IDP Projections: AFC South
This year I’m publishing all my IDP projections here at Rotoviz. In this edition I’m highlighting some of the scheme, personnel and coaching adjustments or other useful information I used when projecting the AFC South. I’ll share any actionable information, such as buy-low players, fades, targets and generally anything which could create informational advantages for our subscribers during drafts in dynasty and redraft leagues.
At Rotoviz we proudly host the one and only Projection Machine, and it’s one of my favorite tools on the site. For the past two seasons I’ve been actively projecting all 32 teams offenses, and during the season I project two NFL divisions for all 16 games. Through that work I’ve developed a process that I use to evaluate players and project their statistics. I thought I would take that work to IDP last season and projected each team.
This season I’m going to share some of my thoughts that can help IDP players in their off-season preparations for redraft, or can help them in dynasty drafts and orphan team overhauls. Maybe some readers will use these projections as a baseline to form their own.
My first step was to review some publicly accessible defensive position depth charts and compare to my own. I like using Ourlads and Rotoworld. In addition, it’s important to review the coaching and defensive scheme changes. I used a balanced scoring system that awards 1.5 points per solo tackle, 0.75 for each assist, 1 point for passes defended, 3 points per sack, 3 points for forced fumbles, 4 points for an interception. I’ve included the pressure rate metric from Football Outsiders, as it helps to track defensive pass rush progress and incorporates hurries in addition to sacks. Also included is QB sacks allowed, which was helpful for projecting sacks and I thought these would be useful to include for IDP and non-IDP folks for tracking defensive progress.
The AFC South doesn’t feature a scheme change but does feature a number of value opportunities that I’ll highlight after each projection set below.
Note that the Jaguars changed head coaches, but the coordinators remained unchanged.
|TM||2016||16 HC||16 DC||2015 QB Sacks Allowed||2015 Pressure Rate||2017||17 HC||17 DC||2016 QB Sacks Allowed||2016 Pressure Rate|
|HOU||3-4||Bill O’Brien||Romeo Crennell||36||27.0%||3-4||Bill O’Brien||Romeo Crennell||32||26.2%|
|IND||3-4||Chuck Pagano||Ted Monachino||37||26.5%||3-4||Chuck Pagano||Ted Monachino||44||19.0%|
|JAX||4-3||Gus Bradley||Todd Wash||51||21.7%||4-3||Doug Marrone||Todd Wash||34||27.2%|
|TEN||3-4||Mike Mularkey||Dick LeBeau||54||25.2%||3-4||Mike Mularkey||Dick LeBeau||28||24.9%|
Defensive line in the AFC South is highlighted by JJ Watt and Calais Campbell this season. Malik Jackson looked like a good fit in the Jaguars defense last year and further progress is reflected in his projection. I do wonder if Christian Covington will hold on to the defensive end position opposite JJ Watt. That position was quite productive prior to last season and one to keep an eye on this summer. This division draws the NFC West for scheduling, and that division gave up the most sacks in the league in 2017, so we should be a little more bullish for the ends in this division that have sack potential.
Yannick Ngakoue, had a great rookie season last year but seems to be hidden in most rankings. He totaled eight sacks and ranked tenth in the NFL in quarterback hurries with 29. That was more hurries than Khalil Mack or Everson Griffen, and a number like this from a rookie deserves our attention.
It’s easy to see why Ngakoue is being over-looked in fantasy circles with flashier narratives along the Jaguars defensive line such as Calais Campbell’s free agent signing and the narrative of first-round-pick Dante Fowler as having more to prove. In fact, Ngakoue is not even ranked among defensive linemen at Fantasy Pros as of this writing and is ranked behind Fowler everywhere which I have access. The reality is Ngakoue is on the top of the depth charts as the Jaguars defensive end as of this writing.
One season is not an adequate sample size, but here’s how the two stacked up against each other.
Of their range of outcomes in 2017, it’s very possible that Ngakoue continues to improve while Fowler takes a step forward this year as well. That’s where my projections came out for the two Jaguars. Ngakoue could have a higher ceiling than the projection if his tackle numbers improve.
JJ Watt obviously looms large in this division, as he’s the Rob Gronkowski of IDP. When he’s on and healthy, he is your weekly hammer, and there’s no fantasy player you’d trade him for. Watt’s been a full participant in OTA’s and has admitted that he’s taking a different approach in the training room to aid with the recovery. While most analysts in the industry continue to rank Watt as the top overall IDP player, I’m curious to see how early he will go in redrafts this year. You might be able to get a minimal discount on him due to recency bias with injuries. In dynasty auctions, I have witnessed him at far more reasonable values than in previous seasons.
