DRAFT REVIEW 2021 AFC South

Not exactly the strongest division in the League, and the power structure within has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. The JAGUARS seem to have hope under the leadership of URBAN MEYER and with this year’s Draft Class. The TEXANS are headed the other direction with a disgruntled star QB, and you forgot that AARON RODGERS isn’t the only one. The COLTS are probably the most stable team here, but they are breaking in another new QB. This time it’s CARSON WENTZ, who seems to have lost his Mojo recently. Can Head Coach FRANK REICH help him get it back? The TITANS are still solid and the bully-boys of the division, but the roster has been carved up a bit by Cap defections and poor drafts in recent years. Having said all that, let’s get to their Draft efforts.

TEXANS     Only a couple of years after getting his big contract dollars, QB WATSON wants to be traded. He got started on his rant a month or so before RODGERS. Now the BILL O’BRIEN era is over in Houston. It looks like it’s up to former PATRIOTS exec NICK CASERIO to right the ship as the new GM and man in charge. And CASERIO has certainly changed the roster. Last count that I saw looking at a roster printout from last Friday, CASERIO has signed 44 vet Free Agents. I think it is fair to say that most of them are journeymen, but what choice did he have? The TEXANS are not exactly a “destination” franchise in the eyes of most players. The saddest news is that NICK had only 5 Draft Picks to work with, thanks to some pretty poor trades that GM O’BRIEN made. And despite the fact that WATSON is a young, elite player, whom they say they have no interest in trading, their first Pick in Round 3, at Pick 67, was QB DAVIS MILLS of Stanford. MILLS was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, but was too often injured to assert himself as a top collegiate QB. Then they took WR NICO COLLINS (Pick 89) and TE BREVIN JORDAN (Pick 147) to bolster their receiving corps for whoever is their starting QB. LB GARRET WALLOW (Pick 170) may be their most useful Draftee, primarily because he is a tackling machine and has some coverage skills. At Pick 195, they took a guy not anywhere near being on my radar in ROY LOPEZ/DT/Arizona. To my eyes, their Rookie group is pretty small and uninspiring to expect big things from. This 4-Win team in 2020 may be working hard all season just to duplicate that record.

COLTS     The team knew it had basically a one-year rental with PHILIP RIVERS in 2020, so it came as no big surprise when they went out and got CARSON WENTZ from the EAGLES. WENTZ was among the elite young guns just a few years ago, but injuries have plagued him, and by mid-season last Fall, he looked dazed and confused. HC REICH and WENTZ worked together in Philly, so the hope is for a career revival for WENTZ, who is only 28-years old. The team spent 3 of it’s first 4 Picks on defensive players. KWITY PAYE was their first round choice and will be counted on to improve their pass-rush. Many folks think his upside is huge, though I am not that bullish. Given his back-story, just about everyone is hoping for big things from him. Everybody loved their 2nd Round Pick DAYO ODEYINGBO, a big, 6’5/280 DE, but we will all have to wait for 2022. He tore his achilles in workouts a couple of months pre-Draft. Expect a redshirt Rookie year for him. The team’s Offense favors a strong running game, and with JONATHAN TAYLOR and MARLON MACK, why wouldn’t they? However, they strangely do not carry a FB on their roster. So while I waited for them to grab FB/BEN MASON/Michigan to fill that void, they went another direction. In Round 4, they selected KYLEN GRANSON/TE/H-B/SMU, who is a solid receiver, and I assume a sound blocker as an H-B. This Pick could be either a boom or a bust, IMO. Just for kicks, they also took TEXAS/QB SAM EHLINGER for REICH to groom, in case WENTZ is beyond repair, I guess. Big armed second year man JACOB EASON is still around, but a guy named BRISSETT is now plying his back-up wares in Miami. EHLINGER is a versatile, brawler that tries to do too much, and after 3-4 good plays, he is likely to turn the ball over by forcing a throw. The biggest surprise in their Draft may have been not taking an OT to replace retiring LT ANTHONY CASTONZO. They did, however, sign former top Draft Pick ERIC FISHER that the CHIEFS cut for injury and cap reasons. FISHER, if healthy, is an above average 8-year vet that could be adequate. It was quite a mixed bag of a Draft considering the steady hand that GM CHRIS BALLARD has displayed in the past.

