2020 Virtual NFL Draft Preview: AFC South

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Fox News

Scott Payton, Edward Bass, and Cam Cobey

The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is set to take place virtually, with general managers and Commissioner Roger Goodell operating from their own homes, at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. It will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network, among other online streaming platforms. From across the nation and from their respective quarantines, Colgate Maroon-News sports writers put together a guide for each of the 32 teams in the league, offering insights on top prospects and projecting likely selections. Rounds two and three will be on Friday, April 24 and rounds four through seven are on Saturday, April 25. 

 

Houston Texans 

Scott Payton, Maroon-News Staff 

Bill O’Brien’s tenure as the Houston Texans’ general manager has been nothing short of a disaster. He has executed a series of ludicrous and outright mind-boggling trades that have reduced a championship-contending roster into one filled with major question marks. In just one year, the Texans have traded one of the best receivers on the planet in DeAndre Hopkins, as well as the former first overall pick defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, for what amounts to a handful of mid-round draft picks and a veteran, injury-prone back running back David Johnson. How anyone expects to replace not one, but two, first-team All-Pro talents in a draft, in which they are without a first round pick, is beyond the conception of even the most casual football fans. Best of luck to you, Mr. O’Brien.

Despite all the baffling moves in Houston, a single bright spot remains for the Texans: quarterback Deshaun Watson. After shipping Watson’s top target to the Arizona Cardinals, the Texans must focus their attention on supplying their Pro Bowl quarterback with some help at the receiver position. Luckily, this draft is loaded with talented pass catchers. 

While the headlining names will most likely be off the board by the time the Texans’ first pick rolls around at No. 40, talents such as USC’s Michael Pittman, TCU’s Jalen Reagor and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault are viable second-round picks that can offer Watson some much needed help. 

Additionally, after struggling in the secondary in 2019, the Texans must look to add some depth at the defensive back position. Looking for both a cornerback and safety, the Texans may want to use one of their late-round picks on Alabama safety Shyheim Carter, who recently received praise by Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban for his versatility.

 

Indianapolis Colts 

Edward Bass, Maroon-News Staff  

The post Andrew Luck era has not been kind to the Indianapolis Colts. Former New England Patriot Jacoby Brissett had high expectations as the announced starter under center for the team, but even that story did not play out well, as he led the team to a losing record in the 2019 season. There is a variety of talent on this team, but there are plenty of positions that need strengthening in order for the team to compete in the AFC South. 

The Colts have already signed former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers to a one year deal in free agency and have traded away their first-round pick for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner out of San Francisco, but additions are still needed. Most notably, the Colts need to improve their receiver group. T.Y. Hilton is one of the best receivers in the league, but his injury history has gotten the best of him in recent years. With an early pick in the second round, No. 34 overall, look for the Colts to take a wide receiver. Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk and Baylor’s Denzel Mims would make perfect sense in this spot if they slip out of the first round. They also lost starting tight end Eric Ebron in free agency, creating another position that needs filling.  Adding another offensive tackle to an improving offensive line should pay dividends in the run and pass protection game. They signed veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes this offseason, but they lack another true coverage corner on the other side as well. The edge position on defence lacks depth and needs attention, especially if they want to support new signing Buckner on the defensive line. 

This year, the Colts should be drafting for the future. With some top tier talent in certain positions, the team should look to improve in multiple areas. This franchise is currently a work in progress, making talented youth a must to prepare for the future. 

 

Jacksonville Jaguars  

Cam Cobey, Maroon-News Staff   

The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off of an underwhelming 6-10 season, just two years removed from an AFC Championship game berth. The Jaguars have 12 picks in the upcoming draft, and most importantly, two first round selections at No. 9 and No. 20 overall. 

Over the past year, the Jags lost out a lot of talent on the defensive side of the football. This included star cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, as well as defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive end Calais Campbell. Their first two priorities in this year’s draft will be to address the defensive line and the cornerback positions.  

If Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is available at No. 9, the Jaguars will likely pull the trigger and select him without hesitation. Brown has climbed up draft boards in recent months and could be perfectly slotted for the Jags defense. Brown, a 6’5” 326-pound beast, has the size and quickness necessary to excel at the position in today’s NFL and he has drawn comparison to Ndamukong Suh. He would be exactly what the Jags need to fill Dareus’ absence. If Brown is gone by the ninth pick, another defensive tackle option would be Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina. Kinlaw is another prestigious SEC defensive specimen at 6’5” 324-pounds, but is a drop off from Brown. 

The other area of need the Jags will look to address in the draft is the cornerback position. If he is there, in-state product CJ Henderson out of Florida would be the pick, but his draft stock is rapidly rising and he may not be available. More realistic at No. 20 would be Kristian Fulton out of LSU or Trevon Diggs from Alabama, Diggs being the player with the most upside. 

The Jags will utilize the rest of their picks to bulk up the offensive line for quarterback Gardner Minshew, or even draft a QB to compete for the starting role in years to come.

 

Tennessee Titans

Cam Cobey, Maroon-News Staff   

The Tennessee Titans are coming off a spectacular season that no one really expected, ending their season with an AFC Championship game berth against the Chiefs, beating the Patriots and Ravens along the way. This finish leaves them with a late first-round pick at No. 29 overall and six draft selections in total.

The Titans do have some important positions to fill in this draft, which include cornerback, defensive line and offensive line. With their first-round pick, the Titans could go many ways, but will likely select a player in one of those three positions. 

The Titans desperately need a talented corner that could start games for them next season. A popular pick is Kristian Fulton, LSU’s talented cornerback. AJ Terrell from Clemson and Alabama’s Trevon Diggs are also stellar options that could both be available at No. 29.

If the Titans don’t decide to go cornerback in round one, they could go to the defensive line, where Auburn’s Marlon Davidson could be available. Tennessee traded away veteran defensive tackle Jurell Casey, and Davidson could start to fill his gap. He can play both on the inside and the edge as well. Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos is another edge setter that could be available at No. 29. 

The Titans could also go with an offensive lineman to help protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry. Josh Jones out of Houston is a popular selection in mock drafts, a top tackle in this year’s class. If they choose to wait until the second round, there are still future NFL starters, including Lucas Niang out of TCU. 

Throughout the rest of the draft, the Titans will also look to fill out the running back position, possibly a third-down back, as well as some more receiving and cornerback depth.