2020 Fantasy Stat Projections: AFC South

Written by Mikey Ostrowski

That time of year has come, where all we can do is try our very best to predict the future. Some of us make hot takes, some of us obsess over rookies and some of us take a deep dive into past and potential production. I am a beautiful combination of all three of those people, however, that third one is the one I have been most recently.

This will be my first of eight articles this offseason, projecting the stats of players from each team in the NFL. As I’m sure you can guess, these projections will be changing monthly as the season gets closer, especially whenever big signings or trades happen. Luckily, I will be updating the projected stats on the revealed team directly on the LBP website, so you can all stay up to date with my latest thoughts on the team by team breakdown!

(All stats and calculated fantasy points are for PPR formats)

Let’s start with the most fantasy relevant team in the division: The Tennessee Titans

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Ryan Tannehill was on an absolute tear with the Titans in 2019 and will look to continue his success in the new campaign. With a fresh contract and a re-found love for the game, Tannehill projects to be the QB7 overall for 2020. He’s a great target in dynasty leagues right now, and should be the cheapest QB1 in redraft leagues in August.

Derrick Henry should form a nice little tag team this season with Darrynton Evans, and by tag team, I mean Henry will once again run away with all of the ground responsibilities for Tennessee. Projecting a player with 315 rushing attempts is something I never saw myself doing, then again, with his usage, I feel that this is very much in the wheelhouse of possibilities. There will always be a knock against Henry for not being a good enough receiver to boast more numbers in PPR leagues, but is ground game is stupendous and will warrant a finish as the RB7 on the year. Evans, on the other hand, will take over the Dion Lewis role, but should see more work than Lewis saw last year. Given that he is practically the only other RB on the roster, Evans will be a must-own handcuff for Henry owners. Evans has very little stand-alone value as the RB52 currently.

The receivers are led (obviously) by A.J. Brown, a man entering his second season in the NFL after a VERY impressive rookie year. His yards per catch is absurd, as is his big play ability, so achieving another 1,000-yard season (and then some), plus 8 touchdowns seems highly likely. Brown is the WR8 on my big board. Meanwhile, Corey Davis and Adam Humphries line up was WR53 and WR64. They are almost useless in season-long formats but should each have a big day or two at some point in the season. Neither one is a must own, but either one could become a very hot waiver-wire target should something happen to Brown.

Lastly, we have Jonnu Smith, an absolute freak athlete that has finally been handed the reins to the tight end position in Nashville. Almost no one is talking about him, in fact, I was able to acquire him (before Delanie Walker was released) for an early third-round rookie pick in my dynasty league. Smith should be the second-leading receiver for this team in 2020, which would be enough to rank him as the TE6 going into 2020. The buy-low window is shrinking… take advantage of it while it’s still here.

Next up: The Houston Texans

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Not having DeAndre Hopkins really hurts the Texans, but it doesn’t decimate them for fantasy. Deshaun Watson is still projected to have very respectful numbers and is still slated to be the QB9 in 2020. This may be disappointing, as he was coveted as a top-five QB less than a year ago. But are you really going to complain if you still have a top-10 guy that is about to get freaking PAID? Didn’t think so. He’s still going to work his magic in 2020, and may even come with a discount since Nuk is no longer in town.

The D. Johnson’s should form a nice little 1-2 punch in Houston. I know many think B.O.B. is going to turn (David) Johnson into a workhorse but given his injury history I can’t imagine him seeing this as a smart option (then again, it is Bill O’Brian). I have these two combining for over 1,450 rushing yards, 72 receptions and 11 touchdowns, which should be enough to get David Johnson into the low-end RB2 conversation (RB24 overall), while Duke Johnson is aligned as the RB33. Not a bad backfield to invest in for the right price.

The hard part about Hopkins leaving Houston is figuring out who will be the new WR1. It is no secret that Will Fuller has the best chances at this title, but he also has the best chances of being injured (buyer beware – this is a 16-game projection). I do have Fuller projected with very reasonable numbers, but even those numbers should only warrant him a WR3 tag (WR33 overall). If he goes down, Brandin Cooks should assume top receiver treatment, but even still I can’t project him much higher than 55 receptions on his new team. The other receivers aren’t going to post impressive enough stats to warrant a spot on your roster on draft day, though the waiver wire could be flooded by owners if Fuller (let’s be honest, WHEN) takes his annual injury leave.

