AFC South 2012 fantasy preview

Monday July 23rd, 2012

Let's call the AFC South the running back division. Arian Foster is arguably the No. 1 pick in fantasy, while Chris Johnson used to be, and Maurice Jones-Drew was, at times a year ago. They help balance a dearth at the quarterback position.

With Peyton Manning headed west and No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck taking over in Indy, this is also a division of developing quarterbacks. That makes the running backs all that more important. Johnson should be a lot better without a holdout this go around, while Foster and MJD are going to challenge for the league lead in touches, barring injury.

The QBs might get a boost from some rebounds at the receiver position. Andre Johnson, Kenny Britt and Reggie Wayne can potentially return to the elite again, which would make Matt Schaub, Matt Hasselbeck (or Jake Locker) and Luck sleepers for fantasy owners at the deep quarterback position.

We already have taken our capsule looks at the NFC East, AFC East, NFC North and AFC North. We continue with the AFC South's depth charts, position battles, injury questions and fantasy positional rankings:

QB Matt Schaub T.J. Yates

RB Arian Foster Ben Tate Justin Forsett

WR Andre Johnson Kevin Walter Lestar Jean DeVier Posey

TE Owen Daniels

K Randy Bullock Shayne Graham

Position battles

No. 3 WR: The unspectacular Walter, 31, is expected to start opposite Johnson, so whomever emerges as the No. 3 option might actually be the second-best receiver to have in fantasy here. Walter wasn't fantasy-worthy last season, even though Johnson missed nine games. Unused sophomore Jean, rookie Posey and '12 fourth-round pick Keshawn Martin aren't necessarily late-round sleepers yet, but they could emerge in training camp or during the season, particularly if Johnson continues his path of an injury-prone wideout. The loss of Jacoby Jones doesn't seem like much, but it does open up opportunities for a young receiver.

Injury questions

WR Andre Johnson (knee, hamstring) -- He used to be the No. 1 receiver in fantasy, but multiple injuries have taken a serious bite out of his value and raised the risk. He is now 31 and has had knee, hamstring and ankle surgeries. The legs tend to go past the age of 30 and there should be serious questions whether he will ever be the same. A 16-game season will make him a top-10 receiver, but he might not be worth the risk at the premium it will still take to get him.

QB Matt Hasselbeck Jake Locker

RB Chris Johnson Javon Ringer Jamie Harper

WR Kenny Britt Nate Washington Kendall Wright Damian Williams

TE Jared Cook

K Rob Bironas

Position battles

Starting quarterback: Hasselbeck enjoyed a renaissance of sorts last season, but Locker is the team's future at the position and he played well in his limited opportunities a year ago. If this is indeed an open competition, the Titans just might hand the reins to Locker. Either quarterback is going to prove to be a nice late-round backup, and Locker might even prove to be a strong part-time fantasy starter when he eventually gets the starts for the Titans.

No. 3 WR: Britt and Washington look like good bets to start, while Williams showed promise as a sophomore and enters his potential third-year WR breakout season. Wright is an elite draft pick who might wind up the best of this group, but he will have to prove healthy and worthy of targets in training camp. Williams and Wright are good enough to soar past Washington on the depth chart even.

Injury questions

WR Kenny Britt (knee) -- He was headed to a huge third-year WR breakout before blowing out his knee in Game 3 and needing season-ending surgery. He gets another crack at the "third year" and we should expect him to prove healthy and elite among fantasy receivers. He will be drafted out of the top 25 WRs, but he has to potential to perform like a top-10 option.

WR Nate Washington (knee) -- His offseason surgery was far less serious than the one that claimed Britt's season, so don't be concerned, health-wise. More important: What will happen to his career-best 2011 numbers with the return of Britt and the emergence of young talents Williams and Wright? It's hard to expect improvement from a year ago for those reasons. At 28, Washington is still in his prime, but he should be considered merely a fourth fantasy receiver, a bye-week replacement.

