2016 Fantasy Review: AFC South
February 13, 2017 | Justin Edwards
Host to letdown seasons from some of the most talented QB/team/scheme-proof skill players across the NFL, it was also home to a Titans team that ran a successful – if terribly named – “exotic smashmouth” attack that moved the ball as on par with a team ran by Andrew Luck. Jacksonville’s defense got so much better that Blake Bortles couldn’t throw the ball into his receivers’ feet with the opposition in prevent defense and Houston tried real hard to see why multiple Miami regimes didn’t want to give Lamar Miller the ball 300 times a season.
All-AFC South Fantasy Pro Bowl
(STD Fantasy points per game, PPR Fantasy points per game)
QB: Andrew Luck (382.1 QB4)
RB: DeMarco Murray (14.9 RB6, 18.2 RB6)
RB: Lamar Miller (11.6 RB17, 13.8 RB18)
WR: T.Y. Hilton (11.3 WR7, 17.0 WR5)
WR: Rishard Matthews (9.3 WR11, 13.3 WR25)
WR: Allen Robinson (7.8 WR41, 12.3 WR36)
TE: Delanie Walker (8.2 TE5, 12.5 TE6)
D/ST: Texans (3.9 DEF20)
Kicker: Nick Novak (7.9 K12)
MVP: Andrew Luck (382.1)
There aren’t too many quarterbacks in the league who could do what Andrew Luck did with the limited weaponry he had at his disposal. The hodgepodge of Colts’ receivers finished the season ranked 5th in dropped passes (25) and they included the likes of Dwayne Allen, a perpetually disappointing Phillip Dorsett (33 catches in 15 games as the de facto no. 2), Jack Doyle (the literal no. 2 receiver in terms of yardage and targets) and Donte Moncrief (who was “healthy” for only seven games). The Indianapolis O-Line, which ranks all the way down at 25th according to Pro Football Focus’ end-of-season rankings (https://www.profootballfocus.com/pro-ranking-all-32-nfl-offensive-lines-this-season/) allowed a QB sack 2.8 times per game, or, 28th in the league (https://www.teamrankings.com/nfl/stat/qb-sacked-per-game) yet Luck made the most of the passes he was able to get off, averaging 7.8 yards per attempt, besting Drew Brees (7.7) while sitting behind the likes of Matt Ryan (9.4) and Tom Brady (8.2). As his young offensive line continues to meld together and the front office continues to look for more weapons at his disposal, Andrew Luck should be a lock as a top-3 fantasy QB for years to come.
Biggest Surprise: DeMarco Murray (238.4 STD, 291.4 PPR)
After a 2014 season in which he touched the ball 450 times, a terribly disappointing experiment in Philadelphia last season and a signing to a team that immediately drafted the Heisman trophy winner, it was tough to know exactly what to expect from the former rushing champion. We had seen the worst possible scenario in 2015 when he was in a running back committee on a team that ran the second most snaps in all of the NFL. Worry had set in when trying to translate what he had done in an Eagles uniform on to a team that looked like they were going to split his handles with Derrick Henry and do what they could to grind the clock down and keep young QB Marcus Mariota out of harm’s way. Despite Tennessee ranking in the bottom-third in snaps per game (63.0), Murray still averaged well over 20 touches a game and was behind only two young bucks (Ezekiel Elliot and Jordan Howard) in rushing yards with 1,287.
Biggest Disappointment: DeAndre Hopkins (119.4 STD, 197.4 PPR)
QB proof no more. After laying out for passes from the likes of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden, Nuk finally went up against the best defender he’s ever faced; Brock Osweiler. With Brock’s penchant for throwing to safety valves barely further than the line of scrimmage (his 5.8 yards per attempt were the lowest among 30 qualifying QBs) DeAndre Hopkins and his silly “route running” cost him over 40 targets, bringing him down from his monstrous 192 in 2015 to 151 this past season. His 12.2 yards per reception were easily the lowest of his career and ranked him 65th in the league, tied with over-the-middle and stick route specialist Julian Edelman. Yes, Hopkins got Osweiler’d so hard that he turned him from elite one-of-a-kind talent to an Inefficient Edelman.
Best Draft Value: T.Y Hilton (180.8 STD, 271.8 PPR)
Drafted in the early 3rd round, the recent push to draft wide receivers earlier and earlier actually made Hilton the 17th of his position to be taken off the board. As the receivers drafted ahead of him fell victim to injury or suspension (or Brock Osweiler), Eugene Marquis kept pushing out monster games for a team that desperately needed a playmaker. Though he tended to produce as a dreaded “boom-bust” player at times (four games under 50 yards + no score) his booms were voluminous enough to make sure he was in your lineup every week, thanks in large part to 28 receptions of 20+ yards, the highest mark among all pass catchers. While scoring 20+ PPR fantasy points in six of his games, Hilton scored in the double digits in eleven of his sixteen games. That’s not a whole lot of bust.
Rookie of the Year: Derrick Henry (92.7 STD, 105.7 PPR)
A likely disappointment for anyone who took him in a redraft league, the Heisman winner definitely did not live up to his 7th round price tag. What he did provide in the 2016 season was a second half boost for owners who were desperate enough to snag him off of waivers and a glimmering beacon of hope for Dynasty owners. As the tread started to wear off of DeMarco Murray’s tires Henry was allowed to show his hand over his final seven games (we’ll skip Week 11 as he was only able to play 3 snaps) he averaged 11.5 touches and converted them into 56.5 total yards and 5 scores, all the while showcasing his power and speed that makes him such an enticing own. In the season’s final game, he was allotted entire drives to see what he could do (even though those drives were handled by Matt Cassel).
Biggest Injury Beneficiary: Marqise Lee (106.6 STD, 169.6 PPR)
Lee had a breakout season oddly like that of Allen Hurns’ the year before. Oddly enough, when Hurns went down in Week 11 Marqise Lee’s usage saw an uptick, finishing the season with 105 targets, with two games of 9 targets after Hurns had to bow out. It’s not likely that you caught any of this production in a typical redraft league as starting him in your fantasy playoffs would not have been a smart move, but it certainly shows us what could be as we start looking forward.
Old Man Watch: Frank Gore
A mainstay in almost every iteration of my Cash Game articles of 2016 and absolutely a mainstay in my heart, facts are facts and Frank Gore is old af. The man built like a bowling ball who can still wreck into defenders like a….well, like a wrecking ball – will be 34 before camp even starts and he just finished his second season under 4.0 YPC, the first two such seasons in his now 12th career year. Frankie remains a very good real life running back and should still offer value for Indianapolis, even if it’s just a mentor role; sadly, that doesn’t fill any spots on your fantasy team and he will likely clog your bench all year as you constantly wonder which weeks your supposed to be playing him.
Sophomore Set to Take a Jump: Tajae Sharpe
Tajae came out of the gates sprinting as Mariota welcomed him to NFL action by targeting him 11 times in his first professional game. Those 76 yards in his debut ended up being his season-high and he wouldn’t crack double-digit targets again in 2016. With Tennessee likely overhauling their receiving crew again (Kendall Wright out of the door, Rishard Mathews showing his ceiling with a breakout 65-945-9 age 27 season) it might do them well to push Sharpe into the WR1 role to make finding pieces a little bit easier. This is a guy you can draft basically for free but has the upside that everyone was so hyped about coming out of 2016’s preseason.