We really are a bunch of degens. It took us a total of 4 days to fill the Backyard Best ball Tournament (QBs and WRs only) on Underdog. That is absolutely sickening. It just shows that we truly love this new format and can’t get enough of it. Regarding the Big Board, it currently sits at 66% full and while anticipated to fill pre-free agency, there are still edges to be found.
So, as I have been doing and over the next few weeks, I will outline each team in the NFL and provide what could change with the off-season right around the corner (Free Agency & the Draft).
Onto the AFC South.
The Texans had a wild off-season/preseason. Their franchise quarterback, Deshaun Watson, requested a trade and then also had 22 civil suits for sexual assault filed against him. This put the franchise in a sense of disarray. They had no leverage in trade talks, they were in a full-blown rebuild, and they didn’t have their pro bowl quarterback. They went on to sign Tyrod Taylor, THE bridge quarterbacks of bridge quarterbacks and drafted Davis Mills in the third round. The uncertainty with the team made drafters queasy and only 4 players were regularly drafted in BMM II – Bradin Cooks (87.9, WR43), Phillip Lindsay (149.7, RB46), David Johnson (173.2, RB51), and Nico Collins (206.5, WR92). Occasionally, Deshaun Watson (~57%), Chris Conley (~2%), and Anthony Miller (traded from Bears, ~18%) were drafted.
When taking into consideration how much of a trash pile the Texans were projected to be, they ended up being quite helpful (in terms of surpassing ADP). Brandin Cooks was the WR29, Phillip Lindsay was the RB48 (he got traded at the deadline to Miami), David Johnson was the RB 41, Nico Collins was the WR78, and Deshaun Watson was the QB29 (despite not playing a snap).
The Texans knew they weren’t going to be a contending team. They built a roster full of castaways and were just trying to develop players. They scored the 3rd least number of points in the NFL and had a PROE of -1.4, which was roughly the middle of the pack. Their only hope of winning games was for it to be low-scoring and grind out the clock. They managed to go 4-13 (beating the Jags twice) leading them to the 3rd overall pick in this upcoming year.
I feel bad for Tyrod. It’s just another year an organization brings him in and throws him to the curb. I think the Texans would have played him all year if he hadn’t gotten hurt, but at some point, he needs to just retire. T-Mobile can still play. The NFL just doesn’t want him to. Brandin Cooks was his normal self. Consistent as hell and vastly underrated in fantasy. He had low points, but his big-play ability still shows and is a welcome addition to best ball rosters.
The Texans did find a few interesting pieces for the future. Davis Mills, their third-round rookie, had a terrible start to the year. He was expected to be a developmental prospect but was thrust into duty when Tyrod got hurt. He went on to lose his first 6 starts but showed some promise in his last start against the rams throwing for 300 yards with a 2-1 TD-INT ratio and a 76% completion%. When the team finally went back to Mills a few weeks later, he improved significantly. Over his last 6 starts, Mills threw for over 1500 yards and had an 11-3 TD-INT ratio. It looks like they may have found themselves a starter. Another interesting piece was 4th round rookie, Nico Collins. He didn’t pop off in the stat sheet but proved he is a capable player in the league with good hands and above-average jump-ball ability. This translates to one of Mills’ best skills – the deep ball.
Fantasy owners took stabs at 5 running backs that played for the Texans, Mark Ingram, David Johnson, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead. None of them really paid off. Mark Ingram was the best of the bunch and he got traded during the season to the Saints and played backup to Kamara the rest of the way. Phillip Lindsay was traded mid-year to the Dolphins and played in a committee with Gaskin and Duke Johnson. He only scored one rushing TD and one receiving TD vastly hurting his weekly upside. David Johnson was used as the pass-catching back for most of the year and had a decent floor but only found the end-zone once capping his upside. Royce was buried on the 4th RB on the roster and got a handful of touches on the year and Sexy Rexy had a stretch at the end of the year as the lead guy. He ended up winning Adam Levitan a cool $250k due to his 22-149-2 day in week 16.