Zach Cunningham may become a factor in these projections during training camp, but until I hear otherwise, I’m treating him as a rookie learning behind the two veterans for 2017.
Myles Jack may have some impact on Telvin Smith’s numbers, potentially in a positive way. It’s too early to know, but my projection assumed the Paul Posluszky tackle volume for Jack.
BUY EDWIN JACKSON
Edwin Jackson should stand out a bit on this set of projections, as at the time I felt the most safe about his odds to win the job. If he starts and maintains his pace from last season he will be a force in IDP leagues. He’s not assured to be the starter yet, and there several players competing for the two inside linebacker spots in Indianapolis, including John Bostic, Sean Spence, Antonio Morrison and Anthony Walker. Jackson is going cheaper than Morrison or Spence in dynasty drafts I’ve participated in this spring and summer. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this battle.
HOLD PAUL POSLUSZKY
Paul Posluszky’s days as the starting middle LB for the Jaguars appear to be over. This is simply a result of Myles Jack having a much higher ceiling for the team, as he’s one of the most electric inside linebackers to enter the league in a while. Last year Jack was brought along slowly, likely due to a combination of learning curve and recovering from injury. Posluszky went on to record 97 solo tackles while being on the field for close to 100% of the team’s defensive snaps at middle LB.
This offseason it was announced by the Jaguars that Posluszky would move over to the strongside LB position and that Jack would start at middle LB. This appears to be a done deal, and suddenly Posluszky becomes the most interesting strongside LB in the league due to his ability to be elite should Jack either fail to perform or fall to an injury. A potential scenario is Jacksonville trading Posluszny, as he’s on the final year of his deal there. I believe that Posluszky has a few good years left in him, and hopefully he will get a gig that plays him on the inside, which that’s why I suggest holding him in dynasty. As a footnote, it might not be a bad idea to pick up rookie Blair Brown in dynasty leagues, as he could be next in line at strongside LB in the scenario of a Posluszky trade.
Three of the best strong safety gigs in the NFL are in the AFC South. Beyond the addition of Barry Church and Jonathan Cyprien changing teams, it was fairly straightforward to project due to the stability of defensive coordinators. Clayton Geathers has yet to start a full season at strong safety, but if he can stay healthy this year, he’s got a great chance to hit 80-plus solo tackles, and that’s what I’m projecting for him.
HOUSTON DEFENSIVE BACKS
Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson is to produce 50 solo tackles, as he’s recorded at least 45 twice, and more than 50 three times aver the past five seasons opposite Johnathan Joseph. Equally as certain in Romeo Crennel’s defense is that the safeties will not produce many solo tackles. The most solo tackles in a single season for a safety under Romeo Crennel has been 52, outside of one outlier season with super talented Eric Berry, who recorded 72.
TARGET JAMES SAMPLE IN DYNASTY
Keep an eye on Jacksonville safety James Sample, as he’s competing for starting jobs at safety and holds a key IDP backup role at the moment.
James Sample was a highly recruited defensive back out of high school and signed with the University of Washington. He then transferred to junior college and made it back from junior college to play a full season at Louisville. Sample was invited to the NFL Combine and had a respectable showing there in his drills, leading him to be drafted in the fourth round by the Jaguars. The Jaguars had expected him to start at free safety in his first season, but injuries would set him back in his rookie and sophomore seasons.
Despite Gus Bradley being fired, the Jaguars retained Todd Wash as the defensive coordinator. Whomever holds down the strong safety position is likely to contend for the league lead in solo tackles among CBs. At the moment, that’s Barry Church, who’s certainly been elite at times during his career. However, Church enters camp slowed by a back injury that’s kept him out of OTA’s. James Sample is the most important depth player in the IDP world due to the amount of IDP scoring that has come from this position in recent years.
From Pro Football Reference Play Index:
With Jonathan Cyprien removed, the strong safety job was open, but the team chose to sign Church to man that spot for now. Church is obviously the one to have on your team at the moment, but acquiring him is rightly costly. In dynasty I like the idea of acquiring Sample and seeing what happens, as there’s some tremendous potential upside for very little investment.