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IDP Pre-Season Preview: AFC South
Steve Gallo
August 19, 2013
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Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too.  With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regard to fantasy football.  Which is why drafting off stats from the previous year isn’t a wise thing to do. However, reading each divisional preseason update would be a wise thing to do. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at gallo@thehuddle.com or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.

Houston Texans

HC: Gary Kubiak
DC:  Wade Philips
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
Last year this is what I wrote about J.J. Watt, “However, J.J. Watt is a rare player, rare in that as a rookie DE he had a big impact as a starter at DE, and also in that he was a productive fantasy player too – ranking 9th in fantasy points scored by a DL.  As a fantasy owner, depending on how you look at things you either love or hate the fact that he had just 5.5 sacks in 2011.  I think it is a positive in that his value isn’t predicated on sacks, which means he logged most of his points because of his 49 solo tackles.  The flip side of that is that his upside is limited if he doesn’t push his sack total up towards double digits.” Watt surely pushed his sack totals up, far exceeding what anyone expected. This year expectations are as high as they can be for Watt and if you want the chance to see if they’ll be realized you are going to have to pull the trigger on him come draft day as early as the third round.  That’s a high price to pay, and one I most likely won’t be paying, but I won’t argue hard against it all that much, especially considering that Watt could very easily become the first player in NFL history to record 20 or more sacks in two seasons.

Linebacker
It’s clear that Brian Cushing is an important part of the Texans defense, but fantasy wise I don’t quite get all the love for him. Cushing missed the first four games of 2012 and from week 5 thru week 16 he ranked just 31st in fantasy scoring among LBs. Yet he has an ADP of LB16. I’m sorry but for my taste that’s not near enough good value for me. I’ll gladly let someone else grab Cushing and instead I’ll target guys like Bruce Carter, London Fletcher, and Demario Davis to name a few. In big play leagues I’d keep an eye on Whitney Mercilus who I think could notch 8-10 sacks. Mercilus will be replacing Connor Barwin who signed with the Eagles.

Secondary
The Texans added Ed Reed to their secondary but as it stands now – due to injury – no one (including Reed) knows when he’ll be able to get on the field.  Fantasy wise it doesn’t matter because Reed isn’t a viable fantasy option. Danieal Manning should present some fantasy upside but he isn’t anyone to get excited about, and without an ADP he can be picked up off waivers in most leagues. The player that I like in the Texans secondary is someone that dynasty leaguers need to have an eye on – D.J. Swearinger. It’s doubtful he is a weekly fantasy starter this year, but his future looks like it could be pretty bright.

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Indianapolis Colts

HC: Chuck Pagano
DC:  Greg Manusky
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
The Colts run a 3-4 scheme that makes their DL worthless for fantasy purposes.

Linebacker
Jerrell Freeman finished as the 10th ranked fantasy LB in 2012. You may wonder why he then has an ADP of LB17. The reason is more than likely due to the fact that Pat Angerer is expected to be back in the lineup this year. I like Freeman, but even and ADP of LB27 might still be a bit rich for my blood. Angerer isn’t even showing up on the ADP report, and in my opinion is a much better value, especially knowing you can roster him as a LB5/6. He has as much upside, if not more, than Freeman does.

Secondary
The Colts have two safeties that are showing up on the ADP report (LaRon Landry, DB16 & Antoine Bethea, DB31). Landry finished as DB7 while playing for the Jets last year, and Bethea finished as DB22. That makes both players decent bargains, but Bethea is the much better value.  My biggest concern with the Colts defense in general is that with Pep Hamilton now in charge of the offense, a more ball control offense could spell fewer snaps faced for the defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars

HC: Casey “Gus” Bradley
DC:  Bobby Babich
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
The Jaguars pass rush is about as non-existent as wins have been for the team of late. The Jaguars claimed Jason Babin off waivers last year after the Eagles cut him. In five games with the Jaguars to finish the season Babin recorded just 1 ½ sacks. However, with an ADP of DL33 you could do worse than to take a flier on a player that had 18 sacks in 2011. At that point he is basically a swing for the fences and if he ends up being a bust you can quickly and easily cut him loose. As for Jeremy Mincey and Andre Branch, I just don’t see enough upside to even warrant taking a flier on either. The other move of fantasy importance is that the Jaguars are now using Tyson Alualu as a DE. That doesn’t give him any fantasy value, but it kills what little he had in DT mandatory leagues.

Linebacker
Paul Posluszny is coming off a top-7 performance in 2012 and with an ADP of LB10 he actually presents a small amount of value in fantasy drafts too. Posluszny should see plenty of opportunities and I think he has top-5 upside. He’s a safe bet to finish as LB10 or better. Last year, Russell Allen finished as LB12 and that likely won’t happen this year. With an ADP of LB42 I’m not alone in feeling that way. While I don’t expect Allen to finish as a LB1, I do think he is a very nice value as a LB4.

Secondary
If you are looking to wait at DB – like you should – or are just looking for a sleeper then look no further than one of my favorite DB plays this year – rookie Johnathan Cyprien. Cyprien currently has an ADP of DB24 and I think he puts up high level DB2 numbers, but wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him sneak into the top-12 at the position. We know that he’ll be on the field a ton, and those opportunities will turn into plenty of fantasy points.

Tennessee Titans

HC: Mike Munchak
DC:  Jerry Gray
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Defensive Line
Derrick Morgan finished 18th in fantasy scoring among DL in 2012, and with an ADP of DL18 you might think that’s lock-step in line with his value. However, in my opinion it isn’t – it’s too high. Morgan got out of the gates fast last year, scoring in double digits in three of the first four weeks. After four weeks he ranked as the 6th highest scoring DL, however, from week 5 thru week 16 things didn’t go as swimmingly. Over those 12 games he ranked 32nd in fantasy scoring among the DL position. While Morgan’s ability is undeniable, so is his inconsistency. Let someone else reach for him on draft day.

Linebacker
I was very high on Colin McCarthy last year, but injury pretty much derailed his season. This year, I still can’t quit McCarthy. I’m not sold on the Titans offense to sustain drives. With an ADP of LB20, and an upside to be a LB1 I am happily targeting McCarthy. Zach Brown made plenty of big plays in 2012 where he ranked as LB31. With an ADP of LB32 it tells me that people are sold on Brown repeating his success from 2012. Call me skeptical but I don’t see as many big plays for Brown, something he’ll probably need to finish as a LB3. I’ll pass.  
 
Secondary
Bernard Pollard – formerly of the Ravens – looks to have the Titans SS position locked up, but behind him is former Bills SS, George Wilson. As we know, Pollard isn’t the best in coverage, and with a player like Wilson in tow, we very well could see the Titans use a rotation of both vets, and that of course would kill their fantasy values. I know that Pollard has the upside to be a DB1 but with an ADP of DB13 and George Wilson on the roster there is just no way I can see paying that for the risk that comes with drafting Pollard. If he was in the DB30+ range then sure, roll the dice, but not at DB13. Jason McCourty should be a viable fantasy option this year, but with an ADP of DB15 I think you can find better value at the position elsewhere, that is unless you are in a CB mandatory league, then and only then would I look at putting McCourty in my sights.

Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).


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