Arian Foster’s health is the key to this entire offense. If he is healthy and consistently receives 20+ touches a game, the rest of the offense opens up and guys beyond Foster and DeAndre Hopkins become fantasy-relevant. Foster forces opponents to stack the box, which means receivers will be single-covered on the outside, eliciting a more aggressive (read: fantasy-friendly) offensive approach. Also, we can’t cover a Houston Texans segment without mentioning the best football player on the planet and snubbed 2014 NFL MVP, defensive end JJ Watt (part-time tight end, full-time god) who really could play a factor in goal line situations again this year. He also leads a very good young defensive unit as Jadeveon Clowney returns from injury to form a devastating pass rush.
Bustworthy Beauty: Arian Foster, RB
The only reason Foster is here is because he’s really the only one with the proven track record who we expect anything from. If Jaelen Strong or Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett/Tom Savage or even to some extent DeAndre Hopkins wets the bed we’re not that upset. I understand there’s a lot of hope for Hopkins but we’ve seen one-year wonders before and he’s not a make-or-break player at a shallow position like Foster. If you’re drafting Foster you’re expecting a workhorse RB1, probably drafted in the top six or seven in your draft (unless it’s a PPR league, then he would likely go in the second). That’s all well and good, I expect the same, but there’s no way to ignore the fact that Foster has had issues with his health in the past. He’s had lingering hamstring injuries throughout his career and obviously had the major back surgery in 2013. No one is questioning his effectiveness and fantasy dominance when he’s on the field, but we have to prepare for the worst in terms of injury history, especially considering he receives such a huge workload and is now heading towards an expiration date at age 29.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Jaelen Strong, WR
DeAndre Hopkins will draw more than his fair share of double and triple coverage this year. Teams know that (Insert Texans starting QB here) will want to throw to Hopkins as much as possible and will definitely make him the focus of their defensive game plan (That is, as long as they can control Arian Foster and the running game. Stopping the run is plan 1A and then stopping Hopkins is plan 1B.). Not a simple task, but if the opposing defenses can hold up, Jaelen Strong could become a viable third option for an offense without a ton of answers. The Sun Devils used Strong a lot on shallow crosses and bubble screens, and he could serve as a sneaky PPR option as well. He’s drawing comparisons to Dwayne Bowe, which could either be very good or very bad. It means he has talent, good route-running capabilities, but could also end up frustrating fantasy owners as he fails to live up to his potential and then stops giving a crap about football.
PPR Princess: Cecil Shorts III, WR
Don’t get too excited about Cecil Shorts, I’m by no means endorsing him even as a late round pick in shallow leagues. Technically, he’s slotted in as the WR2 on the depth chart, but I expect Jaelen Strong to be more fantasy-relevant, and we have to temper our expectations because whoever starts at quarterback for this team will likely not impress us. Shorts may end up being the slot receiver here and could serve as a safety valve if they can’t find Hopkins or Strong down the field. IF he can stay healthy (BIG if), we could see a few double-digit target games, but again, please don’t draft him and then yell at me.
Dynasty Darling: DeAndre Hopkins, WR
Literally no questions asked here. Hopkins is in the conversation as a top-15 receiver, a borderline WR1 in a standard 10-12 team league, and that’s considering that I have a fighting chance to win their starting quarterback job. If he was on a team with a competent quarterback, we could be looking at a top five caliber fantasy season. That kind of talent is rare, and especially when considering long-term outlooks, drafting for talent is very important. Situations change, players move around, and soon enough Hopkins could be in an amazing situation. He’s falling farther than he perhaps should in many drafts, so I’d definitely snag him in the fourth or fifth and profit.
The Colts check in as a top five offense at the very least for fantasy purposes. Their defense won’t limit too many points, but in for fantasy outlook, that means all the better, because Andrew Luck will keep throwing the ball and that’s what we really want. This offense either evokes a “kid in a candy shop” feeling for fantasy owners or a “How the hell am I supposed to figure out who to take here?” response. I think there’s enough love to go around, and with a little bit of Luck, everything should work out for the best.
