We are heading to the AFC South in this next installment of the ADP Breakdown series! It’s home to a team from Indianapolis and another team from the largest city by area in the contiguous United States (Jacksonville). This division has been dominated by the Titans and Colts since its inception in 2002, with the two combining for 13 of the 20 division titles. It looks like those two will be competing for the division title again. Let’s get to it.
Last year’s team finished 12-5 in a runaway of capturing the AFC South division title. Despite injuries to Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, the team kept winning. Now Brown is gone and Henry is 28, which usually is the beginning of the end for a running back. Not much fantasy goodness on this team, but let’s see what our draft strategy could be for the Titans.
Robert Woods (100th Overall, WR40)
Lucky number 100 by half point ADP is “Bobby Trees”. It pains me to be writing negatively about one of my favorite players in recent memory, but he has too many factors going against him. He is returning from an ACL injury entering his age 30-season (I’m entering my age 30-season, does that mean I’m washed up?) He is changing teams which is usually a bad thing for WRs. Said team throws the ball less than his old team, and does so less efficiently. Ryan Tannehill threw for 1,100 less yards and 20 less touchdowns than Matthew Stafford did last season. Scoring TDs has never really been Woods’ thing, but receptions and yards project to be down from what we’re used to. I am passing on Woods at this current point in the draft.
Treylon Burks (118th Overall, WR47)
Instead, I am taking his rookie counterpart about a round and a half later. Burks was drafted by the Titans minutes after they traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles. I’ve seen the early reports of his asthma and him working with the 2nd and 3rd team as he struggles to learn an NFL playbook. But most accounts still state he’s impressing at camp from a physical perspective. He was a first round pick for a reason! I’m not saying he’s going to be, but what if he is as explosive as A.J. Brown was right out of the gate?
Tennessee has one of the best play-action games in the league due to the respect King Henry garners from opposing defenses. This leads to big plays from wide receivers carving up the secondary. I will take my shot at a receiver who averaged 16.4 yards a catch in college over an aging one who hasn’t averaged anywhere near that in his 9 year career. When two players from the same team have similar ADP, I will choose the higher upside player most of the time.
The Colts have become my adopted team due to their phenomenal decision-making when they drafted Jonathan Taylor in 2020. On the other hand, Carson Wentz was shipped out this offseason because of his horrible decision-making. He can’t be fully blamed for their loss in Week 18 vs the Jaguars that cost them a playoff bid, but he was a large part of it. The team has changed QBs for about the 87th straight offseason, but will it bring them back to the postseason?
Michael Pittman Jr. (36th Overall, WR13)
Much like the Titans, the Colts don’t have many fantasy-relevant players, so being “down” on someone based on their ADP was tough. But I chose Pittman because he’s being drafted pretty close to his ceiling. I don’t think he has top 5 WR potential, but I also don’t think he finishes outside the top 20. There’s something to be said for that type of reliability. He will be the number one option for Matt Ryan which typically means good things. Just ask Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. A jump to the elite 27% target share threshold is not out of the realm of possibility for the third year wideout. I just don’t think he has all that much upside for this article’s purpose.
Matt Ryan (159th Overall, QB20)
This one is for all y’all that play in 2QB leagues, wherever you are. In a standard 1QB league, I’m not saying you should draft the 2016 MVP, but he could fill in nicely during bye weeks for your team. The Colts offense thrives on play action and screens, which should make for easier throws for Ryan. This offensive line is worlds better than anything he’s had in Atlanta in recent memory, which should keep him upright more often. Philip Rivers finished as QB20 in 2020 with this team, so why couldn’t Matt Ryan equal that or surpass it? He is 2 years younger than Rivers and probably has more left in the tank for 2022. If you wind up completely punting your QB position, “Matty Ice” presents a decent streaming option to start the season. The Colts open with the Jaguars, Texans, and Chiefs to start the season.
Heading into 2021, the Texans were projected by most to secure the number one overall pick by posting the league’s worst record. There were actually a couple of teams worse than them, so they beat expectations! Yay! Will they improve upon their 4 wins from last season? Probably not…
Player I’m Down On: N/A
I’m sensing a theme with this division. Only 1 or 2 guys from the roster you want and the rest are dart throws or irrelevant to fantasy football. For that reason, I can’t in good conscience be “down” on someone from this team. There is only one player currently being taken within the top 100 ADP from this team and he’s in my next section…
Brandin Cooks (60th Overall, WR23)
This is a pick that most of your league mates will ignore when you make it on draft day. It’s not flashy, controversial, or a head-turner. But it’s a safe, solid pick. Since entering the league in 2014, here are Brandin Cooks’ year end fantasy finishes at the WR position: 57th (rookie season, only played in 10 games), 14th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 62nd (injury), 15th, 20th. The man just produces! This despite being on a different team, with a different quarterback, in a different season pretty much every year. Well now he finally gets to stay in Houston with Davis Mills. Which may not sound great, but the two clearly have a connection and Mills wasn’t terrible as a rookie. With no other real playmakers in Houston, lock in Cooks as your steady WR2.
The Jags completed the rare feat of having the worst record in football in back-to-back years. However, they might have the most intriguing roster in this division when it comes to selecting fantasy football options. New head coach Doug Pederson and some offseason acquisitions are a big reason for optimism in Jacksonville.
Travis Etienne Jr. (45th Overall, RB22)
I already discussed why I am out on Etienne in 2022, but the news about James Robinson being back at practice has swayed me away from the Clemson alum. It’s a new coaching staff, so we don’t know exactly how they will be used. If Robinson is ready to go Week 1, my prediction is it’ll be mostly Robinson on first and second downs with Etienne on 3rd down and other passing situations, sometimes splitting out as a receiver. If Robinson isn’t ready Week 1, sure, you could find value in Etienne as the rest of the depth chart is barren. But I am not playing that game with a 4th round draft pick.
As a bonus side note, do not draft Evan Engram. No one should ever draft Evan Engram at any ADP. I don’t care that he’s TE20 off the board. Besides the disappointment he’s been since his TE5 finish as a rookie in 2017, Pederson frequently uses 2TE sets, capping upside. And the Jags already have a very capable tight end in Dan Arnold. Do. Not. Draft. Evan. Engram.
Christian Kirk (105th Overall, WR42)
Things finally clicked for Kirk in 2021 in Arizona, so Jacksonville paid up big time to get him in free agency. He will be the number one receiving option for Trevor Lawrence, but do their styles mesh? Per PFF, Kirk is going from the number 1 ranked deep ball QB in Kyler Murray, to number 27 with Lawrence. A good deal of Kirk’s yardage was on deep passes, averaging close to 10 yards before catch per reception. That ranked 9th among players with at least 100 targets last season. Quick aside, Kyle Pitts was 6th in this category… as a tight end! Crazy.
I think the Jags will use Kirk in a way that benefits the offense and Lawrence, but the second year QB will need to improve. He ranked top 5 (bad) in both bad throws and bad throw percentage, which probably contributed to his 5.7% dropped passes rate. Kirk’s ADP is low enough that you can stash him on the bench for a few weeks before making a keep/cut decision and it won’t hurt you too much.