AFC South Division Preview: Is A.J. Brown about to take over?

Yahoo Sports Fantasy Staff
·11 min read

The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all eight NFL divisions during the 2020 fantasy football draft season. Here, we’ll tackle each team’s most pressing fantasy question, and team win totals. Be sure to also check out each team’s full preview linked up below. Next up, the AFC South.

Houston Texans: Given the DeAndre Hopkins trade, who is the receiver to draft in Houston when considering ADP?

Andy: First of all, you are under no obligation to draft any Houston receivers. Again, it’s hardly ideal to have so many important new faces in the offense this year, on such a compressed offseason schedule. If you’re gonna make me draft a Houston receiver, I’ll take Will Fuller at his dirt-cheap Yahoo ADP (104.5). His injury risk isn’t really much of a concern if I’m getting him outside the top-100 picks, as something like a WR4. Fuller has repeatedly demonstrated that, at his best, he’s capable of massive single-game performances — the sort of multi-touchdown efforts that win matchups. If he ever gives us a full healthy season, he’s going to be a fantasy machine.

Matt: Don’t think there is anyone in this WR group that will be considered a “must-draft” at any ADP. Brandin Cooks is the odds on favorite to lead the team in targets and is the safest bet. However, if one is to fall to a point where they do become a value, it’s Will Fuller. I know, he gets hurt. He’s likely going to be drafted at a spot where all that risk and then some is baked into his cost. Grab him as a WR4/5 and deploy him as a high-ceiling flex in games where the Texans have a high implied point total or good matchup.

Scott: I’ll grab some Randall Cobb best-ball shares, just looking for cheap volume. But otherwise, this is not a pool I’ll be fishing in. Will Fuller’s been too hurt too often for me.

OVER/UNDER on 7.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: So often Deshaun Watson can take a sad song and make it better, but the climb is all uphill in 2020. Bill O’Brien’s coaching record is strong given how bad the optics so often are, but this is the season bad choices likely catch up to him. The Hopkins trade was done for all the wrong reasons, and hastily at that. The Rams were so eager to dump Cooks, they set a new record for cap-hit absorbed in a trade; enjoy your new guy, Houston. Who, exactly, were the Texans bidding against when they bought Cobb? Tennessee and Indianapolis have better rosters in this division. The Texans look like an obvious UNDER, even at this compromised number.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Houston Texans team preview)

Tennessee Titans: What's your bold prediction for ascending star A.J. Brown, and how high would you draft him?

Andy: It should go without saying that Brown has a very good shot at a top-10 positional finish. He was a devastating big-play weapon last year. Tennessee made great use of Derrick Henry’s on-field gravity, using play-action as well as any offense in the league. I think we can take Brown’s terrific receiving performance over his final eight games in 2019 — 30 REC, 703 yards, 5 TDs — as a best-case scenario for the year ahead. He’s not likely to be a volume pass-catcher, because the Titans ranked next-to-last in pass attempts last season (448). But Brown is an elite home-run threat who should produce a significant yardage total while reaching the end zone 8-12 times. If you don’t view him as a third-round fantasy pick, you’ll never land him.

Dalton: Brown was second behind only Michael Thomas in yards per route run last season and also finished top-three in yards per catch, YAC per catch and Passer Rating when targeted, all as a rookie who inexplicably slipped to the middle of Round 2. Brown also finished No. 2 in fantasy points per target and No. 1 in Production Premium. Any likely regression should be offset by greater volume in Year 2 as the now clear alpha in Tennessee’s passing attack. While the Titans are no doubt a run-heavy team, Brown also benefits from Ryan Tannehill appearing to be 100% the real deal, and defenses will primarily focus on teammate Henry, an advantage few if any other receivers with his physical skills possess. I have Brown ranked as a top-10 WR, and my bold prediction is he finishes top-five.

Matt: There’s little doubt in my mind A.J. Brown can find his way into the top-12 wide receivers. He’s clearly a complete stud, dominating the competition as a rookie while playing a true No. 1 X-receiver role for the Titans. He gets off the line of scrimmage well, separates at all levels, and plays like a bully. The Titans won’t throw the ball enough for him to push for the NFL lead in targets but there’s little on the wide receiver depth chart beyond him. A young talent with a secure target share is the perfect breakout to believe in fantasy. He’s a perfectly sensible third to early fourth-round selection.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11)
A.J. Brown is the real deal. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

OVER/UNDER on 8.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: The upgrade from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill proved massive, and this is a team that held a 10-point lead in the AFC Championship game with a running back who could score 20+ touchdowns and a QB who’s a sneaky dark horse MVP candidate, so give me the OVER here. I’m not entirely sold on Mike Vrabel as a coach (but do like the continuity there and at offensive coordinator), and it’s typically better to fade teams coming off a deep postseason run, but this number (8.5) is reasonable, and it helps to get to play the tanking Jags and the Bill O’Brien-led Texans 25% of their schedule. Even with the added juice (-139), I like the Titans OVER.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Tennessee Titans team preview)

Indianapolis Colts: Does Jonathan Taylor finish No. 15 or better among RBs in .5 PPR?

