Studs and Duds: AFC South preview

By Grant Ramirez

Sports Blogger

@Grant_Ramirez3

 

Houston Texans

Stud: DeAndre Hopkins, wide receiver

Despite the quarterback position still being a little unsettled in Houston, it’s tough to be worse than Brock Osweiler was last year so expect DeAndre Hopkins to have a bit of a bounce-back season after failing to reach the 1,000-yard mark last season. Hopkins, who is a good route runner and has the ability to make contested catches, is the most talented offensive player on the Texans’ roster. Whatever quarterback is under center would be wise to lean on him on the outside, especially considering second-year man Will Fuller is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone.

Dud: Deshaun Watson, quarterback

It’s easy to get excited about the athleticism and talent of Deshaun Watson. But don’t expect him to become the next Dak Prescott, at least not right away. Watson, a former Clemson star, has flashed during the preseason but the Texans still stand behind Tom Savage as the starter. Sure, Watson could find his way onto the field sooner than later if Savage struggles, but I wouldn’t expect him to put up big fantasy numbers. He almost certainly will have to work through some growing pains as he adjusts to the NFL.

 

Indianapolis Colts

Despite being the Colts No. 1 receiver, T.Y. Hilton won’t be the top guy on your fantasy team.
(Bill Bryan, Flickr)

Stud: T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver

T.Y. Hilton is the one consistent receiving option for quarterback Andrew Luck with Donte Moncrief battling injuries, Philip Dorsett disappointing and the rest of the receiver group being in shuffle. Hilton put up more than 1,400 yards last season, even with Luck playing through a shoulder injury. The Colts will have to throw the ball a lot to stay in games with a shaky running game and inadequate defense. Even if Luck ends up missing the first couple weeks of the season, expect Hilton to put up big numbers when he returns, making him worth a relatively high pick in your fantasy draft.

Dud: Frank Gore, running back

Father time catches up with everybody, even the seemingly immortal Frank Gore, who put up another 1,000-yard season last year at 33 years old. Despite the production, Gore’s numbers dipped as the season went along, showing some signs that Gore, now a 34-year-old running back, could be slowing down. He had only four rushing touchdowns last season, which is quite weak as a starting running back. Rookie running back Marlon Mack has impressed this preseason, adding an element of explosiveness that was missing from the Colts’ running back room. His success could lead to less playing time for Gore.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Stud: Leonard Fournette, running back

Volume, volume, volume. The Jaguars have Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon on the roster, but you don’t take a running back with the fourth-overall pick to put him in a committee. All offseason, Jacksonville has stated it wants the running game to be its identity, and Leonard Fournette will allow them to do that. Although there will probably be a lot of defenders in the box because of an inept passing game, Fournette has the talent and will the get carries to be a consistent producer in fantasy this season.

Dud: Allen Robinson, wide receiver

After breaking out in 2015, Allen Robinson had a down year last season with only 883 receiving yards – mostly because of the immense struggles of quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles doesn’t seem to have gotten better, according to reports out of training camp, so don’t count on Robinson having a bounce-back year. Despite being an extremely talented player, Robinson’s situation puts him in a place where I wouldn’t want him on my fantasy team.

 

Tennessee Titans

Stud: Marcus Mariota, quarterback

Before fracturing his leg near the end of the year, Marcus Mariota had the look of a star in the making. He is now healthy and looks to lead a Titans’ offense that is not lacking firepower. A powerful running attack will open up the passing game for Mariota to find new targets Corey Davis and Eric Decker. Since entering the league in 2015, Mariota, a former Oregon star, has been the most efficient red zone quarterback in the league, throwing 33 touchdowns with zero interceptions. Plus, Mariota also has the ability to pick up some fantasy points on the ground, which ups his value even more.

Dud: Rishard Matthews, wide receiver

Last season, Rishard Matthews led the Titans in receiving touchdowns (nine) and yards (945) – more than 400 more than the next wide receiver. However, a drop in production should come for Matthews, not because of his play, but because of the plethora of weapons the Titans now have on offense. Tennessee added fifth-overall pick Corey Davis and signed receiver Eric Decker after the Jets cut him. In addition, it still has tight end Delanie Walker and will continue to emphasize an impressive running attack led by Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Matthews won’t get enough touches in this offense to put up big numbers this year.

ozone@ocolly.com

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