in 2019? Let’s pump the brakes a little bit.

Sure, Henry had a per-game average of 21.8 carries, 146.3 rushing yards, and 1.8 rushing touchdowns during the final four games of the year. The real eye-opening number though is his averages for the rest of his career games. He had a per-game average of 9.6 carries, 39.7 rushing yards, and 0.3 rushing touchdowns. Granted he was behind DeMarco Murray in 2016 and 2017, but those types of averages are something to not gloss over. Looking at the average per game for the other 12 games in the 2018 season, they don’t get much better. He had averages of 10.7 rushing attempts, 39.5 rushing yards, and 0.4 rushing touchdowns. This means that even as a starter for most of the season, Henry was not very productive in a run-first offense. Is this the type of running back that you want heading your fantasy roster?

So should we believe the stat history for the 43 of the 47 career games that Henry has played or the four that he finished the 2018 season with? With no big additions to the backfield, the backfield will be his and Dion Lewis’ to control. This means that the offense will be relying on Henry to lead the charge on the ground. The hope is that he can be the same guy who finished the 2018 season, but it’s hard to ignore his long history of mediocrity. With the early-round investment, Henry may not be worth your precious picks at the top of the draft. You can get better value in David Montgomery, Jordan Howard, or Tevin Coleman.

Projected Draft Round:

Derrick Henry – 5th, Dion Lewis – 9th, David Montgomery – 7th, Jordan Howard – 7th, Tevin Coleman – 6th

Colts at Redskins 09/16/18. Photo Credit: KA Sports Photos | Under Creative Commons License

Colts at Redskins 09/16/18. Photo Credit: KA Sports Photos | Under Creative Commons License