Looking forward to this year, the Texans have a couple of huge looming decisions. Will they find a trade partner for Deshaun Watson, should they trade Laremy Tunsil, their star OT, and should they trade Cooks? The answer to all of these questions should be yes. They are in the midst of a rebuild and those three will set them up with valuable assets to hopefully accelerate their playoff and super bowl chances. Other than that, they currently have $17.5M in cap space with Tyrod Taylor, David Johnson, Danny Amendola, Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Royce Freeman, and Jeff Driskel as free agents. I wouldn’t expect any of them back. I also would only expect the Texans to take chances on shorter-prove-it-type deals to try and strike gold with formerly injured or disappointing players. One thing that should be better this year is the defense with the hiring of Lovie Smith, who is on his third HC Stint in the NFL (with a career 89-87 record).
In terms of drafting, I have been taking shots on all of the Texans sparingly. I will not over-extend myself, but they are almost all priced as free assets and should be in your portfolio in case they take a step forward. Mills is an intriguing 3rd QB in builds due to how he ended the year. Watson and Cooks will probably be gone. Sprinkle them in at reduced prices before they move and get steamed.
I still can’t believe the Colts didn’t make the playoffs. All they had to do was beat the Jags in week 18 and they couldn’t do it. The Colts were an interesting team going into the year. After Phillip Rivers’ one-year stint in Indy, he retired, and the team knew it needed a QB to contend. So, Head Coach Frank Reich told the front office to reunite him with his former QB (when he was the OC for the Eagles), Carson Wentz. Wentz was the #2 pick with the Eagles back in 2016 and flourished under Reich, nearly winning the MVP in 2017 (he tore his ACL week 14). Due to their past success, the intrigue made 6 Colts regularly drafted in BBM II – Jonathan Taylor (16.1, RB11), Michael Pittman (104.3, WR53), Nyheim Hines (143.5, RB45), T.Y. Hilton (160.2, WR73), Parris Campbell (161.7, WR74), and Carson Wentz (195.4, QB27). Occasionally, Marlon Mack (~27%), Mo Alie-Cox (~35%), and Jack Doyle (~1.7%) were drafted.
No surprise to anyone that played fantasy, DFS, or best ball in 2021. The Colts had a league winner. Jonathan Taylor was an absolute animal and based on his final stat line, looks like he was still playing in the Big Ten at Wisconsin. JT went 332-1811-18 rushing and 40-360-2 receiving. He was the RB1 overall and 2nd best player in terms of advance rate (if drafted in at least 10 drafts) at 42.9%. Other Colts were also good. Carson Wentz was the QB7, Michael Pittman was the WR11, Parris Campbell was the WR74, T.Y. Hilton was the WR52, and Nyheim Hines was the RB29.
Five of the 6 players regularly drafted beat ADP with the 6th directly at ADP. Parris could have been better but missed the majority of the year with a foot sprain. T.Y also missed a good chunk of the season but showed he still has the burners in the games he was healthy. Pittman like JT (but not to the same extent) was a revelation this year. The second-year breakout was real, and he transcended into a #1 WR for the Colts. Most of his production came from the volume he was getting and should be a positive TD regression candidate moving forward (since he only scored 6 times this year).
The biggest surprise was Carson Wentz. Most of Twitter just thought he sucked due to his two down years in Philly coming off the ACL. And for the most part, they weren’t wrong. But he was a serviceable fantasy asset for owners since he had such a solid floor. He wore down as the year went on but was helped provide a stable floor in round 1.
Looking forward to this year, the Colts are in a good position. They have $36.7M in cap space with Eric Fisher (LT), T.Y, Zach Pascal, Mo Alie-Cox, Marlon Mack, and various defensive players as free agents. Their core pieces are under contract if they can figure out their QB situation. Will they look to try and upgrade in the trade market? Could they find a trade partner for Carson Wentz? Expect there to be some upgrades to their WR position with either draft capital or a tier 2/3 WR in the free agency market brought in. The Colts are in their window to push the chips in to compete for a title, they just need a QB to get them there.
