AFC South biggest needs in the 2017 NFL Draft
Four teams stacked with young talent still need some key pieces to get over the hump
The AFC South is a division long on potential yet short on results. The Houston Texans are back-to-back champions of the division, but are just 18-14 over that period.
The division is young, but youth alone cannot be blamed for the lackluster results. Each team needs some key pieces to address on April 27 in order to get over them hump and become legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
As earlier stated, the Texans won their second straight division title this past season. They were eliminated from the playoffs in the Divisional round by the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. An injury to J.J. Watt and what can only be described as the failed Brock Osweiler experiment appeared to be the difference between this team being good and great.
A long-term solution must eventually be found at quarterback. Coach Bill O’Brien has said Tom Savage is their man, but I’m not sure even he believes that. Solidifying the cornerback position is key as well, especially in a division with Andrew Luck and rising star Marcus Mariota.
First-round pick: No. 25 overall
Potential Picks: It could be a reach, but don’t be shocked if the Texans pull the trigger on Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. He’s a project, but O’Brien loves projects, and Kizer is similar in both build and skill set to a couple of quarterbacks he’s had success with before. If Houston was to go the safer route, they would then be expected to pick a cornerback – possibly LSU’s Tre’Davious White.
It’s simple, really. Due to what might be the worst roster in the NFL from top to bottom, the difference between the Colts going 8-8 and 2-14 was Andrew Luck. Indianapolis logged a single win over a playoff team – the Packers – and went 0-5 in other games against postseason participants. Indianapolis needs a lot of help at both linebacker and secondary. The smart move is to go after the best player available in one of those position groups. The Colts also – as they have throughout Andrew Luck’s stay – need a long-term answer at running back.
First-round pick: No. 15 overall
Potential Picks: There is an outside chance that Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster falls to the Colts. Otherwise, they’ll likely pick Temple outside linebacker Haason Reddick, Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey or Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers. Don’t be shocked, however, if they pull the trigger on one of the top two running backs, should one of them fall to pick No. 15.
It was a largely disappointing year for what many thought was one of the most talented young teams in the NFL. Everything appeared to be in place on both sides of the ball for the Jaguars to begin their climb to the top of the AFC ranks – much like the Raiders did in 2015. And then Blake Bortles turned in a terrible season, subsequently making Allen Robinson a non-factor and placing extra pressure on a young defense. The end result: The Jaguars have a top-five draft pick for the fifth consecutive year, rounding out a decade where they have had no worse than the 10th overall pick.
Some might say they need a quarterback, but it wouldn’t be wise to throw in the towel on Bortles just yet. They need help on the offensive line, specifically at the all-important left tackle position. They also need a solid option at running back and a legit edge rusher.
First-round pick: No. 4 overall
Potential picks: There are a lot of different directions the Jags could go, but it’s going to be awfully hard to pass up Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. He is similar in some ways to Ezekiel Elliott, although Jacksonville’s offensive line is a far cry from Dallas’. Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett is an option if Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is off the board as expected.
The Titans proved to be on the winning track that the Jaguars thought they were going be on in 2016. Tennessee has its franchise quarterback. The Titans have a solid offensive line. They have legitimate young talent on defense. All they need is a key piece or two and some depth, and this team appears ready to assert itself amongst the elite in the AFC. They got some secondary help in free agency, but they still need some depth at the cornerback and safety positions. A long-term answer at defensive end – given Karl Klug’s recent injury and pending concerns moving forward – also is a priority. And then there is the need to get Marcus Mariota more targets in the passing game.
First-round picks: No. 5 and No. 18 overall
Potential picks: Tennessee has the luxury of two first-round picks and no “make or break” need. I’d look for them to go after the most skilled players with both picks, regardless of position. This makes LSU safety Jamaal Adams a serious candidate to become a Tennessee Titan with the fifth overall pick. At No. 18, I see them going after Alabama tight end O.J. Howard if he’s there. If not, Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram is a name to keep an eye on.
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