IDP Pre-Season Preview: AFC South
Steve Gallo
August 21, 2012
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Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too.  With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regards to fantasy football.  In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators – you can read about them in the 2012 Coaching Changes article.  When you add up all of the player acquisitions, losses, and scheme changes, you will find that they can combine to have a profound effect on a player’s fantasy value.  The following information should help you understand what to expect in 2012.  If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at or find me on twitter @IDPSteve.

Houston Texans

HC: Gary Kubiak
DC:  Wade Philips
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: LB Whitney Mercilus

Defensive Line

The Texans play a 3-4 base scheme, which of course is normally a fantasy un-friendly scheme for defensive linemen.  However, J.J. Watt is a rare player, rare in that as a rookie DE he had a big impact as a starter at DE, and also in that he was a productive fantasy player too – ranking 9th in fantasy points scored by a DL.  As a fantasy owner, depending on how you look at things you either love or hate the fact that he had just 5.5 sacks in 2011.  I think it is a positive in that his value isn’t predicated on sacks, which means he logged most of his points because of his 49 solo tackles.  The flip side of that is that his upside is limited if he doesn’t push his sack total up towards double digits. 

On the ADP side of things, Watt is going off the board as DL8.  As much as I love Watt the player – he has a great motor and work ethic – I just can’t see taking him over players like Elvis Dumervil, Cameron Wake, and Cliff Avril, to name a few.


Last year, the big transition for the Texans was the implementation of Wade Phillips’ base 3-4 defensive scheme.  A scheme that helped the Texans improve from their 2010 ranking of 29th in yards/game allowed to ranking 2nd – with only the Steelers giving up fewer yards/game.

This year they are making another transition of sorts; playing without DeMeco Ryans – who was dealt to the Eagles for a 4th round pick and a swap of each team’s 3rd round pick this past April.  Ryans was slowed by injuries last year and he clearly didn’t fit the Texans new defensive scheme, but losing a leader like Ryans is never an easy thing to overcome. 

It will be up to 4th year linebacker, Brian Cushing, to take on more of a vocal and leadership role for the team.  Cushing’s play, performance enhanced or not, on the field has always been top notch since he entered the league, so as long as he leads by example, he and the Texans should be just fine.

Fantasy wise, Cushing has finished as high as the #3 overall LB – 2009, his rookie year – and as low as #56 – his sophomore campaign, where he was suspended the 1st four games of the year.  For his career, his points/game average is 13.9, an average that extrapolates out to 222.4 fantasy points, which would be good for a ranking LB15-LB20 most years.  His ADP shows he is being drafted as LB14.  If you think that Cushing is going to produce more as he did in his rookie year then he is a nice value at that spot.  However, if he produces the way he did last year – LB13 – then there isn’t near the upside.  When it all shakes out, I see him as a LB2 with upside.

Who takes over for Ryans next to Cushing at the other ILB position is a question that many have.  The answer very well may be, it doesn’t matter.  Dynasty owners, like myself, that have bet on Darryl Sharpton would have liked to have seen him take the job and run with it.  However, that isn’t how it played out.  Earlier this year the Texans signed former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bradie James.  Who, if you remember, played under Wade Phillips when they were both in Dallas.  James is also slated to call the defensive plays in the huddle, which means he will be starting along with Cushing.

Sharpton still has value in dynasty leagues, but according to a tweet by Stephanie Stradley, coach Kubiak said that Sharpton has had a setback due to injury.  If you remember, Sharpton has ended each of his first two NFL seasons on injured reserve.  Hopefully, he can get healthy and stay that way, because there is nothing worse for fantasy or NFL purposes than having a player that can’t stay on the field.


What a difference a year makes.  In 2010 the Texans pass defense ranked 32nd, or dead last as they say.  Under the direction of Wade Phillips, they followed that up with a miraculous turnaround in 2011, with a pass defense ranking of 3rd best in the league.