In terms of drafting, there are only 2 Colts that are being drafted in the first 16 rounds, JT and Pittman. I will grab JT in any draft I can (although he’s my #2 behind CMC), due to the market having him as the 1.01. Pittman, I have mixed in, but with there expected to be more target competition, he is a risky pick. I have taken some Wentz in hopes he is the QB for the Colts and he is cheap, Hines is a good zero-RB target, and I still think Parris Campbell is talented and just needs to stay healthy. Kylen Granson is currently the only signed TE on the roster, so he is worth a stab as a 19th/20th round pick.
I hope Urban is getting a lap dance in Ohio right now. I’m not really sure why, but the Jaguars were vastly disappointing this year. And I don’t mean that in the terms of that I thought they would be good. But I hoped that Meyer would be able to do something with the best QB prospect the NFL has seen since Peyton Manning in Trevor Lawrence. Instead, all we got was a pile of crap. Overall, 6 Jaguars were drafted in BBM II – Laviska Shenault (73.7, WR35), D.J. Chark (85, WR40), Marvin Jones (100.5, WR50), James Robinson (93.1, RB32), Travis Etienne (55.3, RB21), and Trevor Lawrence (129.1, QB16). Occasionally, Collin Johnson (~5.8%) and Carlos Hyde (~15%) were drafted.
The best player for the Jaguars was their backup UDFA running back who was thrust into starting duties for the second year in a row. The Jaguars ran the ball so much they had a PROE of -3.2, 8th worst in the NFL. They wanted games to be over before they started and if that doesn’t show how much of a crapshoot the Jaguars were, I don’t know what will. In terms of advance rate, Trevor Lawrence was the QB34, Travis Etienne was the RB73, James Robinson was the RB14, Laviska Shenault was the WR99, D.J. Chark was the WR96, and Marvin Jones was the WR70.
Etienne and Chark get passes as Etienne suffered a Lisfranc injury in the preseason and was lost for the year, while Chark got hurt in week 3 and missed the rest of the year. Chark had formed a good connection with Lawrence in their first few games and looked promising, but the injury derailed his season-long outlook. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault were absolute garbage. Viska was an interesting pick as a potential breakout receiver. He only managed to score above 10 points once and didn’t score a TD the entire year. Marvin on the other hand was projected to be their #1 WR. He ended up leading the team in targets but only scored 4 times on the year and scored under 10 fantasy points 11 times on the season failing to meet pre-season expectations.
As stated earlier, the Jaguars liked to run the ball. A lot. Due to this, most of their scoring came on the ground and JRob became a league winner as a handcuff for many early drafters. He scored 8 times and had double digits in 8 games. Unfortunately for his owners, he tore his Achilles in week 16 mostly ending their seasons in the semi-finals.
The true disappointment of the year was Trevor Lawrence. He was the most highly touted QB prospect we have seen in decades. We saw him go 38-2 at Clemson in 3 years. But he mostly crapped his pants in the NFL this year. He was too afraid to stand in the pocket. He tried to do too much with his legs either extending the play or running. He wasn’t efficient at either. He wouldn’t throw the ball downfield averaging 6 yards per attempt and posted a 12-17 TD-INT ratio. In total, there were more negatives than positives and we can only hope that the new coaching staff and an off-season program can get him back on track.
Looking forward to this year, the Jaguars have $59.2M in cap space with nearly their whole line, James O’Shaughnessy, D.J. Chark, Tavon Austin, Laquon Treadwell, and Dare Ogunbowale as free agents. There is a chance for some of them to be back, but first and foremost the #1 priority is to protect Trevor Lawrence. He is their franchise and the most important piece of speeding up the rebuild. They will be players in the offensive weapons market too, but probably more likely in the draft than free agency, in my opinion.
