The NFC/AFC South Hidden Values article will be Adam and I’s final piece in the four-part series. If you have missed any of the prior articles, click the links. NFC/AFC West, NFC/AFC North, NFC/AFC East.
When it comes to the NFC South, they have been predominately carried by the New Orleans Saints. Occasionally the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons fight for the top spot, but the Saints have carried this division for the past decade. The one team that I have failed to mention is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to their lack of success. This upcoming season should be their best yet as they aren’t only divisional favorites, but Super Bowl favorites thanks to the signing of Tom Brady and trade for Rob Gronkowski. It will a heated race for first with the new Buccaneers, healthy Saints, and dangerous Falcons all possibly finishing with a 10-6 record or better.
The AFC South on the other hand is a wide-open competition. Bill O’Brien is decimating the Texans by trading away possibly the best receiver in the league, Deandre Hopkins. In return, Houston received David Johnson, traded for Brandin Cooks, and signed Randall Cobb. Indianapolis is in the mix of rebuilding as well as trying to compete. They signed Philip Rivers as a bridge quarterback, but have young explosive weapons as well as the best offensive line in the league. Jacksonville Jaguars are making moves…that’s all you can really say. Tennessee are the favorites to win the division. The second-year wideout, A.J. Brown will take another step forward, Derrick Henry will again be in contention for the Rushing Title, and they’ll have a full season of Ryan Tannehill, who was 9-4, including the playoffs.
I hope you enjoy this article along with our past three articles and our 32 total Hidden Values.
The Saints enter the season with very few questions marks on the offense. The Alpha roles have been a constant there for a few seasons now. But, we do have one new addition. Emmanuel Sanders brings a welcomed skill set to the Saints offense. He is great in space and has incredibly reliable hands. He will be a number two receiver that opposing defenses will actually have to account for. Imagine the quality of DB’s he is going to see this year, Sanders is a steal at WR43 and should be locked in as a top 36 WR this season, with a ceiling of top 24.
Tale as old as time….The fantasy community dubbed a sleeper a year early. Truth is, Curtis Samuel had a strong 2019. He had more rushing yards on the year than Travis Homer, T.J. Yeldon, and Darwin Thompson; and saw career highs in almost every relevant statistical category. He is coming off a dumpster fire of a QB room and should at minimum see a modest upgrade in reliability with the incoming of Teddy Bridgewater. Samuel may have just as much upside as D.J. Moore, but you’ll be able to scoop him up eight to ten rounds later.
Ronald Jones isn’t an elite running back, may not even be a league average running back. But, he is still incredibly young (he is currently 22 years old) and made some amazing splash plays last year. It’s important to remember that he is also coming off a running back’s worst nightmare in terms of an offense. Tampa Bay was an absolute nightmare in terms of turnovers, and chasing points isn’t where his bread is buttered. Enter the incredibly meticulous Tom Brady and this offense will be slowed down, it will be methodical, and Jones will be the running back that fantasy owners cringe drafting this year. But in the season of Covid19 assuming a rookie has any kind of significant role simply may be a poor bet, and Jones is being drafted 10-15 picks behind the incoming Ke’ Shawn Vaughn
Your initial reaction is appropriate. Hayden Hurst is about as unknown of a commodity as possible. It’s fair to see he was a massive flop in Baltimore, where he never topped 400 receiving yards in two seasons, but the moving to the tight end baron Atlanta Falcons (unless your huge fans of Khari Lee, Jaeden Graham, or Carson Meier ) is an upgrade in just about every way possible. Atlanta has a stocked skill position core with Jones, Ridley, Ryan, and Gurley headlining an already prolific attack. Hurst needs simply step in and play that safety valve and he’s going to fall into top 12 production. However, if Hurst happens to really find his groove, he could be a top-five player at the position for the next few years.
After the unfortunate injury to Nick Foles, Minshew stepped up and he was a factor for Chark’s breakout season. In the 12 games Minshew played, Chark caught 58 out of 90 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns. If you pace that out to a full 16 game season, Chark would have 77 receptions, 120 targets, 1131 yards, and eight touchdowns. That is the possible floor for Chark with Gardner Minshew as the full-time starter and having a whole offseason to work together. The former LSU Tiger is a top 20 receiver but has the potential to finish in the top 10.
It was only a matter of time before Tannehill took over as the full-time starter. The only question was how efficient he would be. While in Miami, he was inconsistent and was prone to throwing interceptions, as he four straight seasons of double-digit picks. In the regular season, he had seven wins to three losses and help lead the Titans to the AFC Championship. From Week Seven to the end of the season Tannehill was the third-best quarterback in Fantasy. In his eight starts, he averaged 256 passing yards, 2.2 passing touchdowns, and completed 72.6% of his passes. Those are every week Fantasy starter numbers, but due to his limited Titans play and questionable past, some people might be hesitant to draft Tannehill. I’m all in on Tennessee’s signal-caller. Stacking him along with Derrick Henry or A.J. Brown is an underrated duo to have on your team.
One of the things new quarterback, Philip Rivers, loves to do is target big wide receivers in the red zone and goal line. Back in 2018, Chargers wideout, Mike Williams scored 10 touchdowns and Pittman Jr. could see that type of production as well. Entering as roughly the same size as Williams, the rookie is standing at 6’4 and weighing 225 lbs. There is very little competition for targets other than T.Y. Hilton, so Pittman Jr. could see a comfy 90-plus target. When asked about WR Michael Pittman Jr. and his role in the Colts offense, head coach Frank Reich told the media, “We envision Michael as being the ‘X’ receiver. We believe he can develop into that pretty quickly.” It will likely be the USC rookie starting opposite of T.Y. Hilton with Parris Campbell in the slot. Right now Michael Pittman Jr. is a top 50 Fantasy receiver, but with high upside and possible double-digit touchdowns, don’t be shocked when he cracks the top 30.
Just like in 2017, 2018, and 2019, I’m all in David Johnson. Houston obviously traded for Johnson as they believe he still has something left in the tank. Fellow running back, Duke Johnson, doesn’t pose a threat to the former Cardinals touches. Even though 2018 was considered a “down year” for David Johnson he wasn’t as bad as everyone thought. At the end of the season, he was the RB10, while eclipsing 300 touches, 1300 total yards, and 10 total touchdowns all while being a part of one of the worst offenses in NFL history. If he can play a full season on a top-eight offense there is nothing stopping D.J. from seeing over 350 touches, 1500 yards, and double-digit touchdowns. Due to little competition, a high powered offense, and already being called a three-down back by Head Coach Bill O’Brien, Johnson can be a top-five back once again.
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