Entering training camp, there’s plenty of unanswered questions that will impact rosters moving forward. In our Camp Questions series, our writers are looking at an issue with dynasty impact for each team.
Question: Is Derrick Henry the future and when does it hit?
Many are expecting Derrick Henry to supplant Demarco Murray as early as this year. However, Murray performed very well in 2016, rushing 293 times for 1,287 yards and 9 touchdowns, while adding 53 receptions for 377 yards and 3 touchdowns. Murray was solid all year but began to trail off towards the end of the season as Henry saw more work. A second round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft with excellent size (6’3”, 247 lbs.) and a dominant athletic profile, Henry had 110 carries for 490 yards and 5 touchdowns while adding 13 receptions for 137 yards. However, beat reporters have been saying that Henry has looked even better in camp this year, with the Titans even giving him more receiving work. ESPN Titans reporter Cameron Wolfe recently said he doesn’t think it unrealistic for Henry to double his total yards from 2016 to 2017. While I don’t think Henry will double his yards or supplant Murray unless Murray gets injured, we’re going to want to pay attention to how often Henry gets reps in training camp over Murray and how they decide to use Henry in preseason games. With this ascending offense likely to be even more explosive, it could get better once Henry takes the reigns. If Murray retains the lead role and Henry shows little improvement, fantasy owners should cool their hopes on a second-year breakout and Henry becoming the lead back in the offense anytime soon. That said, the Titans do have an out from Murray’s contract after this season if Henry shows well. Henry outplaying Murray this preseason could be a sign of things to come and herald a changing of the guard.
Question: Is Blake Bortles then long term answer? If so, what does that mean?
For the third straight offseason, Blake Bortles has been working on his throwing motion. Despite this, the Jaguars picked up his fifth-year option this offseason, showing that they have confidence in Bortles to return to his 2015 form where he threw for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Despite improved play at the end of last season when Doug Marrone took over as interim coach, 2016 was a major disappointment with 3,905 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. Now installed permanently as the coach, Marrone has voiced his desire to run the ball and limit Bortles’ opportunities, sentiments echoed by drafting Leonard Fournette fourth overall. The Jaguars fully plan to run the ball, control the clock, and lean on their young and talented defense. Bortles will only be asked for average quarterback play and to limit his turnovers. Turnovers have been one of Bortles’ big issues though, as he’s thrown 51 interceptions in his career. In training camp and preseason, we need to be looking at how Bortles’ performs and how he is doing with limiting turnovers. If Bortles remains the quarterback past 2017, we know it will be because their game control/strong defense plan is working, capping any fantasy upside for the passing game. If the Jags can run the offense the way that they want, then they don’t need fantastic quarterback play. If Bortles is unable to keep himself in check and turns the ball over in 2017, it’s bad news for his long term prospects as a starter, but good news for Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, and Allen Hurns owners as the Jaguars are forced to throw to play catch-up.
Question: What does the offense look like moving forward?
The Texans offense was abysmal in 2016, with an improvement in 2017 a hope across the fantasy community. A significant amount of their 20116 failure can be placed onto Brock Osweiler and his 55.3 QBR, leading a Texans offense ranked 28th in points and 29th in total offensive yards. One would have to think that the offense is bound to improve in 2017 with either Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson at the helm. The Texans will not be a pass-heavy team for the foreseeable future, as their preferred game plan is remarkably similar to the Jaguars as listed above. With a strong defense, the Texans will be trying to win games 13-10 on the back of their defense and running the ball. While Deandre Hopkins was wildly productive in 2015 and remains a featured part of the offense, their limited pass volume caps his upside. The offense will run through Lamar Miller on the ground, Hopkins, and either Watson or Savage. Reports out of camp so far have been that Watson is impressing but that it’s still Savage’s job to lose. Even if Houston improves on their offensive finishes from last year, they will still be a low volume offense that doesn’t maintain many fantasy relevant players.
All the above is what is expected, and any deviation from this will tell us a significantly different story about this team than we initially thought. Keep an eye on which quarterback is playing better the difference in the offense depending on who is under center. If Watson shows the immediate upside the Texans were counting on when drafting him in the first round, he could dictate a change in game plan to take advantage of the plethora of offensive weapons on the team. The Texans have drafted Jaelen Strong, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, and D’Onta Foreman in the third round or higher in recent drafts. If Watson or Savage dictate a switch to higher scoring attack, all of these secondary weapons suddenly become very relevant in dynasty leagues.
Question: Is Marlon Mack the running back of the future in Indianapolis?
Marlon Mack was drafted in the fourth round by the Colts and many hope he will be the backup to Frank Gore in 2017 and replace him in 2018. An extremely athletic running back, Mack’s lack of discipline showed at the University of South Florida with his penchant for taking every run outside the tackles. Learning behind Gore will no doubt help him improve as an inside runner and expand his game from just being a big play threat. Mack is a good receiver as well, and has reportedly performed well in pass protection in training camp. Head coach Chuck Pagano – who does not often openly praise players – said that he thinks Mack can be a “special player.” The biggest thing to monitor during training camp and especially preseason is Mack’s usage: will Mack get three-down work or will he only be used as a scat back. If Mack truly has looked like a special player in camp and shows in his preseason work he can do everything, he may very running back of the future for the Colts. If the wheels fall off Gore, Mack could even see a feature role in 2017. However, if Mack cannot prove to be an effective inside runner, he will likely max out as a complementary running back in the NFL, while the Colts could bring in another running back in 2018 to replace Gore.