AFC South Draft Roundup

Last weekend's three-day, 255-selection NFL Draft was equally spectacular and exhausting both at the same time. It's truly unfair to give an actual "grade" on the selections being that none of the players have suited up yet for even a practice, much less a game. That said, we are going to give our educated speculation on how the four teams in the AFC South stacked up with their 32 selections.

Starting from worst to first in order of last year's record, we come to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars were slightly hamstrung as they were missing their second-round pick as they dealt it to New England a season ago for the rights to select cornerback Derek Cox. Jacksonville's first-round pick was a head-scratcher to many, as they selected California DT Tyson Alualu. Alualu is a player who looks better on film, a high-character guy, and can play two positions on the defensive line. Although many believe he's a reach at the tenth-overall selection (we are of that belief as well), he fills a position of need.

Jacksonville maintained the object of fixing one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL from a year ago by spending their third-round pick on Louisiana DT D'Anthony Smith, and a pair of fifth-round picks on Central Arkansas DE/OLB Larry Hart and Murray State DE Austin Lane. The team also dealt a fourth-round pick to Oakland for starting middle linebacker Kirk Morrison and a fifth-round pick. To round out the draft, the team grabbed a pair of speedy players who should excel on special teams in Deji Karim from Southern Illinois, and Scotty McGee from James Madison.

Sleeper potential: Central Arkansas DE/OLB Larry Hart- The Jaguars have been looking for a "designated pass rusher" for about five years now and they may have found that guy with Hart. He should have plenty of opportunities to cause havoc in the hybrid defense.

Final thoughts on the Jaguars draft: Jacksonville didn't appear to maximize value, especially early on with the pick of Tyson Alualu, but they managed to fill positions of need. It's disappointing that they ignored the quarterback position for a seventh consecutive season, but they should see an immediate improvement to the defense and now the pieces are in place to play a true hybrid or switch to a 3-4.

Now on to the third-place Tennessee Titans. Tennessee has always seemed to get a lot of bang for the buck in their drafts and that's why head coach Jeff Fisher has kept them competitive for as long as he has. This year was no exception as they struck with former Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan in round one who will likely be a replacement for Kyle Vanden Bosch who left for Detroit via free agency. The Titans, also without a second-round pick, grabbed a second-round talent in USC WR Damian Williams in round three. Williams will team up with 2009 first-round pick Kenny Britt to give Vince Young a nice young set of targets. The Titans then took undersized Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran in round three, and fortified their secondary with UCLA's Alterraun Verner and Utah's Robert Johnson with their next two selections. Tennessee then chose perhaps the player with the greatest character and intangibles in draft history (no, not Tebow) late in round six with former Florida State (and Oxford) safety Myron Rolle. Throw in a developmental quarterback prospect in FAU's Rusty Smith, Montana WR Marc Mariani, and Brown DT David Howard and you have a pretty complete draft.

Sleeper potential: UCLA CB Alterraun Verner- Verner was a highly rated corner and on film doesn't look all that much different from the guys that were selected two or three rounds ahead of him. Verner can compete right away for the starting job opposite Cortland Finnegan and at worst be a solid nickel.

Final thoughts on the Titans draft: The Titans will be graded well by most publications and news outlets due to the team filling team needs and filling them with players from big schools that most people have heard of. They took a very opposite approach to what Jacksonville did and it really remains to be seen which philosophy will be more successful. I believe the Titans did very well last weekend.