And then of course is the tight ends, a position that has been less than exciting for Houston for many, many years. Darren Fells is going to be the best option here, but neither one should be coveted unless an injury occurs. Fells and Jordan Akins are lined up as the TE29 and TE34 respectively and will really only hold touchdown upside on a weekly basis. I’m expecting the ball to be spread around this offense plenty now that the team’s biggest target hog is playing in Arizona.

The Indianapolis Colts

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Let’s preface with this: Philip Rivers has a lot of children. Phew, now that we got that out of our system, let’s take a look at his stats. Rivers can still post very respectable numbers at this stage in his career, though his days as “that late-round starter quarterback” are probably in the rearview mirror. 4,132 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions will only be enough to mark him as the QB25. He’s only a serviceable option on the most desperate of super-flex teams.

Please don’t hate me, but Jonathan Taylor only ranks as my RB25 (third-best rookie running back for 2020). Look, it is unfair and irresponsible to write off Marlon Mack in this offense. I’m still giving Taylor a near-1,000-yard season and nine total touchdowns. This team has a run-first mindset and is going to create a three-headed monster between their backs (at least until Mack has to find a new team in 2021). And don’t yell at me with the “WTF BRO JT CAN CATCH!” because uhhhh… yeah, I know he can catch, but Nyheim Hines does it better. Hines should be the man on the field in 3rd and long situations and should be able to meet the half-century mark in receptions. Neither Mack or Hines will be recommended options for 2020, though if you are a JT owner, you may want to grab one of these handcuffs.

I think Rivers is just what T.Y. Hilton needs to have a bounce-back season. With a projected stat line of 69-881-6, Hilton should be in the range of finishing as a low-end WR2. He’s going to have massive weeks with Rivers, though don’t be surprised when he bottoms out in other weeks. Hilton will be the only receiver of fantasy relevance in Indy for 2020, as Zach Pascal is slated to be the next-best option, with an underwhelming WR54 projected finish.

Jack Doyle could be the sleeper tight end we’re all looking for in our 2020 drafts. I know some may be concerned about the signing of Trey Burton… but c’mon now, he’s really not that good of a football player. Doyle could be in line to finish as a top-20 tight end in PPR leagues, and with a current ADP of the 13th round… we’ll take it.

The Jacksonville Jaguars

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Gardner Minshew is going to lead the Jags into 2020 and is going to look damn good doing it! Though his passing numbers (ugly yardage totals) are nothing to write home about, being able to add over 43 fantasy points in the ground game is always a welcomed thing from quarterbacks. I have Minshew as the QB20, though there is less than a 10-point difference between him and QB15. In other words, he could be an incredibly cheap option in redraft leagues this season and is going to have at least a handful of big weeks.

How on earth do I project Leonard Fournette to have these incredible stats when Jacksonville wants to trade him? Well… they’re not going to find a team to trade with, which means they are going to run, run and RUN this man into the ground during his final year as a Jaguar. He was heavily involved in the passing game in 2019, which is a trend that should most definitely continue in 2020. Put all of those numbers together and you have one hell of an RB8 for 2020. If you’re a true contender (in a dynasty league) and willing to sell out for the trophy this year, Fournette is a phenomenal buy-low target right now. With that being said, Ryquell Armstead needs to be rostered in every single league on the odd chance that Fournette gets shipped out prior to kickoff of the 2020 season.

Speaking of top-notch players in Jacksonville, D.J. Chark had a nice breakout season last year and should continue on the path of stardom in 2020. Currently projected to finish as the WR17 (only 12 points behind the WR12), Chark should be a highly coveted option for fantasy owners in all leagues. He’s a tough cookie to grab in dynasty leagues, but is more than worth the fourth-round pick he’s currently going for in new leagues.

I’d try to avoid all other options in Jacksonville this year. If you’re desperate at the tight end position, Tyler Eifert could be a nice late-round flier, though don’t expect the world from him. I also really like Laviska Shenault (a lot) in dynasty leagues but probably won’t be touching him in redrafts in anything more than the final round or so. Eifert is the current projected TE25, while Shenault is projected to finish as the WR57.

Stay tuned for the next set of projections to come out, as I’ll be revealing my projections for the AFC North.

Mikey Ostrowski is a blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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