JAGUARS     For perhaps the first time since SHAHID KHAN bought the JAGS, there may be a legit reason for optimism. Despite my initial reluctance to endorse the hiring of URBAN MEYER as Head Coach and chief executive, he seems to have handled things quite well, including several admissions that he has much to learn about pro football in 2021. And the big prize, of course, was the fact that TREVOR LAWRENCE was available to URBAN, with the JAGS owning the first Pick in the Draft. And yes, you can count me in as being on the list of Draftniks that think LAWRENCE is the next ANDREW LUCK, but hopefully more healthy. I have seen opinions that the JAGS had a mediocre effort, despite landing the gem of the class in LAWRENCE, and I don’t get it. They got a No, 1 RB in Clemson’s TRAVIS ETIENNE to team with last year’s surprise URFA JAMES ROBINSON. In Round 2, at Pick 45, they got highly regarded OT WALKER LITTLE, who doesn’t have to play a lot as a Rookie, but may be plugged in at LT for 2022 when CAM ROBINSON hits VFA, which could save this team a bunch of money going forward. With the first of their Round 2 Picks, they took TYSON CAMPBELL/CB/Georgia, and in Round 3, at Pick 65, it was ANDRE CISCO/S/Syracuse. I think both can be starters, sooner or later.  JAY TUFELE/DT/USC was their early Round 4 Pick who should help bolster their DT group, and JORDAN SMITH/UAB, also selected in Round 4, is an intriguing edge-rush specialist. They also used VFA to help out that DL group with the signing of JIHAD WARD/DE and MALCOM BROWN/DT. LUKE FARRELL isn’t going to be a star receiver at TE, but he can catch and will lead their running game like no one has since MARCEDES LEWIS left town. I even like JALEN CAMP/WR/GA TECH, who wowed scouts at his Pro Day workout. He is a developmental project, but could be a boost for them in a couple of seasons. The team was also very active in VFA, which is where they bolstered their receivers room with MARVIN JONES and PHILLIP DORSETT. On D, they also added SHAQUILL GRIFFIN/CB and RUDY FORD/S to help with their rebuilding secondary.

TITANS     Let us first acknowledge the loss of too many veteran starters to VFA, but they didn’t exactly sleep on VFA’s on their own part. But best of all, they had a full Draft Card this year with  8 Picks. And they spread them around to fill holes, with young affordable talent. CALEB FARLEY/CB, Round 1, and ELIJAH MOLDEN/DB, Round 3, could both earn starting slots in their secondary as Rookies. Their final Round Pick of S/BRADY BREEZE should also provide depth and quality Special Teams play. DILLON RADUNZ/OT, in Round 2, may not be ready to start right away, but he’s a lot safer and smarter of a Pick in Round 2 than ISAIAH WILSON was in Round 1 last year. MONTY RICE/LB/Georgia, in Round 3, is a high FBI and productive player that should see plenty of action, and right away. RASHAD WEAVER has been listed by many as an Edge-Rusher, but I believe he is a full-time participant as a DE that can provide rush pressure, but also set the edge against the run. However, he now faces some legal issues that may wind up with an NFL investigation into the charges, as well. DEZ FITZPATRICK/WR/Louisville was over-shadowed by tiny, but explosive, TUTU ATWELL in college, but was a big hit during Senior Bowl week. He could make a very solid possession receiver to bolster the depth in their receiver room. The untapped potential of RACEY McMATH/WR/LSU may be huge, but for now, they will settle for him being an excellent Special Teamer. And to shake up the receivers group, the team completed a trade to acquire JULIO JONES from Atlanta over the weekend. Great move for now, but we’ll talk more about this one next year when we explore Cap repercussions, as well as Draft Picks of the deal. It’s not a great Draft group, but every one of them could find a useful role on the team as Rookies. The only URFA that caught my eye, perusing their roster, was BRILEY MOORE of Kansas State, a nice receiver as a TE.  He has nice size and good, big hands @ 9 3/4″. For a guy his size, he shows some athleticism, like a 37 1/2″ Vertical. Might fit an H-Back kind of role.

 

Other than JAX with LAWRENCE and ETIENNE, it’s not a glamorous group, but some roster holes should be filled, and there is enough talent here to add quality depth to most of the rosters. Whoever wins 10 Games should take the division. Most likely, either the COLTS or TITANS will prevail. That is unless LAWRENCE has an excellent Rookie season.

Cheers

Pigskin