Sunday, April 24, 2011

AFC South Draft Preview

As the clock ticks closer to the NFL Draft on April 28-30, we'll be doing our best to preview the team needs of all 32 teams to give you all an outlook on what to expect come draft day. Of course, there are no guarantees with things like mock drafts (even though they are fun to do) so we did our best to get some insight from bloggers/fans of other teams. Today we take a look at the AFC South. Our friends from 18 to 88  were cool enough to help us out with some inside perspective on their team needs.

For reference, we compiled the draft picks each team currently has. Compensatory picks are listed in parentheses.

2010 Record: 10-6
AFC South Champs, Lost to Jets in Wild Card Round

Draft Picks: 22, 53, 87, 119, 152, 188

Even though the Colts struggled last year, they still managed another 10-win season and another AFC South title. The Colts definitely need help in the trenches, ranking 29th in rushing offense and 23rd in rushing defense. Peyton Manning remains one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and last year he was faced with one of his toughest challenges when it seemed like every Colts receiving threat suffered an injury of some kind. With a full slew of weapons healthy this season, The Colts need to assemble a stable offensive line and a capable defense to challenge for the Super Bowl once again. 

Our buddies from 18 to 88, the definitive Colts blog (and no they didn't pay us to say that), hit us up with the inside scoop on the Blue and White. Check them out on Twitter @18to88 and follow their draft expert Joe @shake1n1bake

1. What are the biggest needs your team has entering the draft?

The Colts main needs are on the lines. The OL held back the offense severely limiting Peyton's time to throw and failing to clear lanes for the running backs. LT Charlie Johnson would be better served at RT or guard, RT Ryan Diem is no longer starter material, Jeff Saturday is nearing the end and Mike Pollak is still a disappointment at guard. On the DL the Colts have plenty of pass rushers, on the edge and the inside, but could use some stouter bodies in the rotation, especially at DT, but at DE as well.

2. Do you think your team will address those needs in the draft or wait for free agency?

This being the Colts it's unlikely they address anything in free agency beyond re-signing some of their own players, but that doesn't guarantee they'll address their biggest needs in the draft. The Colts are all about value in the draft. If there's a better player at a position of lesser need, the Colts won't hesitate to take them. 2006 is the only year in recent memory where the Colts chose a player (Addai) at the position most marked as their biggest need.

3. What players would you like to see your team target in the draft?

There aren't any players realistically available at #22 who I see as real slam dunks for the Colts, the draft is deepest in pass rushing defensive linemen where the Colts are quite well stocked and there doesn't seem to be a prospect who completely fits within the Colts scheme and draft preferences. Throw in the rather implausible, but widely circulating rumor that the Colts are in the market for a QB early and they seem primed to trade back, where the lower stakes makes me a lot more comfortable with the prospects available. DT Stephen Paea, S Quinton Carter, T/G James Carpenter, DE/DT Christian Ballard, S Tyler Sash, CB Jalil Brown and H-back Charles Clay are 2nd round and later prospects I'm really enamored with.

2010 Record: 8-8

Draft Picks: 16, 49, 80, 114, 121, 147, 182

Every year, it seems like the Jaguars will field on of their worst teams which will prompt ownership to pick up and move the team to another location. Then the team goes out and finds a way to field a mediocre team that pulls a few upsets, including playing the Colts close. Year in and year out, most "draft experts" will predict that the Jaguars will draft a quarterback because David Garrard doesn't fit the bill. And year after year the Jaguars keep drafting players based on their needs (usually on defense) rather than picking a quarterback. The Jags have some other needs that might be more pressing than quarterback. In our opinion, Garrard is capable of handling this offense if he can get some help at receiver. The defense, particularly the pass defense, was downright awful last year, ranking 28th in the league and finishing 31st in sacks. The Jags still need help in their front 7, so don't be surprised to see them go defense in the first few rounds. 

2010 Record: 6-10

Draft Picks: 11, 42, 73, 105, 138, 178, 214, (254)

If there is a team in the league that has failed to meet expectations year after year, it's the Houston Texans. Every year, the "experts" predict that this will be the Texans break-through year and they will make the playoffs for the first time in their history. Last year, it seemed like all the pieces were in place, but the Texans came out and laid a dud of a 6-10 season. They have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, with one of the best wide receivers in Andre Johnson and last year's league leader in rushing Arian Foster. However, their downfall didn't come when the ball was in their hands. Houston had a league-worst 32nd ranked pass defense. This year, Houston makes the switch to a 3-4 defense and they will probably have to draft accordingly to fill their needs in the 3-4 front. It remains to be seen how former #1 overall pick Mario Williams will fare moving from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 OLB. 

2010 Record: 6-10

Draft Picks: 8, 39, 77, 109, (130), 142, 175, 212, (251)

Coming off a season where Chris Johnson led the league in rushing, Tennessee looked poised to get back into form and compete for a division title. Instead, the Titans floundered through their 2010 season. In response to the disagreement between coach Jeff Fisher and quarterback Vince Young, ownership decided to part ways with both, promoting offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the head coaching position. The Titans are still without a long-term answer at quarterback and will probably start the season with grizzled veteran Kerry Collins at the helm with Rusty Smith as his backup, unless there is a quarterback on the board worth taking at #8, in which case the Titans can consider themselves extremely lucky. If the top 2 QBs are gone, the Titans might consider trading down or addressing one of their other needs, like their secondary. The Titans were 29th in the league in pass defense. Perhaps it has something to do with facing Indy twice a year, but the rest of the AFC South was 28, 29, and 32nd in the league in Pass Defense, which means it really wouldn't be a surprise to see any of these teams go after secondary help in the draft.

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