As part of the O’Zone’s launch, I’m putting together an eight-part ‘Studs and Duds’ series. These won’t be obvious picks. Anyone can say Adrian Peterson is poised for a big season. I’m here to list players that might not come to mind when thinking of a particular team. I will list one stud and one dud for each NFL team, listing players from one division per article. In this column, I’ll take on the AFC South. Let’s get to it.
Stud: Lamar Miller, running back
After being held back for the past four seasons in Miami, Miller finally has an opportunity to be the feature back in Houston. Miller received less than 200 carries in all but one of his years in Miami, and even then he totaled only 216. He’s expected to carry a large load in 2016. The Texans have been among the league’s top five most frequent rushers in four of the past five seasons. Miller has averaged a steady 4.6 yards per carry over the course of his career. Miller, fantasy’s sixth-best running back last year, should finish in the top five on his new run-first team.
Dud: Brock Osweiler, quarterback
The Denver Broncos won last year’s Super Bowl in spite of their quarterback situation. Neither Osweiler nor Peyton Manning did much to propel their team, but Osweiler netted a $72 million contract with the Texans this offseason. In eight games last season, Osweiler averaged 14.6 fantasy points per game, or 233 points over a 16-game season. Eighteen quarterbacks finished with over 233 fantasy points last season, and Osweiler is going from one run-first offense to another. Don’t expect many big fantasy performances for Osweiler until we see how he performs in the Texans’ system.
Stud: T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver
When quarterback Andrew Luck went down last season, so did T.Y. Hilton’s numbers. Hilton finished 21st among fantasy wide receivers last season, his worst season since his rookie campaign in 2012. He’s never been a top 10 fantasy receiver, but if Luck stays healthy, he has a chance to be. Running back Frank Gore is getting older and won’t be able to shoulder a heavy load so expect Luck and the Colts to throw the ball in Hilton’s direction frequently.
Dud: Dwayne Allen, tight end
Allen has been a serviceable tight end throughout his career in Indianapolis but injuries have severely hampered his production. He’s missed a staggering 21 games since being drafted in 2012. Allen’s been a popular sleeper pick for the past few years because of his involvement in the Colts’ high-octane offense, but his injury history makes him too large of a risk. Heading into this season, he’s dealing with a hip injury that has kept him out of practice.
Stud: Allen Robinson, wide receiver
Robinson is one of many receivers who came out from behind the fantasy shadows last season. He recorded two games with at least 10 points in his rookie season but finished with double-digit fantasy points in 12 of the Jaguars’ 16 games last year. A lot of that had to do with the Jaguars trailing in most of their games, but Robinson is a premier talent that should continue to impress.
Dud: T.J. Yeldon, running back
Yeldon continued the tradition of Alabama running backs succeeding in the NFL. Last season, he accumulated 740 yards in 12 games as a rookie, or 61 yards a game. Over a full season, he would’ve finished with just under 1,000. Yeldon will struggle to reach that figure with Chris Ivory coming to Jacksonville. Ivory was fifth in the league in rushing last season. The Jaguars didn’t pay him $32 million to play second fiddle to Yeldon. I think that gets the point across.
Stud: Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry, running backs
I have T.J Yeldon as a dud because of his backfield competition, so this might seem a bit hypocritical. Let me explain. This season the Titans are planning to run an offense deemed “exotic smashmouth” by coach Mike Mularky. Murray and Henry are both extremely physical runners. The Titans traded away last year’s first-round receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham, for a lineman. The goal is to protect Marcus Mariota and build an offensive line that will give Murray and Henry space to run up the middle. There will be plenty of touches to go around for each of them.
Dud: Bishop Sankey
Sankey doesn’t exactly fit the “exotic smashmouth” description. The first running back selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, Sankey’s career has been far from spectacular. As a matter of fact, it would be a compliment to say it’s been average. Sankey has quickly played his way out of the lead role in Tennessee. He might play here and there as a third down option, but Murray and Henry are the two Titans to draft in your fantasy league.