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AFC South fantasy team previews

After spending all summer analyzing teams, player situations, and tracking news to get prepared for the 2019 season -- it's time to get down to the fun stuff. To get you prepared to draft your squads this season, my fantasy team previews discuss every fantasy-relevant skill position player, positional strategy, and where I have players ranked versus their average draft position (ADP). Let's get to it!

Houston Texans

Quarterback: As fantasy's QB1 and QB4 scorer in points per game over the last two years, Deshaun Watson has quickly taken the league by storm. Watson has proven to be a true difference-maker when Will Fuller is on the field, and it appears Fuller is all systems go after tearing his ACL midseason in 2018. Fuller and Watson have only shared the field 11 times, but Watson has produced 30.2 fantasy points per game on the back of an incredible 8.5 percent TD rate, 9.1 YPA, and 288 YPG with the Texans field-stretcher active. Even though he puts his body at risk, Watson is arguably the best scrambler in the league. Among QBs, Watson is 4th in YPG (35.7), 3rd in attempts (6.2 per game), and 2nd in YPC (6.1) since he entered the league. It's a good thing Watson is such a willing and able scrambler, because the Texans OL hasn't offered much protection. Houston used two of their first three picks on offensive linemen with Tytus Howard at No. 23 overall and Max Scharping at No. 55 overall, but until proven otherwise, the Texans remain one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Watson was under pressure at the 6th-highest rate last season and was the second-most sacked quarterback in the league. Per PFF, only Josh Allen scrambled more often on his dropbacks than Watson did in 2018. We want Watson using his feet for fantasy purposes, but all of the pressure has severely impacted him as a passer. Per Next Gen Stats, Watson's QB rating drops by 77.1 points when he is under duress while his YPA plummets from 9.1 when kept clean to 5.1 when under pressure. We'll have to live and die by the Texans perilous OL -- but Watson unquestionably has the QB1 finish in his 2019 range of outcomes with a healthy, three-headed monster of Hopkins-Fuller-Coutee.

-- Watson (Rk: QB2 vs. ADP: QB4)

Running Back: Boring RB values are my brand, so I'm here for another year of undervalued Lamar Miller. No one in your league is going to applaud you for taking him, but Miller's performance is elevated with Deshaun Watson under center. During the last two seasons, Miller has averaged more PPR points (13.3 vs. 9.9), more yards per carry (4.24 vs. 3.89), and more YPG (67.0 vs. 51.1) with Watson on the field. The Texans offensive line leaves significant room for pause, but any back that shares the backfield with Watson will see a spike in their efficiency because of Watson's ability to scare and deceive defenses with his legs. Miller often slips into the seventh-round of drafts while new backfield-mate Duke Johnson is usually off of the board by the 9th-11th round of PPR drafts. I'm not convinced that Bill O'Brien knows how to use his backs efficiently in the passing game -- no team has thrown to their RBs less often on first- and second-downs than the Texans have over the last two years -- but Johnson's addition certainly limits Miller's floor. Johnson finally returned to practice on August 20th after nursing a hamstring injury for a few weeks, so it's likely he'll start the season off slowly. Still, Johnson ranks second in yards per touch among 62 qualified running backs over the last three seasons. He's by far the most talented back to ever spell Miller in Houston.

-- Miller (Rk: RB29 vs. ADP: RB31); Johnson (Rk: RB37 vs. ADP: RB41)

Wide Receiver: Even with Fuller and Coutee in the fray, DeAndre Hopkins is the near-consensus fantasy WR1 entering 2019. Incredibly, Hopkins has posted an absurd 21.1 PPR points, 7.0 receptions, and 95 yards per game in 23 games with Watson under center. Watson has targeted Hopkins 234 times over the last two years, and Nuk has dropped exactly one pass. One. Fuller's return to the lineup doesn't hurt Hopkins' volume, either. Across their 16 starts sharing the field together, Hopkins has seen 10.7 targets per game and tagged an absurd 101/1,604/17 stat line over this season's worth of games. Fuller has scored 11 TDs in 11 career starts with Watson, averaging 6.1 targets and 17.3 PPR points per game in these contests. Fuller's output with Watson would tie him with Julian Edelman as the WR8 in fantasy points per game. Fuller's injury concerns are obvious, but he appears on track to be near 100 percent healthy by Week 1. Not many receivers on the board past the seventh round possess the week-tilting upside that Fuller has. Keke Coutee only played in seven games last season, five of which were without Fuller active. The Texans can support three fantasy receivers because of Houston's razor-thin depth chart behind their starting trio, but Fuller's return is a concern for Coutee's opportunity. After dealing with hammy issues during his rookie season, Coutee gained 55 percent of his 397 regular and postseason receiving yards in two games against the Colts. I'm not sold that Coutee is a weekly fantasy starter just yet, and an early-preseason ankle injury may limit Coutee early in the season.

