From the Gut: The AFC South
By Sigmund Bloom
August 27th, 2012

This is a good time to review where we are at on offenses as a whole, and the possible downstream effects on the players within those offenses. The height of draft season is upon us and sometimes the level of quality and risk in an offense can be a good tiebreaker between similar players when you are making decisions on the clock.

Houston Texans

Despite some turnover on the offensive line, I can't help but gravitate to Arian Foster when I have the first pick. He is the perfect back for the system and played his best football last season in the playoffs against strong defenses. Ben Tate is not a threat to his upside and should not be considered a "must" as he is only a bet on Foster getting hurt or flex play in great matchups. Take a running back who has RB2 upside regardless of injury to others instead to maximize the upside of your roster.

Matt Schaub is looking good and he is certainly a strong "safe" QB2 to pair with a Robert Griffin III/Andrew Luck QB1 in a QBBC. He won't threaten his pre-Foster breakout numbers, but Schaub can keep your team afloat while you try to engineer a move for a stronger quarterback.

Part of what is holding Schaub back is the risk of Andre Johnson getting hurt, which is becoming too common. The pass offense would lose a major downfield dimension. Of course, the fears of Johnson's durability eroding have subsided, and he is still worth a top 5-top10 pick at wide receiver, although taking a wideout that high is incompatible with my "wait on wide receiver" strategy this year.

Number two wide receiver Kevin Walter would still have only marginal value if Johnson gets hurt because the tight end is a big part of the passing game in Houston. That doesn't mean that you should make a point of targeting Owen Daniels late. He's a fine backup fantasy tight end if Kyle Rudolph and Brent Celek are gone, but he'll be sharing targets with James Casey and Garrett Graham.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck - much like Cam Newton last year - has the look of a player who will elevate his whole offense and be a startable fantasy quarterback in the process. Luck is a steal in the 11th round or later, and should be a target whether you have Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III as your starter. Luck is the focal point of the offense, he'll be playing from behind a lot, and he is a great athlete in and out of the pocket.

The next question is who will benefit most from Luck's elevation of the offense? It was poised to be Austin Collie, but that is on hold after his latest concussion. Collie is still worth a pick in the 12th or later while we wait to hear what the prognosis is for this season. Reggie Wayne looked like a solid pick in the 6th, now he could be one of the best values at wide receiver. Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton, and Lavon Brazill should all be on your waiver wire watchlist if Collie isn't coming back soon, and Dwayne Allen should be on that list too. Coby Fleener hasn't done much to show that he's worth a pick in a deep group of backup tight end candidates, pass on him in your drafts.

The running game in Indy will suffer for Luck's effectiveness and the team's rebuilding process. Donald Brown is not a feature back, he is a lead back in a committee. The Colts will use their diverse set of mediocre talents at running back. Brown could put it all together this year - stranger things have happened - but I prefer running backs with more upside in their future and less failure in their past in the 7th-9th rounds. Put Vick Ballard on your waiver wire watchlist as the best all-around back on the roster.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Blaine Gabbert showed signs of life in the preseason. While this is no reason to go out and draft him, he could breathe value into a pass offense that was flatlining last year. Justin Blackmon seems like the number one target after Laurent Robinson held that title by default during the spring. Blackmon is a solid upside WR4 or WR5 in the 10th round or later after he was being left for dead a few weeks ago during his holdout. Robinson has been invisible in the preseason. Competent play from Gabbert would also make Marcedes Lewis a good waiver wire watchlist candidate in deep leagues, or maybe even shallow leagues if his redzone dominance returns.

Maurice Jones-Drew still isn't in camp as of this moment. It is foolish to expect that he will be anything approaching what he was in 2011. Rashad Jennings has had the look of a starting quality running back all summer, and Jones-Drew will be mired in a committee for at least the first part of the season, if he even gets to start for the first few games after his return. He's not worth considering until the late third round.

Jennings has been a hot name, creeping into the 9th round range, but he won't have consistent value unless Jones-Drew extends his holdout well into the season. I wouldn't be targeting Jennings unless he falls into the 10th or later.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans decision to install Jake Locker as the starter should make him an easy add to your ever-growing fantasy backup QB/QB2 in a QBBC list. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer should create a potent pass offense with a plethora of weapons. Locker is a good running quarterback and he won't be shy about testing the defense downfield. He's only a hair behind Andrew Luck on my board.

Nate Washington was the man when Locker was in during games last year, but Kendall Wright looks very comfortable with Locker and he's a better talent than Washington. Wright is going a round or two after Washington and is the better value pick.

Kenny Britt is likely to be suspended a few games, and he wouldn't be ready to play a full complement of snaps in Week 1 anyway because of his three knee surgeries since he tore his ACL last September. He is still worth a pick in the 8th round or later because he displayed Calvin Johnson upside in the first two games last season. You have to take a handful of guys who can vastly outperform ADP to win your league, and Britt is the most prominent name on that list. He is sometimes falling into the very late rounds, or even going undrafted. Shame on you if you pass on Britt in the 12th or later.

Jared Cook has enough pass-catching talent to be a top five fantasy tight end in a starter's role. There haven't been clear signs that he'll get it this year, and the Titans have three very good wide receivers, so he should only be considered an upside TE2, and one that could be very frustrating week-to-week.

Chris Johnson is consistently going in the 4-8 range in the first round, and I can get behind that. He has a high RB2 floor in a worst-case scenario, especially in PPR leagues. He is durable, and things can't get worse than they were last year. Locker can also improve his outlook because he is athletic and will stretch the defense with his deep arm. Javon Ringer is still the clear backup, but not worth drafting.

As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

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