Despite the fact that there are many NFL and fantasy football fans who pick over offseason news with a fine-tooth comb, we understand that there are still a lot of you out there who simply don't have time to keep up with player movements or the happenings of each team. That's why yours truly is here to give you the lowdown on the recent 2014 news of each team, both AFC and NFC and how it impacts your fantasy football league/team.
Here is Part Three of my Eight Part Series: the AFC South. Make sure to check back for Part Four-Eight as I cover the details of all 32 teams over the course of the next several days. Also check out:
The Texans revamped their coaching staff after HC Gary Kubiak (now Ravens OC) failed to get the team anywhere near the AFC Championship. Looking to the college ranks, Houston hired on former Patriots assistant and Penn State HC Bill O'Brien as the third head coach in team history.
The quarterback position took the biggest hit after Matt Schaub, who played for the Texans over the last seven years, was traded to the Raiders for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft. In Schaub's place, the Texans brought on long-time journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, who currently sits atop the depth chart as the Week One starter. I don't have to tell anyone that with Fitz at the helm, no one should expect the team to make a trip to the playoffs this year. Rookie Tom Savage isn't ready, and both T.J. Yates and Case Keenum simply aren't good enough to be full-time starters. For fantasy purposes, Fitz is not someone you want to look at at all. His overall career has been shoddy at best, with his career high coming in 2011 as a member of the Bills. He averaged 239.5 passing yards a game, but tossed 23 picks. Barring the resurfacing of trade talks for Patriots QB Ryan Mallett, the quarterback spot will be the team's Achilles heel.
Arian Foster is coming off back surgery, but says he is "healthy and raring to go" after fully participating in the team's first OTA's. The question isn't whether Foster will start, but how many games he can play after missing eight games in 2013. Ben Tate (Cleveland) is no longer the "handcuff to own" anymore, with former Giants RB Andre Brown signed to a one-year deal. I don't consider Foster a top first-round fantasy option like he used to be. However, O'Brien wants to use Foster a lot out of the backfield, meaning he could have excellent value if he drops to the second round. Or maybe even the third if your league is that skittish. Foster is a stronger PPR option as he simply can't carry the ball 300+ times in one season and expect to stay healthy. For more detail on Foster, check out Andy Schmidt's thoughts on Foster's 2014 value.
After keeping quiet throughout his entire tenure as the Texans No. 1 receiver, Andre Johnson has opened up about his disappointment that the team didn't do more to try and upgrade the quarterback position. Signing Fitzpatrick is obviously not the answer. And while talks between O'Brien and Johnson have been positive, AJ has flirted with the idea of retirement. That's doubtful. But at 33, he doesn't have much time left. And the Texans are clearly in rebuilding mode. A trade is highly unlikely as Johnson still has $34.5 million remaining on a deal that runs through 2016. No team is going to give up a high pick for a player on the wrong side of 30. For now, Johnson looks more like a WR2 due to the quarterback situation, his age and his lack of enthusiasm. Ryan Fitz also knocks down the value of DeAndre Hopkins. Coming off a 52-catch/802 yard season, it's hard to see him flirting with higher numbers because Fitz just isn't that good. Draft him as a WR3 and hope there are a few games where he produces like a WR2. With Owen Daniels gone (Baltimore), Garrett Graham becomes the new No. 1 tight end after signing a three-year, $11.25 million contract that includes $4.5 million guaranteed. Graham might actually benefit from the lack of strong quarterback play as a safety net, but he is still a mid-to-low end TE2. Backup Ryan Griffin is a more interesting prospect in dynasty leagues.
The quarterback position is as strong as ever with Andrew Luck entering his third season as the starter. Averaging a little over 4,000 passing yards over the last two seasons, there is no reason Luck can't flirt with another 4,000+ yard year. OC Pep Hamilton tried his best to be more physical on offense, using a run-first mentality. But due to the question marks that surround the running back position, Hamilton is expected to take a "score-first" mindset and open up the passing game. With a stack full of talent at the receiver position, this makes a lot of sense. This will allow Luck to remain a true QB1 all summer.
The backfield is still just as questionable as it was last year. Trent Richardson admitted that he didn't know the playbook in 2013. Although, that seems a bit far fetched since he was traded after only two games from the Browns. Richardson could be overvalued on name alone as he has yet to prove he can be an every-down back as a member of the Colts. He'll also have to beat out both Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard for the job. In my opinion, Richardson is nothing more than a low-end RB2 until we see what he looks like in training camp and the preseason. He has a long way to go to reach RB1 status. Bradshaw is a walking emergency ward. Coming off neck surgery, I'd err on the side of caution if you think he can contribute much this year. He also admitted that his surgically-repaired foot gave him problems all last season. With his history of foot problems, I'll pass.