-- Hopkins (Rk: WR1 vs. ADP: WR1); Fuller (Rk: WR33 vs. ADP: WR35); Coutee (Rk: WR51 vs. ADP: WR46)

Tight End: Hopkins, Fuller, and Coutee accounted for 74 percent of Watson's targets last year, leaving little room for tight end involvement. Jordan Thomas and third-round rookie Kahale Warring are favorites to lead the group in snaps, but we truly won't know what this rotation will look like until we see them in the preseason. Warring missed the first week of camp on the NFI list, so Thomas and blocking TE Jordan Akins have been splitting first-team snaps. No one here is fantasy-relevant for 10- or 12-team redraft leagues, but Warring is a sharp late-round pick in rookie drafts. 6-5, 252lbs with 4.67 wheels, Warring has 83rd percentile speed for his size and plenty of opportunity for snaps.

Indianapolis Colts

Quarterback: If Patrick Mahomes is going to be unseated as the QB1, Andrew Luck is a great bet to do it. In his first year with HC Frank Reich, Luck didn't miss a beat after missing the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury. Luck was the QB5 in fantasy points after posting career-highs in completions (67 percent), passer rating (98.7), and red-zone TDs (35). Few players were more consistent than Luck was last season. Luck finished as a top-12 fantasy QB in 12-of-16 starts, and from Weeks 4-17, he finished with fewer than 20 fantasy points twice. The Colts redesigned their attack last season, as Frank Reich schemed to get the ball out of Luck's hands way faster (2.63 seconds to throw in 2018 vs. 2.88s in 2016) and cut his throws downfield (7.6 air yards per attempt in 2018 vs. 8.9 in 2016). Luck methodically moved the offense with his quicker, shorter throws while fantastic protection kept him clean on plays that took longer to develop. Per Next Gen Stats, Luck was under pressure on just 22 percent of his dropbacks -- the sixth-lowest rate in the league. The Colts are returning their entire starting offensive line in 2019, and they have added two new receivers in Parris Campbell and Devin Funchess that their offense desperately needed. With their receiver depth finally sorted out, Luck's surrounding talent has never been better. A lingering left ankle/calf injury has ignited a firestorm across the fantasy industry, and it's easy for the feelings of the 2017 fiasco to re-surface. Luck has missed a ton of practice time and I am never one to buy Injury Optimism, but this situation just seems so much different than his shoulder injury from a few years ago. While the Colts out-right lied about Luck's shoulder injury, this ankle/calf issue just seems like a lingering issue the team either misdiagnosed or they are just being extremely cautious with their star QB. Either way, Luck was seen warming up before the Colts second preseason game and multiple beat writers have speculated that Luck is willing to play at slightly less than 100 percent. Luck is one of a few quarterbacks with a reliable OL that can keep him routinely upright, too. While I have dinged Luck from QB3 to QB6 in my rankings -- I'm still not going to let him slip past me in the late-eighth or early-ninth round of drafts.

-- Luck (Rk: QB6 vs. ADP: QB5)

Running Back: Marlon Mack was a stud once he returned from a hamstring injury in Week 6, ripping off 218/1068/10 rushing in the Colts final 13 regular and postseason games. Mack's 82.1 YPG in this span would have ranked fifth-most among all running backs, while his 61 percent share of Colts' carries inside-the-ten tied for the ninth-highest rate. Mack's usage on the ground in a top offense alone makes him a RB2 in fantasy, but his lack of involvement in the passing game is a critical concern. Mack saw just 2.1 targets per game last season (58th among RBs) as he was routinely taken off the field in favor of Nyheim Hines in passing situations. Hines ran more routes than Mack did last season and out-targeted him 12 to 4 on third-downs in their 13 full games together. Not seeing hardly any usage in the passing game is scary for Mack's weekly floor -- especially if the Colts are behind in games. In fact, Mack's touch counts were abysmal in Colts losses last season (13, 9, and 9). HC Reich has been emphatic that Mack will be the "workhorse" this year, but his backfield usage last season suggests otherwise. I'm treading lightly on Mack in the third-round because I want my RBs to be at least involved in the passing game, and instead pivoting to the WRs in this range, Kerryon Johnson, Devonta Freeman, and Aaron Jones for their receiving chops. Mack has recorded three or more receptions in a game just 3 times in his career. Hines is a fine value in PPR leagues, but he's a depth pick more than anything. With Mack dominating carries -- especially in the red-zone -- Hines' low touchdown ceiling relegates him as a FLEX play at best.

