Moving right along in our “better late than never” draft grades series, let’s take a look at the AFC South.
Houston Texans: B-
The Texans are desperately trying to get out from under the shadow of the Indianapolis Colts and this year’s draft just may have helped their cause. Coming into the draft, they had two very obvious needs at the running back spot and in the secondary and both needs were quickly addressed.
In the first round, Houston took Alabama CB Kareem Jackson, who was one of my favorite players in the draft. Jackson was a guy that was under the radar a bit due to his lack of interception numbers at Alabama. However, if you put on the tape, it was clear that Jackson didn’t get the picks because teams just didn’t throw to his side of the field. The bottom line is, Jackson comes from the most pro-style defense in college football and that will make his transition to the NFL a bit easier than the other first round corners. Making him an even better prospect are his sound tackling skills and his abilities on special teams. While he may have a “quiet” rookie season, that doesn’t mean he won’t be effective. Jackson may have been one of the best value picks in the first round.
The Texans jumped right on their second biggest need in round 2 by selecting Auburn running back Ben Tate after trading back with the Patriots. A back that knows how to run between and outside the tackles, he’s the perfect compliment for the small, but speedy, Steve Slaton. Tate’s running style is even a nice fit for the Texans zone blocking scheme as he is a patient, one-cut runner. The Texans took Tate a little too early based on his value, but if they identified him as a player that fit their scheme perfectly, it’s hard to knock.
Houston also added some high quality backups in the later parts of the draft. First, they added Miami LB Darryl Sharpton in the 4th round. While he won’t come close to cracking the starting lineup, he’s the typical “speed linebacker” from Miami and will be an instant contributor on special teams. The Texans also grabbed Garrett Graham, the TE from Wisconsin in the 4th. Graham never quite lived up to expectations in college and didn’t perform well at the Senior Bowl, which dropped his value. However, he has the tools to be a successful tight end in the NFL and can also contribute on special teams.
The last two picks for the Texans are two that I really liked. In the 6th round, Houston selected Trindon Holliday, the return specialist from LSU. While he won’t have a role on the team other than special teams, the Texans have been looking to bring their return game back to the form it was in 2007 when Andre Davis returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns. With their last pick in round 7, the Texans grabbed the versatile Dorin Dickerson from Pitt, which I believe was supreme value. Dickerson dropped due to the fact that he didn’t really have a “true” position at Pitt. Dorin played tight end for the Panthers, but came to the Senior Bowl and performed as a wide receiver. His size indicates he’s more of a H-back type, but his versatility alone should have made him an earlier draft pick.
Round 1 (pick 20) Kareem Jackson — CB — Alabama
Round 2 (pick 58) Ben Tate — RB — Auburn
Round 3 (pick 81) Earl Mitchell — DT — Arizona
Round 4 (pick 102) Darryl Sharpton — LB — Miami
Round 4 (pick 118) Garrett Graham — TE — Wisconsin
Round 5 (pick 144) Sherrick McManis — CB — Northwestern
Round 6 (pick 187) Shelley Smith — OG — Colorado State
Round 6 (pick 197) Trindon Holliday — RS — LSU
Round 7 (pick 227) Dorin Dickerson — TE — Pittsburgh
Indianapolis Colts: D
I have to say, for a program that knows how to win, I’ve been pretty disappointed with the way the Colts have been drafting lately. This year was no exception.
Their first pick, Jerry Hughes, I love as a player. However, with huge needs for the Colts along the offensive line, the secondary, and the interior of the defensive line, I don’t think Hughes made a lot of sense. Hughes is one heck of a pass rusher and the Colts have had some injuries with their star defensive ends, but it doesn’t seem like Hughes’ abilities will be utilized as much as they would be on some other teams. With several corners still available (Robinson, Cook) and big offensive tackle Rodger Saffold on the board, the Hughes pick made me scratch my head. Not taking anything away from Hughes, who was one of our Red Star Players, but the pick just didn’t seem to make sense.
The Colts’ second pick made me scratch my head a little less as far as the position goes, but made me scratch my head even more knowing that USC OT Charles Brown was still on the board. Indy decided to go with Iowa LB Pat Angerer, who is a blue-collar, lunch pail type player. He’ll contribute mainly on special teams, but could see some action in the starting lineup if there’s an injury. I don’t see Angerer as the type to comfortably get into those deep hook zones that Cover-2 backers are responsible for, so he’ll have some work to do.
The Colts finally looked at a true position of need in the third round when they selected Kevin Thomas, the CB out of USC. However, there’s nothing too impressive about him and he may have actually been overdrafted here. With the talented corners that the Colts passed up, it’s hard to truly give them props for this pick.
The rest of the Colt’s draft consisted of unspectacular players (which is normal for the later parts of the draft), but I didn’t see any solid value with their picks. The Colts didn’t make any moves to target particular players and either they didn’t receive any offers to move around, or they weren’t open to it. Perhaps they stayed true to their board and just took the best player available at every slot. However, for a team that always seems to win on the field, they didn’t seem to win in the draft room.