While it's easy to be excited about the return of Reggie Wayne, I'd hold back on that enthusiasm. He's a 35 year old coming off a major knee injury. That's a lot to overcome. The team is said to be waiting until training camp before letting Wayne give it a full go. Topping 100 receptions just two years ago, I'd prefer taking Wayne as a WR3 and hope he can bounce back. ACL tears are fairly tricky, especially with receivers. The team made a splash in free agency by signing former Giants WR Hakeem Nicks to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. An obvious "prove it" contract, Nicks' fantasy value could get a breath of fresh air after falling out of favor with New York's coaching staff. Can he be the team's new No. 1? I can't say a positive yes, but I won't say no either. Nicks' biggest hurdle is staying healthy. At any rate, he could be a bargain in your fantasy football league since last year's No. 2 was a mish mash of guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey (Steelers). If Pep Hamilton sticks to his word and uses a more spread offense, T.Y. Hilton could take up where he left off last year after gaining his first 1,000-yard season of his career. Although he's a bit of a boom-or-bust option with so many other receivers in the offense. The hiring of former Browns HC Rob Chudzinski as an assistant should do wonders for TE Dwayne Allen. Chud has had success with guys like Greg Olsen and Jordan Cameron. Allen could be Indy's breakout star in 2014. He's a high end TE2 with the upside to land in the top 12 of fantasy tight ends.
Like the Texans, the Jaguars are in clear rebuilding mode on offense. After shipping Blaine Gabbert to the 49ers for a draft pick, they used their first-round pick on QB Blake Bortles. Despite the fact that he was drafted so high, the team would still like to get Chad Henne to start the entire season in 2014. It's easy to say it, but it will be hard seeing it actually done. Henne isn't a full-time starter. While he will start Week One, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bortles start a few games as well considering the Jaguars don't have the personnel to make a playoff run. Henne isn't a fantasy option, although I know some will use a waiver-wire pick on him. He's one of those players who booms one week, then busts the next. Don't fall for it. Bortles is one of the top dynasty prospects in rookie drafts, but don't expect much out of him in year one.
The team's backfield received a huge makeover after offensive cornerstone Maurice Jones-Drew (Oakland) was allowed to enter free agency. In his place is former Vikings handcuff RB Toby Gerhart, who signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract. After serving as Adrian Peterson's backup for the past four years, the coaching staff wants Gerhart to be the true bell-cow in the backfield. He's expected to carry the ball between 240-300 times in his first year, but I wouldn't doubt that he exceeds those numbers as the team will use the running game to make up for their lack of weapons in the passing game. Gerhart is truly flirting with low-end RB1 value.
The team's receiving corps took a huge blow after WR Justin Blackmon was suspended indefinitely for violating of the league's substance abuse policy. This is his second offense in as many years after missing the first four games of the 2013 season. The Jags front office have already made it known that they will be without Blackmon for all of 2014, which means Cecil Shorts will act as the team's new No. 1. Although he's been in that spot before. With Henne at the helm, treat Shorts as a WR3 at best. The team made up for Blackmon's loss by drafting USC WR Marqise Lee and Penn State WR Allen Robinson in the second round. Lee currently has the inside track as the No. 2. A former top 10 draft option, Lee's stock tumbled after injuries and drops derailed his 2013 season. Still, he finished with a respectable 248/3,655/29 career receiving statline. He's a dynasty target, but better off left on the waiver-wire in redrafts. TE Marcedes Lewis is back....again, but he doesn't need to be talked about. Low LOW end TE2 at best.
With Ken Whisenhunt now in the fold as the new head coach, there is hope that Jake Locker can finally live up to his potential in the last year of his deal. Coming off Lisfranc surgery, Locker was able to participate in Titans' OTA's this week. Fantasywise, though, I wouldn't look Locker's way. He's been in the league three years now and has failed to make it through an entire season without missing games, having played just 23 out of 48. And even when he is on the field, he's one of the more erratic quarterbacks in the NFL. He's not even on the QB2 radar right now.
Former 2,000 yard rusher Chris Johnson is out as the starting running back after signing with the Jets, leaving lumbering Shonn Greene as the starter.....for now. The Titans used a second-rounder on Washington RB Bishop Sankey, who was the first running back off the board. Compared to Tiki Barber by Titans scouts, Sankey could have no problems taking the starting job away from Greene as soon as training camp. But he'll be behind the curve due to NCAA rules that he must complete graduation first. Even so, he'll have all of training camp to continue to learn the playbook. Sankey is an RB3 right now due to his rookie status, but he could finish with RB2 numbers. Those hoping Greene makes a splash might be in for a letdown as he couldn't make it out of the team's first set of minicamps without injuring his knee.
I'd like to say WR Kendall Wright has all the makings of a WR2, but Locker won't make it easy. Oft-injured Kenny Britt signed with the Rams, leaving Wright and Nate Washington as the top two receivers on the depth chart. Wright still brings much upside after catching 94 passes for 1,079 yards in 2013. Aside from Wright, no other receiver is worth looking at unless you're in deeper leagues. Whisenhunt compared Delanie Walker to Antonio Gates, but that really doesn't excite me much. There is a huge gap in talent between the two. Walker finished with 60 catches and 571 receiving yards last season. It's hard for me to think he can top those numbers in, what figures to be, a run-first offense.