The next team on our list are the second-place Houston Texans. When looking at team needs, the Texans look pretty complete with the exception of a few areas. With their first-round selection they decided to choose Alabama CB Kareem Jackson. It was speculated widely that Houston would take a corner as they lost Dunta Robinson in free agency to the Atlanta Falcons, but Jackson wasn't the top corner remaining on my board, as I had both Kyle Wilson and Devin McCourty each rated higher. Houston traded back and then up a few spots in round two to grab former Auburn RB Ben Tate. Tate should pair up nicely with 2008 rookie sensation Steve Slaton to give the Texans a more balanced offense. Houston spent their next two picks on defense with undersized Arizona DT Earl Mitchell and Miami LB Darryl Sharpton (nephew of Reverend Al). The Texans then went back to offense with productive Wisconsin TE Garrett Graham, a move which many speculate will allow the team to part ways with another former Wisconsin TE in Owen Daniels. The Texans then doubled up on depth with Northwestern corner Sherrick McManis, and Colorado State guard Shelly Smith. Houston then spent a pick on special teams with diminutive LSU burner Trindon Holliday. The Texans rounded out their draft by selecting Pittsburgh tight end Dorin Dickerson.

Sleeper potential: Wisconsin TE Garrett Graham- The Texans believe that it will be impossible to sign Pro Bowler Owen Daniels long-term and with Daniels torn ACL that he suffered, they grab his Wisconsin protege in Garrett Graham. If Graham didn't suffer a broken leg near the end of his junior season, he likely would have been rated much higher.

Final thoughts on the Texans draft: Houston filled positions of need, but I'm not sure they took the best players. Kareem Jackson wasn't the best defensive back on his own team, and he ended up being the second corner taken in the draft. Ben Tate looks the part, but his stat sheet in college was a little light. I love the picks of Graham and Dickerson, but the team may need to go with five tight end sets to accommodate all the players that were selected over the past two years at the position. This draft has major boom or bust potential for Houston, who believes that they are on the verge of knocking down the door of the playoffs.

Finally, we come to the AFC Champion Indianapolis Colts. As you would expect, the Colts don't have many team needs and to get a better gauge on their draft we asked Colt Power.com columnist Brad Keller for help. Here's what he had to say--

The Colts knew they had a solid team heading into the 2010 NFL draft, having represented the AFC in the Super Bowl, so they drafted primarily to add depth, with some need selections filtered in. The first round saw them select defensive end Jerry Hughes of TCU, who is possibly the best pure pass rusher in this year's class. He will contribute immediately filling the void of situational pass rusher left behind by Raheem Brock's departure and will be groomed to take over for Robert Mathis or Dwight Freeney when they are ready to hang up their cleats. Another heir apparent was taken in the second round in inside linebacker Patrick Angerer. Defensive captain Gary Brackett can't play forever and Angerer will provide valuable depth in addition to assistance in coverage units until he is ready to take over for Brackett. The Colts are hoping that Angerer will have the same type of impact as Bob Sanders, another Iowa defender chosen in the second round by the team. Cornerback Kevin Thomas of USC represented the last of the possible major contributors in the third round. He will help the team in man coverage situations and has excellent closing speed and instincts, which will help him in the Cover 2 defense.

Guard Jacques McClendon of Tennessee was a depth selection in the fourth round, though Indianapolis has a long history of taking late round interior linemen and turning them into quality starters. Tight end Brody Eldridge of Oklahoma (fifth round) and linebacker Kavell Conner of Clemson (seventh round) should add depth as well. Conner should step in right away on special teams and Eldridge is known more for his blocking than his receiving, so he will push Gijon Robinson for playing time. Filling out the seventh round, defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews of Cincinnati could find his way into the defensive line rotation and cornerback Ray Fisher of Indiana is more of a return specialist.

Sleeper Potential: Indiana CB Ray Fisher- Fisher has the most sleeper potential, as he faces the least competition for a major role on the team. The Colts are weak in the return game, so if Fisher can come in and show his ability in that area, he could lock down the job by the time training camp wraps up.

Final thoughts on the Colts draft: The Colts didn't have many areas of need, but they did fail to grab an offensive tackle which could come back to bite them. They received good value with their top three selections, and it's likely that each will see significant playing time.

Ranking the drafts in the division in terms of talent, value and need we have the Titans first, followed by Houston, and Jacksonville and Indy tied for third.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, and also the co-host of CB Sports Radio on ESPN 1420 in St. Augustine, FL. You can contact him at charlie@jagnation.com or follow him on twitter @nflcharlie


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