-- Mack (Rk: RB18 vs. ADP: RB18); Hines (Rk: RB50 vs. ADP: RB44)

Wide Receiver: As the most underrated fantasy WR1, it's time T.Y. Hilton gets the respect he deserves. In Andrew Luck's starts since 2013, Hilton has averaged 5.4 receptions and 84.2 yards on 9.0 targets per game. All of these figures rank inside the top-10 at the position in this span, while Hilton's 16.2 PPR points with Luck under center makes him fantasy's WR9 in per game output. Luck-to-Hilton was better than ever last season, too. The duo connected on a career-best 63 percent of their targets, while Hilton's 2.54 yards gained per route run trailed only Julio Jones (2.93) and Michael Thomas (2.66) for best in the league. Ohio State's slot star Parris Campbell is a welcome addition, and his ability to stress the defense from the interior should make us even more giddy about the Colts in 2019. Campbell ran close to 90 percent of his routes as Dwayne Haskins' slot wideout last season, and Campbell led the rookie class in yards after the catch and targets per route run. Campbell rarely ran deep routes at Ohio State, but with 4.31 wheels, you don't have to be far downfield to break big plays. Devin Funchess never broke out in Carolina, but he now gets a quarterback upgrade and he will be a secondary target after being miscast as the Panthers No. 1 receiver. Still just 25-years-old, Funchess was a sharp free agent addition by GM Chris Ballard. After leading the Panthers receiver corps in targets when he was healthy last season, Funchess won't have a high-volume role with the Colts, but he provides a much-needed talent infusion on the boundary opposite T.Y. Hilton. Funchess battled through injuries last season, but he has flashed as an above-average separator, especially for a big receiver. Per Next Gen Stats, Funchess has gained 3 or more yards of separation against the defender on 55 percent of his targets over the last two years, tying Brandin Cooks for the third-best rate in the league. Funchess and Campbell likely won't be league-winners, but there is more than enough volume to go around on a Colts pass offense that finished second in pass attempts per game and third in pass rate when the game was within a score last year.

-- Hilton (Rk: WR9 vs. ADP: WR12); Funchess (Rk: WR52 vs. ADP: WR54); Campbell (Rk: WR62 vs. ADP: WR67)

Tight End: Eric Ebron scored a position-leading 14 TDs in 2018 due in large part to co-starter Jack Doyle missing 10-of-16 possible games. In fact, in the six games Doyle appeared in last season, Ebron played under 50 percent of Colts' snaps in each contest and only averaged 3.7 targets per game. In 10 games without Doyle in the lineup, Ebron's 8.8 targets per game would have trailed only Ertz, Kelce, and Kittle for the league lead. Not only does Ebron have sharply negative splits with Doyle in the lineup, but Campbell's addition can't be good news for Ebron's projected role, either. Ebron is effectively a "big" wide receiver in the Colts offense, as only Jordan Reed (67 percent) ran a higher rate of his snaps as a wideout or slot receiver in 2018 than Ebron (65 percent) among the league's top TEs. Indianapolis does feature multiple TEs often -- they used two tight ends on 30 percent of their pass plays when Doyle was healthy (would have been third-highest rate) -- but Ebron is easily the most overvalued player in fantasy at his 62 overall ADP. Doyle (140 overall ADP) offers a steep injury discount, and he is on track to return in Week 1 after being cleared for training camp off hip surgery. Colts TEs have finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in cumulative PPR points scored in Luck's last three full seasons, but Ebron and Doyle are going to form a frustrating fantasy committee.

