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Fantasy Football 2016: Gauging AFC South WR Opportunities

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Today we conclude our tour around the NFL wide receiver community with the AFC South. The South is a peculiar beast because the Texans and Colts’ target data belies the 2016 opportunities for their receivers. The Texans bring in a new quarterback in Brock Osweiler as well as a new running back in Lamar Miller, so it’s likely they go back to the drawing board. The Jags and the Titans are set to return all their receivers who merited a target last season, but their fantasy football wide receivers are still worth discussing.

Houston Texans

Rank Tgt Rec Yds TD Tgt Rec Yd TD FP
10 98 50 672 4 23.28% 21.65% 22.65% 20.00% 91.2

In what strange world does Nate Washington get 94 targets? And in 14 games? That’s more than any wide receiver on the Patriots, his new team. Full disclosure, I got to this statistic and had to stop for a second. It just doesn’t make sense, for Washington to eat up nearly a quarter of his team’s targets. Right up until you realize the talent discrepancy between DeAndre Hopkins and the rest of the receiving corps, who may not, cumulatively, have had as much talent as Hopkins. Right up until the Texans used the #21 overall on Will Fuller… Except Fuller’s main asset is his speed, and his main detriment is his bad hands… and Brock Osweiler had one of the worst deep balls in 2015.

Don’t expect a ton of consistent fantasy football production from Fuller in 2016, though he presents a nifty DFS option when the Texans play a particularly bad pass defense. He has 4.3 speed that will get him behind defenses in a hurry. He should be wide open against below-average pass defenses.

Instead, expect moderate increases across the board, with the biggest change potentially going towards a dead-cat bounce for Cecil Shorts’ career or if he can get on the field, a breakout for Jaelen Strong. There is a player who could emerge from this field, but it’s unlikely to be anyone worth drafting. Keep in mind that even on 94 targets, Nate Washington still wasn’t fantasy relevant.

Indianapolis Colts

Rank Tgt Rec Yds TD Tgt Rec Yd TD FP
15 77 41 503 4 20.21% 19.43% 18.03% 23.53% 74.3

The Colts put the corpse of Andre Johnson out to pasture, but returned everyone else from 2015.  They will also get Andrew Luck back, who was inconsistent, then out last season mostly due to injuries. In steps Donte Moncrief into the WR2 role, and let me tell you, Moncrief will flourish. Last season he absorbed 105 targets, and pulled in just 64 for 733 yards and 6 TDs.

If he can take on just 25 of the suddenly available targets, he is looking to increase his output by just about 25%. That’s putting him at about 950-1000 yards and 8 touchdowns. That’s also not taking into account the fact that Andrew Luck played in only seven games last season; Moncrief also did the majority of his damage in Andrew Luck-led games. If Luck can stay healthy all season, 1000 yards becomes Moncrief’s floor, and 8 touchdowns a middling production for his output, and a likely fantasy football breakout player. That steal leaves about 50 targets to absorb. T.Y. Hilton will get his fair share, but second year speedster Phillip Dorsett could see a step forward into fantasy relevance in 2016.

He won’t become a must-add player without any injuries, but if he can get underneath a few Andrew Luck deep bombs with some consistency, he will definitely return value at some point this season.

Tennessee Titans

Rank Tgt Rec Yds TD Tgt Yds TD FP PPR
T-27 0 0 0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0 0

There is much ado surrounding Dorial Green-Beckham and his breakout potential in 2016. I am not seeing it; the Titans passing game returns all of its wide receivers who caught a ball in 2015 (Rico Richardson’s fruitless five targets did not make their way back to Nashville), and the Titans have geared up to be a run-first offense. The development of Mariota gives Green-Beckham a modicum of upside, but there are discussions of him as having the upside of a WR2.

Ignore the fact that his route running is suspect, he can’t beat man coverage, he can’t stay healthy and he’s currently a backup on the Tennessee depth chart, the Titans offense had among the lowest passes to wide receivers in the NFL last season, and head coach Mike Mularkey seems ready to double-down on that philosophy. DGB will have some productive weeks, but there is a lot conspiring against him to have tremendous upside.

If DGB consumes the majority of the targets, it is unlikely that the other receivers on the squad will have enough opportunity to break out. Green-Beckham could put it together in training camp and preseason, and if he does, I’ll change my tune, but for now, DGB is yet to show that he will put it together in the NFL or for your fantasy football squads.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Rank Tgt Rec Yds TD Tgt Yds TD FP PPR
T-27 0 0 0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0 0

The Jags had one of the most productive passing games last season, mostly on the shoulders of a terrible defense and garbage time (and an organizational philosophy to banish rookie T.J. Yeldon in the red zone).  With Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns taking the next step (and Robinson doing so in a huge way) last season, there isn’t much room left for Marqise Lee and the like, unless one of the Allens goes down.

This passing game is likely to take a step back, so it doesn’t present major opportunity for a breakout. The Allens are the only wide receivers to own in Jacksonville, and don’t get cute thinking that Lee provides any sort of upside opportunity. Draft Robinson and Hurns carefully, however, and understand the downside.

Blake Bortles had an abnormally high touchdown number, mostly due to garbage time, and is destined to take a step back. This is doubly likely given the one-two punch of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory getting Bort & Co. red zone and goal-line carries as well as the improved defense leading to less garbage time. There is little to mine for fantasy football value in Jacksonville, and is a situation to approach with caution outside of the Allens, and even if you go towards Robinson and Hurns, you need to do so carefully.

With a large amount of tumult in three of the four teams in this division outside of the WROI, the WROI does not return a lot of fantasy football value (there’s a reason the AFC South went last). Instead, the situation around the wide receivers is what is changing in the AFC South in 2016. For some, this means a step forward. For others, a step back is in store. Thank you for reading the WROI series. If you haven’t checked out the rest of the articles, you can do so below:

NFC North
NFC East
NFC South
NFC West
AFC North
AFC East
AFC West

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com