AFC South 2012 NFL Draft Needs

Posted by Micheal Profetta On October – 14 – 2011
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Houston Texans

1. Wide receiver   Any list of the top five WRs in the game should include Andre Johnson, but he’s quietly going into his tenth season and the injuries are becoming more frequent. Kevin Walter is a try hard, Johnny-on-the-spot guy, but, ultimately, very average and also going into his tenth season. Gary Kubiak seems to be losing patience with disappointing 5th-year speedster Jacoby Jones, whose production hasn’t matched the 3-year, $10.5 million deal the Texans threw at him in July. The fact that GM Rick Smith actually gave up a draft pick for 37-year old Derrick Mason (who was going to be cut by the Jets anyway) underlines the need for quality depth. Houston could target an explosive threat like Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu, whose upside could land him in the late first round.

2. Nose tackle   The undersized Shaun Cody/Earl Mitchell tag team at NT has done a solid job of anchoring a defense that has been greatly improved under Wade Phillips, but the Texans could still kick the tires on Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu in the mid-to-late first round. At 6-3/330, Ta’amu offers prototypical size for the position and has the potential to be a disruptive interior force. Phillips has made do with undersized NTs like Jay Ratliff and (for you old-timers) Greg Kragen in the past, but he has also had success with enormous NTs like Ted Washington and Jamaal Williams, so I don’t think that size will be much of an issue when the Texans address this need. Phillips is flexible defensive coordinator, so Houston could simply draft the best prospect available.

3. O-line depth   There really aren’t many holes along the Texans’ depth chart, so after addressing WR and NT they could have the luxury of reinforcing the trenches, starting on the offensive side of the ball.

The O-line has been rock-solid this season, but some good, young insurance wouldn’t be a bad idea. C Chris Myers has been excellent spearheading the Texans’ zone-stretch running game, but he’s due to hit free agency following the season. While I’m sure that Houston will make extending Myers a priority, you can never be sure until the pen hits the paper. Michigan’s David Molk is the kind undersized (6-2/288) but smart and athletic blocker who often finds NFL success as a zone-sretch center. He’s a mid-round option.

Swing tackle Rashad Butler is on the I.R. with a torn triceps and goes into the final year of his contract next season, leaving current backup OTs Andrew Gardner and Derek Newton as very shaky options should Duane Brown or Eric Winston get injured. Colorado’s Ryan Miller and Boise State’s Nate Potter, a couple of Zach Strief-types who could be available in the third round, would provide valuable depth.

4. D-line depth   DEs J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith have been great this season, but uninspiring backups Tim Bulman and Tim Jamison (both 273 lbs.) lack the bulk typical of 3-4 DEs. If the Texans grab a starting-caliber NT like Ta’amu early on, it would free up Cody and Mitchell to provide strong depth along the line. If Houston sticks with Cody/Mitchell at the nose, a potential five-tech like UConn’s Kendall Reyes (6-4/298) could be a mid-round option.


We found out in 2011 just how dependent the Colts are on this guy

Indianapolis Colts

1. Defensive tackle   Wow. A detailed look at the Colts depth chart really gives one a new found appreciation for Peyton Manning’s greatness. I’m unable to pinpoint a single position on this team that couldn’t use an upgrade, or at the very least, some youthful reinforcements.

Like they say, you have to start somewhere, so addressing the Colts’ long-standing deficiencies against the run (more specifically, the DTs) would be as good a place as any. Indy is again among the worst run-stopping teams in the NFL (currently 29th) and starters Antonio Johnson and Fili Moala need to be replaced. I’m no doctor, but Eric Foster’s vomit-inducing leg injury didn’t look like something he’ll be bouncing back from any time soon. The Colts have found a keeper in rookie 3rd-rounder Drake Nevis, but a lot more help is needed on the interior. Clemson’s Brandon Thompson and Penn State’s Devon Still could be 2nd-round options to serve as the run-stopping, 4-3 nose to complement the knifing Nevis. Texas’ Kheeston Randall is a mid-round possibility.

2. Right tackle   Over the last decade, the Colts have allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (187) due to Manning’s ability to get rid of the ball before pressure arrives and Howard Mudd’s knack for coaching up journeymen and molding an effective, cohesive unit. That’s all over. Without Manning and Mudd, what’s left is a wreck of an O-line, with RT Jeff Linkenbach the worst of the worst. When in pass protection, the former undrafted free agent is simply stuck in quicksand. Rookie Ben Ijalana (currently on the I.R.) might be an option on the right side in 2012, but he’s more likely to be a guard. FSU’s Andrew Datko, who some considered a late-first round prospect, is likely out for the season with shoulder issues, so he could conceivably slip to the 2nd or even 3rd round on Draft Day. If so, the Colts may want to take a flyer.

3. Interior O-line   The scene isn’t much better on the inside, where C Jeff Saturday is an impending free agent who’s beginning to look every bit of 36-years old. 32-year old RG Ryan Diem is also set to hit the open market and LG Joe Reitz is comically bad. ’08 2nd-rounder Mike Pollak has been a disappointment and is no better than a backup C/G. Ijalana could be a factor at guard next season, but Indy still needs to come out of the ’12 NFL Draft with one or two interior prospects.

