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2018 Projections: AFC South

This series focuses on projecting players that are expected to be fantasy relevant for all 32 NFL teams. The included projections were built using the Excel Projection Machine which is included in the FFDRAFTPREP package.

Though projections are more meaningful when used to explore player’s ranges of outcomes, those presented represent “best guesses.” Please note that the RB3 and WR4 included for each team have been allocated a percentage of rushing or passing attempts that brings the team’s total to 100 percent. As a result, the stat lines and point totals included for these players may be somewhat inflated. Projected point totals are based on PPR scoring. In an effort to cover all teams as expediently as possible, we will be reviewing the projections on a divisional basis. Key assumptions and notes have been included in bulleted lists.

Can Deshaun Watson remain an elite fantasy QB? Will Marcus Mariota bounce back, and how will the Jaguars’ wide receiving opportunity be allocated? Let’s take a look at the AFC South and see if we can answer these questions!

Jacksonville Jaguars

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

JAX Alloc

  • Jacksonville’s projection assumes that the team remains strong, with the potential to win 10 games. As a result, the team will run more plays than the league average.
  • Blake Bortles has controlled an average of 14 percent of rushing attempts per season since 2014. The 12 percent assigned to him is one percent higher than the percentage he saw in 2017.
  • Leonard Fournette will absorb the lion’s share of RB work.
  • Marqise Lee is projected as the Jaguars’ WR1, with Donte Moncrief behind him it WR2, and Dede Westbrook capturing the role of WR3.
    • I wavered back and forth heavily while considering the team’s WR depth chart. The only player’s who role I feel confident in is Lee. I could see Moncrief, Westbrook, Keelan Cole, or D.J. Chark building out the receiving corps in every configuration imaginable.
    • Moncrief was assigned the WR2 role due to the contract that Jacksonville offered him and an athletic profile that sets him apart from the rest of the group.1
  • Reasonable people could easily disagree with my view of the utilization that the team’s WRs will see. If that’s you, you can probably still use the projections as a guideline. I don’t believe that there would be radical shifts in the numbers if I built out the projections with the roles assigned differently.

FANTASY PROJECTIONS

JAX PROJ

  • The Jaguars scored 47 touchdowns last season. My projection forecasts only 34 for 2018. So there is room for increased production if you believe that the team will operate similarly to last season.
  • However, Bortles is projected with 21 touchdowns. Could he throw for more? Sure. But his average since 2014, including his outlier in 2015, is 23. Without Allen Robinson as a target, it’s hard to increase this total.
    • In order to do so, I’d have to assign a very high touchdown rate to a WR or TE. However, this isn’t a great approach to building projections. I set these rates by reviewing player history and looking at league percentiles. There are no players that could reasonably be assigned such a high rate even if one were trying to back into a higher TD total for Bortles.
    • This means that if you expect more TDs, they’d have to come on the ground. It would be reasonable to assign an extra TD or two to Fournette, but it would be prudent to assume that balance ends up in the abyss of fantasy points that go unrealized by fantasy players.
  • Lee looks like an okay selection for fantasy owners seeking to build out their stable of WRs. However, it’s hard to imagine his volume rising to levels that would make him more than a WR3.
  • The rest of the team’s WRs should be selected late and when drafters are seeking upside. While the team’s projection doesn’t highlight the existence of upside for any WR, it is somewhat muddied by uncertainty. If one of the pass catchers can emerge and become the clear-cut WR2, they’d have the potential to outplay their ADP.

Houston Texans

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

HOU Alloc 2

 

  • Houston won eight games last season and is expected to win around eight or nine in 2018
    • As a result, the team’s projection assumes nine more plays than league average and places both rushing and passing attempts near average levels.
  • The projection assumes that D’Onta Foreman will not be able to participate in training camp and will start the season on the reserve/PUP list. This would make him unavailable for the first six games of the season.
    • If it becomes clear that Foreman will be available to start the season, I’ll update the projections posted to the site.
  • In Watson’s seven games in 2017, he accumulated a rushing share of seven percent. As a result, his projection of 12 percent of rushing attempts assumes that he will continue to rush when needed but at a slightly decreased pace.
  • DeAndre Hopkins remains one of the most targeted players in the league, with a decrease of just one percent of his share of passing attempts from 2017.
  • Will Fuller saw 10 percent of Texans’ targets last season but played in only 10 games.
    • His projection assumes a minor increase to 18 percent.