Bustworthy Beauty: Frank Gore, RB
There’s a lot of hype surrounding Frank Gore and his move to a strong offense with a vaunted passing attack, which should open up a lot of holes for Gore to dominate this season. People also expected Trent Richardson to do the same when the Colts paid a small fortune to bring him in (That was also the last semi-intelligent personnel decision the Browns made.). I’m not comparing the two in terms of talent, Gore has clearly been a very good running back for quite some time and Trent Richardson is terrible at football, but I do have some concerns, especially considering where he’s being drafted. Gore has been surprisingly durable in recent memory, playing every game for the last four seasons, but as such a physical running back, that has to take a toll. This may be just a hunch, but I’m not quite as excited as most everyone else, and I also openly admit to wanting to take an unnecessary shot at Trent Richardson.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Donte Moncrief, WR
A popular pick as a sleeper and with good reason. TY Hilton and Andre Johnson will draw A LOT of defensive focus, and Moncrief was a sneaky good option last year, showing flashes of big-play potential. He won’t be a volume guy… ever, but he has breakaway speed and will be due for quite a few long balls from Andrew Luck. Because of how much defenses will need to zone in on Hilton and Andre, Moncrief is going to find a lot of open space deep in the secondary, and no one is concerned with Luck’s ability to complete passes.
PPR Princess: Andre Johnson, WR
This is such a sneaky good signing for the Colts. I know people have brought this up frequently, but I can’t stress how good this looks on paper. Andre Johnson is currently 34 years old. In his age 34 season, a certain Reggie Wayne posted a 105-1,355-5 line with a certain rookie quarterback by the name of Andrew Luck at the helm. I don’t expect Andre Johnson to do THAT, but he could easily get close to 85 catches as a possession receiver in this offense. Reggie Wayne’s longest reception that season was just 33 yards, showing how much he was used by Luck as a trustworthy outlet as he got his feet under him. Well, now Luck DOES have his feet under him and Andre Johnson can play the Reggie Wayne role and turn in a great season (I also tend to like pictures where the player is making a play against his new team. It’s kind of a middle finger to the team that lost him and that’s pretty funny.).
Dynasty Darling: Andrew Luck, QB
Could there really be another option here? I know that running back is the weakest position in terms of depth and top-end talent is valuable blah blah, but in a dynasty draft doesn’t a guy like Andrew Luck seem so appealing? I feel uncomfortable drafting a lot of running backs, especially in a dynasty league because I know that once they approach 30 I can’t expect much in terms of longevity. That turns me off to a lot of the 27+ running backs that are still elite (in no particular order: Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, DeMarco Murray). So why not take Andrew Luck? He’s built like a tank so injury doesn’t seem to be a major concern and he’s the closest bet to a sure thing we have at quarterback, and at just 25, he could dominate the highest scoring position in the game for easily the next ten years. Get out your checkbooks and pay up because it’ll be worth it.
I think we should prepare for another year of “Well, we thought the Jaguars would be better.” After many expected improvements to the team last year, bringing in a promising rookie class, it didn’t quite pan out as they hoped. Another year removed from that, the excitement returns, as people expect big things from the second year of Bortles, Marqise Lee, and Allen Robinson, and are already crowning T.J. Yeldon the answer to the running game. I expect disappointment again, but I think soon, the Jaguars really will be better. This defense quarterbacked by Paul Posluszny is deceptively strong, and if nothing else, their defense should be a legitimate fantasy consideration.
Bustworthy Beauty: T.J. Yeldon, RB
Right now, T.J. Yeldon is being drafted as a fifth or sixth round pick, expected to be a three-down back for the Jaguars. Last season, Toby Gerhart was drafted as a fifth or sixth round pick (sometimes even a fourth rounder), expected to be a three-down back for the Jaguars. Notice a correlation? I know that Yeldon may be a better football player (even though Gerhart was considered a stud going into the 2010 draft, coming in second in the Heisman voting), but this is STILL the Jaguars offense and while they will improve, especially with the offensive line improvements (Please stay healthy forever Luke Joeckel), they can’t be expected to put up many points. Also, there are currently four running backs behind Yeldon on the depth chart: Denard Robinson (He’s too small to be an every down back but will take away touches in the passing game.), Toby Gerhart (Maybe he could be good somehow. We’ll never know.), Storm Johnson (a storm’s a-brewin’), and Bernard Pierce (He’s bad. We know that.). Regardless of how underwhelming the field is here, I’d take the field over a rookie running back basically forced into the role.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Julius Thomas, TE
I think people are overdoing the idea that Julius Thomas will be terrible this year because he’s no longer with Peyton Manning and the Broncos. I know the offense he’s in now is disappointing but he’s the clear red zone threat if the Jaguars manage to make it there, and let’s give a little credit to Blake Bortles. He’s not Blaine Gabbert, and that means a lot. Blaine Gabbert was just a mistake. The boy can’t throw. Bortles isn’t a mistake yet, so we should hold onto hope for at least another season. Sure, Julius won’t be the fantasy producer he was in Denver, but he should provide acceptable value at a much cheaper cost than seasons past.
