With rookie minicamps beginning, the NFL season is finally taking form. We are a mere 120 days away from the NFL season. Finally! To hold you over, all four AFC South managing editors come together in this roundtable discussion.
Meet The Participants
Ben Pfeifer: FPC Colts Managing Editor
Sam Gubner: FPC Texans Managing Editor
Dean Williams: FPC Titans Managing Editor
Adam Tayabali: FPC Jaguars Managing Editor
Question One: Which AFC South team had the best draft?
The Titans absolutely killed the draft. Behind Chicago and Denver, they won the draft in my eyes. Rashaan Evans was my LB3 and I think he’ll make an immediate impact. Harold Landry, a top 10 talent in my eyes, was the steal of the draft and will be a 15+ sack guy very soon. Dane Cruikshank is a solid project player. Luke Falk was another ridiculous steal. His ball placement is elite and I had him graded ahead of Josh Rosen personally. Houston and Indianapolis both had very solid drafts but Tennessee takes the cake.
I think the Titans had the best draft. Harold Landry in the second round was a steal, Rashaan Evans is going to be an immediate contributor, and Luke Falk in the sixth round provides depth in case of another injury to Mariota. Dante Cruikshank has good measurables and also provides depth at the safety position. But the major reason why I think the Titans had the best draft is because I expect Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry to make immediate returns for the Titans in 2018.
Indianapolis Colts. I think every team in the AFC South did a nice job matching team needs with quality players. The Colts had more gaps going into the draft than the other the three teams at offensive line, running back, and the defensive front seven. The Colts picked up people that can contribute, some like offensive guard Quenton Nelson, at a high level from day one.
The team with the best draft was the Indianapolis Colts. Although they will probably finish last in the division this season, they’ve brought in solid players to help compete in the future. Drafting guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith show that the management is finally committed to protecting Andrew Luck.
The Colts also spent three of their four second-round picks on Darius Leonard, Kemoko Turay, and Tyquan Lewis. All of whom can contribute right away to one of the worst defenses in the league.
Question Two: Which AFC South team had the worst draft?
Jacksonville’s draft went very poorly in my eyes. I do like Taven Bryan as a rotational piece but the fact that they passed on Lamar Jackson makes me so happy as a Colts fan. I am not a believer in Blake Bortles and Jackson with that defense and run game wouldn’t be fair. Ronnie Harrison is a great pick and will be a solid contributor. I despise the D.J. Chark pick; he is fast but doesn’t have receiver skills. There were better wideouts on the board.
I would say the Jaguars had the worst draft out of all the AFC South teams. I don’t see Ronnie Harrison, Will Richardson, Tanner Lee, Leon Jacobs, or Logan Cooke becoming contributors to the team. Although I liked their first two picks, Taven Bryan and D.J. Chark, I don’t think they did enough to help their team during the rest of the draft. The Texans, Colts, and Titans all were able to make better decisions in the later rounds than the Jags.
Worst draft: Houston Texans. Even the Texans, who I’ll rate last in the division had a decent draft. The main issue I have with the Texans draft was the lack of higher draft picks. That issue is due to the deal last year to get Deshaun Watson so I’m sure Houston fans aren’t complaining. Of their first three picks, I see Martinas Rankin and his bulldog tough “never give up a lane to the quarterback” mentality as the best value.
The Tennessee Titans had the worst draft out of all four AFC South teams, due to their lack of resources. With only had four picks, the Titans failed to add wide receiver help for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Still, they were able to address their defensive needs with linebacker Rashaan Evans and linemen Harold Landry.
Question Three: Which AFC South team had the best overall offseason?
All four AFC South teams had very good offseasons but Tennessee’s was the best. Along with the best draft in the South, their free agency period was as good as it gets in the division. They landed Dion Lewis, and excellent spell back forming a deadly thunder-lightning combo with Derrick Henry. Malcolm Butler sat in the Super Bowl but he has shown that he can be a top corner in the NFL. Combine him with Logan Ryan and Kevin Byard and now you have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. They made a few more low profile signings which bolstered the trenches.
Won the offseason: Tennessee Titans. The Titans opened the checkbook and addressed the franchises weakness by signing Malcolm Butler. The secondary, which improved last season could be the strength of the defensive group. The signing of Will Compton and drafting of Rashaan Evans upgraded the linebacking core that struggled in coverage last year. In Dion Lewis, the Titans get a proven running back that rushed for nearly 900 yards, caught 32 out of 36 targets and found the end zone nine times last season. There are not many holes left in Nashville.
The Houston Texans had the best offseason by far. Adding safety Tyrann Mathieu and stealing Aaron Colvin from the Jaguars bolstered the secondary. The Texans also signed guards Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete. Both veterans can protect quarterback Deshaun Watson, who’s coming off a season-ending ACL injury.
Speaking of Watson, the best part of the Texans offseason might just be that both he and J.J. Watt are getting healthy.
Question Four: Which team will come out of the AFC South this season?
I believe that the Tennessee Titans will surprise many and take the AFC South this season, finishing 12-4. Mariota has a reliable running game, offensive line, and young receivers, giving this offense a ton of potential. Their defense after this draft and free agency period could easily be the best in the NFL across the board. The Houston Texans will also finish 12-4 but lose the tiebreaker to the Texans. If they can stay healthy, Houston has a top defense in the NFL especially considering the additions of Tyrann Mathieu and Aaron Colvin. And don’t forget what DeShaun Watson did last season.
The Jaguars will finish 11-5 and make the playoffs, making the AFC South have three playoff teams like the NFC South last season. Their defense is still elite and their running game will be one of the best in the NFL behind Leonard Fournette and Andrew Norwell. In the end, I am still not a believer in Blake Bortles and that receiving corps. The Colts’ season is fully contingent on the health of Andrew Luck. If the superstar quarterback is fully healthy, the Colts could maybe sneak into the playoffs. But, there is a high chance this is not the case. Although the Colts’ roster is much improved, their roster top to bottom is the worst in the division. They finish 5-11.
I think the AFC South will be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. It boasts three legitimate playoff contenders and if Andrew Luck is healthy in Indianapolis then anything can happen. I think the division will be decided in week 17 when the Colts visit the Titans and Texans host the Jaguars.