There may not be a greater changing of the guard in all of the NFL than in the AFC South. Huge sweeping changes last season, on several teams and at key positions, has completely re-branded the division. To be quite frank as we head into the 2013 season, no matter what you read, this division looks to be pretty competitive. A reason for that is these teams did a very-solid job with their drafts. You can guarantee that with all these teams eying the prize, their draft strategy involves more than filling needs and also keeping up with their division rivals.
So, let’s take a look at the AFC South and hand out some grades.
Houston Texans-Wide receiver Andre Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league. But for the entirety of his career, he’s never had a great compliment. But Clemson wide receiver De‘Andre Hopkins might be just that guy. Beyond Hopkins, the Texans did a nice job of adding a potential starting safety and excellent developmental players on the offensive line and at rush outside linebacker. Overall, it was a very solid draft.
Sleeper pick–David Quessenberry, offensive tackle San Jose State. A very smart player who makes up for lack of athleticism with a high football IQ and understanding of the game. He could develop as a starting guard.
Indianapolis Colts-The Colts were one of the greatest turnaround stories in the league last year. Unfortunately, they didn’t build on that momentum much with their draft. Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner is a bit of an underachiever, but even assuming he does develop into a starter I don’t see a lot of potential among the rest of the picks.
Sleeper pick–Montori Hughes, defensive tackle Tennessee-Martin. Hughes is a highly-underrated prospect who could be a star in this league. If Hughes can realize his potential, he will end up better than any of the players the Colts took ahead of him.
Jacksonville Jaguars-The Jaguars were in dire need of a new quarterback, but instead they chose to spend their early picks on the offensive line and some boom/bust types in the defensive secondary. Drafting the best left-tackle prospect in the draft gets points. But this is a league that is centered on the quarterback, and the Jaguars did not address that with any picks.
Sleeper pick–Denard Robinson, athlete Michigan. I’m not sure what exactly Robinson’s role will be with the Jaguars, but you can bet they will find a spot for him. Whether it’s as a wildcat quarterback, running back, slot receiver or kick returner. Robinson is the type of player you root for and I expect him to play well if given the chance.
Tennessee Titans-If there’s a team that drafted with focus among this group it might just be the Titans. They used their first-four picks to upgrade both the offensive and the defense, and I won’t be at all shocked if at least three of them are starters on opening day. That’s how to draft to compete now.
Sleeper pick–Brian Schwenke, center Cal. Centers are typically underrated in the draft, but there’s no way he should have gone this late. He’s so quick and athletic; he should be a perfect fit on that re-tooled Titans offensive line.