We now take our draft outlook to the south and see how the AFC will move this year. Last year, Houston took advantage of a depleted division that had a rookie quarterback start in Tennessee, Jacksonville not live up to its potential and Andrew Luck be out for a majority of the season. But can they do it again? Can Houston find a signal caller to win the division again? Will Tennessee’s recent moves propel them from being top draft regulars to being a threat in the division? Will Jacksonville finally show their potent talent in the form of a plus .500 record? Lets see how they all do it with our 2016 NFL Draft Outlook for the AFC South.
2015 Record: 9 – 7 (1st in division)
Playoffs: Lost in Wild Card Round ( finished 4th in division)
Analysis: Houston is coming into the season as possibly the most dangerous team in the AFC, short of New England. Look at their team. High Caliber defense with two studs hunting the quarterback? Check. Good head coach that doesn’t make many mistakes? Check. Got a good young quarterback that can actually be a franchise player? Check and double-check. With the acquisition of Brock Osweiler, Houston has it all to make another run at not only winning the division but getting past the first round of the playoffs. But what do they need? Remember they are without Arian Foster after releasing him from the team. Plus, with the liability that Jaelen Strong might not be fully healthy going into the season, can you shore up another weapon for Brock to throw to?
Draft Picks: 22nd in the 1st round, 52nd in the 2nd round, 85th in the third.
Draft Players to Watch out for: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas, Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss, Cj Procise, RB, Notre Dame. Now the reason I picked these three is because I believe that offense is the one area the Texans have neglected for many years and now is the time to capitalize on getting some weapons, especially seeing how you now have a young QB to take the snaps for the team. With Hunter Henry, you get a tight end who can get separation like he is a slot receiver, is good on the block and can provide you a safety blanket on third down. Cody Core is a hybrid of a tight end and wideout because of his size and not having a lot of speed, but he does have great jump ball ability and has the hands that allow him to knock around defenders if need be to get up the field separation. Finally CJ Procise brings a taller bruiser of a running back to the team, and allows Jonathan Grimes and Alfred Blue to play more of the scat back roles to allow more spreading of weapons on 2nd and long.
2. Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8 – 8 (2nd in division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify ( 9th in Conference)
Analysis: This team needs Andrew Luck back. And a legitimate tight end. Thats all.
Draft Picks: 18th in the 1st round, 48th in the 2nd round, 82 in the 3rd round.
Draft Players to Watch: Any Offensive Tackle in the draft, Thomas Duarte, TE, UCLA. If Indy wants to right the ship this season, they need to get some better offensive lineman. Andrew Luck was one of a few QBs that was hit the most last year, and if they want to get to a Super Bowl and possibly win one, they need to keep him upright and clean. Now they also need a tight end like Duarte because of the fact that Coby Fleener is now in New Orleans, leaving the Colts without a cornerstone at the tight end position. Duarte also knows what its like to play with a high-caliber quarterback, as he played with future number one draft pick Josh Rosen.
2015 Record: 5 – 11 ( 3rd in Division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify ( Finished 12th in conference)
Analysis: This is the one team I am legitimately interested in coming into this season. Jacksonville feels like they are one piece away from making a move towards the playoffs, something they haven’t done in 9 years. They have the quarterback in Blake Bortles. They also have the receiving duo in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson that can win you games. And if you account in the defense, which will return Dante Fowler Jr. and add Malik Jackson and Prince Amukamara, this team could make a major impact in the season. All they need to do now is see what the draft can offer them.
Draft Picks: 5th in the 1st round, 38th in the 2nd round, 69th in the 3rd round.
Draft Players to Watch: Cyrus Jones, DB, Alabama. Now this pick is the only logical one I can think of going into this season, other than getting some more extensive o-lineman. But Jones could round out the defense,especially after picking up Amukamara in free agency. Jones has good ball presence and will a defensive nightmare for any team that lines their star receiver up against him. Also he adds the flair of being an excellent punt returner giving you not one, but two home run hitters in Jones and Rashad Greene. If the Jags do this, expect the city of Jacksonville to play late into the season.
2015 Record: 3-13 (4th in division)
Playoffs: Did Not Qualify (Finished 16th in Division)
Analysis: This team walked into last season thinking that with new quarterback Marcus Mariota, that they would be a plus .500 team. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Sure they have the weaponry to do it, but the defense let them down significantly and on top of that, Mariota was getting blasted because like Indianapolis, the o-line was absolutely horrible. Now with the acquisition of Demarco Murray, Tennessee has no excuse as to why this draft shouldn’t be the one where they make their team go from being an annual top 5 draft picker to being a team vying for a wild card spot.
Draft Picks: 1st in the 1st round, 33rd in the 2nd round, 64th in the 3rd round.
Draft Players to Watch: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. I’m sorry, this is the first pick in the draft, and it became more solid the second Murray got signed to the Titans. His speed is incredible despite the fact that the dude is a 300 pounder and with that speed and remarkable strength, he is definitely going to keep Mariota clean against the bevy of defenses the Titans will play this year. Plus his speed will be put to good use in the screen game as he is able to cut up field like no lineman I’ve ever seen, which will allow Murray to get positive yards down the field and use his bulldozer running style to score many touchdowns.
Well that is my NFL Draft Outlook for the AFC South. Come back later as we stay in the South and look at the NFC side of the region.