GRADING THE DRAFT: AFC SOUTH

 

Now that the dust is settling and the "priority" is being take out of priority free agents, I want to reflect back on each teams' draft class and share initial thoughts. The number in the parentheses next to the player names is where they were selected vs. where they were on my final big board; a positive number means value, negative number means reach. I added the total numbers up for a total grade for each team, and it means absolutely nothing besides letting me know how I off I was in my evaluation for each players, so take it for what it's worth.

 

While this article focuses on the AFC South, you can click on a different division below.

 

AFC West | AFC South | AFC North | AFC East || NFC West | NFC South | NFC North | NFC East

 

HOUSTON TEXANS - A- (-716)

S Justin Reid (+24)

OT Martinas Rankin (+12)

TE Jordan Akins (-45)

WR Keke Coutee (-13)

DE/LB Duke Ejiofor (+102)

TE Jordan Thomas (-83)

LB Peter Kalambayi (-184)

CB Jermaine Kelly (-529)

 

Notable UDFAs: RB Terry Swanson, RB Lavon Coleman, WR Jester Weah, OT Jaryd Jones-Smith, OG KJ Malone, DT Kingsley Opara, LB Davin Bellamy

 

There's definitely a new sheriff in town making the calls in Houston, and Brian Gaine has already hit the ground running with his first draft. Despite not having a first or second rounder, Justin Reid was a player I had mocked to the Steelers in the first round, and Reid should pair up wit Tyrann Mathieu to form a very strong safety duo, which has been a major weakness for the Texans. Their next selection of Martinas Rankin was another tremendous need-meets-value pick and should have a pretty easy path to win either the left tackle or left guard spot depending on how they view Jeff Allen. The Jordan Akins selection was my least favorite as I think third round is a bit of a reach for the 26-year old rookie, but he does offer a vertical element to the tight end group that can threaten the seams. They took another athletic tight end in the 6th round in Jordan Thomas, so it's clear they are trying to re-work the makeup of that TE room. Keke Coutee is going to be a star slot receiver in this league and should win a return specialist job over Tyler Ervin as well. Peter Kalambayi and Duke Ejiofor, who I really liked, will give some much needed depth behind Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney and provide insurance in case of injury. The Texans also cleaned up in free agency, and Jaryd Jones-Smith, KJ Malone, and Davin Bellamy should challenge for a final roster spot. Overall, when you factor in Deshaun Watson as their first/second round pick in this class, it's a slam dunk, despite the large negative number grade that is a result mostly from large negatives in their last two picks.

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - B+ (-172)

DT Taven Bryan (-13)

WR DJ Chark (+10)

SS Ronnie Harrison (+46)

OT Will Richardson (-77)

QB Tanner Lee (-160)

LB Leon Jacobs (+22)

P Logan Cooke (NR)

 

Notable UDFAs: WR Allen Lazard, OT KC McDermott, OG Tony Adams, DE Darius Jackson, CB Quenton Meeks, CB Tre Herndon, CB Dee Delaney

 

I was not a huge fan of the Jaguars, a smash-mouth ground-and-pound squad, passing on bourbon barrel-chested bad boy Will Hernandez with AJ Cann in the final year of his deal. Taven Bryan has a ton of potential and an ethereal first step that can't be taught, but unless he turns into a mayo Fletcher Cox (kudos to @HankJoness), this pick will disappoint me. Day two, however, was incredible. DJ Chark has the potential to become the next LSU WR superstar in this league and his ferocity as a run blocker and ability to pull guys out of the box with his 4.34 speed makes him a perfect pick for the Jags. Speaking of perfect, snatching Ronnie Harrison (our #47 rated player) to be the strong safety in waiting behind Barry Church is an awesome value pick. Will Richardson gets to hone his craft for one year until Jermey Parnell's contract expires after this season and will step in and dominate at right tackle. With their next pick, things got weird and everyone Mr. Krabs memed when the name "Tanner Lee" was followed by the word "Quarterback." Lee was noticeably the worst QB that I evaluated at the Senior Bowl and it blows my mind that they went Lee with Kurt Benkert on the board. It's rare that a roster as strong as Jacksonville's could draft two potential starters in the 7th round, but physical freak show Leon Jacobs will have a legitimate camp battle with Blair Brown for the Sam spot and Bradley Nortman was already released to make way for the Logan Cooke era. All that being said, I would have rated the haul as a B-. That is, until free agency started and the Jags absolutely cleaned up with players like Allen Lazard (#73 prospect) and Quenton Meeks (#63 prospect), both of whom should make the final 53 and would have added a total of +378 in value vs selected grade to add to the -172. KC McDermott and Tony Adams, who played with Will Richardson in college, also stand a good shot to make the squad or at least earn a practice squad spot. The UDFA class flips this from a B- to a B+.

