The AFC South had one of the more mediocre drafts in the league this year, as none of the four teams graded out too high or too low. That’s made it tough to rank the teams on their performance during the draft, but here it goes:
1. Jacksonville – Although they didn’t take a quarterback, which many thought they needed to do, the Jaguars came out of the draft looking pretty good. The quarterback that will play will feel more secure with Luke Joeckel protecting his blindside, and he’ll also have a couple of dynamic lighting-quick playmakers in Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson. Both Sanders and Robinson were mid-round picks that will be able to help Jacksonville in the return game and turn short easy passes into big gains with their ability to run after the catch, giving the Jaguar’s offense much-needed speed.
Outside of those offensive improvements, the Jaguars focused on their secondary, which needed a lot of help. Safety John Cyprien, taken in the second round, and cornerback Dwayne Gratz, picked in the third round, should step in as starters in Jacksonville right away. Taking safety Josh Evans in the 6th round and a pair of big cornerbacks in the 7th round will also give Jacksonville depth in the secondary. While they didn’t address all their needs, the Jaguars did well to fix their biggest deficiencies from last year, which should make them noticeably better than last year at those positions.
2. Houston – The Texans didn’t blow anybody away with their draft class, but they added solid players in several key areas. The first thing they did was get a second outside receiver that can play alongside Andre Johnson, picking DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. They didn’t need to pick a safety so early after acquiring Ed Reed earlier this offseason, but they got a good one in the second round when they took D.J. Swearinger. After that, rather wisely, it was all about the line of scrimmage.
Both Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams will be good pass rushers for Houston, and both Brennan Williams and Davis Quessenberry will be assets on the offensive line. Houston didn’t get too many game changers in this draft, but with the picks they made there should be noticeable improvement for them at several positions all over the field.
3. Tennessee – Like the teams above, the Titans were solid but unspectacular in the draft. The biggest need Tennessee had was on the offensive line, and they addressed that need early with Chance Warmack, one of the top players in the draft, and they also addressed it later with center Brian Schwenke, who’s as quick and agile as any center in the NFL. They didn’t necessarily need a wide receiver, but when Justin Hunter fell for to them in the second round it was an easy decision to take him, and it can’t hurt to have a big target like Hunter with a quarterback that’s still trying to establish himself.
While the offense got a nice boost, the Titan’s defense wasn’t improved significantly. The top defensive player they took was cornerback Bildi Wreh-Wilson, but he may not be a full-time starter. Linebacker Zaviar Gooden and defensive end Lavar Edwards are nice additions as well, but nothing to get too excited about. The Titans also added some necessary depth to their secondary in the late rounds. All in all, it wasn’t a bad draft for the Titans, but they just didn’t do anything to stand out.
After having such a great draft a year ago, the Colts weren’t so impressive in this year’s draft. First round pick Bjoern Wener is a good fit for them and will fill the void left by Dwight Freeney, but without a second round pick, it was tough for Indianapolis to find another potential difference maker. They needed help along the offensive line, but Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes may not be anything more than average players.
In the later rounds the Colts were able to land a talented but under-rated defensive tackle in Montori Hughes and an athletic tight end in Justice Cunningham, both of whom are nice additions to their draft class. However, outside of Werner, the Colts didn’t add any difference makers in this draft, which is why they end up last in their division, although they’re close to the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league.