AFC South Preview
Looking at offseason changes
Now that camps are opening and we have finished our rookie rankings, we thought it was a good time to start rolling out our team reports, which are being released by division. Old Rotobahn readers know the drill, but for you newbies, the goal here is to get you back up to fantasy speed. If you’ve been eating, breathing and sleeping baseball, we’re here for you. Let’s play a little catch-up. The key things on the docket are coaching changes, rookies and key free agent moves.
OC Pep Hamilton was brought in to replace Bruce Arians, who rode a wave of success all the way to the head coaching gig in Arizona. With Pep, the Colts opt to give Andrew Luck a familiar face to work. Hamilton was OC at Stanford during Luck’s senior season. Given that Arians was a significant loss, the Hamilton addition was an inspired move in terms of giving Andrew Luck an edge. There's talk of more 2TE formations and less 3WR formations, but I doubt that is set in stone. The best players will play the most snaps. If Coby Fleener is playing lights out, then you will definitely see a lot of double tight ends, but that would be true if Arians was still in town. My guess is that you'll see a lot of rotating personnel in Indy this year and plenty of formations and shifts.
- Reggie Wayne
- T.Y. Hilton
- Darrius Heyward-Bey
- Dwayne Allen
- Coby Fleener
In general terms, these five players will rotate with four playing at a time in most game situations. They may use a fullback at times too this year in short yardage and against certain opponents. Still, the idea that they are going to be run-heavy this year is theory until it happens. The NFL is a passing league and this team has an elite QB. Yes, they'll run. They'll run it more than last year even, but they are still a team that wants to throw, because that's the personnel they have. This team isn't built around Ahmad Bradshaw's durability or Vick Ballard's game breaking ability (yes, sarcasm.) It's Luck's team and Chuck Pagano is not a dumb man.
The key losses for the Colts are WR Donnie Avery, who is, if anything, replaceable. In fact, given Avery’s inconsistencies, the move to Darrius Heyward-Bey makes a lot of sense. Both players have the same problem ... inconsistency, but at least DHB gives them a bigger body on the outside, which is a new club in Luck’s bag. If they get a better season from TE Coby Fleener in 2013, Luck will definitely have a new element. In 2012, his best options were Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Avery. Not a bad group, but the obvious limitation is their size and that becomes an bigger issue as you get closer to the stripe. Luck could have a better hand to play near the end zone in 2013. Good news if you are betting on his fantasy value.
The Colts used the draft wisely by investing in the trenches, getting interior and exterior talent on both side of the line. To their credit, they still managed to land a nice long term piece in round seven when they selected RB Kerwynn Williams out of Utah State. Williams is underrated and could challenge for significant time in 2014 if newly signed starter Ahmad Bradshaw is a 1-year player as we suspect he is.
Houston has continuity in its coaching staff which is always a good thing. We really liked their draft for the long term as they added some very talented players in DeAndre Hopkins, a game-ready outside receiver from Clemson, and 6th rounder Alan Bonner, who we love on film. The Texans now have a very deep and talented receiving group with only Andre Johnson in the second half of his career.
- Andre Johnson
- DeAndre Hopkins
- Keshawn Martin
- Alan Bonner
- Lestar Jean
- DeVier Posey
The Texans also addressed a clear need at RT by drafting two tackles, most notably Brennan Williams from North Carolina, but also David Quessenberry, a 6th rounder who should be a solid player in time.
The other significant story that I see is the outstanding group of undrafted tailbacks they have brought into camp.
- Cierre Wood, Notre Dame
- Dennis Johnson, Arkansas
- Ray Graham, Pitt
These guys are well covered in our rookie rankings, but I think it really underscores how sound an approach they are using in Houston. They restocked a position well without using a single draft pick. Nice work by GM Rick Smith.
HC Gus Bradley is the new boss in Jacksonville and being a defensive guy, we are equally concerned about his new OC, Jedd Fisch. This is Fisch’s first job in the NFL at the coordinator level, so the jury is most definitely out on whether this will be an upgrade over Mike Mularkey, who was canned after just one season at the helm. The Jaguars’ new DC is Bob Babich, formerly DC of the Bears.
While the new regime is a bit of a wildcard, we like what they’ve done since taking over. One potentially telling move was the trade out of round four on draft day. With a whole mess of QBs still on the board, they opted to move back and settle for slot receiver Ace Sanders while adding a late pick (210 overall.) This tells me that new GM David Caldwell is a shrewd guy. He understood a few things. First, he has a young QB in Blaine Gabbert that has the same upside as most of the guys in this class. Two, based on the way QBs were slipping, he could get a few strong prospects after the draft was over, and he did just that when he landed Matt Scott out of Arizona. Lastly, by not over-investing at the position, he leaves his team in solid position to take advantage of next year’s strong QB class if they need to. This was a power move in the middle rounds by a rebuilding team. It says that the current regime has been given more than a single season to turn the ship around. It bodes well for the Jags long term. At the QB position, they are now in good shape. They either find their young QB in Gabbert or Scott or they use what will almost assuredly be a premium first round pick on a stud quarterback, like Teddy Bridgewater, who we absolutely love. The Jags have things figured out from what I see. It’s just going to take another year or two.
They had a balanced draft overall and, as you may already know, we like both of their mid rounders for the offense. Sanders was a surprise to us in the 4th round, but we love his game and he will definitely add a presence from the slot. Denard Robinson is one of our favorite talents in the entire draft and we think he was an absolute steal in the 5th round. Obviously, first round OT Luke Joeckel is well known and now gives the Jags’ an advantage on the edges with plus tackles on both sides. If they can clean up the middle of the line, things will get good. On the free agent front, the most significant adds were QB Mike Kafka, who is a solid depth QB, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, who could play a large role early on while Justin Blackmon is serving his 4-game suspension, and Justin Forsett, who provides a very steady hand in the backfield behind Maurice Jones-Drew, who is returning from a tough lisfranc (foot) injury. The Jags now have a nice mix in the backfield.
Though technically not a change, the retention of OC Dowell Loggains is good news for Chris Johnson, who performed better after the in-season switch from Chris Palmer to Loggains. There’s more good news for C.J., as the Titans were aggressive in upgrading the heck out of their interior line by adding potential monster OG Chance Warmack in round one and then taking C Brian Schwenke out of Cal in the fourth round. These two additions came on the heels of an aggressive free agent campaign that netted three significant offensive additions. First, they grabbed more interior line help with LG Andy Levitre, whom they signed away from Buffalo. They also nabbed ex-Bill QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who gives them something more reliable behind shaky starter Jake Locker. This could prove to be a wise move as far as 2013 is concerned. The Titans also raided the Jets’ and 49ers’ backfield by bringing in RB Shonn Greene and TE/HB Delanie Walker. Did they spend too much money on these guys? Yeah, they probably did. At least they added the premium priced talent in areas of clear need. On the cheap front, Jackie Battle was recently brought in for depth. Not a bad move.
The last big detail in Tennessee would be rookie WR Justin Hunter out of Tennessee. Though he has a few things to clean up with his game, the upside of Hunter playing alongside Kenny Britt is pretty scary. We’re talking freak show if both players can stay healthy. Hunter’s 2011 season was lost to an ACL injury and Britt’s knee woes are well documented. That being said, both players should be at full strength when the season begins and Britt will be healthier than he’s been since the start of 2011.
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