NFL Draft Preview: AFC South
All eyes will be on the Jaguars in the AFC South, but the Colts and Texans could be the ones selecting the picks that could elevate their teams to contenders. Tennessee, with the last pick in the top 10, could go with one of two of the all-time great guard prospects.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14 in 2012)
Picks: #2 (1), #33, (2), #64 (3), #98 (4), #135 (5), #169 (6), #208 (7)
Needs: QB, OT, DE, CB
Outlook: To Geno or not to Geno? That is the question. The Jaguars could give the West Virginia quarterback a long look in Round 1, they could opt to wait until Round 2 where a gifted quarterback like Florida State’s E.J. Manuel could be waiting, or they could decide that former first rounder Blaine Gabbert needs another year. If Jacksonville goes a different direction, as I anticipate, BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah or Oregon’s Dion Jordan are the elite pass rushers that could excite the team’s front office. I also would not rule out the Jags taking whichever #1 contender out of Joeckel and Fisher that is not selected by the Chiefs. While they had a very poor team last season, they are in a great position to land some top talent. In Round 2 or 3, Jacksonville could look to bolster its secondary and may look to Mississippi State where corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay are solid prospects. They are also in a good spot to land uber-talented but uber-raw offensive tackles Menelik Watson of Florida State, Kyle Long of Oregon, or Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Rounds 2 or 3. With the depth of this draft and the Jags holding early selections in each round, this team could improve substantially over the course of this weekend.
Tennessee Titans (6-10 in 2012)
Picks: #10 (1), #40 (2), #70 (3), #97 (3), #107 (4), #142 (5), #202 (6), #216 (7), #248 (7)
Needs: WR, OG, DE, S
Outlook: The Titans appear poised to select one of the draft’s two elite offensive guards in Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper in Round 1. Defensive end Bjoern Werner of Florida State or Safety Kenny Vaccaro are other potential targets at #10. In the second round, the Titans could be interested in Texas defensive end Alex Okafor or they could look to address their need at wide receiver. If they wait until the middle of the draft to address that need, keep an eye out for Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rodgers who is a talented but troubled prospects who could be a high reward player down the road.
Indianapolis Colts (11-5 in 2012)
Picks: #24 (1), #86 (3), #121 (4), #192 (6), #230 (7), #254 (7)
Needs: RB, WR, OG, DE, OLB, CB
Outlook: Chuck Pagano’s team was vastly improved behind the stellar play of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, however, they were still stuck as the 26th ranked defense in the NFL. Without a pick in the 2nd or 5th round, the Colts will need to optimize their selections. Defensive ends Datone Jones of UCLA and Bjoern Werner of Florida State would be solid value at #24 and cornerback Desmond Trufant would be a nice selection for the team as well. With their third round selection, the Colts could draft the best available guard, outside linebacker, or wide receiver. Kentucky guard Larry Warford, UCONN outside backer Sio Moore, and Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson could be targets here. If not addressed in the first, a fourth round corner could provide some good value, particularly if a prospect like Robert Alford of SE Louisiana is available. DraftTek.com’s Colts analyst Rick McGlothlin also added that “GM Ryan Grigson loves to snatch up top talent that slides down further than expected, no matter the position.” He also argued that “wideout Justin Hunter or DeAndre Hopkins could get the call in Round 1, and Matt Elam and Eddie Lacy are also in the conversation.”
Houston Texans (12-4 in 2012)
Picks: #27 (1), #57 (2), #89 (3), #95 (3), #124 (4), #160 (5), #195 (6), #201 (6), # 233 (7)
Needs: WR, TE, OG, DT, OLB
Outlook: I have had the Texans pegged as looking to add a wide receiver to pair with, and eventually replace, Andre Johnson to give the team another receiving weapon. Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, Cal’s Keenan Allen or USC’s Robert Woods are all possible targets here with Hunter having the most upside. If the Texans are simply looking for weapons, Tyler Eifert may be the best value if he is somehow available. If the offensive skill positions are addressed in Round 1, the second round could give the team a chance to select an outside linebacker like Auburn’s Corey Lemonier or Southern Miss’ Jamie Collins. If the team wants to address their offensive line in Round 3 Kentucky’s Larry Warford or Kent State’s Brian Winters could be good options for the team. Defensive line depth will be a priority in later rounds.