The AFC South was formed in 2002, and they have only had one team bring home the coveted Lombardi Trophy (2006 Indianapolis Colts). Over the past ten seasons, each division has had at least one team win the Super Bowl except for the AFC South. Enter the 2017 NFL draft where every pick can either make or break a team’s future chances of glory. Below I will attempt to forecast how each pick will impact the AFC South’s climb back to the top.
After the failed Brock Osweiler experiment everyone knew that Houston was targeting a QB. And seeing two teams trade up for their future signal callers the Texans began to feel the pressure to get theirs sooner rather than later. In exchange for their 2017 first (pick 25) and 2018 first, they were able to jump up to pick 12 (via the Cleveland Browns). Here they selected Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. Watson, who had an extremely successful collegiate career, had once been thought to be the clear number one quarterback in this class. However, after a season riddled with turnovers, he was no longer the darling of the draft community. There were several that believed that the Texans could have held steady at pick 25 and Watson would have still been on the board. Either way, Houston felt like they were one piece away from being in the conversation as Super Bowl contenders and had to make the move. Then they were able to select Zach Cunningham, a do-everything linebacker, in the second and pick up D’Onta Foreman, who is a perfect compliment to Lamar Miller, in the third. Finally, they finished off their draft by selecting Julie’n Davenport, Carlos Watkins, Treston Decoud, and Kyle Fuller.
Round 1, Pick 12 – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. B-
Round 2, Pick 57 – Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt. A-
Round 3, Pick 89 – D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas. B+
Round 4, Pick 142 – Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson. B
Round 5, Pick 169 – Treston Decoud, CB, Oregon State. C+
Round 7, Pick 243 – Kyle Fuller, C, Baylor. B
Overall I think the Texans had a solid draft and if Watson can step in and give the offense the boost it needs they could be looking at a deep playoff run.
New GM Chris Ballard entered his first draft with the luxury of having an elite QB in Andrew Luck. The problem is that the Colts’ defense was one of the worst in the league last year. At pick 15, the Colts selected Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State. Even though Hooker was the best Free Safety in this class, you have to wonder if he will be the difference maker this defense so desperately needed. But I can’t fault them from grabbing a stud. Then at pick 46, they were able to snag Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida. Wilson, who was ranked by some analyst as CB1, should be able to step in day one as the starter opposite Vontae Davis. The Colts continued to address the defense by selecting Tarell Basham, OLB, Ohio in the third. Basham is a talented pass rusher who will have to make the transition from DE to OLB. In the 4th the Colts selected Zach Banner, OT, USC. Everyone knows the Colts’ offensive line has been a mess I wouldn’t be surprised if Banner sees the field early. With their second 4th round pick, the Colts took Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida. Mack, a favorite of draft twitter, is an excellent pass catcher that can give Gore a break. They finished off their draft by taking Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State, Nate Hairston, CB, Temple, and Anthony Walker Jr., ILB, Northwestern.
Round 1, Pick 15 – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State. A+
Round 2, Pick 46 – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida. A+
Round 3, Pick 80 – Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio. B
Round 4, Pick 137 – Zach Banner, OT, USC. C+
Round 4, Pick 143 – Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida. B+
Round 4, Pick 144 – Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State. C+
Round 5, Pick 158 – Nate Hairston, CB, Temple. B
Round 5, Pick 161 – Anthony Walker Jr., ILB, Northwestern. B-
Overall the Colts had a great draft, and if the defense can step up even a little, the offense can carry this team to a championship.
The Jaguars didn’t have an offense identify, at least not a good one, spent high draft capital in the hope of becoming a more power run team thus taking some of the pressure off Bortles. With the fourth pick in the first round, the team selected Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. I personally didn’t not like the pick because I am in the “don’t take an RB in the top 10” camp. Fournette could end up being a nice addition to this offense but the team does not have the type of offensive line Fournette will need to be successful early on. Jacksonville addressed this problem early in the second round by trading up for Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama. Robinson was projected to go in the late first, and some teams had him ranked as OT1. Then in the third, the Jags decided to add to their edge rushing depth by picking Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois. Smoot could play OLB or DE, but I think they reached on this pick when you account for some of the players left on the board. In the fourth, they were able to add some depth at the wide receiver position by drafting Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma. Westbrook was seen by a reach by many people because of his off-field attitude, but the kid can play. I think he is immediately WR4 for the team and could see him taking over the slot if the team decides to move on from Lee after this season. My favorite pick from their 2017 draft class was Blair Brown, LB, Ohio. Brown is such an underrated player and could see meaningful snaps at LB this year and could be in line for a starting spot next year once Posluszny retires. After drafting Ramsey last year and singing Bouye, the Jags still needed a CB to man the slot. In the seventh, they were able to grab Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota. Myrick is a tremendous athlete with great speed and should be able to play early and often. With their final pick, they picked Marquez Williams, FB, Miami (OH). This pick was necessary because Fournette will need a lead blocker to reach his maximum potential.
Round 1, Pick 4 – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. C+
Round 2, Pick 34 – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama. A-
Round 3, Pick 68 – Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois. D
Round 4, Pick 110 – Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma. B
Round 5, Pick 148 – Blair Brown, LB, Ohio. A
Round 7, Pick 222 – Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota. A
Round 7, Pick 240 – Marquez Williams, FB, Miami. C
Unless Bortles can drastically improve and cut down on the turnovers, this team has no chance of making the playoffs much less winning the Super Bowl. But if he does perform well and the offensive line play is much better the defense is going to be good enough to carry this team to at least a Wild Card slot.
The Titans were in great shape heading into the draft. Tennessee had built a solid core and was now needing to add weapons for Marcus Mariota to take the leap to Super Bowl contender. At pick five they were able to pick up one of my favorite players in the draft, Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. Davis is an immediate impact player, and I expect him to become Mariota’s go-to guy by mid season. With their second first round pick, the Titans selected Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC. The Titans’ secondary was atrocious last year, and Jackson should be able to step in day one starter. I’m not sure I would have picked Jackson over some of the over CBs available, but he is also an electric return guy and could be the primary kick and punt returner for the team. In round three the Titans added Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky. Tay Tay was another pre-draft favorite of mine and should be able to earn the starting slot WR role by preseason. With their second pick in the third, they drafted Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International. Smith is an excellent receiver and should be in line to succeed Walker as the future for the Titans while playing some in two TE sets. Trading up to pick 155 in the fifth the Titans were able to secure their second starting ILB to go alongside Avery Williamson by selecting Jayon Brown, OLB, UCLA. They closed out the draft by picking Corey Levin, G, Chattanooga, Josh Carraway, LB, TCU, Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova, and Khalfani Muhammad, RB, California.
Round 1, Pick 5 – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. A+
Round 1, Pick 18 – Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC. B-
Round 3, Pick 72 – Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky. A
Round 3, Pick 100 – Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International. B
Round 5, Pick 155 – Jayon Brown, OLB, UCLA. B+
Round 6, Pick 217 – Corey Levin, G, Chattanooga. C
Round 7, Pick 227 – Josh Carraway, LB, TCU. C
Round 7, Pick 236 – Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova. C
The Titans are a year removed from finishing with the worst record in the NFL, but after the additions of the past few drafts, they are looking like a team that can be in the playoffs year in and year out.