-- Ebron (Rk: TE10 vs. ADP: TE7); Doyle (Rk: TE17 vs. ADP: TE22)

Jacksonville Jaguars

Quarterback: The Blake Bortles era is over in Jacksonville, and Nick Foles and new OC Jon DeFilippo have been ushered in to makeover the Jags' passing attack. Foles and DeFilippo obviously know each other well -- DeFilippo was Foles' QBs coach in 2017 -- but the structure of Jacksonville's new-look pass attack is not an easy one to project. You wouldn't expect it given how run-heavy the Jags want to be, but Jacksonville has one of the deepest receiver rotations in the league and they now have QB that can deliver an accurate ball. Per Next Gen Stats, Bortles' completion percentage was 4 points below expectation over the past three years in Jacksonville -- the worst rate in the league. Foles won't have the luxury of a dominant tight end like Zach Ertz, but their entire passing offense is flying slightly under the radar in 2019. Not only are they revamping their entire scheme, Jacksonville will return 4-of-5 starters along the offensive line after a brutal injury-filled 2018 season. The Jags stole RT Jawaan Taylor at 35 overall at the draft, completing their underrated OL unit. It also helps that Jacksonville faces a soft slate of opposing secondaries this year. Outside of a Week 4 road draw against the Broncos, the Jags' schedule offers smooth sailing as the second-easiest in the league (per Warren Sharp's metrics). Foles is just a 2-QB league option in fantasy, but his addition combined with a new OC, healthy OL, deep receiver group, and weak schedule should turn the Jags back into a competent offense in short order.

-- Foles (Rk: QB28 vs. ADP: QB24)

Running Back: No player stands to benefit more from the Jaguars revised offense than Leonard Fournette. The first two seasons of Fournette's career have been up-and-down to say the least, but he enters 2019 with an enormous expected workload. Now fully healthy, Fournette is getting a second chance to prove his talent after dealing with foot/hamstring injuries, poor efficiency, and minor off-field issues. There is no denying that Fournette's role offers huge upside in fantasy, though. Fournette (23.3) trails only Ezekiel Elliott (26.0) in touches per game over the last two years while only Todd Gurley (1.5) has seen more carries per game inside the opponents' 5-yard line than Fournette (1.1) in this span. Across his 22 healthy starts (including postseason), Fournette has averaged 17.5 PPR points per game -- which would make him the RB9 in this span. T.J. Yeldon's departure opens up 78 targets for the taking in this backfield, too. With only Alfred Blue and rookie Ryquell Armstead behind him on the depth chart, a chunk of Yeldon's missing passing down usage will fall on Fournette's shoulders. Yeldon quietly had the sixth-most third-down receptions among RBs over the past two seasons. Fournette carries obvious risk in fantasy, but the potential payoff of grabbing a workhorse RB1 in the third-round and pairing him with first and second round studs is awfully alluring.

-- Fournette (Rk: RB15 vs. ADP: RB14)

Wide Receiver: Jacksonville will be a run-first team in 2019, but that doesn't mean their pass catchers don't have fantasy value. The Jaguars voided 50 percent of their target share based on last years usage, and their 259 targets available rank third-most in the NFL. With Foles at the controls and plenty of opportunity open, Dede Westbrook may be the sneakiest WR breakout candidate of 2019. Even with Bortles constantly misfiring, Westbrook flashed elite separation skills in spite of the struggling pass offense. Per Next Gen Stats, Westbrook led the NFL by getting open (three or more yards of separation from the defender) on a league-leading 74 percent of his targets last year. Westbrook got wide open (five or more yards of separation) 51 percent of the time, also tops in the NFL among receivers. After leading Jacksonville in targets, receiving yards, and red-zone passing looks last year, Westbrook is entrenched as Foles' top target. The rest of the Jaguars starting receiver corps is tough to pin down. Keelan Cole loosely holds the No. 2 job, while Marqise Lee is now a year removed from his knee injury and D.J. Chark, Chris Conley, and Terrelle Pryor are all pushing for snaps. Westbrook is the only receiver worth targeting in fantasy for now.

-- Westbrook (Rk: WR40 vs. ADP: WR42)

Tight End: Former-Cowboy Geoff Swaim and rookie Josh Oliver form the Jags' tight end corps this season, but neither are even near the fantasy radar. I'm intrigued by Oliver in deep dynasty leagues -- not many 6-5, 250lbs tight ends can run a 4.6 forty like Oliver -- but there isn't enough volume to support a tight end in this offense. Swaim is the favorite to start Week 1, but that's hardly a lock.

Tennessee Titans

Quarterback: With a lot to prove in the final year of his rookie deal, the pressure is on Marcus Mariota to perform in 2019. Arthur Smith is a holdover from last year's staff as the Titans new OC, but Mariota has now played for four different play-callers in his 5-year career. Tennessee gave themselves a safety net by adding Ryan Tannehill this year, but neither quarterback offers much upside. Since he entered the league, Tannehill's YPA ranks 29th, his passer rating is 27th-best, and his completion rate is 21st among 46 qualified QBs. For reference, Mariota ranks 14th in YPA, 19th in passer rating, and 16th in completions in this study. Still, on a run-first team with minimal job security, Mariota is relegated as a cheap 2-QB league-only target in fantasy leagues. Over his last 25 full starts, Mariota has thrown just 24 TDs and averaged a lowly 218 YPG.

