The AFC South came into existence in 2002 and has been owned by the Indianapolis Colts for the majority of that time. The Colts have been so good that they have won the division 9 times in that 13 year stretch.
The Tennessee Titans by contrast have claimed the division title just twice (2002-2008) while Houston has also claimed the title twice, (2011-12) leaving Jacksonville as the lone team to have never captured the division title.
Entering the 2015 season the Colts are again the odds on favorite to win the division, and only the Texans are given even a "punchers chance” of wresting the division away from Indy.
Why the Colts have been so dominant is as easy as saying Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
Those two quarterbacks have made the Colts what they are while the other three teams in the division have struggled to find their star signal caller.
The Jaguars and Titans seem to have found their guys in Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota, while Houston is pinning their hopes on the young and inexperienced, strong arm of Ryan Mallett.
Beyond the quarterbacks however, there are other players on each team’s rosters that will play important roles in the outcome of the division this season. But who are the top rising stars for each of the four divisions rivals?
Here are our four picks to make a name for themselves in the coming season.
Houston Texans- Jadaveon Clowney: It’s not a stretch to predict Clowney to become a star in Houston as he was the top pick just one year ago, but injuries cost him his rookie campaign. Playing opposite J.J. Watt and with Vince Wilfork, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing all in the front seven, Clowney should benefit from their presence and be able to take advantage of the likely one-on-one situations to become a force with his athletic ability.
This Texans defense is good enough to upend the Colts if their offense can do anything to help out.
Indianapolis Colts- Phillip Dorsett: The rookie wide receiver with speed to burn (4.29-4.27 forty) will make Luck and the Colts offense even more dangerous. At only 5’9” Dorsett is not the receiver that can leap over the top to make tough catches, but then the Colts added Andre Johnson to fill that role.
Let’s not forget T.Y. Hilton and the Colts hove three top level targets for Luck, though I think Dorsett becomes a star because of his speed and the ability to turn a short pass into a long gains as he will likely see a lot of single coverage because of the other receivers that NFL teams already fear. Luck to Dorsett is a combination that we will likely see a lot for year to come.
Jacksonville Jaguars- T.J. Yeldon: With all due respect to the Jags first round pick, Dante Fowler, Yeldon is the guy.
While Fowler is missing his rookie season with an unfortunate injury suffered during OTA’s, Yeldon will step to the spotlight as the feature back in the Jaguars offense to help take the pressure off the still developing second year quarterback Bortles. Yeldon has size, (6’1” 226) above average speed and soft hands to make him a threat in the passing game too. He will see the football a lot in 2015 in our opinion and could place his name near the top of the list for running backs in the division in the very near future.
Tennessee Titans- Angelo Blackson: What? Have you lost your mind? Those are probably just some of the comments that this one will get considering the Titans have Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham and Avery Williamson among others who could be emerging stars.
So why Blackson?
He is a massive guy (6’4” 318) with athletic ability to spare and incredible speed (4.99 forty) for someone of his size. He has drawn praise from coaches already and should only continue to grow as he learns the system and gets stronger in an NFL weight room.
Throw in the fact that Blackson was not overused in college so he should still have a lot of miles left in front of him, and it is not a stretch that he could become a force for a defense that needs them.
Mariota, DGB and Williamson are all potential stars in the making, with Williamson likely the most ready because quarterbacks sometimes struggle in their rookie seasons. Should Mariota struggle it could also limit Green-Beckham making it easier for Blackson to jump into the spotlight sooner.