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Rob Weintraub's All-AFC South Team

by Rob Weintraub

Nearly forty percent of every team’s schedule is made up of division games. Every coach and player talks about the importance of winning games against division foes. Schemes and personnel are very often tailored to matching up with division opponents. Yet when it comes to naming the best players at season’s end, we never classify them by division. Where are the All-Division teams? This has always mystified me. Colleges name All-Conference teams, why not do likewise for the professional ranks?

Well rest easy, I’ve done it for you, starting with the AFC South. Naturally, this being Football Outsiders, our stats are used to justify selections whenever necessary.

OFFENSE

QB: Andrew Luck, IND

Of the two slow starters but fast finishers, Andrew Luck was better than DeShaun Watson, though the Texans quarterback wasn't far off. Luck had more DYAR, 1,072 to 742, but only two other passers were in between (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers -- royalty, in other words). Luck's DVOA was ninth overall, to Watson's 13th. The other, alliterative quarterbacks in the division -- Marcus Mariota and Blake Bortles -- were 27th and 32nd overall.

RB: Derrick Henry, TEN
RB: Marlon Mack, IND

Derrick Henry rose 20 spots in DYAR rankings from last year to finish as our second-best runner, while Marlon Mack came from Pluto to end up fourth. After those two you have to drop all the way to 27th to find another AFC South back: Lamar Miller of Houston. The AFC South as a whole didn't throw much to running backs -- the top-rated back in receiving DYAR was Indianapolis' Nyheim Hines at 15th overall.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
WR: T.Y. Hilton, IND
WR: Corey Davis, TEN
TE: Eric Ebron, IND

DeAndre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton were no-brainers, ranking second and seventh in the league, respectively, in DYAR. After that it was a long drop to Corey Davis, whose heavy usage (112 targets) only translated to 104 DYAR, 40th in the league. Eric Ebron made Detroit fans scowl with his excellent season, an easy choice for the All-Div team.

OT: Taylor Lewan, TEN
OT: Braden Smith, IND
OG: Quentin Nelson, IND
OG: Quinton Spain, TEN
C: Nick Martin, HOU

Indy's line was sensational (fourth in adjusted line yards, second in adjusted sack rate), and Houston's a mess (27th and 32nd), but Nick Martin edges out Ben Jones of Tennessee, and Texans tackle Julie'n Davenport was solid enough to merit consideration. In the end we went with Smith, who had to move outside from his college position as a rookie and more than held his own. Of course, the rookie star on the Colts line is Quenton Nelson, who may already be the best guard in the league. Not much to choose from between Josh Kline and teammate Quinton Spain, but Sports Info Solutions charting charged Kline with 16 blown blocks and Spain with only four.

DEFENSE

DE: J.J. Watt, HOU
DE: Denico Autry, IND
DT: Marcel Dareus, JAX
DT: Margus Hunt, IND

Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue fell off a bit, but there was no denying the stalwart season from Denico Autry. His appearance is only the second-biggest surprise on this All-Div squad, however, especially for those of us who watched Margus Hunt do precious little in Cincinnati. Kudos to Indy defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus for getting max value out of those two.

OLB: Darius Leonard, IND
OLB: Jadeveon Clowney, HOU
ILB: Benardrick McKinney, HOU
ILB: Myles Jack, JAX

Who had the highest Approximate Value of any defender in the NFL, per Pro Football Reference? Aaron Donald? Khalil Mack? Nope: Darius Leonard! He had 18 AV, an astounding number for a rookie. Jadeveon Clowney can easily be considered an end, especially by his agents when it comes to franchise player contract discussions (the Texans just gave Clowney a cool million bucks in hush money to smooth over this sticking point). But his usage fits more as a linebacker, so that's where we put him. Benardrick McKinney and Myles Jack touch out Wesley Woodyard in a close call.