Round 1 (pick 31) Jerry Hughes — DE/OLB — TCU
Round 2 (pick 63) Pat Angerer — LB — Iowa
Round 3 (pick 94) Kevin Thomas — CB — USC
Round 4 (pick 129) Jacques McClendon — OG — Tennessee
Round 5 (pick 162) Brody Eldridge — TE — Oklahoma
Round 7 (pick 238) Ricardo Matthews — DT — Cincinnati
Round 7 (pick 240) Kavell Conner — LB — Clemson
Round 7 (pick 246) Ray Fisher — DB — Indiana
Jacksonville Jaguars: F
It’s hard to even write about the Jaguars draft. What was clearly the most disappointing team draft of all becomes even more disappointing when you really look at it.
Personally, I wasn’t as surprised as most about the Tyson Alualu pick. Don’t get me wrong, I think the pick was a tremendous reach. Alualu is a talented player but he could have been had in the late first round or possibly the top of the second round. I felt like we were taking a big risk by putting Alualu at #32 in our final mock draft but this took the cake. There’s no doubting Alualu’s abilities and his fire, so he’ll make an immediate impact on the team.
Things just get worse for the Jags from there. D’Anthony Smith, the DT out of Louisiana Tech, made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl this year and is a solid selection in the third round. The confusing thing is, the Jaguars spent 4 of their 6 picks on defensive linemen, even though they had tremendous needs across the board. The Jags needed help at almost every position and they failed to address needs along the offensive line, secondary, and linebacker corps.
What confused me even more is that the Jags only took 1 player from a division one program. This is truly a double-edged sword. Perhaps they saw things in these players that other NFL teams overlooked and they’ll all blossom into legit NFL players. However, if these players don’t hit, you can go ahead and type up the press release for “Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio fired.”
Round 1 (pick 10) Tyson Alualu — DT — California
Round 3 (pick 74) D’Anthony Smith — DT — Louisiana Tech
Round 5 (pick 143) Larry Hart — DE — Central Arkansas
Round 5 (pick 153) Austen Lane — DE — Murray State
Round 6 (pick 180) Deji Karim — RB — Southern Illinois
Round 6 (pick 203) Scotty McGee — RS — James Madison
Tennessee Titans: B+
The Titans quietly had one of the better drafts in the NFL this year, especially from a value standpoint. Jeff Fisher and company had to breathe a sigh of relief when the Giants took Jason Pierre-Paul at pick #15, leaving them with the highest ranked defensive end in the draft, according to our rankings. Derrick Morgan is a much more polished, NFL ready prospect than Pierre-Paul and I think that him getting selected a pick later than JPP will put a chip on the kid’s shoulder. The Titans have been looking to get that strong rush on the edge that they haven’t had since the days of Javon Kearse and Morgan can bring that to the table…along with his ability to play against the run.
Without a second round pick, the Titans didn’t pick again until the third round where they took Damian Williams of USC. I can’t tell you how much I love this pick, especially from a value standpoint. Williams could have gone as early as the top half of round two and for some reason, he fell down the board. He’s a solid, possession type receiver who will be an outstanding compliment for second year receiver, Kenny Britt.
The Titans next pick was also in the third round and it’s an interesting selection. Rennie Curran was a super-productive linebacker at Georgia but is vastly undersized. However, the kid has a nose for the football and always seemed to be in on the tackles at Georgia and will immediately be a special teams standout for the Titans. Don’t be surprised to see Curran come in during certain packages due to his quickness and awareness.
By trading away LenDale White to the Seahawks (who was later cut by the team and is currently without a job), Tennessee was able to grab Alterraun Verner, the CB out of UCLA in the 4th round. There’s something about Verner that just seems like he could be a late round steal. Verner has the physical skill set to be competitive in the NFL and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he ended up playing the nickel spot for the Titans during his rookie season.
Of course, the pick that everyone talks about is Myron Rolle in the 6th round. Everyone is fully aware of the concerns that come with Rolle but the bottom line is, he’s an intelligent football player that has the skill set to play the game. He’ll immediately start playing special teams and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if down the road, he became a part of the Titans starting lineup.
Round 1 (pick 16) Derrick Morgan — DE — Georgia Tech
Round 3 (pick 77) Damian Williams — WR — USC
Round 3 (pick 97) Rennie Curran — LB — Georgia
Round 4 (pick 104) Alterraun Verner — CB — UCLA
Round 5 (pick 148) Robert Johnson — DB — Utah
Round 6 (pick 176) Rusty Smith — QB — Florida Atlantic
Round 6 (pick 207) Myron Rolle — S — Florida State
Round 7 (pick 222) Marc Mariani — WR — Montana
Round 7 (pick 241) David Howard — DT — Brown
Check back soon to see draft grades for the rest of the NFL teams.