Rob Weintraub’s 2020 All-AFC South Team
02 Mar 2021, 10:18am
The first goal every NFL team sets is to win its division. How those eight fratricidal battles shake out usually determines team success in any given season. Yet postseason laurels are broken down by conference, if at all. That never made sense to me—even college football selects all-conference teams. Why don’t the pros anoint the best each division has to offer?
Well, now they do. We move now to the AFC South.
QB: Deshaun Watson, HOU
Watson, who would surely rather play on this team than his current one, was fifth overall in both DYAR and DVOA, just ahead of Ryan Tannehill, who bested Watson handily in QBR. Obviously, Deshaun’s degree of difficulty was much higher, earning him the All-Div nod.
RB: Derrick Henry, TEN
RB: Jonathan Taylor, IND
Henry was by far the best running back in football, at least at the “running” part. His backfield partner on the AFC South squad came down to a pair of first-year backs, one highly drafted, the other undrafted. Taylor nudges out Jacksonville’s James Robinson, who didn’t hear his name called via Zoom last April, thanks to an extremely good second half of the season (not playing for the Jags helped too).
WR: A.J. Brown, TEN
WR: Corey Davis, TEN
WR: Brandin Cooks, HOU
TE: Jonnu Smith, TEN
Morality has scarcely little place in football, but we have to consider it here at All-Div HQ. So Will Fuller, despite being the top wideout in the NFL by DVOA, doesn’t get to profit from PED usage to make this team. His teammate Cooks is a worthy replacement, serving to also point out how good Deshaun Watson was in 2020. Yet another Texans pass-catcher, Darren Fells, was freakily efficient in a far smaller sample than Smith, but Jonnu’s all-around game and much higher usage (not to mention his cool name) earns him the spot.
OT: Laremy Tunsil, HOU
OT: Dennis Kelly, TEN
OG: Quenton Nelson, IND
OG: Zach Fulton, HOU
C: Ryan Kelly, IND
Tunsil and the Indy duo were easy calls, though Kelly and Tennessee’s Ben Jones had just 11 blown blocks each from the center position. The other two spots were tightly contested. Fulton and Mark Glowinski of the Colts each had 15 blown blocks (with Rodger Saffold of the Titans at 18), but Zach gets the nod for doing without the same amount of offensive line prowess around him. Dennis Kelly had a handful more blown blocks than did Braden Smith of Indy (13) and the same as Houston’s Tytus Howard (16). But the Titans were third in the NFL in runs charted over right tackle, and fourth in runs to right end. Surely Kelly had a lot to do with that.
ER: J.J. Watt, HOU
ER: Denico Autry, IND
DL: DeForest Buckner, IND
DL: Jeffery Simmons, TEN
Buckner was dominant inside, and Watt finishes his time in the AFC South with yet another All-Div entry. Autry had half a sack fewer than fellow Colts lineman Justin Houston, but significantly more pressures. Simmons’ ability to rush the passer (20 pressures) propels him past Grover Stewart of the Colts and teammate Daquan Jones.
LB: Myles Jack, JAX
LB: Anthony Walker, IND
LB: Darius Leonard, IND
Leonard was the lone clear-cut choice. Jack didn’t rack up as many tackles as Jacksonville’s Joe Schobert or Houston’s Zach Cunningham, but didn’t miss nearly as many, either—only 10 compared to 17 and 21, respectively. Schobert slides on to the team for his activity rate, his better season in pass coverage than Cunningham, and the dearth of other top linebackers in the division.
CB: Xavier Rhodes, IND
CB: Kenny Moore, IND
CB: Malcolm Butler, TEN
S: Kevin Byard, TEN
S: Khari Willis, IND
Injuries and inconsistency hurt the AFC South secondary play, outside of Indianapolis. Rhodes placed ninth in success rate. Byard missed only five tackles on the season. Moore and Willis weren’t All-Pros, but they faced little competition. Houston’s Bradley Roby missed too many games to beat out Butler.
Placekicking was disastrous in the AFC South, with Fairburn (his full Hawaiian name is—brace yourself—Ka’iminoeauloameka’ikeokekumupa’a) being the best of a poor lot. The punting overall was better, with Cooke being the decisive best. Jacksonville’s Keelan Cole had a very good year returning punts but Hines was effective on punts and kickoffs, earning him the nod.
Pretty sloppy write-up. You say Watson deserves to be chosen over Tannehill because his degree of difficulty was much higher. And then in the next paragraph you says Taylor nudges out Robinson, even though the latter certainly had a much greater degree of difficulty. Hypocrite much?
and then in the linebacker write up, you say Schobert slides on the team, but he is not on the list—Walker is the third linebacker.
Not to pile on the criticism, but I’m not sure where “eight fratricidal battles” is coming from. Each team plays 6 divisional games. Within these matchups, you have 4 teams playing 3 home games each, making for a total of 12 games.
That construction threw me a bit at first as well, but I interpret it as referring to the eight divisions. Of course, each division isn’t decided in a single game, so maybe “campaigns” would be a better way to refer to the 12 intra-divisional games per division, so “eight fratricidal campaigns (to determine the eight division winners)”. Then again, even they aren’t necessarily definitive in determining a divisional winner; I’m sure it’s not unknown for a division winner to have a worse division record than another team in their division, but make up for it with a better record ex-division.