The AFC South has long held the reputation of being one of the weaker divisions in the NFL. The Texans’ recent three-year record of 11-38-1, the Jaguars’ hosting the first overall pick two consecutive years, the Colts’ quarterback carousel, and the Titans’ over-reliance on Derrick Henry’s dominance has created an impression of a weak division in the AFC space. Many of these issues can be fixed through the draft, with an influx of premier talent to help elevate any team.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Drafting A Cornerstone
The Jaguars shocked the world and upset the LA Chargers in the AFC Wild Card last year, rallying from a 27-point deficit to secure the franchise’s first playoff win since 2017. This success showed their potential to spring into true AFC contention. From an offensive standpoint, the re-signing of Evan Engram and the trade for Calvin Ridley have helped provide some much-needed weaponry for Trevor Lawrence. On the defensive side of the ball, things might need a little more work, which is where the 24th overall pick comes in.
The perfect pick for the Jaguars would be Brian Branch, the thumping safety/corner hybrid that dominated at Alabama. Measuring in at 6’0′ and 193 lbs., Branch is a prototypical NFL safety who can play in the box or on the perimeter. He recorded 90 total tackles, 7 passes defended, 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions in his final year at college. The Jaguars would sprint to the podium to submit the card for Branch and bring a lot of smiles to the Duval faithful.
Blessing the timeline with some Brian Branch highlights. Baller. pic.twitter.com/DMqieHgLA5 — JC Cornell (@CornellNFL) April 1, 2023
Tennessee Titans: Tackling The Trenches
Oh Tennessee, what can be said about the Vrabel-led Titans that hasn’t been said before? They play tough and have almost every year since he took the team over. There are a lot of questions surrounding the offense, specifically at the quarterback position and on the offensive line. The Titans currently hold the 11th overall pick, which is likely too far down the ladder for a premium upgrade at the quarterback position. They look instead to supercharge their offensive line, which is in desperate need of some premium talent after the departure of Taylor Lewan.
While Peter Skoronksi is viewed by some as the best lineman in the draft, there are legitimate concerns about his arm length. The Titans look instead to draft the mammoth from Ohio State, Paris Johnson Jr. PJJ is an absolute force at tackle, playing bully ball in every sense of the phrase. He will need some refinement on his hand placement against more athletic edges, but his ceiling is too high to be ignored. He feels like a Titan, and Vrabel gets a leader who shares his toughness on the offensive line.
Paris Johnson Jr. can move like a TIGHT END 😳 The Ohio State tackle allowed just three sacks across three seasons. One of, if not the best OL in this year’s NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/KuH2kz2IC6 — NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) March 30, 2023
Indianapolis Colts: Closing Down The Carousel
The Colts have been on an interesting ride since the retirement of Andrew Luck, and Colt’s fans have suffered long enough. While most of the teams in the AFC South have a few needs to be addressed, the Colts have one glaring choice: quarterback. With the fourth overall selection (or possibly the third overall selection), drafting a new signal-caller to re-ignite the passion of the fanbase is the only right answer at the top. In an inconsistent AFC South, that change alone could elevate them to contenders.
While the choice is likely between Richardson and Levis, this feels like an easy choice for the Colts after they picked Shane Steichen to be their new head coach. Anthony Richardson is a unicorn from a traits perspective and possesses several of the features that made Jalen Hurts catapult to the top of the NFL’s quarterback tiers. He will provide a show every single week as he develops into a potential franchise quarterback for the Colts to rely on for the next decade.
anthony richardson doesnt get enough credit for how crafty he is in the pocket, using his eyes to move defenders and create throwing windows. it's all over his film. pic.twitter.com/4e7NavWN6n — Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) April 10, 2023
Houston Texans: Offensive Overhaul
It’s no secret that the Texans have been one of the worst teams in the league over the last several years, rotating between offense and defense. The lack of a franchise quarterback since the Deshaun Watson saga and the hole at receiver since the Deandre Hopkins trade have both subjected this team to irrelevance for three years now. The good vibes in Houston this off-season thanks to the Demeco Ryans hire are hopefully the harbinger of a brighter future, starting with two new faces on the offense.
Bryce Young is a sensational quarterback that would be viewed as a generational talent if he had different measurables to rely on. Falling on the shorter and lighter side, he just slides out of the first pick and lands squarely into a partnership with Ryans. His leadership and electrifying playmaking bring much-needed energy to rejuvenate an offense that hasn’t scared defenses since 2019.
Bryce Young would change the direction of the #Texans franchise. If he’s there at #2, you run that card in. https://t.co/4JfW8GfvlO — Louie Stewart (@thelstewart503) April 10, 2023
Bryce gets coupled with some offensive star-power in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the electrifying receiver from Ohio State. Complementing the new west-coast offense that Bobby Slowik will be implementing, a shifty playmaker joins a core that has Nico Collins, Robert Woods, and John Metchie. JSN’s hands and body control will help provide a perfect safety blanket to compliment Bryce Young’s first year in H-Town.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba 2023 Pro Day Recap 🎬⭐️ pic.twitter.com/DF3LFjeR1E — Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) April 7, 2023