PPR Princess: Marqise Lee, WR
None of the Jaguars receivers really shine as high volume possession receivers, but as one of the smaller receivers on the roster with good hands and the ability to run routes all over the field, Marqise Lee may end up in the possession receiver role. He won’t win jump balls, and explosive plays deep downfield will be left to the Allens (Robinson and Hurns). I expect Lee to evolve into a good but not great NFL receiver with an acceptable floor but a very visible ceiling.
Dynasty Darling: Allen Robinson, WR
In a dynasty context, Allen Robinson at just age 21 has a lot of appeal. Of course, the situation is not ideal being in a weaker NFL offense but as much of a laughing-stock as the Jags have been over the past few years, there really is potential here. Robinson’s stock has taken off recently, so snagging him might be difficult and probably not worth the overpay, but as a middle round pick to serve as a WR3 or flex option for the season he should be well worth the price. In dynasty leagues he could be worth obtaining a few rounds earlier in hopes that this offense really does find itself in the near future.
Outside of the Colts, this division has such disgusting fantasy offenses. The Titans project to be a bad team once again, as Mariota tries to learn the NFL without a lot of help around him. At least Jameis Winston has real weapons in Tampa Bay with Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson patrolling the sidelines. Mariota has… Kendall Wright. The running game in Tennessee is a joke. Bishop Stankey (intentional) couldn’t even convincingly beat out Shonn Greene for a starting gig last year and in year two there’s no reason to expect much better. Maybe David Cobb will bring some life to the offense but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Bustworthy Beauty: Marcus Mariota, QB
I loved Mariota as a college quarterback. There are things he can do athletically on the football field that some people can’t even do in their dreams. He draws a lot of parallels to a guy playing out on the west coast, one Colin Kaepernick… which might be a problem. The fact of the matter is, Colin Kaepernick isn’t a good NFL quarterback. He’s an elite athlete and has through the roof upside, but his ability to make good decisions with the ball and complete the right passes isn’t really there. Both he and Mariota are read-option quarterbacks from spread offenses. Regardless of the evolution of the position to allow the read option to take more effect, we’ve noticed more running quarterbacks flop than be successful in recent years. The class of young quarterbacks in the NFL is Andrew Luck, one of the best young pocket passers we’ve seen in a very long time. With all that said, the floor is decent for Mariota because of his running ability, but putting a rookie read-option quarterback in an offense lacking weapons does not bode well, at least for this season.
Sleeping Sweetheart: Delanie Walker, TE
No matter what Delanie Walker does, he doesn’t seem to earn the recognition he deserves. Both of his seasons in Tennessee have been solid, worthy of TE1 consideration, but he hasn’t been drafted as such in either of the last two years. He’ll go after guys like Jason Witten, Jordan Cameron, and Dwayne Allen, but I’m not so sure he should be so low. Jason Witten is obviously not the same player, there are question marks about Jordan Cameron’s health, and Dwayne Allen is limited by the other toys available for Luck to play with in the Colts offense (even the one at his own position, Coby Fleener). Walker is one of the safest tight end options out there, and definitely worth a look.
PPR Princess: Kendall Wright, WR
I will keep beating this drum until it works out for me. I’m disgustingly bullish on Kendall Wright and I NEED him to become the PPR machine I want him to be. He allegedly had “WR1 upside in PPR leagues” in 2014. Obviously, that wasn’t close to the case, but that has to mean something, right? Mariota will definitely target him, because Justin Hunter and DGB won’t know what they’re doing on the outside, and secretly I believe in a 100 catch season in the near future. He actually had a 94 catch season in 2013, so the stage is set, as it has been for a couple of seasons now, for Wright to break out and be a beautiful PPR princess.
Dynasty Darling: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
Since I’m not a huge “Mariota the NFL quarterback” fan, and since Mariota is considered the premier dynasty league option from this team, I’ll go with a physical jump-ball receiving threat in Dorial Green-Beckham. I wouldn’t project anything truly amazing, since his NFL comparison in his draft profile is Justin Hunter. Justin Hunter was a trendy sleeper last year nad then it was realized that he has the worst hands of all time. Also, he fittingly plays on the same team, so we have two Justin Hunters and my underachieving princess to cater to Mariota’s growth. I guess DGB has reasonable long-term value, but only if he can improve his football IQ and route-running, which many receivers fail to do.
Yesterday: AFC North
Check in tomorrow as we continue through the NFL, featuring our AFC West Breakdown.
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