AFC North | AFC South | AFC East | AFC West | NFC North | NFC South | NFC East | NFC West
A thorough assessment of a team’s draft can’t truly be reached for another three years or so. That said, with tighter rosters and larger rookie contracts, a successful draft must yield at least some immediate help. With that in mind, here’s a look at how AFC South teams fared over the weekend—both from a big-picture NFL standpoint as well as a fantasy perspective—taking into account how key needs were (or weren’t) addressed and the impact potential of the players acquired.
The Texans didn’t partake in any of the trading up or trading down, making one (and only one) pick in each round save a bonus selection acquired in the offseason for Sage Rosenfels. Their first two selections addressed a need at OLB with Brian Cushing and Connor Barwin; the former fleshes out an underrated linebacking crew, while the latter is a developing hybrid pass rusher that will allow the Texans some flexibility with their scheme. C Antoine Caldwell was a value in the third round, and of the next five picks three were defensive backs (CBs Glover Quin and Brice McCain and S Troy Nolan) and two were tight ends (Anthony Hill and the versatile James Casey). Evidently years of early picks devoted to the defensive line have made the Texans gun-shy, as they ignored the position until signing Josh Leonard as an undrafted free agent.
Fantasy nugget: Look for Casey, who played seven different positions—including quarterback—at Rice, to be used in Gary Kubiak’s version of the Wildcat as well as as a pass-catcher and special teams contributor. The Texans failed to add a complementary back to Steve Slaton via the draft, which means they’re either trusting Chris Brown and Ryan Moats, think undrafted free agents Arian Foster and/or Jeremiah Johnson are real finds… or are willing to give Slaton the bulk of the workload.
Despite needs along the defensive line, the Colts opted for the “we’ll just score more points than you approach” and sniped the Cardinals by taking RB Donald Brown near the end of the first round. At minimum he’ll fill the Dominic Rhodes role in Indy’s backfield rotation; at most, Joseph Addai better watch his back. The Colts used second- and fourth-round picks to address the interior of their defensive front, atypically drafting a pair of 300-plus pounders in Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor. CB Jerraud Powers can contribute immediately in special teams and the nickel package, while seventh-round selection P Pat McAfee is expected to fill the void left by the departure of Hunter Smith. QB Curtis Painter and OT Jaimie Thomas are developmental projects, though there are certainly worse situations than developing behind Peyton Manning and under noted line guru Howard Mudd, respectively.
Fantasy nugget: Much like when the Colts drafted Anthony Gonzalez in 2007, Austin Collie enters an almost perfect situation in which he can study under the master (in this case, Reggie Wayne) and will spend most of his field time matched up with nickel and dime corners. Über-productive at BYU, it’s not asking too much for Collie to surpass the 576 and three Gonzo did as Indy’s third wheel during his rookie campaign.
The Jaguars went back to basics, a luxury provided by the predraft signing of free agent WR Torry Holt. Without Holt, the Jags would have had to agonize over Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin with the ninth pick; instead, they were able to snag sliding OT Eugene Monroe to plant on the left side. And when their second selection rolled around and OT Eben Britton was still on the board… well, newly rich Maurice Jones-Drew had another bodyguard. The Jags didn’t ignore the receiver position; in fact, in speedy slotman Mike Thomas and polished route-runner Jarrett Dillard they picked up perfect complements to Holt. Beefy DT Terrance Knighton fills another predraft need, while I-AA DB Derek Cox might crack the nickel and dime packages as a rookie. TE Zach Miller, a converted quarterback, and another fleet WR, Tiquan Underwood, are both developmental projects.
Fantasy nugget: Fred Taylor is gone, leaving the entirely of the backfield workload to Jones-Drew. If the Jaguars don’t want to overwork him they have a legitimate option in seventh-round selection Rashad Jennings. At 6-1 and 231 pounds, the Liberty alum (and former standout freshman at Pitt) could provide a small dose of thunder to MoJo’s lightning—maybe even in some goal line situations.
Only once in any given round did the Titans pick higher than 30th, and yet they managed to address every need on their wishlist and come away with a bevy of talented players. For once Tennessee used its first-round pick to address the long-standing need at wide receiver, and Kenny Britt should step immediately into the rotation and give Kerry Collins a downfield target. Second-round selection DT Sen’Derrick Marks won’t replace Albert Haynesworth, but he’s capable of making plays and will factor into the Titans’ defensive line mix right away. TE Jared Cook not only threatens defenses down the seam, he also threatened Bo Scaife’s job to the point that Scaife quickly signed the franchise tender he had been avoiding. CBs Ryan Mouton (Round 3) and Jason McCourty (Round 6) and seventh-round safety Nick Schommer help the Titans get younger in the secondary, while fourth-round LB Gerald McRath will contribute on special teams and could quickly develop into a three-down defender. OT Troy Kropog and OG Ryan Durand are exactly the type of big (6-5 or taller, 300-plus pounds) linemen the Titans grow into regulars. WR Dominique Edison is a poor man’s Nate Washington who could land on the developmental squad.
Fantasy nugget: Prior to the draft, both LenDale White and Chris Henry were mentioned in Anquan Boldin trade rumors. With the Cardinals drafting Beanie Wells that deal is likely off the table, but White and Henry aren’t out of the woods just yet; the Titans snagged Javon Ringer in the fifth round, and while he may not pack the thunder of White he could contend for that portion of the Tennesee backfield workload sooner rather than later.