QB Blaine Gabbert Chad Henne

RB Maurice Jones-Drew Rashad Jennings DuJuan Harris

WR Justin Blackmon Laurent Robinson Mike Thomas Lee Evans

TE Marcedes Lewis Zach Miller

K Josh Scobee

Position battles

Starting quarterback: This really isn't a competition going in, but if Gabbert plays the same mediocre football this year, Henne can earn some time. Henne had some moments in Miami. Regardless, neither QB should be anything more than a late-round option in the deepest of two-QB leagues.

WRs Nos. 1-3: The Jags added an elite talent in Blackmon and scored 2011 breakout Robinson via free agency. Then you have the disappointing Thomas to compete with the disappointing veteran Evans for targets. Blackmon clearly is the talent to have, but the quarterback uncertainty makes all of these receivers more like fantasy backups at this point. Gabbert really needs to show improvement in the preseason to change that.

Injury questions

RB Rashad Jennings (knee) -- He missed all of last season because he was placed on I.R. before the season for a knee injury that wound up not needing surgery. He said he would have been healthy enough to play by Week 5, so he can be expected to be healthy enough to back up MJD this season. He is one of the more valuable handcuffs in fantasy, because MJD is a top-five back and the Jags figure to be a run-heavy offense.

RB Chad Henne (shoulder) -- His surgery was on his non-throwing shoulder, so it shouldn't keep him from competing in training camp. His obstacle is the Jags' commitment to Gabbert long term. He needs Gabbert is struggling in camp, or in the early part of the season, again.

QB Andrew Luck Drew Stanton

RB Donald Brown Delone Carter Mewelde Moore

WR Reggie Wayne Austin Collie Donnie Avery

TE Coby Fleener

K Adam Vinatieri

Position battles

Starting RB: This really isn't a battle. "Donald is an every-down back," coach Chuck Pagano told the Indianapolis Star. "He is doing a tremendous job and he is having a fantastic offseason." Carter was picked to be a factor, but fumbling plagued him as a rookie and he couldn't beat out Brown, who is a breakout candidate in fantasy this season. The Colts need a running game to take the pressure off the No. 1 overall pick Luck, but expect Carter to be the change-of-pace guy that steps forward only if Brown falters or is injured.

Injury questions

WR Donnie Avery (knee) -- The 33rd overall pick of the '08 draft missed all of '10 and never proved to be a factor a year ago coming off major knee surgery. The reports are he looked great in the OTAs, though, and might even be a candidate to overtake Collie as a starter opposite Wayne. Avery is potentially a field stretcher on the outside for Luck, while Collie fits better as a possession receiver in the slot. Watch Avery closely in camp for a potential surprise campaign.


1 Matt Schaub HOU 2 Matt Hasselbeck TEN 3 Andrew Luck IND 4 Jake Locker TEN 5 Blaine Gabbert JAC 6 Chad Henne JAC 7 T.J. Yates HOU 8 Drew Stanton IND

Running backs

1 Arian Foster HOU 2 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC 3 Chris Johnson TEN 4 Ben Tate HOU 5 Donald Brown IND 6 Delone Carter IND 7 Javon Ringer TEN 8 Jamie Harper TEN| 9 Rashad Jennings JAC 10 Justin Forsett HOU

Wide receivers

1 Andre Johnson HOU 2 Kenny Britt TEN 3 Reggie Wayne IND 4 Laurent Robinson JAC 5 Nate Washington TEN 6 Justin Blackmon JAC 7 Austin Collie IND 8 Kevin Walter HOU 9 Kendall Wright TEN 10 Damian Williams TEN 11 Mike Thomas JAC| 12 Donnie Avery IND

Tight ends

1 Jared Cook TEN 2 Owen Daniels HOU 3 Coby Fleener IND 4 Marcedes Lewis JAC 5 Zach Miller JAC


1 Rob Bironas TEN 2 Randy Bullock HOU 3 Josh Scobee JAC 4 Adam Vinatieri IND 5 Shayne Graham HOU

Defense/Special Teams

1 Texans HOU 2 Titans TEN 3 Jaguars JAC 4 Colts IND

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