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - D (-238)

OG Quenton Nelson (+4)

LB Darius Leonard (-65)

OG Braden Smith (-22)

DE Kemoko Turay (-48)

DE Tyquan Lewis (-24)

RB Nyheim Hines (+14)

WR Daurice Fountain (+10)

RB Jordan Wilkins (-162)

WR Deon Cain (+55)

LB Matthew Adams (NR)

LB Zaire Franklin (NR)

 

Notable UDFAs: WR Steve Ishmael, LB Skai Moore, CB Henre' Toliver

 

The Colts got off to a great start picking Nelson to protect their biggest financial and franchise asset in Andrew Luck, and it was the right pick. Then things took a nose dive by selecting Darius Leonard and another guard ahead of guys like Courtland Sutton, Harold Landry, and Josh Jackson, all much better players at positions of need. I really like Kemoko Turay as a player but don't think he's a great scheme fit with his hand in the ground in the team's new 4-3 defense abd the 52nd overall pick was a little rich for my blood. The Colts had a small resurgence from rounds 4-6, especially if Frank Reich can get creative with Nyheim Hines and use him as an offensive weapon instead of a pure running back. Daurice Fountain was a nice player on film, but it's a tough ask for a guy from a small school to come in and have to start from day one due to their lack of depth at WR. Jordan Wilkins is a very underrated prospect and Deon Cain was a nice value pick and should have a heavy role early in their WR rotation. I didn't love either round 7 pick and am shocked they passed on a CB like local product Rashard Fant on the board with such weak depth at the position. Aside from Skai Moore, the Colts UDFA class is pedestrian and comes across as players not wanting to play there after the jilting of JT Barrett to New Orleans after accepting an invite from the Colts. Overall, the draft was over-saturated in certain position groups and their reaching with their two early second round picks will hurt them.

 

TENNESSEE TITANS - B (+137)

LB Rashaan Evans (+1)

LB Harold Landry (+24)

CB Dane Cruikshank (+39)

QB Luke Falk (+73)

 

Notable UDFAs: RB Akrum Wadley, WR Deontay Burnett, TE Ethan Wolff, DT Mike Ramsay, LB Nick Deluca, FS Damon Webb, FS Joshua Kalu

 

The Titans came away from the draft with only four picks, but it was a decent haul. Mike Vrabel is going to make Rashaan Evans a star in this defense and Harold Landry should take a lot of snaps away from Derrick Morgan opposite of Brian Orakpo this season. CB Dane Cruikshank joins a position group that was pretty strong to begin with behind Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson, and Logan Ryan. Finally, taking the Tom Brady disciple Luke Falk at 199 is poetry in motion and the makings for a movie script, but Falk is such a different QB than incumbent Marcus Mariota that they would really have to adjust their entire offense in the event Falk ever had to play, so I'm not a fan of the pick. Despite losing some picks to trading up, they picked up some intriguing players in free agency, namely Akrum Wadley, Deontay Burnett, and Damon Webb. I expect all three of them to make the final roster, and DT Mike Ramsay is one of "my guys" who also stands a good chance.

 

 

 

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