Liz: Top-15 is aggressive. But top-20 to 25? That, I’d buy. The Colts didn’t draft a bruiser with sub-4.4 speed and over 950 colligate touches in the second round if they didn’t plan to run him. Last year, while working behind a top-ranked run-blocking unit, Marlon Mack averaged just 3.5 YPC when facing base fronts. That’s not great. And while staying mindful about an atypical offseason, there’s no discounting what the Colts spent on a workhorse back. Mack isn’t going away, but Taylor figures to get dibs on early downs and the goal line. With Nyheim Hines gobbling up the targets on passing downs, I just don’t think there will be enough opportunities to keep Taylor inside of the top-15.

Andy: The year ahead clearly isn’t going to be anything like a typical NFL season. Teams largely scrapped their offseason programs, training camps will have fewer contact practices and there’s no preseason. All of this, of course, is bad news for the 2020 rookie class. The right approach for fantasy managers is probably to fade the first-year skill players. It won’t surprise me at all if the Colts ease Taylor into the offense in September, which could impact his end-of-year finish in the ranks.

But the more interesting and important question is where we’ll be ranking Taylor on a weekly basis when we reach December. By that stage, he definitely has a shot to rank as a rock-solid RB1, a top-10 player at his position. I don’t expect him to have a significant receiving role, but I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t handle the early down carries, assuming a healthy season. He has blistering speed and obvious big-play ability; Taylor averaged 2,058 rushing yards per season as a collegiate player. Indy’s offensive line is among the best in the game, so his setup is perfect.

Scott: Like my colleagues, I’m concerned about rookie ramp-up time in this unusual season. Perhaps it means less to running backs than other skill positions, but it’s still something I’ll be carefully considering. Taylor had a modest receiving background at Wisconsin, along with some issues with fumbling and drops. And I don’t think Mack will be completely kicked to the curb; like most teams, Indianapolis wants to deploy multiple backs. I don’t consider Taylor a complete fade, but I expect to be slightly under market on him. If the draft value comes to me, fine; if it doesn’t, lots of fish in the sea.

OVER/UNDER on 8.5 Win Total from BetMGM

Scott: This might come as a surprise given how lukewarm I was on some of the Indy players, but I’ll gladly take the OVER on the win total. That’s a bet on Frank Reich and the team’s organization, which has built and drafted well for a few years now. The Colts have excellent overall depth, though a lot of it comes at positions that won’t directly correlate to fantasy value.

The over pick is also a statement on the mediocre AFC South, which includes a good-not-great Titans team, a Texans club dealing with Bill O’Brien issues, and a Jaguars franchise that’s driven into a ditch, heading for a multiple-season rebuild. Reich couldn’t save the Colts last year when the Andrew Luck retirement ambushed the organization in August, but he’s the ace in the hole as Indy likely returns to playoff contention.

(Click here for our full, in-depth Indianapolis Colts team preview)

Jacksonville Jaguars: Outside of Leonard Fournette and D.J. Chark, do you see a sleeper to monitor?

Liz: I’m intrigued by Shenault. He’s a versatile player who has the size to play outside (6-foot-1 and 227 pounds) and the savvy to win in the slot. He’s also ultra-physical and crushes after the catch, as evidenced by the fact that he forced the most tackles among college WRs since 2018. I don’t see him being draftable, but the fact that Doug Marrone is already talking up his high-end utility gives me hope that he’ll be used effectively and immediately in Jacksonville. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him rack up some fire YAC as the year progresses, potentially winning DFS enthusiasts some cash and closing out his rookie effort with an impressive final month.

Matt: Outside of chasing splash weeks for DFS when they have good matchups, we should all know by now not to chase Chris Conley or Dede Westbrook in season-long. In fact, I think Shenault could slide right into a similar role to the one Westbrook has held for years and provide an upgraded, suped-up version. Shenault has excellent hands in contested situations and plays like a bully after the catch. Think of the way the Panthers used DJ Moore as a rookie while he got some seasoning as a route-runner. Shenault could offer something similar.

Dalton: Ryquell Armstead. Since I’m fading Fournette, I’m interested in Jacksonville’s backup RBs, and the depth chart isn’t overly inspiring (apologies to the Ozigbros) outside of Armstead, who recorded a 40-time and Speed Score both in the 91st percentile or above. A former three-time all-conference track star, Armstead had more receiving TDs in one start than Fournette had across 100 targets all season. The best way to fade Fournette is to eye Armstead, who’s an obvious sleeper.

OVER/UNDER on 5 Win Total from BetMGM

Dalton: Gardner Minshew wasn’t quite Tom Brady level-bad last season, but he was right there with him at the bottom of the NFL. All signs point to Jacksonville being one of the favorites for the top pick of next year’s draft (Trevor Lawrence vs. Justin Fields is closer than you think). With arguably the worst roster in the league (the Jaguars went from No. 1 in defense DVOA in 2017 to No. 29 last year), I’m betting the UNDER even with the heavy juice (-164).

(Click here for our full, in-depth Jacksonville Jaguars team preview)

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