Unfortunately, NFL production doesn’t always equate to fantasy success.  To support that argument all you need to do is look at Glover Quin.  Quin led the Texans secondary in fantasy points scored with 138, ranking him 50th among all DBs.  A far cry from 2010 – you know, the year they ranked dead last in pass defense – when Bernard Pollard led the Texans secondary with 213.50 points and ranked 6th in points scored among all DBs.

As it stands this year, I think it Is going to be more of the same as last year with regards to the fantasy value for Quin and the rest of his secondary mates.  However, I will say this, in dynasty leagues that require CBs, keep an eye on both Brice McCain and Kareem Jackson.  In deeper leagues, each might even present CB3 value as early as this year.

Indianapolis Colts

HC: Chuck Pagano
DC:  Greg Manusky
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: Yes

Key acquisitions: DL Cory Redding, DB Tom Zbikowski, LB Moise Fokou, LB Greg Lloyd, LB Jerrell Freeman

Defensive Line

Many changes took place with the Colts this year.  Of course, the release of Peyton Manning was the biggest change, but the next biggest change is probably the fact that the Colts are moving to a base 3-4 defense.  At least it was for those that play in IDP leagues.

That change precipitated another change, a change in positional designation for Robert Mathis from a DE to a LB.  Fantasy value, meet dumpster, dumpster, meet fantasy value.  Mathis has been a solid option at DE for IDP owners for many season now, but with a change in defensive scheme not any more.

Unlike Mathis, Dwight Freeney wasn’t a fantasy force due to his inconsistency in filling up the box score with tackles.  Also unlike Mathis, Freeney hasn’t had his position changed.  For some reason Freeney is still being classified as a DE.  About the only positive from that is for owners that play in big play leagues. 


Even with the switch to a 3-4 scheme, Pat Angerer was all set to be a top option at LB for IDP owners.  That is until he broke his foot in a week 1 preseason game against the Rams.  The injury is expected to sideline Angerer for six weeks.  It is a blow for dynasty league owners and early drafters as Angerer was clearly a LB1 option.

Kavell Conner is slated to play RILB, but who will start in place of Angerer next to him has yet to be decided.  Earlier this year, the Colts acquired Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd from the Eagles – both along with Jerrell Freeman are in play to take over in Angerer’s absence.  With the way the Colts depth chart looks right now, it seems as if it will be Freeman, but you still need to keep an eye on how the rest of the preseason shakes out.


Up until last year, Antoine Bethea had been quietly solid and consistent for IDP owners from 2008 thru 2010 – ranking 10th in 2008, 11th in 2009, and 24th in 2010.  Last year, with the Colts offense having a hard time sustaining drives and keeping their defense off the field, Bethea scored more points than any other DB in the NFL. 

Andrew Luck, even as a rookie, is going to be an upgrade over what the Colts had at QB last year.  That in and of itself should lead to fewer opportunities for the defense, and will somewhat depress the fantasy value of Bethea.  I still think he ends up as a solid DB1, with a downside of a DB2, but I don’t think he will challenge for the top overall DB spot this year.  With an ADP of DB13 it seems that IDP owners aren’t expecting a repeat of last year’s numbers either.  I think that as DB13 he does present some value because I can see him finishing in the DB5-DB8 range.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Colts current defensive coordinator is Greg Manusky, formerly of the Chargers, and FS Eric Weddle did just fine under Manusky, so I wouldn’t worry too much about how the new scheme will affect Bethea.

The one thing that does have me a bit concerned is that new head coach, and former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano has former Raven Tom Zbikowski to play SS.  With Pagano at the helm, Bethea very well could play more of the Ed Reed role, with Zbikowski being the one that get’s more involved in run support – especially with Angerer on the mend.  In 12-team leagues, I would either target Zbikowski with a very late pick, or just keep an eye on him as a possible waiver wire pickup.  In leagues that are 16-teams or larger I think that he could end up being a solid DB3 with some upside.

