by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
Below is a quick overview of the each team’s draft in the AFC South with a focus on what they really tried to do with this class. Also noted is their best value pick and top undrafted free agent signing. Value is based on where they were selected and where I had them graded.
1 (1) – JaDeveon Clowney – DE/South Carolina
2 (33) – Xavier Su’a-Filo – G/UCLA
3 (65) – CJ Fiedorowicz – TE/Iowa
3 (83) – Louis Nix III – DT/Notre Dame
4 (135) – Tom Savage – QB/Pittsburgh
6 (177) – Jeoffrey Pagan – DE/Alabama
6 (181) – Alfred Blue – RB/LSU
6 (211) – Jay Prosch – FB/Auburn
7 (216) – Andre Hal – CB/Vanderbilt
7 (256) – Lonnie Ballentine – S/Memphis
There aren’t many teams that end up with the #1 overall selection already having the talent and potential that Houston did. Coincidentally we saw this happen in 2013 with Kansas City, and look what happened there. Houston needed to strengthen up at the point of attack on both sides of the ball as well as find a signal caller for Bill O’Brien to mold in a potential starter down the road. They really like Savage, which presented the opportunity for them to build up other areas of the team without sacrificing value. Besides Savage, one could make the argument 6 of their first 7 picks are going to help this team win the battles in the trenches. When a team has enough talent at the skill positions, that is often the piece that brings everything together on a weekly basis.
Top Value Pick: Louis Nix III – DT/Notre Dame (2nd round grade)
The medical reports on his knee likely bumped Nix down by a round or two, but at this point in the draft this was an essential pick. Houston really needs a big body inside to control the A gaps and take the attention off linebackers and ends. Nix is one of the best when it comes to those roles. I think he will make a Vince Wilfork-type impact on this unit.
Top UDFA: Marcus Williams – CB/North Dakota State
Williams is an accomplished player with numerous All-American honors. I like what I saw out of him at the East-West Shrine week. His physical style and quick anticipation are going to be displayed in a scheme that demands a lot out of the CBs. Williams enters a situation where this a lot of instability in the defensive backfield and you could make the case he is as talented as any of their young backups.
1 (3) – Blake Bortles – QB/Central Florida
2 (39) – Marqise Lee – WR/USC
2 (61) – Allen Robinson – WR/Penn State
3 (93) – Brandon Linder – G/Miami
4 (114) – Aaron Colvin – CB/Oklahoma
5 (144) – Telvin Smith – LB/Florida State
5 (159) – Chris Smith – DE/Arkansas
6 (205) – Luke Bowanko – C/Virginia
7 (222) – Storm Johnson – RB/Central Florida
If anyone told you they knew what the Jaguars were doing with that #3 overall pick, they lied. Jacksonville remained very tight-lipped throughout the pre-draft process and came out of the weekend with a new franchise QB and an upgrade in offensive skill talent. With their first four selections spent on the offense side of the ball, it’s obvious we are going to see this franchise put more points on the board in 2014. They were patient at WR and took advantage of a strong, deep class with plenty of NFL-ready talent.
Top Value Pick: Storm Johnson – RB/Central Florida (4th round grade)
Bortles’ teammate was still available at the end of the draft and I don’t think he could have asked for a better spot to land. While the value of the RB position seems to be diminishing, Jacksonville is still a team that will try to control the clock and run the ball 25+ times per game. I liked what I saw out of Johnson what he found a crease to run through. He shows quick feet and change of direction ability when moving with speed and he is a tough guy to bring down in the open field. There isn’t a lot of talent at the RB position here, so I think he could make the impact earlier than your typical 7th round pick.
Top UDFA: Marcel Jensen – TE/Fresno State (4th round grade)
Jacksonville took advantage of another league tendency here; one that is looking past the bigger tight ends that may not be the most agile or explosive, but can still move well in space and catch the ball. Jensen is huge (6’6/260 with 35 inch arms) but played in a wide open, spread attack at Fresno State. His movement and ball skills caught my eyes a few times. There is some hidden talent here and when an offense is trying to find matchups to exploit, they want a guy like Jensen. The TE depth chart in Jacksonville has space for Jensen and I think he makes this team pretty easily.
1 (11) – Taylor Lewan – OT/Michigan
2 (54) – Bishop Sankey – RB/Washington
4 (112) – Daquan Jones – DT/Penn State
4 (122) – Marqueston Huff – DB/Wyoming
5 (151) – Avery Williamson – LB/Kentucky
6 (178) – Zach Mettenberger – QB/LSU
The Titans made the first major surprise pick at #11 overall when they took Lewan. Their offensive line was already a strong unit but they opted to stick to their board, ignoring some other roster deficiencies. I don’t think it was either right or wrong per say, but it was an interesting move to say the least. All of their picks, minus Mettenberger, have a good shot at making an early contribution. There was a nice balance of offense/defense, lines/skill prospects brought in.
Top Value Pick: Daquan Jones (2nd round grade)
I saw Jones early on in 2013 and his ability to consistently hold his ground and deliver violent jolts to the blocker really stood out to me. Jones is a guy that can use his lower body strength and heavy hands to, at the very least, control the engagement against one or two blockers. He is more than just a run defender though. He can knife through the line and make plays with quick reaction, balance, and short area explosion. In what I expect to be an amoeba defensive front, a versatile defensive tackle like Jones can thrive.
Top UDFA: Gabe Ikard C/Oklahoma (4th round grade)
Ikard might be one of the best athletes at center in the league right away when it comes to quickness and agility. He can get out of his stance fast and reach the outside gaps in a blink. Centers don’t need to be the most powerful guys out there, they simply need to have a certain level of football intelligence and be able to move their laterally with ease. Ikard grades out very well in both areas and I think he can be a contributor down the road once he can handle the physical nature of the NFL.
2 (59) – Jack Mewhort – OT/Ohio State
3 (90) – Donte Moncrief – WR/Ole Miss
5 (166) – Jonathan Newsome – DE/Ball State
6 (203) – Andrew Jackson – LB – Western Kentucky
7 (232) – Ulrick John – G – Georgia State
The Colts were fighting an uphill battle from the start, having traded their 1st round pick last season for Trent Richardson. While the result of that trade hasn’t looked promising yet, they had to move on and try to bring in guys to help their 2014 squad. They made two separate efforts to upgrade the quality and depth of the offensive line and also brought in a bigger receiver to help bring Luck to that next level. The positions they went after were fine, but the overall talent and pro potential of these guys isn’t high. I really question if the Colts made their team better through this draft at all.
Top Value Pick: Andrew Jackson (6th round grade)
Jackson is as physical as it gets when he meets the ball carrier and at 260 pounds, he can be a hard guy to move. Indianapolis struggles against the run last year because they failed to consistently show an identity on defense. They lacked a physical presence inside at LB and DT. Jackson could be the guy within a 3-4 scheme that makes a quick difference when teams try to ram the ball down their throats.
Top UDFA: Zack Kerr – NT/Delaware (6th round grade)
Speaking of the effort to upgrade their porous run defense, Indy failed to make an impact pick at the most vital position of the 3-4 scheme, nose tackle. Their current in-house options are not going to get the job done and even if they did improve, Kerr will present the needed depth. Kerr is one of the very few undrafted guys that have starting potential based on his game and the Colts need.