In terms of drafting, I am betting that Doug Pederson can work his QB magic and get TLaw back on track. I am taking him as both a 2nd QB in 2QB builds and as a building block in 3QB builds. His ADP has not changed year over year. I have mixed in some Etienne but am afraid of the Lisfranc injury affecting his explosiveness. He also wasn’t a great prospect coming out and was vastly overrated due to playing with Lawrence in college. I have taken shots at all of the WRs even though Chark and Marvin are most likely gone. One of my favorite last-round picks is Jamal Agnew, the speedy slot receiver.
Somehow, someway the Titans won the AFC (in the regular season). They were expected to be a Super Bowl contender and were a condensed offense. They traded for Julio Jones in the offseason as their “all-in” push to get to the promise-land. As they were a condensed offense only 6 Titans were drafted regularly in BBM II – Derrick Henry (4.3, RB4), A.J. Brown (20.7, WR7), Julio Jones (41.3, WR19), Ryan Tannehill (111, QB12), Darryton Evans (200.1, Rb59), and Anthony Firkser (184.9, TE22). Occasionally, Josh Reynolds (~43%) and Dez Fitzpatrick (~4.8%) were drafted as the hopeful WR3.
Turns out that although they exceeded expectations, they really weren’t a good team to own. They dealt with plenty of injuries and the passing offense was highly inconsistent. The Titans were dead last in PROE at -6.7. They dealt with plenty of injuries, specifically to their big 3 and it severely hurt owners. Ryan Tannehill was the QB33, Derrick Henry was the RB13, Darrynton Evans was the RB57 (sorry Beimfohr), Julio Jones was the WR104, A.J. Brown was the WR102, and Anthony Firkser was the TE29.
Derrick Henry was on a record-breaking pace. He was absolutely unstoppable. He was breaking fantasy twitter by becoming the exception to the term “RBs don’t matter”. Turns out that if you give your best place 30 touches a game, they break down in today’s NFL. Regardless, Henry was an unfair advantage and still managed to advance teams at a crazy rate. They were just dead in the playoffs due to his foot injury. It is a damn shame that Darrynton couldn’t get healthy either as he would have been a smash. Instead, they signed D’Onta Foreman and Dontrelle Hilliard off the street since Jeremy McNichols sucked and both wound up being playable down the stretch.
Both the stud WRs were expected to be game changers. We know Tanny is good in play-action and if you add Julio to AJ Brown and King Henry, the offense should have been unstoppable, right? Well, it turns out Julio is still old and can’t stay on the field. Even when on the field, Julio looks like a shell of himself. AJ Brown, however, is still a GAM (Grown Ass Man) and if he can stay healthy will be a league-breaker. He just hasn’t proved he can do it in an NFL season.
Due to the depressed weapons, Tanny just wasn’t good this year for best ball. He had no spike weeks and only posted 3 scores over 20 points. He was vastly disappointing in general. The WR3 dart throws never really came to fruition. Josh Reynolds could barely crack the game-day roster and was eventually traded to Detroit. Dez Fitzpatrick also couldn’t crack the game-day roster. But Nick Westbrook-Ikhine showed some promise and is the likely #3 moving into this year.
Looking forward to this year, the Titans will need to do some Cap wizardry as they are currently $7.9M over the cap with Ben Jones (center), Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, Marcus Johnson, D’Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine as free agents. Westbrook-Ikhine is an ERFA so he will be back for cheap. The most likely option is a restructure for Tannehill to free up ~$21M in space (giving them $13M in cap space). The unfortunate thing is the extension they gave Tanny ties them to him until at least 2024, severely capping their ceiling.
In terms of drafting, GIVE ME ALL THE AJ BROWN. If healthy, I think he gets into the top 5 and possibly even the top 3 WR range. As a mid-2nd, I have been taking him all day. I am also willing to bet on Henry coming back to normal. I have bet against him and been burned too many times. At cost, Julio is in a good spot to bounce back. He only needs to be a #2 these days and he is more skilled than most of the players in his range. I have stayed away from Tanny due to wanting more upside with the younger guys (Jones, Tua, Zach Wilson, TLaw, etc.). D’Onta played well enough to get picked up by something this offseason to compete for a roster spot. Darrynton should be considered the Henry handcuff at this point and is free in drafts.