Jacksonville Jaguars

HC: Mike Mularkey
DC:  Mel Tucker
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: DL Andre Branch

Defensive Line

The Jaguars defensive line wasn’t exactly potent when it came to the pass rush last year – ranking 25th with just 31 sacks.  Jeremy Mincey’s 8 sacks easily led the team.  After Mincey, no other defensive lineman had more than 3.5 sacks (Matt Roth).  For fantasy purposes, Mincey projects as a DL2 in my eyes, but based on MFL ADP, he is being drafted as a very high DL3 at DL25.

Of course with such and anemic pass rush it was no surprise that the Jaguars selected defensive end Andre Branch with the sixth pick of the 2nd round in this past year’s draft.  Branch may have never played a regular season snap in the NFL yet, but as it stands now it looks like he will be the starter opposite Mincey this year.  I wouldn’t want to have to rely on him as a fantasy starter week in and week out, and wouldn’t roster him as anything more than a DL4 in redraft leagues.  In dynasty leagues, he definitely should be rostered as he has the ability to develop into a solid DL2 with some upside.

To be successful in the NFL on the defensive line, you need to have solid depth so that you can rotate you players to keep them fresh.  Austen Lane, like Branch has a very nice motor, and if not for an ankle injury, he would be starting opposite of Mincey, at least to start the year.  The Jaguars were expecting Lane to progress this year, prompting defensive line coach Joe Cullen to say that Lane could get 6-7 sacks.  However, his injury is expected to keep him out until the early part of September.  By missing that time, he gives the rookie a shot to solidify his hold on the starting job and relegate Lane to a situational/rotational player. 


Paul Posluszny, when he was on the field was an IDP stud for the Bills.  Last year was his first season with the Jaguars and he didn’t exactly live up to his previous billing – finishing the year as the 16th highest scoring LB in the league. 

The Jaguars offense isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking they are the Patriots or Saints, that is for sure, and the defense will still have their fair share of opportunities this year.  With an ADP of LB17 it is easy to see that IDP owners are expecting more of the same from Posluszny.  Just realize that while he finished as LB16 last year, he was just 10 points shy of being a top 10 LB.  What contributed greatly to the drop-off for Posluszny is that the Jaguars recorded the 26th fewest solo tackles in the league last year, yet they recorded the 6th most assisted tackles.  What you have to wonder is if Posluszny was a half step late far too often or was a victim of the new default scoring system put in place by the NFL last year.  His 50 assists were the 7th most in the NFL last year.  That means he needed to just turn 10 of those assists into solos to crack the top 10.  That tells me that Posluszny presents plenty of upside for his owners this year.

We already know the Jaguars had one LB2 last year, but what you probably don’t realize is that they actually produced two LB2s.  Daryl Smith, who gets little notoriety ended the season ranked as the 22nd highest fantasy scoring LB.  Smith rarely is drafted but in the deepest of leagues but over the past three years, he has ended up as a LB2 orLB3.  This year looks to be no different, as he doesn’t even register on MFL’s ADP report.  So at the end of the draft when your opponents are selecting players that might not even get on the field all that often save a spot for Smith to round out your squad, thus supplying you with what should be a great return on your investment.


The Jaguars secondary is nothing special, especially with regards to the fantasy side of things.  Dwan Landry, much like Daryl Smith doesn’t get much respect from IDP owners.  However, unlike Smith, Landry at least shows up on MFLs ADP report, coming in at DB40.  At that ADP I actually like Landry quite a bit, and think he could easily crack the top 20 in DB scoring this year.

In CB mandatory leagues, especially deep ones, Derek Cox could end up being a nice surprise.  Like Smith, he doesn’t even show up in the ADP report, so your investment, should you decide to make one, will be negligible, which could lead to a nice return.

