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Eyes of the Guru Preseason, Part 5: AFC South

An overview of defenses in the AFC South with an emphasis on individual defensive players and their fantasy value.

Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Linemen

Since moving to the 3-4 in 2013, the Colts defensive line has been mostly pedestrian both on the field and in the box scores. Kendall Langford's 7 sacks in 2015 are the most by a lineman since the switch but he could muster just 23 tackles. David Perry was 33-13-3 last season, making him a good second starter at tackle but he is really the only member of this group to be roster worthy in any situation over the past four years. That could change in 2017 however. This year's Colts have more talent and fantasy potential than their predecessors. Langford is back after missing much of last season with an injury. He was 36-13-5 in 2013 and has exceeded 30 solo tackles a few times over his nine year career. With better surrounding talent it is not a big stretch to expect 34 tackles and 5-6 sacks from him.

The talent infusion comes from the additions of Johnathan Hankins who will take over at nose tackle, Margus Hunt who will compete for a starting spot at end, and a finally healthy Henry Anderson. Anderson was the Colts third round pick in 2015 and is a player the organization has high expectations for. He got off to a strong start going 17-8-1 over the first five games of his career but finished the season on IR with a devastating knee injury. Anderson was back on the field last year but limited to a part time role most of the season. While I am not buying into all the hype that came with him as a rookie about how Anderson is going to be the next great 3-4 end in fantasy. I will agree he is a talented player that should add an element of toughness to the Colts defense. Anderson is a strong and athletic run stuffer who at 6'6" and 300 pounds can generate penetration as a pass rusher. In his final season at Stanford (2014) he put up rather impressive numbers of 40-25-8. For him to match that production would be a shock but expecting 30+ tackles and 4-5 sacks from a healthy Anderson is not unreasonable.

The wildcard at end is Margus Hunt. The former Bengal is a physical specimen who showed flashes as the Cincinnati coaching staff tried to develop him into a starter, but was never able to put it all together. Some of the problem was Hunt being a tweener. He is athletic enough to play end and can set the edge as a run defender but lacks the quick twitch and up field burst of an edge rusher. When they moved him inside the 6'8" Hunt had a hard time staying low enough and often lost the leverage battle. The Bengals finally gave up on him after four seasons and the Colts jumped on Hunt in free agency. In short his skill set is exactly what 3-4 teams look for at end. If the Indianapolis coaching staff can unlock the talent and potential, Hunt could be their third end this season and may eventually push for a starting job. If the light does not go on Hunt could be in the unemployment line after the season.

Second year pro Hassan Ridgeway is another good reason to expect a better Colts defensive line going forward. As the rookie the fourth round pick was a rotational contributor producing 8 tackles and 13 assists with a sack and a half. The experience will make Ridgeway a better player in his second season as he competes for time in the rotation. At worst he provides the Colts with better depth than they have had in the past.

Anderson and/or Langford could provide IDP owners with decent depth at end, but the player with the best fantasy potential of the group is Johnathan Hankins. As a second year pro in 2014 he put up 30 tackles, 21 assists and 7 sacks for the Giants. Following an injury shortened 2015, Hankins returned last season to go 29-16-3.5. Those numbers are hardly impressive but they were good enough to rank seventeenth at the box score challenged tackle position. Hankins is bigger, quicker, and more mobile than David Parry who finished three slots ahead of him from this spot last year. Watching Hankins reminds me in many ways of the Bills Kyle Williams who has been a quality DT1 in most seasons over his career. Simply put, I think Hankins can squeeze more box score production out of the position than Parry did. I have Hankins projected in the low DT1 or priority DT2 range at 35-14-4.5 with a turnover and a couple of batted passes.

NT Johnathan Hankins - Priority DT2 with some upside
NT David Parry - Injury sleeper
NT Al Woods - No value
DE Henry Anderson - Potential depth in twelve team leagues starting two DE
DE Margus Hunt - Deep sleeper worth keeping an eye on
DE Kendall Langford - DL3 upside
DE Hassan Ridgeway - No value at this time

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