FANTASY PROJECTIONS

HOU Proj

  • Watson posts an impressive line despite anticipated regression.2
    • His projection includes a significant increase in the rate of targets thrown per touchdown from 11 in 2017 to 21 in 2018, and his yards per attempt are scaled back a full yard.
    • While he is expected to remain a threat on the ground, accruing four touchdowns, his yards per rushing attempt have been regressed from 8.0 to 4.5.3
  • Miller benefits greatly from Foreman’s assumed absence in Weeks 1 through 6 and with average efficiency should finish as at least an RB2.
  • Hopkins’ projection gives him a real shot at being the highest scoring non-QB in fantasy. His projection assumes 75th percentile efficiency but he has the track record to support it.
  • Fuller’s points per target project at average levels of 1.7. This is a substantial decrease from 2017 in which he scored more than 2.2 points per target, placing him in the PPT danger zone.
  • Given the tremendous projection for Hopkins, solid line for Miller, and decent production expected from Fuller, there’s minimal fantasy value to be had outside of the trio.
  • The Texans scored 40 touchdowns in 2017. My projection places the team at 35.

Tennessee Titans

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

TEN Alloca

  • The Titans ran fewer plays than league average last season with a 53-47 split tipped toward the pass.
    • I’m expecting a similar split this year with a minor increase in total volume, as I anticipate the team to experience a tiny improvement.
  • I believe that the Titans will grant Derrick Henry the majority of the rushing work. However, the team will use Dion Lewis in the ground game, so as not to tip it’s hand when using him in passing situations.
    • Lewis has proved himself to be a capable rusher and it makes sense to get him involved in both facets of the game.
    • While I do see the potential for either back to significantly shift this spread, I think the more likely outcome is a shared backfield.
  • Delanie Walker was the Titans’ most targeted player in 2017 with 24 percent of passing attempts going his way. He could see a decrease in volume as a portion of his targets shift to the younger but talented Jonnu Smith.
  • Rishard Matthews projects as the team’s WR1, but Corey Davis is expected to become more involved and challenge Matthews for targets.

FANTASY PROJECTIONS

TEN Proj

  • In what many considered a down year for Mariota, he threw just 13 TD passes in 2017. His projection anticipates a dramatic increase to 26, which would tie his career best, recorded in 2016.
    • Mariota’s projection places him back into fantasy QB1 status.
  • The team as a whole will benefit from this and total TDs are expected to increase from 33 to 37.
  • Lewis’ projection of 200 feels a little too rich for me, but as I’ve pointed out before, this exercise loses meaning if I back into my prior expectations.
    • My takeaway here is that Lewis may be able to outscore my expectations and we don’t need to be overly concerned about the time share.
    • There is enough opportunity for both RBs to be substantial contributors.
  • I was hoping to see Davis project with 30 or so more points than he did. Unless he is able to overtake Matthews in the WR1 role, or Walker falls off, he won’t be able to gain the target share needed to do so.

Indianapolis Colts

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

IND Alloc

  • The Colts’ projection assumes that Andrew Luck is healthy and will be avialable for the entire season.
  • Given Luck’s assumed health, the team is expected to improve. However, it’s still expected to produce a losing record and as a result will skew toward the pass.
  • While Nyheim Hines is an exciting rookie, and Jordan Wilkins has generated some hype, Mack has the most complete profile and already has some NFL production on his resume. For this reason, he is expected to be the lead back and will play a role in all phases of the offense.
  • T.Y. Hilton will be Luck’s main target. Unfortunately for Chester Rogers, Jack Doyle will remain a fixture in the passing game and Eric Ebron could earn a significant share of targets.

FANTASY PROJECTIONS

IND Proj

  • Luck is projected to return to form and throw for more than 4,000 yards while passing for 27 TDs. This would be his lowest TD per game total of the last four seasons he’s played, so it builds in some regression that could stem from getting back up to speed and dealing with mental blocks.
  • Mack’s workload is large enough to make him a desirable RB option despite average efficiency.
  • While it would seem that there should be points available in the Indianapolis receiving game, it’s a challenge to get players other than Hilton and Doyle to levels where they could be significant fantasy contributors.
    • One reason for this is that Mack and Hines are expected to earn roles in the passing game. This takes away significant target share that would have otherwise been allocated to the team’s receivers.
  • While Ebron is talented enough to earn himself a role, he’ll need to steal a decent percentage of targets from another player to become an entrenched weekly option. Doyle’s projection already includes a decrease in target share for the presence of Ebron, so his best hope is that Hines fails to secure a role in the offense.

  1. Chark also boasts an impressive physical resume but I don’t expect him to assimilate into the offense immediately.  (back)
  2. Watson was historically efficient as a rookie so scaling him back into normal ranges is the prudent approach.  (back)
  3. I used Cam Newton as a proxy to arrive at this total.  (back)

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