Offseason Fantasy Football Impacts: AFC & NFC South
Last week, I recapped some of the most significant offseason moves in Offseason Fantasy Football Impacts: AFC & NFC North. Let’s continue the recap of the offseason moves with the AFC and NFC South.
The Carson Wentz experiment in Indianapolis is over and the Colts have moved on. They found a trade partner with the Washington Commanders, which puts Wentz back into the NFC East. The Colts then jumped on the chance to scoop up Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan after Atlanta failed to make a deal for Deshaun Watson.
After getting wallopped by the bedraggled Jacksonville Jaguars and also failing to reach the postseason, the Colts knew a change at quarterback was inevitable. Wentz threw for 3,563 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. While these overall numbers aren’t horrible, there was something missing in Wentz that the Colts were hoping to find. The franchise needed leadership in addition to better quarterback play. That is exactly what Ryan is supposed to add to the team. Owner Jim Irsay and head coach Frank Reich all have glowing endorsements for Ryan and are hoping that he won’t be a one-year wonder. Since 2011, Ryan has finished as a QB1 eight times and has seen five top-10 appearances as the QB10 or better with two years as the second-best quarterback in fantasy football.
The move to Ryan gives the Colts’ receiving game a huge boost, specifically for Michael Pittman. Both Ryan and Pittman could be sneaky late-round draft picks to stack for a steal. Having a solid passing game also opens up opportunities for phenom Jonathan Taylor if the Colts will stay committed to the run instead of sporadically throwing it into the game plan. Perhaps the addition of RB Phillip Lindsay shows that the coaching staff has plans for getting their running backs more involved on a regular basis.
Tennessee had a very exciting season last year, even dealing with the loss of Derrick Henry at the end of the regular season. Between Henry and WRs Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, QB Ryan Tannehill was surrounded with weapons at his disposal.
This year… not so much. Not only did the Titans cut Jones but they also traded Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles during the draft.
I am not saying that the Titans are dead in the water, but it looks like they are trying to start fresh. Replacing Jones and Brown are Robert Woods from the Rams and rookie first-round pick Treylon Burks. They also drafted QB Malik Willis in the third round as Tannehill’s heir apparent. Burks has potential as a rookie wide receiver, but I would only draft him as a dart throw. We don’t know what the quarterback situation will be and the offense will continue to run through Henry.
It’s almost fitting that two of the most disastrous teams in the NFL are in the same division. Both the Jaguars and the Texans have faced some serious controversy that led both teams to find new head coaches.
Jacksonville had to deal with the cancerous blight that was Urban Meyer last season who looked completely inept and incapable of coaching at the NFL level or acting like a professional. The Jaguars had high hopes for Trevor Lawrence, and Meyer all but sabotaged any opportunity the young quarterback had at success in his first year. To help rebuild the team and the confidence of its players and fans, the Jags brought in Doug Pederson to bring some much-needed stability and leadership. Pederson led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory during the 2017 season with backup QB Nick Foles. After being out of coaching for a year, Pederson has his shot at redemption to turn the franchise around.
The Jaguars went an abysmal 3-14 last season. In addition to new coaching, Lawrence will have more weapons to help him this season. Jacksonville spent an outrageous amount of money (up to $84 million) on WR Christian Kirk and also added veteran Marvin Jones to the fold. Lawrence’s college teammate, Travis Etienne, should be healthy this year after suffering a season-ending injury before his career could even begin.
The Texans are in a similar head coaching boat as the Jaguars. Lovie Smith was promoted as their new head coach after spending 2021 as the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for the team. They conducted numerous interviews after removing David Culley from the position only to realize that Smith was right in front of them this whole time. Sounds like a Taylor Swift song.
Smith went 89-87 as a head coach in the regular season as a head coach for the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is also 3-3 in the postseason. Now that Watson is out of their hair, the Texans plan on moving forward with QB Davis Mills. Houston added rookie WR John Metchie in the second round of the draft and will also still have Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins. Veteran RB Marlon Mack out of Indianapolis will accompany Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale, and rookie Dameon Pierce. Smith has his work cut out for him.
The Atlanta Falcons had quite the shake-up in the offseason. Not only did they lose Ryan at QB, but they also lost WR Calvin Ridley to suspension for the entire year. Taking Ryan’s place is Marcus Mariota, a former Titan. Mariota will be reunited with head coach Arthur Smith who was the offensive coordinator during his time in Tennessee. He is expected to be the starter, but a quarterback battle is looming between him and a third-round draft pick, Desmond Ridder.
The Falcons also added WRs Bryan Edwards from the Raiders and Auden Tate from the Bengals as well as rookie Drake London who was drafted in the first round. To help out RB Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons acquired Damien Williams from Chicago. Aside from Patterson, London, and TE Kyle Pitts, it’s difficult to see how Atlanta can provide any fantasy upside with their surrounding pieces.
The biggest change for the New Saints comes in the critical head coaching position. Sean Peyton retired at the end of last season and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was promoted to take his place.
This leaves plenty of questions regarding how the offense will operate under their new head coach, but there are also many things that remain constant. Jameis Winston is the starter at quarterback after suffering a season-ending injury last season, but the Taysom Hill question is still up in the air, especially after his contract extension last December. Hill can possibly make $95 million over four years if he becomes the starting quarterback. That kind of cash is nothing to sneeze at.
New Orleans also added WR Jarvis Landry from Cleveland and drafted Chris Olave in the first round. It’s fair to be worried about Michael Thomas’ status considering he hasn’t played a full season since 2019. If Thomas can stay on the field, Winston will have a plethora of offensive weapons around him in 2022.
Carolina and Tampa Bay didn’t make too many offseason moves that drastically changed their offenses. Of course, I am lumping Tom Brady’s retirement and then unretirement together in the overall picture of last year’s depth chart to this year.
Last season, WR Chris Godwin tore his ACL and there is no definite timetable for his return. Being without Godwin is not ideal, but neither is an exacerbation of his injury. Russell Gage received a personal phonemail from TB12 himself as the 5th year WR comes over from division rival Atlanta. Gage should see a boost in volume early in the season with Godwin slowly coming back.
For the Panthers, this could very well be Sam Darnold’s last season as a starter. Carolina drafted QB Matt Corral in the third round after addressing their need at left tackle. If Darnold struggles, head coach Matt Rhule may find a starting role for Corral sooner rather than later.