Running Back: Despite averaging more yards per carry (4.9 vs. 3.3), a higher rushing success rate (51 percent to 33), and more missed tackles (0.22 vs. 0.20 per carry) in 2018, Titans' coaches maddeningly refused to feature Derrick Henry over Dion Lewis until it was too late. Tennessee finally used Henry as their featured back over the final month of the season, playing him on 56 percent of snaps in Weeks 14-17 (compared to just 35 percent in the previous 12 games). Unsurprisingly, Henry went nuts on his increased usage -- going for 17/238/4, 33/170/2, 21/84/1, and 16/93 on the ground in December. The Titans staff is adamant that Henry will be their featured rusher in 2019, and I believe them. Tennessee can't resort to Dion Lewis getting the bulk of the carries again. However, Lewis' usage on passing downs will hold Henry back from being a true bellcow. While Lewis saw 67 targets on his 267 routes last year, Henry got just 18 passing looks on his 108 passing snaps. Henry not being involved as a receiver isn't a new trend, either. Dating back to college, Henry has caught just 50 balls across 62 games over the last four years. Henry is a great upside RB2 in standard scoring leagues where receiving roles matter significantly less, but I have a hard time taking Henry in the third-round of PPR leagues. Henry's lack of usage in the passing game severely impacts his floor on a likely below-average Titans offense.

-- Henry (Rk: RB22 vs. ADP: RB20); Lewis (Rk: RB44 vs. ADP: RB46)

Wide Receiver: Corey Davis had a voluminous role last year as the Titans lead target, but poor QB play mired his fantasy output. Although Davis' 26 percent target share ranked 11th-most among wide receivers, he ended up being just the WR40 in points per game. With Delanie Walker returning to the lineup and No. 50 overall pick A.J. Brown and free agent Adam Humphries added, it's likely Davis sees a dip in volume in 2019. The Titans are trying to "hide" their quarterback by running the ball often -- only the Seahawks were more run-heavy than Tennessee last year -- and that is not a great thing for our fantasy receivers. I'm still very high on Davis' talent, but he rarely ends up on my fantasy teams. A.J. Brown immediately projects as a high-floor wideout who can play both on the outside and out of the slot for the Titans. Brown tagged 75/1252/11 and 85/1320/6 receiving lines in his final two collegiate seasons at 19- and 20-years-old, and he was far more efficient on his 2018 routes (3.2 yards gained) than teammate D.K. Metcalf (2.6). The Titans questionable QB play and run-first tendencies may hold Brown back from being a weekly starter in fantasy as a rookie, but I'm drafting him late in best ball leagues and targeting him wherever I can in dynasty/keeper leagues. Free agent addition Adam Humphries throws another wrench in the Titans passing game outlook. After a career year with the Buccaneers (76/816/5), Tennessee gave Humphries $12M guaranteed to be their full-time slot receiver. On a low-volume pass offense and with plenty of target competition ahead of him, Humphries is extremely unlikely to come close to repeating his WR24 PPR performance from last year. Davis and Walker are definitely ahead of Humphries on the target totem pole, while Brown's versatility to play in a "big slot" receiver role may limit Humphries' targets further. Brown spent 56 percent of his collegiate routes in the slot.

-- Davis (Rk: WR42 vs. ADP: WR34); Humphries (Rk: WR75 vs. ADP: WR62)

Tight End: Back healthy after breaking his ankle in Week 1 last season, Delanie Walker offers a steep injury discount in the late rounds. Prior to basically missing all of last year, Walker had previously finished as fantasy's TE8, TE3, TE5, and TE4 in each of his four previous seasons with the Titans. Walker commanded over 20 percent of Titans' targets every year in this span, and never posted fewer than 800 yards receiving. Walker is now 35-years-old, but he's had nearly a year to recover from an unlucky injury, and as long as Mariota remains the starter, Walker is likely to remain targeted heavily. Over the past three years, Mariota has thrown to his tight ends at the third-highest rate among quarterbacks. Jonnu Smith will back up Walker on the depth chart, but he is rehabbing his second MCL tear in as many years. Walker is entrenched as the starter for another season. Walker and Jordan Reed are my two main late-round targets when I miss out on the top tight ends.

-- Walker (Rk: TE13 vs. ADP: TE15)

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