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AFC South Draft Preview

AFC South Draft Preview

By Christopher Tyler Baker - 4 months ago in NFL News

AFC South Draft Preview

The 2017 NFL Draft is almost upon us! Let’s take a look at the teams in the AFC South as they prepare for the war room. Here is a look at where each team is and what their greatest needs are.

Houston Texans

AFC South Preview

Bill O’Brian has led the Texans to a 9-7 record in each of his three years as head coach. Houston has won their division and made the playoffs two years in a row. Houston’s defense was ranked #1 in the league last year allowing only 20.5 points per game and 301.3 total yards per game. They accomplished that feat without their best defensive player in J.J. Watt, who missed most of the year with a back injury. The Brock Osweiler era in Houston ended with a trade that sent the embattled quarterback, a 2018 second-round draft pick and a 2017 sixth-round pick to Cleveland for a 2017 fourth-round pick. The deal basically let Houston get out of Osweiler’s 4-year, $72M contract for a second-round pick. Osweiler got into an argument with O’Brian at the end of the season and that was that.

Notable 2017 additions

None

The Texans have been very, very quiet in free agency so far. The team resigned it’s punter, kicker and tight end Ryan Griffin. The Brock Osweiler trade was the only splash the team has made. The team lost a few pieces to free agency, most notably DB A.J. Bouye.

Draft needs

Houston lost starting defensive backs A.J. Bouye and Quintin Demps to free agency and will look to the draft to help fill those holes. Tom Savage is slated as the starter so the team may want to draft a QB to compete with him. Right Tackle is an area of need as starter Derek Newton tore both patellar tendons last year and is not expected back anytime soon.

The team has seven picks in the draft with picks 25, 57 and 89 in the first three rounds.

Tennesse Titans

AFC South Preview

The Titans made a lot of progress in 2016. They tripled their win total from 2015 and enjoyed their first winning season since 2011 under first year head coach Mike Mularkey. They finished the season in a tie with the Texans at 9-7 but lost the tiebreaker and missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. Mariota made improvements in every area of his game and DeMarco Murray has an outstanding bounce-back year. The team sent five players to the Pro Bowl (Lewan, Walker, Murray, Casey and Orakpo) and the franchise is trending upwards.

Notable 2017 additions

CB Logan Ryan
S Johnathan Cyprien and Brynden Trawick
LB Darren Bates
NT Sylvester Williams

Ryan isn’t regarded as a shutdown corner, but he is a good cover corner and should find a good niche in Dick LeBeau’s system. Cyprien has not shown much promise as a cover safety and is better suited to playing in the box.

Draft needs

The secondary was a big weakness for the team last year. Signing Ryan and Cyprien helped address the issue, but the team will probably look to the draft to inject more talent. The team lacks top-shelf talent at WR so they will probably spend a high draft pick on a receiver. Blocking TE Anthony Fasano left for Miami so the team will probably look for a blocking specialist to play behind Pro Bowler Delanie Walker.

The team has eight picks in the draft with picks 5, 18, 83 and 100 in the first three rounds.

Indianapolis Colts

AFC South Preview

The Colts went 8-8 (3-3 in the division) in 2016 and missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. It was the first time the team went consecutive seasons without making the postseason since the 90s. As a result, general manager Ryan Grigson was fired and replaced by Chris Ballard. Last year franchise sack leader Robert Mathis retired, Luck returned to form, Hilton had a career year and Frank Gore was surprisingly productive. The offensive line improved somewhat but is still a work in progress. The defense was bad and the team has focused on making changes for 2017. The team is answering the challenge with a barrage of free agent signings.

Notable 2017 additions

LB John Simon, Jabaal Sheard, Sean Spence and Barkevious Mingo
DE Margus Hunt
CB Darius Butler will be moved to S
NT Al Woods
OL Brian Schwenke
TE Brandon Williams
WR Kamar Aiken
P Jeff Locke

Even after signing 10 free agents, the Colts still have well over $30M in cap space. The team set out to add depth and competition and they did so. Sheard and Simon should help the pass rush, though they combined for just 8.5 sacks last seasons in part-time roles. Schwenke adds much needed depth to the offensive line. Locke will start as punter. Woods and Hunt were brought in to help a terrible defensive line. This free agent crop is more quantity than quality.

Draft needs

Ballard has his work cut out for him. The team’s free agent signings have been uninspiring so far and while they may have added depth, the team still needs starting-caliper talent in key areas. Mathis retired and Walden walked so the team’s top need is probably pass rushers. Look for them to target a edge rusher/linebacker in the early rounds. Secondary is a big need as well that should be addressed. At 34 years old, Frank Gore has been very productive and the team re-signed Turbin, but they may choose to tap in to a deep RB class in this draft.

The team has seven picks in the draft with picks 15, 46 and 80 in the first three rounds.

Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC South Preview

The Jags went into 2016 with high hopes, but the season was a disaster and resulted in the firing of head coach Gus Bradly. Blake Bortles was expected to take a big leap forward but actually regressed, Alan Robinson went from Pro Bowler to disappointment and the team regressed in almost every statistical category. The Jags lost seven games by seven points or less and missed the playoffs for the ninth consecutive season. The Jags were an absolute mess in 2016 and there is a lot of room for improvement under new head coach Doug Marrone. Tom Coughlin has returned to Jacksonville in the capacity of executive vice president of football operations and should be a stabilizing factor moving forward.

Notable 2017 additions

DB A.J. Bouye
DT Calais Campbell
S Barry Church
LB Audie Cole and Lerentee McCray
G Earl Watford

Bouye is a good corner, but $44M over the first three years for a guy who had just one interception last year is overpaying. Campbell will help an anemic Jags pass rush. Church replaces the departing Johnathan Cyprien. Watford could compete for a starting job and will at least add depth.

Draft needs

Bouye and Jalen Ramsey are slated as the starters at CB, but there is not much depth behind them so look for the Jags to add a corner late in this draft. 31-year-old Campbell was brought in to help replace Odrick and Alualu, but the team will need to add defensive line talent via the draft. The offensive line needs help, especially at guard (the team had five different starters at RG last year). Tight end is a need for the team and this draft has some intriguing prospects. The injury-prone running back tandem of Ivory and Yeldon has not been as effective as the team had hoped so RB could be addressed.

The team has eight picks in the draft with picks 4, 35 and 68 in the first three rounds.

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