Last week I rounded up some of the key 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 trading partner in the Washington Commanders, bringing Wentz back to the NFC East. The Colts then took the chance to bring in Falcons QB Matt Ryan after Atlanta failed to make a deal for Deshaun Watson.
After being beaten by the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars and also failing to make the postseason, the Colts knew a quarterback change was inevitable. Wentz threw for 3,563 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. While those totals aren’t terrible, there was something missing from Wentz that the Colts were hoping to find. The franchise needed leadership in addition to better quarterback play. That’s exactly what Ryan aims to add to the team. Owner Jim Irsay and head coach Frank Reich all have glowing endorsements for Ryan and hope he won’t be a one-year miracle. Since 2011, Ryan has finished eight times as a QB1 and seen five top-10 appearances as a QB10 or better, while being the second-best quarterback in fantasy football for two years.
The move to Ryan gives a huge boost to the Colts’ receiving game, especially for Michael Pittman. Both Ryan and Pittman could be sneaky late-round draft picks to stack for a steal. Solid passing also opens up opportunities for phenom Jonathan Taylor if the Colts remain committed to the run rather than throwing it sporadically into the game plan. Perhaps the addition of RB Phillip Lindsay shows that the coaching staff have plans to get their running backs more involved on a regular basis.
Tennessee had a very exciting season last year, even with the loss of Derrick Henry at the end of the regular season. Between Henry and WRs Julio Jones and AJ Brown, QB Ryan Tannehill was surrounded by guns at his disposal.
This year… not so much. The Titans not only cut Jones, but also traded Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles during the draft.
I’m not saying the Titans are dead in the water, but it looks like they’re trying to start over. Replacing Jones and Brown are Rams’ Robert Woods and first-round rookie 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’d only call him up as a dart throw. We don’t know what the quarterback situation will be like and the offense will continue to run through Henry.
It’s fitting that two of the NFL’s most disastrous teams play in the same division. Both the Jaguars and the Texans faced some serious controversies that prompted both teams to seek new head coaches.
Jacksonville had to deal with cancer ailment Urban Meyer last season, who looked utterly inept and unable to train at the NFL level or act like a pro. The Jaguars had high hopes for Trevor Lawrence, and Meyer sabotaged just about every chance the young quarterback had in his freshman year. To 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 win in the 2017 season with backup QB Nick Foles. After not training for a year, Pederson has his chance at redemption to turn the franchise around.
The Jaguars posted a miserable 3-14 record last season. Along with the new coaching, Lawrence will have more weapons available to help him this season. Jacksonville spent an outrageous amount of money (up to $84 million) on WR Christian Kirk, also adding in veteran Marvin Jones. 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 coaching boat as the Jaguars. Lovie Smith was promoted to her new head coach after spending 2021 as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the team. They conducted numerous interviews after removing David Culley from the position, only to find Smith was right in front of them the whole time. Sounds like a Taylor Swift song.
Smith went 89-87 as a regular-season head coach as the head coach for the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s also 3-3 in the postseason. Now that Watson is out of his hair, the Texans plan to move forward with QB Davis Mills. Houston added rookie WR John Metchie in the second round of the draft and will also have Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins. Veteran Indianapolis RB Marlon Mack will join Rex Burkhead, Dare Ogunbowale and rookie Dameon Pierce. Smith clipped his work for him.
The Atlanta Falcons had quite a shake-up in the offseason. Not only did they lose Ryan at QB but they also lost WR Calvin Ridley who has been suspended all year. Ryan is replaced by 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’s expected to be the starter, but a quarterback fight 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, drafted in the first round. To help RB Cordarrelle Patterson, the Falcons acquired Chicago’s Damien Williams. Patterson, London and TE Kyle Pitts aside, it’s hard to imagine how Atlanta with its surrounding pieces can turn any fantasy on its head.
Saints of New Orleans
The biggest change for the New Saints comes in the critical position of the head coach. Sean Peyton resigned at the end of last season and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was promoted to take his place.
That leaves many questions about how the offense will perform 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 following his contract extension last December. Hill has the potential to earn $95 million over four years if he becomes the starting quarterback. This kind of cash is not to be scoffed at.
New Orleans also added Cleveland’s WR Jarvis Landry, Atlanta’s Russell Gage and drafted Chris Olave in the first round. It’s fair to be concerned about Michael Thomas’ status considering he hasn’t played a full season since 2019. If Thomas can stay on the field, Winston will have an abundance of offensive weapons around him in 2022.
Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina and Tampa Bay didn’t make too many offseason moves that drastically changed their offense. Of course, I’m summarizing Tom Brady’s retirement and then retirement to this year in the big picture of last year’s depth chart.
WR Chris Godwin tore his cruciate ligament last season and there is no definite timetable for his return. Being without Godwin isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t exacerbate his injury either.
For the Panthers, this could be Sam Darnold’s final season as a starter. Carolina drafted QB Matt Corral in the third round after addressing their need in the left tackle. If Darnold struggles, head coach Matt Rhule could find a starting role for Corral sooner rather than later.