4. Cornerback   With Joseph Addai and Donald Brown continually struggling with injuries, I considered the RB position as the #4 need, but I liked rookie 4th-rounder Delone Carter coming out of Syracuse and I’m eager to see what he can do as the starter.

Jerraud Powers is a solid corner, but Jacob Lacey is in over his head as a starter. Terrence Johnson, Kevin Thomas and Chris Rucker provide marginal depth. There should plenty of quality corners to be had in the 2nd-3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Fun fact: The Colts’ last Pro Bowl CB was Bobby Boyd, way back in 1968.


Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Pass rushers   Right now, the only DE worthy of a top 10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft is UNC’s Quinton Coples. If he’s still on the board when the Jaguars’ number comes up, they should jump all over him. I’m aware of Jacksonville’s need for a stud WR, but the need for more pass-rushers has been ignored for far too long and has become crucial. Jeremy Mincey has been surprisingly good this season, but Matt Roth hits the open market after the season and Aaron Kampman is toast. The Jags have 48 total sacks over the last (almost) two and a half seasons…roughly the same amount that DeMarcus Ware racks up all by himself in the same time span. Like I said, crucial.

2. Wide receiver   I doubt that Gene Smith would draft Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon in the top 10 if he’s still the GM next April. Smith’s distaste for character risks is well-documented. However, if the Jags don’t extend Smith’s contract, all bets are off.

Mike Thomas is a reliable, versatile target, but far from a true #1 WR. Rookie Cecil Shorts III has good potential as a #3 WR, but has yet to produce. Developing deep threat Jason Hill is still too inconsistent to rely on. If the Jaguars pass on Blackmon (or Alshon Jeffery) in the first round, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll address this need on the second day with a prospect like UNC’s Dwight Smith, Arizona’s Juron Criner, Wisconsin’s Nick Toon or Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu.

3. Cornerback   Derek Cox has often been out of the lineup with a groin injury this season and William Middleton has struggled in his place. Impending free agent Rashean Mathis turns 32 next season and could be a victim of the continuing youth movement in Jacksonville. Cox is due only $565,000 next season, so he’ll probably return, but he might be better off as the nickel corner. The Jags could conceivably be on the lookout for two new starting corners when the 2012 NFL Draft rolls around. If they are drafting in the 6 to 10 range and miss out on Coples and Blackmon, I wouldn’t be surprised if LSU’s Morris Claiborne is the pick. Gene Smith loves his small-school prospects, so a sleeper like Montana’s Trumaine Johnson could picque his interest in the third round.

4. Offensive line   Blaine Gabbert tends to get jumpy without a clean pocket, so the Jags might want to bolster their young QB’s protection. Eugene Monroe is entrenched at LT, but help is needed everywhere else. Old warhorse C Brad Meester is approaching 35 and RT Guy Whimper should be a backup. Fortunately, LG Eben Britton and RG Uche Nwaneri offer great versatility, so when the Jaguars’ address the O-line in the draft, they can simply take the best lineman available and move the pieces around accordingly.


Chris Johnson would welcome DeCastro to the Titans

Tennessee Titans

1. Interior O-line   The Titans’ interior run-blocking is awful, especially C Eugene Amano. Why Tennessee gave him a 5-year, $26.25 million deal last year, I’m not sure. LG Leroy Harris is an undersized penalty machine and 30-year old RG Jake Scott is another one of those ex-Colts O-linemen who was overrated in free agency thanks to Peyton Manning’s excellence. He’s in the final year of his contract.

GM Mike Reinfeldt will do his homework on probable first-rounders Michael Brewster and David DeCastro. If Tennessee addresses another position on the first day of the ’12 Draft, guys like Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler and Georgia’s Ben Jones could be second day targets.

2. Strong safety   31-year old incumbent Chris Hope is currently out with a broken arm and wasn’t playing well prior to the injury. Veteran backup Jordan Babineaux has done a good job of holding down the fort, but he’s not a long-term solution. In the wake of ousted DC Chuck Cecil’s encouragement of a “dirty” rep for the Titans’ stop unit, new DC Jerry Gray has expressed a desire to build his defense with high-character, accountable leaders, so a guy like Alabama’s Mark Barron would be an attractive option for Tennessee if he’s available in the second round.

3. Wide receiver   The Titans are crossing their fingers in hopes that injured Kenny Britt doesn’t do some of the Devil’s work during his extended stretch of idle time. When healthy and not in trouble, he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber stud. Nate Washington and Damian Williams are actually decent second and third options at WR, but Tennessee could use some insurance for Britt’s unreliability. If Reinfeldt sees a good value there for the taking on the second day, he shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on another WR.

4. Linebacker   This unit has played surprisingly well so far this season, especially 31-year old WLB Will Witherspoon, who seems rejuvenated under Gray. However, Witherspoon also got off to a fast start in 2010, only to fade badly down the stretch. MLB Barrett Ruud is reliable and solid in coverage, but he’s the kind of guy that a team will always look to upgrade and is playing under a one-year contract. The Titans like rookie Colin McCarthy, who (like Witherspoon) can play in the middle or on the weakside, but his upside is limited. There is by no means an urgent need at linebacker, but if Arizona State’s Vontaze Burfict somehow slips to the Titans in the first round, I don’t see how they would be able to resist that kind of value and potential upgrade. The same could go for UNC speed demon Zach Brown.

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