In an effort to drag the AFC South out of the NFL’s basement, the Jaguars, Colts and Titans have been stockpiling talent, (presumably in the hopes of challenging back-to-back division champions, your beloved Houston Texans).
With plenty of new additions to nab for your fantasy roster, this is what our AFC South opponents bring to the fantasy table. (You can find my top potential Texans fantasy contributors for 2017 here).
Leonard Fournette, RB
This one should be obvious. Fournette was a first round selection this year, fills a much-needed void on the Jags’ roster, and is the uncontested day one starter in Jacksonville. Plus, he was an absolute juggernaut in college. T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory will take a backseat to Fournette, who should rack up major fantasy points all season for his owners. Like Ezekiel Elliott last year, Fournette is an early round fantasy pick despite his rookie status.
Allen Robinson, WR
Robinson’s fantasy stock took a hit last season as he failed to repeat the success of his sophomore campaign (largely thanks to Blake Bortles’ struggles). He remains, however, incredibly talented and the top receiving option in Jacksonville. Guaranteed targets are not something to ignore. Robinson may or may not be a WR1 this season, but he should still be a viable WR2 and is obviously worth drafting.
Blake Bortles, QB
Bortles struggled last season, but he still finished as the eighth-ranked fantasy quarterback in 2016 (3,905 yards and 23 touchdowns). He has legitimate receiving options in Robinson and Allen Hurns, and the Jags added a fierce running back option (Fournette) to alleviate some of his pressure. Bortles remains a solid backup or QB2 for 2017.
Allen Hurns, WR
After a breakout sophomore campaign, Hurns fell short in 2016, hampered by multiple injuries in the second half of the season. He returns healthy this year and has flashed big play abilities through his career. He could be a decent pickup in the later rounds, but could prove a boom-or-bust option week to week.
*Some notes on the defense: The Jags have stashed plenty of defensive talent over the last two years, and this year all of the pieces could finally work. They certainly have a stacked secondary and a daunting defensive line. Their defense could be a decent option this year.
**Worth a mention for IDP leagues: Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye may form the most intimidating cornerback duo in the division. I grabbed both of them in my IDP league.
Andrew Luck, QB
Luck has been a reliable fantasy quarterback for the majority of his career, eclipsing 4,000 yards in three of his five seasons. Last year, he racked up 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns, finishing fourth among QBs. Though he is still recovering from shoulder surgery, Luck is expected to be ready for the start of the season and should prove a top fantasy quarterback option once again. Even if he gets off to a slow start, Luck will be a better option than most.
TY Hilton, WR
Hilton had 1,448 yards and six touchdowns in 2016, his most productive year to date. Even if Luck struggles in his return, Hilton is still the number one receiver in Indianapolis and will be a huge fantasy asset if he can find the end zone a little more often.
Frank Gore, RB
Gore is getting up there in age, especially for running backs (he is 34 this season), but he remains a reliable rusher. Gore compiled 1,025 yards and four touchdowns last year. He is still the top rusher for the Colts. Gore’s age is cause for concern, but his workload makes him a worthwhile fantasy selection.
Corey Davis, WR
Last year, I thought Tajae Sharpe had a shot at fantasy relevancy simply because the Titans had no options at receiver. But Tennessee went into the 2017 NFL Draft and grabbed one of the best wideouts on the board - Western Michigan’s Corey Davis. The rookie is explosive and a playmaker, and he gets a proven starting QB in Marcus Mariota. Davis will be the undisputed number one guy in Tennessee. He should have a solid rookie fantasy season.
DeMarco Murray, RB
Last year, fantasy owners were pleasantly surprised with Murray’s resurgence, as the veteran running back reclaimed his role as a top-five fantasy back (he finished the season as the fifth-ranked rusher). This year, Murray may see a slight dip in production after the Titans bulked up their offensive arsenal with Davis and Rishard Matthews, along with second-year back Derrick Henry (a second-round pick in 2016) potentially taking on a bigger role. But Murray remains a top running back option and should continue his success from 2016 (1,287 yards, nine touchdowns).
Delanie Walker, TE
Walker is consistently an owner favorite at a typically thin position, managing 800 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He may see more competition for targets in 2017, now that the Titans have started to build a legitimate receiving corps. Either way, he will remain a top target for the Titans and a top option in fantasy football drafts.
Marcus Mariota, QB
Mariota has been a solid fantasy quarterback through his career, and now the Titans have finally found him a true number one receiver. Mariota finished 2016 with 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. He finished 13th in fantasy quarterback rankings and should only improve with Davis as his primary target. Mariota could have his best season to date in 2017 if he and his first-round wideout can build solid chemistry quickly.
Rishard Matthews, WR
Matthews racked up 945 yards and nine touchdowns last year in his first season with the Titans. But that was before Tennessee selected Davis in the first round and added Eric Decker in free agency, meaning Matthews is certain to see less targets this year. He could still be a solid pickup, so keep an eye on him through the preseason to see how the Titans are splitting snaps between their wideouts.
Derrick Henry, RB
Henry should take on a slightly bigger role as he heads into his sophomore season, but he remains behind veteran Murray on the roster. At this point, I don’t consider him a great option for fantasy purposes unless injuries propel him up the draft chart, but he is a talented rusher and worth keeping an eye on through the preseason. If he can build on his rookie campaign (490 yards, five touchdowns), Henry could be a solid flex play or deeper league option.
What are your thoughts, Texans fans? Which of the above players are among your top choices? Are there any other AFC South players you’re keeping an eye on for your fantasy draft?