CB: Kareem Jackson, HOU
CB: Jalen Ramsey, JAX
S: Kevin Byard, TEN
S: Malik Hooker, IND

Jalen Ramsey may be a headache, but he was head-and-shoulders above any other divisional corner once again. Safety play in the AFC South was especially weak: even Kevin Byard wasn't nearly the player he was in 2017.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: Logan Cooke, JAX
K: Ka'imi Fairburn, HOU
RET: Darius Jennings, TEN

Ka'imi Fairburn led the league in field goals made but was just eighth in FG/XP points. But the Texans also led the NFL in kick return points. Fairburn was middle-of-the-pack in touchback percentage, so he benefitted from good kick coverage, but the package is enough for Fairburn to earn All-Div plaudits over Josh Lambo of Jacksonville. He's only a kick returner, but Darius Jennings propelled the Titans to the top of the league in that department.

Comments

11 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2019, 1:34pm

1 Re: Rob Weintraub's All-AFC South Team

Enjoy content like this, but think it's best left for dead time in the off-season, or perhaps even next week in the hiatus before Super Bowl buildup really kicks in. There's plenty of actual football to discuss right now and I fear these articles will get buried.

8 Re: Rob Weintraub's All-AFC South Team

Right. While, as a Lions fan, I feel that it is a mild indictment against the organization that Ebron (and VanNoy) has excelled after switching teams, I think the bigger indictment is to look at the seven player drafted after Ebron in 2014 that the Lions could have had. Any one of those players would have been preferred over Ebron. Donald or Beckham? Yes please!?

9 Re: Rob Weintraub's All-AFC South Team

Enjoyed this article. Thanks for putting it together. I'm Colts-focused, so I was a bit surprised to see Malik Hooker on the list. I think a lot of Colts fans were a bit disappointed by his season, but some of that was availability. And, of course, I understand every starter has a 25% chance of making the team, and SOMEBODY has to play FS. :)

10 Re: Rob Weintraub's All-AFC South Team

C. Ryan Kelly, Ind

Look at rushing and sacks with and without him. If not night and day, then maybe evening and day difference.

Once the OL was set in week 4/5, their best games had Kelly on field and their worst games had him sidelined.

And TY finished the season w combo hi/low ankle sprains and one practice the last 5/6 weeks. Not sure how long he had the double injury, but playing alone is impressive. Putting up the numbers he did is just nuts.

11 Re: Rob Weintraub's All-AFC South Team

By current Madden ratings:

QB: Andrew Luck IND (89)
RBs: Derrick Henry TEN (86), Lamar Miller HOU (85)
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins HOU (97), TY Hilton IND (91), Demaryius Thomas HOU (85), Will Fuller HOU (83)
TEs: Delanie Walker TEN (92), Eric Ebron IND (86)
OTs: Taylor Lewan TEN (84), Anthony Castonzo IND (83)
OGs: Quenton Nelson IND (87), Andrew Norwell JAC (84)
C: Brandon Linder JAC (86)
6th OL: Ryan Kelly IND (84)

Close: RB Dion Lewis TEN (85), WR Corey Davis TEN (82), TE Jack Doyle IND (86)

DEs: JJ Watt HOU (98), Calais Campbell JAC (92), Jabaal Sheard IND (86)
DT: Jurrell Casey TEN (89), Marcell Dareus JAC (84)
LBs: Jadeveon Clowney HOU (91), Telvin Smith JAC (86), Darius Leonard IND (85)
CBs: Jalen Ramsey JAC (95), AJ Bouye JAC (88), Kareem Jackson HOU (85), Johnathon Joseph HOU (84)
Ss: Kevin Byard TEN (89), Tyrann Mathieu HOU (89), Andre Hal HOU (86)

Close: DT Malik Jackson JAC (83), LB Myles Jack JAC (84), CB Adoree' Jackson TEN (83), CB Logan Ryan TEN (83), S Tashaun Gipson JAC (85), S Justin Reid HOU (85)

K: Adam Vinatieri IND (80)
P: Brett Kern TEN (78)

Close: K Josh Lambo JAC (80)

Of the 32 players selected (15 O, 15 D, 2 ST) we have:
HOU: 10 (4 O, 6 D) + 1 on the close list
IND: 9 (6 O, 2 D, 1 ST) + 1 on the close list
JAC: 7 (2 O, 5 D) + 4 on the close list
TEN: 6 (3 O, 2 D, 1 ST) + 4 on the close list