NFL Draft Preview: AFC South

Tennessee Titans

By Jack Schoen

After a second straight trip to the postseason, the Titans find themselves at pick 22 after a disappointing loss to the Ravens in the wild card round. The Titans are one of the few remaining offenses in the league built on the running game, with Derrick Henry becoming the ninth running back in NFL history to rush for over 2000 yards in a single season. With solid quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill, an above average offensive line up front and a clear number one receiver in A.J. Brown, the Titans look poised to win another AFC South division title. If they decide to go offense in the first round they might want to try and pick up another receiver to pair with Brown.  The clear top three receivers in the 2021 draft will probably be gone, but a bigger, athletic receiver like Rashod Bateman from Minnesota could give Tannehill the second option he needs. The Titans also have major holes on every level of their defense after losing cornerback (CB) Adoree’ Jackson to the Giants and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who spent the back half of his 2020 season on injured reserve, to the Browns. Jayson Oweh, an athletic, ready-made edge rusher from Penn State would certainly fill a need for the Titans, and he will probably still be available at this point in the draft. Ideally, the Titans would take either CB Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech or another top-tier defensive back, but it might be hard to grab one of those guys given how many teams are in front of them. With a few good picks in the right places, the Titans could realistically see themselves as contenders next season.

Indianapolis Colts

By Jack Schoen

After years of criminally mismanaging their offensive line, leading to quarterback (QB) Andrew Luck’s early retirement from football, the Colts have spent the last few seasons with one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Quenton Nelson has become one of the best young offensive linemen in the league, and center Ryan Kelly has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.  That being said, the Colts might want to shore up their offensive line by drafting a left tackle with the 21 pick in the first round to replace the recently retired Anthony Castanzo. Protecting newly acquired QB Carson Wentz has to be a top focus, and to do that they need to protect his blindside, after Wentz was sacked a league-high fifty times last season in only twelve games. If Christian Darrisaw is still on the board at 21 the Colts have to pull the trigger on that. If not, then maybe Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC or Teven Jenkins from Oklahoma State could be other options for the team. The Colts are by no means a complete team, and later in the draft they might want to look at getting some receiver help for Wentz and some edge rushers to bolster the defense but getting Wentz some extra protections is key for his success in Indianapolis.

Jacksonville Jaguars

By Aaron Notis

In a year when a once-in-a-generation quarterback is available, the number one pick holds immense power and gives you a key out of the bottom of the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the keepers of this key. 

The Jaguars hold the title of the worst team in the NFL after a season in which they went 1-15. This was highlighted by a carousel of quarterbacks, most notably, Gardner Minshew III, Mike Glennon and Jake Luton. This trio wasn’t able to get the job done. Defensively, the Jaguars weren’t much better, giving up the second-most yards in the league. To fix some of these problems, the Jaguars made a statement. They signed former Seahawks cornerback Shaquil Griffin to a lucrative three-year deal. They also added former Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. to fill in as a slot receiver. 

With the first pick, the only choice is to take Clemson superstar Trevor Lawrence. In three years at Clemson University, Lawrence showed that he was the best quarterback in college football and has been touted as the best quarterback prospect to enter the league since Andrew Luck. However, the Jaguars own nine other picks in this draft, including another first-rounder and two early second-rounders. With those picks, the Jaguars should focus on their needs for an edge-rusher and a safety. Texas Christian University safety Trevon Moehrig, Miami edge Gregory Rousseau or Texas edge Joseph Ossai would all be effective options to bolster their roster and revive the team, with new Head Coach Urban Meyer at the helm.

Houston Texans

By Max Chirco

The Houston Texans had a less than ideal season after shipping off all-pro receiver Deandre Hopkins and firing Head Coach Bill O’Brien. The only bright spot was quarterback Deshaun Watson, who led the league in passing yards while having 33 touchdowns. After not having a say in who the new head coach would be, Watson became disgruntled and requested a trade. General Manager Nick Caserio brought in veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor in case the team ultimately trades Watson. Caserio also traded linebacker Bernardrick McKinney for edge Shaq Lawson and signed free agent cornerback Desmond King, running back Phillip Lindsay, running back Mark Ingram and guard Marcus Cannon. The Texans lost key players such as receiver Will Fuller IV and center Nick Martin in free agency.

With an entire coaching staff under new Head Coach David Culley and organizational dysfunction, it is expected that the Texans would begin a rebuild. That task will be difficult as the first selection for the Texans currently comes in the third round which makes it difficult to rebuild a team with holes everywhere except left tackle, where Laremy Tunsil plays. 

Changing from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense is not something that can happen overnight. The Texans can either take defensive players early in the draft, or they can take the best player available. If the Texans were to try and reload their defense, I expect them to take Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu. He is an elite man-coverage corner with great length who can learn the defense quickly. If they were to take the best player available, I would also expect them to take Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond, a raw prospect who can learn under Taylor, who has mentored many young talents recently such as Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert.