You might be confused as to why I chose to do the AFC South after the NFC North….well you can thank my roommates for this.
Indianapolis Colts–This is a team that took about 1,000 steps in the wrong direction without Peyton Manning. In my mind Manning should win the NFL MVP award this season, strictly because the Colts season proved just how important he is to them. They won their division and went to the playoffs with him, and won two games without him. Because they posses the first overall pick, they MUST take Andrew Luck. You don’t pass on one of the best quarterback prospects in the last 15 years. The question is what to do with Manning after they’ve drafted Luck. In my mind, even though Manning is due a $28 Million roster bonus, the Colts need to keep him. This way Luck can learn from a Hall of Fame quarterback for at least one year. Having a rookie quarterback wait and learn has worked far more often than throwing quarterbacks right into the fire with a horrible team. Compare the career stat lines of Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer to David Carr and Joey Harrington and tell me I’m wrong. The issue is, it’s not just Carr and Harrington that were busts, America is littered with the remains of quarterbacks that were first round busts. This is not to say that if you start a rookie quarterback right away his career is completely over, but it appears that more often than not the team will struggle and his confidence will be shaken. While it will be unfortunate for the Colts to have to pay $28 Million to a man who did absolutely nothing this past year, they must do it. It will help them for the future and allow the Colts to have another draft class and offseason to improve their team for the young phenom. The Colts then have a usable offensive line and a decent core of wide receivers (if they re-sign Reggie Wayne), but they have a brutal running game. Unfortunately with two first round picks in the backfield in Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, I would expect them to try to make do with what they have. This team is in dire need of a secondary. With the exception of Antoine Bethea, they need help. That’s the nicest way I can put it. This team tied for last in the NFL with 8 interceptions on the season (NFL.com stats). For those of you who are bad at math like myself, I calculated it out, that’s only ONE interception every TWO games…makes the Lions secondary look like a bunch of Pro Bowlers. So what are the Colts biggest needs? Cornerback, Free Safety, Linebacker. But Andrew Luck will be going to them #1 overall, you can take that one to the bank.
Jacksonville Jaguars–This team is seriously the new age Detroit Lions. Here are their first round picks since 2003, Byron Leftwich, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Marcedes Lewis, Reggie Nelson, Derrick Harvey, Eugene Monroe, Tyson Alualu, and Blaine Gabbert (Draft History). I have one word for those draft picks, ouch. This is a franchise that is on the mend, the team was recently sold and they finally hired a new coach about an hour ago, former Falcons offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey. This team though lives and dies with the NFL’s rushing champion Maurice Jones-Drew, he is an absolute stud. I personally am not a fan of Blaine Gabbert, but I think that once he gets time to learn the new offense, and if he can get some weapons to help him out, then he could be a good quarterback. As the Jaguars have the 7th overall pick, I would look for them to take a wide receiver. It’s debatable if it is their biggest need, but the bottom line is they need to get Gabbert a target other than Mike Thomas, Marcedes Lewis and Jason Hill (wait…who?). If I’m in their front office I give a long hard look to Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame, or pray to god that somehow Justin Blackmon falls to them. After receiver, I’d think they need to look for a linebacker, and a corner to replace Rashean Mathis, who tore his ACL and his contract is up this offseason. This is a team that needs to make smart draft picks, and pray that Mularkey is the man to get Gabbert to develop into the elite quarterback they need him to be.
Houston Texans–I like this team a lot. I think they have set a very solid foundation for the future, and if Matt Schaub had been healthy for the playoffs, I would pick them as a Super Bowl dark horse in a heart beat. Unfortunately for Colts fans, the Texans will be the team that will control the AFC South for the next few years. They had an absolutely awesome draft last year getting J.J. Watt out of Wisconsin and Brooks Reed out of Arizona (Playoff Impact). They have contributed early and often in Wade Phillips new defense, who is proving that while he is incapable of being a head coach, he is a mastermind defensive coordinator. Last year the Texans were ranked 29th in points allowed per game and they are now ranked 4th, which is an absolutely remarkable turn around (Texans rankings). Signing Jonathan Joseph to be their number one corner has to be one of the best offseason moves this past year. It’s hard for me to pick out three needs for this squad, but I think that once Andre Johnson went down, their passing game suffered, so I would say that they need to get a 2nd receiver to replace Kevin Walter. From here, I think they will target a safety and a defensive tackle, to make that elite defense even scarier. Bottom line, this is a team that is on the cusp of becoming an elite squad and will be a force to be reckoned with when they are healthy.
Tennessee Titans–This is a team that was utterly crippled when Kenny Britt went down. He was the key to their passing game and was vastly undervalued when it came to drawing safeties off the line of scrimmage and making it easier for Chris Johnson to run. Chris Johnson’s hold out also had a negative impact upon this team. The offensive line almost seemed like they had no desire to block for him, and he seemed like a shade of his former self. He barely rushed for 1,000 yards, just two seasons after rushing for over 2,000, an absolutely shocking turn around (CJ1k?). If Britt comes back and can perform, this team has serious potential. The Titans took Jake Locker in the first round, but played him sparingly and chose to have Matt Hasselbeck be the signal caller, this was smart. I think that Locker will benefit from the zero pressure he had on him this season, and from the fact that he could spend a year in the offense before playing full-time. This is a decently young team, that needs a defensive tackle, an outside linebacker to go with Akeem Ayers and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (who ended the season on the IR). To further help out this defense, I think that an elite safety would be extremely helpful to their playoff cause. This is a team on the cusp of being very good as well, if they can get things together on the offensive line, and Jake Locker turns out to be the real deal….watch out.