Draft rumors are swirling as teams try to misdirect who they intend to select early in the first round. Throw in the fact that there are conceivably four quarterbacks to be taken in the first seven picks, teams are throwing every rumor out there to get other teams off their scent. Normally after a season like the Texans had in 2017 (4-12), they would too be in the midst of these trade talks. However, after trading their first-round pick to the Browns to acquire Deshaun Watson in last year’s draft, the Texans are out of such talks. Fortunately for the Texans, the earliest a division opponent will be selecting in this year’s draft are the Colts at eight.
The Colts are reportedly potential sellers of the eighth pick as they attempt to restock their roster to surround Andrew Luck with new talent. The Titans have the 25th pick after a 9-7 season. Marcus Mariota willed this team to the playoffs thanks to an easy schedule, but additions such as Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, and Xavier Su’a-Filo, and resigning Josh Kline will improve a developing roster. For the Jaguars, their biggest offseason addition was signing Andrew Norwell, a first-team All-Pro guard, to add to an already aggressive offensive line. After one of the most impressive seasons in franchise history, the Jags went all the way to the AFC Championship game. Their first pick in the 2018 Draft will be the 29th selection.
All these teams will be looking to add talent as well as fill holes on their roster. Here are the AFC South team’s biggest holes entering the draft.
Needs: OT, TE, CB, S, OLB
Number of Picks: 8
Ideal first pick: Tyrell Crosby, OT
The Texans are in the market for depth and contributors this draft season. Without a first or second round pick, the Texans are praying that a tackle drops into their laps. If they find someone they can’t live without, I don’t think they will hesitate to package several picks to move up into the second round. With the loss of C.J. Fiedorowicz, tight end skyrockets up the needs list as Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson are the only other serviceable tight ends on the roster. The Texans’ front seven is stout, but they are missing an OLB to finish out the linebacker core. Depending on where the Texans play Jadeveon Clowney, or if they are in a nickel package, this need is not as urgent as some of the others. The Texans spent most of the offseason courting secondary players to join the team. The additions of Aaron Colvin and Tryann Mathieu help cover up underlying problems of depth and age.
Needs: OT, OG, DE, RB, LB
Number of Picks: 9
Ideal first pick: Quenton Nelson, OG
The Colts’ roster is hemorrhaging talent. They focused on drafting WRs and surrounded Luck with an arsenal has left the rest of the team without much depth. Their move out of the third pick in the draft indicated that they are content with casting their lot with Andrew Luck. So instead of letting go of Luck and his injuries for a younger prospect, the Colts are seeking to use the draft as a injection of talent. Ryan Kelly and Anthony Castanzo are the only two offensive lineman worth their salt. Even so, the Colts allowed a league-high 56 sacks last season. As well, the Colts are switching to a 4-3 defense this season and lack the front seven talent to effectively make the switch. Adding players to fit the new system will be crucial for the transition to be successful. If the season started right now, Marlon Mack would be the starting RB... that does not incite fear considering the other RBs in the division. It would be in their best interest if the Colts start with selecting Nelson and begin protecting Luck.
Needs: WR, OT, S, LB
Number of picks: 7
Ideal first pick: Christian Kirk, WR
The Texans not getting Andrew Norwell frustrated me, but when he landed with the Jaguars I was irate. Their offensive line was not great, but it sufficed with Leonard Fournette busting through anything in his path. The Jags’ WR combo of Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief will not suffice if the Jags want to build off of an amazing run last season. Christian Kirk would add versatility and consistency to their WR core. Their offensive line, even with the additions, still could use a LT for the future. Their roster depth can allow them to take a pick in the second round as well as take a risk on a prospect later in the draft. Losing Aaron Colvin to the Texans opens up a hole in their secondary, which I can see being quickly filled with a mid round pick in a nickel safety roll. The only change to the front seven last year that earned the name “Sacksonville” was the retirement of Paul Posluszny. Posluszny was the leader and rare bright spot on the Jags defense throughout its lowest moments. Finding someone to be Telvin Smith’s running mate should be a high priority as well.
Needs: DE, OG, OLB, DL, WR
Number of picks: 6
Ideal first pick: Da’Shawn Hand,
For what its worth, the Titans won a playoff game and beat some good teams along the way. The adoption of a hard-nosed style of play on both sides of the ball was a key contributor to that. The Titans have finally strung together some wins, they will get off the league’s doormat and will look to sustain themselves as a playoff team. Their pass rush was atrocious last season. Their front seven needs a major overhaul to begin to put pressure on the developing QBs in the division. Da’Shawn Hand had a productive career at Alabama but the depth there never allowed him to take full control of the position. Their offensive line is patchwork, and starting with a new OG would be helpful. With only 6 picks in this draft, the Titans have to be effective in their decisions if they want to continue playing in the playoffs. OLB is an issue and also contributes to their pass rush issues. Brian Orakpo is aging and they need someone to replace him. As well, even after drafting Corey Davis last year in the first round, they still struggle to have a competent receiving core.