Tennessee Titans

HC: Mike Munchak
DC:  Jerry Gray
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: DL Kamerion Wimbley, LB Zach Brown

Defensive Line

Make no mistake about it; I bagged on the Titans DL much of last year.  And rightfully so, at least in my opinion.  A close look at last year’s stats reveals that the Titans as a team sacked the QB just 28 times, with the defensive line logging 22 of those sacks – the same number of sacks that Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings had last year.

We, and by we, I mean IDP owners, Titans fans and the Titans, keep waiting for Derrick Morgan to show us something.  As much as I would like to say this is the year, I just can’t.  Why you ask?  For starters he has been splitting 1st team snaps with Pannel Egboh.  Yes, Pannel Egboh, the undrafted free agent of the 49ers from 2010.  Do you need more than that to realize just how much of a risk Morgan presents?  If it weren’t for his status as a former 1st round selection he wouldn’t be on any fantasy owners radar.

It isn’t all doom and gloom again for the Titans defensive line.  Earlier this offseason they added Kamerion Wimbley.  Wimbley played OLB for the Raiders last year, but with the Titans, he is going to line up as a starter at RDE.  I think that Wimbley has nice upside, but the major obstacle with him is going to be his consistency.  You would be best served to utilize him as a DL3 that you can spot start or use to help with bye weeks and injuries.


Barrett Ruud started out as the Titans starting MLB in 2011, but he didn’t end the season as the starter.  That designation went to Colin McCarthy.  McCarthy hit the ground running, averaging 16.25 PPG over those final 8 games, and that has contributed to his ADP of LB10.  An ADP that I feel is actually a nice value, but then again I think that McCarthy puts up at least top 3-5 numbers this year, won’t be surprised to see him challenge for the top overall scoring LB spot. 

During his 8 game stretch to end the year he played in 528 snaps, with a .246 PPS (point/snap played).  This year McCarthy won’t have anyone to split snaps with and he should at least play in 1100 snaps.  That projects close to 17 PPG – a number that is right there with the top 3 at the position.

Will Witherspoon (WLB), and Akeem Ayers (SLB), are the starters that will flank McCarthy.  Neither is a viable fantasy option in 12-team leagues. 

During the 2nd round of the draft the Titans selected linebacker Zach Brown – a selection that was questioned by many.  Especially by NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock who said, Brown is “somewhat allergic to contact.”  Brown might be allergic to contact but he has speed to spare, but if he’ll need to use that speed to run to the ball instead of away from it or allowing himself to get washed out of plays.  Brown’s best chance at contributing this year will most likely come in a situational role against the pass.  He very well could develop into a fantasy relevant LB, but this year I wouldn’t expect him to fit that bill.


The Titans ranked 14th against the pass last year, slightly shocking considering they didn’t get much help at all from their pass rush.  This year if they are going to improve on that ranking they will have to do so without former starters Chris Hope and Cortland Finnegan, who now play for the Falcon and Rams respectively.

The loss of Finnegan could affect the fantasy value of Jason McCourty, who finished last year as the 7th highest scoring DB in the league.  I still think that McCourty will put up solid fantasy numbers, but if opposing QBs can throw at Alterraun Verner instead of McCourty, they should.
Speaking of Verner, I think he has quietly flown under the radar, and wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he puts up top 15 numbers this year. 

Jordan Babineaux started the final 12 games of the year at SS, and in the scored 136 fantasy points – good for 11th most over that timeframe.  With an ADP of DB39 he may look like a value, and if he can keep the starting job he most certainly will be.  However, a shoulder injury forced him to miss the Titans second preseason game.  If the shoulder remains an issue, Robert Johnson who started for Babineaux against the Buccaneers, could find himself in a productive role.  I’m not suggesting you draft Johnson at this point in time, but he, and this situation is one to keep an eye on.

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Note:  Huddle IDPScoring system: solo tackle (2 pts), assisted tackle (1 pt), sack (3 pts), forced or recovered fumble (3 pts), interception (3 pts) and pass defended (1 pt).

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