We have one week left to go. One week of hype, mis-direction and mock drafts before the real thing kicks off in Nashville, Tennessee on 25th April. For my last pre-draft article I wanted to concentrate on some final thoughts for each AFC South side and highlight the ‘must’ priorities for each side across those all important first three rounds. For this I’m going to use a couple of sources of information – Daniel Jeremiah’s latest top 50 prospects (4.0) and the DTP Draftscout guide from Daniel Parlegreco. We’ll take the teams in order of first selection. I’m also going to use the DraftNetwork Mock Draft modeller, which should provide some interesting variation and unpredictability!
Jacksonville Jaguars (No.7, 38, 69, 98)
Must: Get some pieces around Nick Foles so he can prosper
Selections: TJ Hockenson TE, Greg Little OT, Daniel Wise DT, Terry McLaurin WR
The Jags need to give Foles some targets and they need to protect him – let’s look at a way they achieve that. In this modeller Jawaan Taylor was gone at 6 to the Giants (something I actually doubt as feel the G-Men will look to the defence at 6). With that the case I’m calling TJ Hockenson for the Jags in round 1. If you have seen previous articles you’ll know I am hot on Hockenson. Jeremiah has him at number 5 in the top 50 prospects and he is 2nd to Noah Fant in the DTP ratings. He has it all – blocking ability in the run game, physical, good athlete, good hands. He can be there for Nick Foles in all situations and develop into a key player on the Jags offense in the same way Gronk, Kittle, Ertz and Kelce have.
In round 2 we turn to protecting Foles and Greg Little is sat there waiting to be picked. Little can be slotted in to either tackle position with a physique ready for the NFL. Going into round 3 we make sure the Jags do not neglect the defence by selecting Daniel Wise. With plenty of experience in the College game he has experience and versatility to be slotted in just about anywhere on the D-line. To finish off round 3 the modeller gave the Jags the opportunity to sweep up Terry McLaurin from Ohio State, a receiver who can create great separation and run a variety of routes.
Tennessee Titans (No.19, 51, 82)
Must: Bide their time and see who falls into their lap
Selections: Christian Wilkins DT, Marquise Brown WR, Zach Allen EDGE
This might seem like a strange thing to suggest but in truth there is little else the Titans can do. They don’t have much in the way of draft capital to manoeuvre with. However, using this particular modeller the Titans come out of rounds 1-3 in pretty good shape. In round 1 with everyone jockeying for position to draft QBs and EDGE rushers the Titans snag Christian Wilkins at no 19. Result. Wilkins (ranked at 7 by Jeremiah) ticks all the boxes, great addition to the defense and, just as important, he is probably coveted by divisional rivals the Colts.
In round 2 we look to give some x-factor to the Titans defense (which is at present predictably reliant on the run rather than the pass). Let’s give Marcus Mariota a chance to impress and stretch the field. Step forward Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. I keep seeing the word explosive both from Jeremiah (ranks 16 in top 50) and DTP (3rd highest rated WR). Let’s get some separation and turn Hollywood loose! He will get free, all Mariota has to do is find him. This will make the Titans offense a little more unpredictable which will probably benefit Henry in the long run too.
In round 3 Zach Allen was available for the Titans. Again another great pick up with versatility to pick up any scheme he is thrown into. The DTP guide throws in phrases like “always around the football” “plays every snap” which are music to any Defensive Coordinators ears, especially in Tennessee!
Houston Texans (No. 23, 54, 55, 86)
Must: Help keep Deshaun Watson upright and find ball-hawks for the secondary (okay so I’m cheating here with two needs)
Selections: Jonah Williams OT, Joejuan Williams CB, David Montgomery RB, Marquise Blair S
In several previous articles I’ve highlighted the league high (62) number of times Deshaun Watson was sacked in 2018. This is something the Texans have to address and a first rounder here will be a big plus. The secondary also needs help but I think there is value for the Texans in their two second round picks for that need. In the modeller Jonah Williams was still there at 23 ready to be called. Jeremiah has him at 20 and projected as a starting right tackle where DTP have him ranked no.1 at offensive tackle. Highly talented technician.
The Texans have two consecutive picks in round 2 and here we take one recruit to each side of the ball. Joejuan Williams is available at 54 and with his size, intelligence and physicality he would be a great addition to the secondary. At 55 there is opportunity to add to the depth chart at running back. David Montgomery (ranked 43 by Jeremiah) demonstrated excellent production at Iowa State. Good skills after contact and the ability to be elusive. Would provide good competition (or chance to split carries) for Lamar Millar.
The Texans have an additional 3rd round pick and in the modeller this was utilised to seek a replacement for Tyrann Mathieu. The safety position is not deep in this year’s class but Marquise Blair could provide good value with his physicality and aggression (although this probably needs tempering in the big league).
Indianapolis Colts (No. 26, 34, 59, 89)
Must: Continue the “build through the draft” Chris Ballard mantra
Selections: Clelin Ferrell EDGE, Taylor Rapp S, Kelvin Harmon WR, Khalen Saunders DT
The Colts are sitting pretty going into the NFL Draft and they have the luxury of an additional 2nd round pick. This could be used to move up in round 1 but let’s leave everything where it is for this modeller. At 26 Clelin Ferrell was available and there is lots to like about him (ranked 22 by Jeremiah) – size, speed, strength and a variety of moves in the pass rush. There is also a need at the Safety position but I think the Colts will wait until the 2nd round and they are able to secure Taylor Rapp in this mock. As already mentioned the Safety class is not deep but Rapp is right up there ‘top of the shop’ – great qualities and experience both in the ‘box’ and at a high safety position.
Despite the free agency signing of Devin Funchess the Colts could still do with picking up a new target for Andrew Luck. At no.59 Kelvin Harmon was surprisingly still sat waiting. The DTP rankings put him at no.1 in WR prospects, described as “probably the most complete and most polished all-round receiver in this class”. That will do for me. For the 3rd round pick I’d expect Chris Ballard to continue to build in the trenches and Khalen Saunders is the pick – good athlete, reliable tackler and 4 years experience at Western Illinois.
That’s my take on the direction I think the sides in the AFC South will be heading in the early rounds of next week’s draft. The one caveat here is that I think both the Texans and Colts could make some moves using their extra 2nd round picks to potentially climb a few spots on the first night. Soon know how close or wide of the mark it is!
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