2022 AFC South Preview: Fantasy Football Outlook, Sleepers, and Busts

Justin Herrera breaks down the AFC South from a fantasy football perspective.

2021 Review

 

Points per Game 16.5 30th
Offensive Snaps 1010 30th
2021 Record 4-13 30th
2022 Vegas Win Projection 4.5 32nd

 

The Houston Texans finished third in the AFC South in 2021 with a 4-13 record. The team was weak going into the 2021 season but had to push on without their Quarterback DeShaun Watson. Under the tutelage of David Culley, the Texans pulled off some big wins and were competitive. They also saw the emergence of a young QB named Davis Mills, a third-rounder in 2021 who showed a strong connection with top receiver Brandin Cooks.

The Texans attacked their offense and defense this offseason, signing Edge/LB Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Houston then traded its disgruntled QB to the Cleveland Browns for three first-round picks. In 2022 the Texans will be coached by Lovie Smith, who is well equipped to take a bunch of underdogs and make something out of them. The expectation for this season is not very much, but there are a lot of guys that can make something out of this team.

 

Passing Game

 

Passing Yards per Game 194.4 28th
Passing Touchdowns per Game 1.24 T-23rd
Pass Attempts per Game 32.1 22nd

 

The Texan’s passing game was led by a mixture of Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills last year. This year they will be handing all the duty over to Mills to see what they have in the nation’s former number one high school QB. They will also bring back top receiver Brandin Cooks on a two-year, 39 Million dollar deal.  Cooks overachieved last year, catching 90 passes for 1,037 yards and six TDs. Cooks will look to keep up the productivity going into 2022 to help the Texan’s young QB grow and hopefully mentor 2021 third-round pick Nico Collins, as he looks to be the wide receiver two for the Texans this year. Houston will also look to make fifth-round pick Brevin Jordan into an effective tight end this year.

The Texans will likely be at the bottom of the barrel in most offensive statistics. They have a QB who seems to relish the pressure rather than succumb to it. So maybe adding Justin Britt and Kenyon Green to the line and bringing back Brandin Cooks can help Mills establish himself.

 

Running Game

 

Rushing Yard per Game 83.6 32nd
Rushing Touchdowns per Game .47 32nd
Rushing Plays per Game 24.7 T-24th

 

The Texans ran the ball 41.6% of the time in 2022, and understandably, they had the worst rushing attack in the game last year. Behind an attack that featured running backs of past prominence in David Johnson, Philip Lindsey, Rex Burkhead, and Mark Ingram. Doing anything, this offseason would’ve improved this bare-bones running back room. So bringing on former starter Marlon Mack from the Colts, someone who missed his chance to shine in Indy due to a torn Achilles. He’ll get his shot to make the roster and possibly take the starter spot. Another guy to look out for is fourth-round pick Dameon Pierce, a violent runner out of the University of Florida. He may see some serious touches this year. Last year with the Gators, he had a crazy stat, where he averaged a touchdown per 7 rushing attempts. That makes me think he could come in immediately as a goalline back. The Texans also helped the run game by adding center Justin Britt and spending a first-round pick on guard Kenyon Green. So while the expectations aren’t through the roof, the Texans’ number one is someone that could be grabbed at the end of drafts.

 

Sleeper

 

Davis Mills, QB

Davis Mills showed why he was the top-ranked QB prospect from his high school class. Last year Mills had quite a few great games with terrible talent around him. One thing to highlight is on average, a top 24 QB scored 14.69 points per game. Mills scored 15 or more points in six of his 11 starts last year, and some of these games were against great defenses. Last year Mills showed out against two top ten defenses in the LA Rams and the New England Patriots, two very well-coached, well-balanced, and talented defenses. Mills will have the keys to the Geo Metro this year (yes that is the proper car comparison for this roster). If he continues to make the most out of a bad situation in Houston, he has a solid chance to have a QB2 upside at a QB3 price.

 

Deep Sleeper

 

Brevin Jordan, TE

Brevin Jordan will look to become a bigger part of the team’s offense this year. The Texans have seemingly put Davis Mills in the driver’s seat, which means there will be ups and downs in this inexperienced offense. Ideally, though, this team is playing down in most games, and Jordan will get opportunities to show his presence in the red zone. Last year Jordan wasn’t a huge presence in the red zone, only getting targetted four times, but this was understandable as the only way this team moved downfield was through Brandin Cooks. I look for Mills’s second year with the team to come with more growth and more of his offense becoming benefactors. I think Jordan can have a TE2 year in fantasy this year.

 

Bust Candidate

 

Marlon Mack, RB

I think there’s a good chance Marlon Mack doesn’t see more than 30% of the total carries this year. I don’t think many were clamoring to get many pieces of this backfield, but if I were a betting man, I’d put money on Pierce securing this role by the third or fourth game. Even if Mack sees the majority of the season, he’s on a team that was ranked last in just about every rushing statistic. It also doesn’t help that he’s coming off a ruptured Achilles. While he’ll be fully healed by the time he takes the field, he’s not going to be on my draft list this year.

 

 

 

Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter)/Photography by Jeffrey Brown, David Rosenblum + Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire

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