Breaking down the AFC South

This is the third in a series about the NFL Draft, which will be held April 26 and 27.<br><br> <b>Today:</b> The AFC South

Houston: It's not often you see a second-year expansion team raided, but that's what has happened to the Texans this offseason. Linebacker Jeff Posey, the team's leading sack man last season, was grabbed up by Buffalo. Right tackle Ryan Young bolted for Dallas. Linebacker Keith Mitchell went to division rival Jacksonville. Safety Eric Brown, quarterback Mike Quinn, cornerback Jason Simmons, and defensive end Corey Sears re-signed, but they don't offset the losses. And the only major addition thus far has been offensive tackle Zach Weigert, who is expected to replace Young.

But the Texans are working with a program, not with a win-now attitude like Jacksonville or Carolina did, so patience in being preached. And with a bevy of draft picks this year, including the third-overall selection, the Texans should be able to pick up some help.

Running back is the biggest need, but there aren't any backs in this draft worthy of the No. 3 pick. The Texans may wait and take a running back with the third pick of the second round, with Lee Suggs, Musa Smith or Justin Fargas being possibilities.

In the first round, the Texans will likely be looking to add an impact player to help quarterback David Carr. Wide receivers Corey Bradford and Jabar Gaffney are OK, but the Texans would love for wideout Charles Rogers to drop to the third pick. Former Miami standout wide receiver Andre Johnson will also get consideration, but if Rogers is gone, Houston will be looking hard to deal out of the third pick. If they trade down, the Texans could go for an offensive tackle, with Jordan Gross or Kwame Harris at the top of that board. Remember, this is an offensive line that allowed 76 sacks last season and left tackle Tony Boselli can't be counted on.

Indianapolis: The Colts seem to be one of those teams that continuously spins its wheels. With quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James, and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, the Colts have three of the top players at their position in the league when healthy.

But that defense! The Colts signed safety Rich Coady from Tennessee and defensive tackle Montae Reagor from Denver. However, that's very little help for a defense that lost linebacker Mike Peterson, perhaps its best player. Center Jeff Saturday, defensive end Brad Scioli and defensive tackle Josh Williams were re-signed, but Tony Dungy still has a lot of work to do to make the Colts a contender. Starting corners David Macklin and Walt Harris are horrible, while a linebacker is sorely needed to replace Peterson's production. A big body up front would also help an undersized line. Picking at 24, the Colts likely won't have a shot at linebacker Boss Bailey, so that need will have to wait. Top corner prospects Terence Newman and Marcus Trufant will also be long gone. Dungy could go after a second-tier corner prospect such as Andre Woolfolk or Dennis Weathersby, but he's more likely to go for a big body up front as he tries to build the defense like he did in Tampa Bay.

William Joseph has been compared to fellow former Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp and would be a perfect fit for Dungy, but will likely be gone. So, Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams, Washington State's Rien Long, or Georgia's Jonathan Sullivan could be the pick here.

Jacksonville: Now that Der Fuerhur Tom Coughlin is gone, Jacksonville may become a free agent haven again. The weather is great and the city is located close to the beach. The Steelers may have gotten the Jags out of the division just in time. Linebackers Mike Peterson and Keith Mitchell were added, as was end Hugh Douglas, in hopes of bolstering the defense. Wide receivers Patrick Johnson and Bobby Shaw left but Donald Hayes was grabbed off the scrap heap, so that should be a wash.

With the addition of Douglas, the Jaguars filled one big need - that of a pass-rushing defensive end. Peterson and Mitchell should bolster the linebacking corps.

Jimmy Smith isn't getting any younger and some scouts said he had lost a step last season and was no longer a special player. With the eighth-overall pick in the draft, the Jags won't have a shot at Charles Rogers, but may be able to luck into Andre Johnson. If not, right cornerback Jason Craft doesn't excite anyone, so Marcus Trufant is a possibility.

Tennessee: Because of the salary cap, the Titans have been unable to do much in free agency other than watch defensive lineman John Thornton, safety Rich Coady, and wide receiver Kevin Dyson go elsewhere. Guard Zach Pillar, who played very well against the Steelers last season, re-signed, keeping the Titans from having to scramble to fill that void. Picking 28th, the Titans will have to make a decision to fill their biggest needs: wide receiver, running back, and defensive tackle. Eddie George is no longer a special running back, so Larry Johnson or Lee Suggs are possibilities.

If the Titans go for a wideout to compliment Derrick Mason, then Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson, or Kelley Washington could be the pick.

And if they decide to go for a defensive tackle to pair with second-year man Albert Haynesworth, it could be Jonathan Sullivan, Rien Long, or Ty Warren.

There are options aplenty at 28.

Dale Lolley
SteelCitySports.com


Steel City Insider Top Stories