NFL DRAFT REVIEW: AFC SOUTH
By Simon Carroll
The NFL Draft is in the books. And whilst it is far too early to assign grades to these draft classes we can look at how they have affected team’s rosters ahead of the upcoming season.
We continue this series with a look at the AFC South:
|4||126||Charlie Heck||OT||North Carolina|
|4||141||John Reid||CB||Penn State|
|5||171||Isaiah Coulter||WR||Rhode Island|
I think it’s fair to say that Texans fans are just a little confused with the direction this team has taken this offseason. History has shown that granting head coaches front office powers is rarely a successful move, and Bill O’Brien has had a rather auspicious start as general manager in Houston. Trading two first rounders to Miami for Laremy Tunsil, whom he has subsequently made the highest paid tackle in the NFL, left them without a day one pick this year or the next. And only receiving a second rounder for star receiver D’Andre Hopkins, which they subsequently coughed up for a downgrade in Brandin Cooks, looks like poor business to say the least.
Similar business naivety saw O’Brien trade up ten spots for Charlie Heck in the 4th round, costing them two more day three picks when already lacking draft capital. Heck is an ascending tackle that most analysts had pegged as a 6th rounder.
The talent acquired in the draft provided Texans fans some relief. Ross Blacklock could well have been a first round selection an immediately replaces DJ Reader. Jonathan Greenard is a non-stop brute with excellent length reminiscent of Robert Quinn. John Reid may have come off the board a round early but looks a prototypical NFL slot corner. And Isaiah Coulter, like many receivers in this draft class, has high upside as a late round selection. A fair if not modest haul, but it was never going to paper over the cracks in Houston.
|5||149||Danny Pinter||IOL||Ball State|
|6||193||Robert Windsor||IDL||Penn State|
|6||212||Dezmon Patmon||WR||Washington State|
Whilst maybe not as aggressive as some expected on draft weekend, The Colts found an array of talent at problem positions throughout rounds 2-7. With Philip Rivers coming in the early focus was always going to be to provide him with weapons, and they did just that. Michael Pittman has all the measurables you’d expect from a WR1 in the NFL, immediately upgrading this oft-injured receiving group. But adding Jonathan Taylor to the backfield seven picks later may be the best bit of business the Colts did – with a smooth but powerful running game in the mould of Adrian Peterson, Indy will be able to lean on the ground game and maximise Rivers’ effectiveness on play action.
The addition of Rivers tells us that Frank Reich is not sold on Jacoby Brissett, and to further vindicate that Chris Ballard took Jacob Eason in the 4th round. Eason is all arm and no touch right now, but has a high ceiling and who better to sit behind and learn from than one of the league’s best quarterbacks the last fifteen years?
The rest of the draft saw developmental selections for a team happy with the quality on their roster. A word on Julian Blackmon though – the versatile defensive back spent time at both corner and safety at Utah. Expect Matt Eberflus to move him around and create mismatches against smaller receivers.
|3||73||DaVon Hamilton||IDL||Ohio State|
|4||116||Ben Bartch||IOL||St. John’s|
|4||137||Josiah Scott||CB||Michigan State|
|6||189||Jake Luton||QB||Oregon State|
|6||206||Tyler Davis||TE||Georgia Tech|
For a team in total rebuild mode and a significant dearth of talent on this roster, it was imperative Dave Caldwell nailed this draft. And his job security may have just received a much-needed fillip with this draft class. Defense got a severe injection of talent, with potentially five starters taken in the first for rounds. Pairing K’Lavon Chaisson with last year’s impressive first rounder Josh Allen gives Jacksonville a fearsome pass-rushing tandem. And with Ramsey and Bouye both moving on in the last six months, getting a shutdown corner in Henderson was critical. Josiah Scott looks set to pick up slot/nickel duties in a new-look secondary.
The Jaguars are all-in on Gardner Minshew. Not only did they avoid taking any serious competition for him (Jake Luton is this year’s Minshew without the moustache – a late-round flier with considerable upside), but they gave him two new weapons to throw to. DJ Chark has developed into a top-end NFL receiver, but adding the physical, explosive Laviska Shenault and big bodied Collin Johnson gives their gunslinger options. Shenault is this year’s version of Deebo Samuel – expect to see manufactured touches all over the field and, if utilised correctly, big chunk plays for this offense.
|3||93||Darrynton Evans||RB||Appalachian State|
|5||174||Larrell Murchison||IDL||NC State|
After finding an identity in 2019 and literally running with it all the way to the AFC Championship Game, The Titans were very deliberate in this draft. They focused on replacing talent departed this offseason in the hope they can maintain their momentum and get one step further next season. The selection of Isaiah Wilson was in direct response to the loss of Jack Conklin in free agency. Wilson shot up draft boards late in the process and his prowess in the run game and familiarity on the right side makes him a perfect fit on this offensive line.
Tagging Derrick Henry pushes a problem for the Titans down the line, but they offered themselves some insurance by taking the explosive Darrynton Evans in the third round. Evans impressed coaches in the pre-draft process with his high football IQ, and should offer a nice change of pace to the juggernaut Henry. If Tannehill proves to be more than just a flash in the pan, this offense shouldn’t miss a beat.
Larrell Murchison was a steal in the 5th round and with Jeffery Simmons now an entrenched starter offers some depth on the d-line after trading Jurrell Casey to Denver. But grabbing Kristian Fulton at the bottom of the second round might have been the best bit of business Tennessee did all weekend. Thick, tough and competitive, Vrabel will love the physicality he brings to the position. He’s a true shutdown corner capable of playing any coverage who will be a real problem for AFC South offenses.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.