AFC South Storylines: AJ Bown, Jonnu Smith, David Johnson
by Alan Seslowsky
Fantasy football research and information gathering season is in full swing. For those who have been participating in off-season bestball and mock drafts you have seen ADPs change, and RosterWatch has been documenting it in various articles, videos, podcasts and radio performances. Below are a few key questions that drafters are trying to unlock, in order to start forming their draft strategies for 2020:
AJ Brown‘s Target Volume
AJ Brown was one of the best rookie WRs in the NFL last year. His yards per catch and yards after contact were through the roof. He looked like a future star in the league. Correspondingly, the fantasy football market is excited by AJ Brown. The question of volume is where Brown’s skeptics (for fantasy) have a case. His 84 targets were comparable to a middle-of-the-road TE, rather than a primary WR. AJ Brown is currently the WR16 in drafts. For comparison, DeVante Parker — who finished as the WR16 last year — had 128 targets. It is reasonable to project Brown will get better and should see a bump in targets. All of this makes for an interesting gamble in drafts. You are not getting a discount on Brown at his ADP of 36. If you draft Brown, you are paying full retail, expecting the target, and ultimately production leap.
Jonnu Smith Has Sleeper Appeal
Jonnu Smith is getting buzz as a late-round sleeper tight end. One of our favorite fantasy football strategies is to look at players that finished the previous season strong and have an upgraded opportunity for the upcoming season. Smith fits the profile. Last season, during the fantasy playoffs, Jonnu averaged over 16 PPR fantasy points per game. He is the clear starter at Tight End now that Delaine Walker is no longer on the team. His position coach, Arthur Smith, is also the offensive coordinator for the Titans. That is a hint that the tight ends could be prominently featured at times in the offense. Lastly, Jonnu Smith spent a healthy amount of time this off-season in south Florida with QB Ryan Tannehill, continuing to develop the chemistry that was on display at times in 2019. All of this projects well for Jonnu Smith, a 93rd-percentile SPARQ athlete, being an interesting sleeper at the TE position in 2020.
There is little question as to who is the better running back. That distinction belongs to rookie Jonathan Taylor. However in a shortened off-season all rookies may have a longer than usual time to get up to speed. That said, Jonathan Taylor is an attractive prospect. ESPN’s Turron Davenport recently said on the RosterWatch podcast that he believes since Mack is a pending free agent, that the Colts are motivated to phase him out and integrate Taylor as soon as possible.
David Johnson‘s Role in Houston
David Johnson was a key piece in the Cardinals’ package to the Texans in exchange for stud WR DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. The trade had draft picks and other pieces to it, but still left fantasy players scratching their heads. There has been no worse fantasy investment than David Johnson over the past three seasons. Although he’s had injuries and a lack of production, Johnson’s ADP was still in the top five overall from 2017-2019. It is easy to forget David Johnson did have a 1000 yard rushing and 1000 yard receiving season back in 2016. It’s also easy to forget that Johnson was on a tear to start the 2019 season, posting an average of 20.2 PPR points per game over the first six weeks of the year before going down with a back injury. Though most think his skills have diminished, it is hard to ignore the opportunity he will have in Houston. Head Coach, Bill O’Brien, should also be motivated to force-feed David Johnson touches to justify the Texans widely-mocked trade. Currently, David Johnson’s ADP is in the middle of the 5th round. RosterWatch PRO subscribers using our Ultimate Draft Cheat Sheet will likely be directed to start acquiring Johnson at reduced ADP should he continue to slide down draft boards.