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AFC South Outlook

Before I tell you about the AFC South, I need to tell you about an important dream (from here on out we’ll refer to it as a nightmare) that I had the other night; so horrific that it kept me up the rest of the night. I was dreaming about a 10-team, standard scoring, snake draft. I was picking sixth overall, and every pick that happened was shocking to me. I was ecstatic as I watched my turn come up and no one had taken Adrian Peterson. Now, to be fair, I agree with them not taking Peterson that early. I think he gets outscored by quite a few running backs this year. He still finishes in the mid top-10. Either way, if you’re picking sixth and Peterson is still available, that should be your pick.

So there I was, unbeknownst to me the “nightmare” was about to begin. Peterson was just staring at me. Honestly, all I could think about were his thighs that are as big around as me, and the prospect of his goal of 2,500 yards. I am pretty sure I started salivating at this point because when I woke up my pillow had a puddle of drool on it. I could not believe I was about to steal him so late in the draft. That’s when I somehow managed to take Minnesota’s third-string quarterback with my first-round pick.

I’ve never experienced such horror.

Not only will I be waiting in most scoring formats on a quarterback, but to accidentally take the third stringer?! I still feel drenched in the cold sweat that I woke up in.

Thankfully, it was just a nightmare.

Speaking of nightmares, the AFC South has some nightmarishly good talent. Two solid quarterbacks, three arguably RB1 contenders (one of those three is the No. 1 overall best draft pick regardless of scoring systems), and a stable of good, up to elite, receivers. Yes, I think you could easily build a team just from this division; that is, if you know the right players to get. So, let me help you navigate this division to help you know which players you should target.

As far as quarterbacks go, Andrew Luck has to be the best of the bunch here. He had an amazing rookie season and will only play better in his second year. He keeps all the same receivers all while adding a potential stud, and looks to have huge numbers. If he can improve his away game production, you’re looking at a potential top 10 QB here. Even with the quarterback position so packed these days, Luck, to me, looks like someone who will be an every-league starter before midseason, if not earlier.

There’s only one other option in this division at the quarterback position, Matt Schaub, who has some of the best weapons in the NFL. He will be just an occasional starter. He rarely blows up a stat sheet, but is good enough to make the other players on the offense have great games. He will be one of those guys you’ll see being played on bye weeks all year long. Only in a deep, deep league would you see him starting every week. If you’re in need of a quarterback during the season, because your regular starter is hurt or on a bye week, Schaub is your guy.

If Arian Foster isn’t the No. 1 running back on your board, he’s probably No. 2. Either way, this guy will have a beast of a season. If he stays healthy, you’re looking at a guaranteed 300-plus touch guy. He’s had no less than 275 carries for three straight years, which happens to be his only downside. He has been used unlike any back of this modern era. They will continue to run him for as long as he’s got legs. Please be aware, though, he is starting the preseason on the Physically Unable to Perform list. This has the potential to keep him out until close to midseason. I doubt it happens because his leg injury doesn’t seem that serious. But, if it does, Ben Tate will be someone you’ll want.

I like Chris Johnson this year, which is the first year since prior to his 2,006-yard season in 2009. Once he went off for that much, I immediately lost interest in him. Following some reports I heard that they want to send more passes his direction, my “big season” radar is going off. I’m looking forward to a Johnson with no expectations, and many more screen passes. 

I am very excited to see Maurice Jones-Drew this year. I think he will pick up right where he left off and, and with the emergence of Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon, he may finally see less than seven or eight men in the box. I will be honest, I want Jones-Drew as my second pick in every league, if I can. I will almost bet, though, by the end of preseason, he’s going late first round.

Andre Johnson strikes me as the top scoring receiver in this division this year because he’s the guy his quarterback looks for the most. Mostly because in the passing game he is the first, third and fifth option (the second and fourth option is Foster). Johnson is primed to have a great year as he always has.

The next guy you’re going to be interested in is the man who told Father Time, “not yet” last year. Reggie Wayne is again an elite receiver thanks to the amazing quarterback play of Luck. It also helps that Luck has a ton of other weapons on that team, which keeps Wayne from seeing too many double teams. I’m worried about his touchdown production, but the yardage will be there weekly.

Shorts and Blackmon will go hand-in-hand this year. I bet Shorts will get picked right where he should. I bet he will bomb the first four games. I even bet some people will give up hope on him. But, others will know the light at the end of the tunnel is there. Blackmon will come off of his suspension and the whole team will benefit. So, if you take either, it should be Shorts first, Blackmon second. Both will have serviceable seasons.

Don’t sleep too long on Kenny Britt, either. He may not have the best quarterback, but wide receivers his size only need someone to throw the ball in their general direction. So far this year he has stayed healthy, and, if he can keep it that way, you might be looking at one of the best late round picks this year.

Out of this division, Owen Daniels may be the only decent option at the start of the season. I think Luck has too many weapons to focus on a tight end, and the question marks around the quarterback position on the other two teams just mean it’s best to look elsewhere. Thanks to the surrounding weapons the Texans have, it makes Daniels someone the defense will forget about, which leaves the door open for a great year.

Are you as tired of reading as I am of typing? Then do I have a treat for you! Rankings!

Quarterbacks

1. Andrew Luck
2. Matt Schaub

Running Backs

1. Arian Foster
2. Maurice Jones-Drew
3. Chris Johnson
4. Ahmad Bradshaw
5. Ben Tate (great Handcuff option since Foster is, as of this article, still on the Physically Unable to Perform list)

Wide Receivers

1. Andre Johnson
2. Reggie Wayne
3. Cecil Shorts
4. Kenny Britt
5. Justin Blackmon
6. T.Y. Hilton
7. Darrius Heyward-Bay

Tight Ends

1. Owen Daniels

Kickers

1. Adam Vinatieri
2. Randy Bullock

Defense

1. Houston
2. Tennessee
3. Jacksonville
4. Indianapolis

 

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