Draft Needs - AFC South (04/28/15)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
NFL Team Needs – AFC South edition

The NFL Draft, which begins on April 30, is fast approaching. Every team hopes to use their picks to fill a position of need. In the days leading up to the draft we will evaluate each team's biggest needs, greatest strengths and the best case scenario for the draft.

To objectively answer many questions related to the NFL including how to rank individual units and at exactly which positions teams can and should improve, we assign impact scores for every current NFL starter.

The impact score is a grade on a 0-10 scale based on a player's expected overall positive contribution at their current ages and relative to position. In the score, a seven or above can generally outperform a replacement player in the NFL at his position; an eight or above can be expected to start and a player with a rating over nine is a unique, standout player who stars.

AFC South – click for NFC East, AFC East, NFC North, AFC North, NFC South

Indianapolis Colts

Top needs: Defensive Line, Offensive Line, Running Back

Greatest Strength: Quarterback

Andrew Luck is the quarterback every team hopes to draft. Smart and athletic, Luck has been a Pro Bowler in each of his first three seasons. The young gunslinger has led the team to double digit wins and deep playoff runs. The Colts are an average team but Luck, with an impact score of 8.9 out of 10, makes them dangerous.

Best Case Scenario:

The Colts won 11 games for a third straight year and reached the AFC Championship game. Despite all that success, what the 2014 Colts might be remembered for most is the obscene amount of rushing yards they allowed to New England in two games. Including the showdown in the AFC Championship, Indy gave up 423 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to the Patriots. Chuck Pagano needs to focus this draft on rebuilding the defensive line. The Colts need an upgrade at nose tackle and to add depth at defensive end. No one on Indy's defensive line has an impact score of an adequate starter.

Houston Texans

Top needs: Quarterback, Safety, Linebacker

Greatest Strength: J.J. Watt

The best defensive player in the game. Period. J.J. Watt is the only player with a perfect impact score, 10 out of 10. Watt does it all, from destroying quarterbacks, to catching touchdown passes, to writing ‘get out of work' letters for fans.

Best Case Scenario:

The Texans do not have an answer at quarterback. With Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett and Tom Savage, it appears Houston is trying to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. With the No. 16 pick and a thin quarterback draft class, it's unlikely that the Texans find a quarterback of the future. Instead, the team should focus on improving the defense behind J.J. Watt. Linebacker and safety are two areas of need.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Top needs: Secondary, Running Back, Defensive End

Greatest Strength: Offensive Line

Yes, the line has allowed 50 sacks in consecutive years. Yes, Jacksonville set a dubious franchise record for most sacks allowed in a game, Chad Henne was taken down ten times in a Week 2 blowout against Washington. Yes, the unit surrendered 71 sacks in 2014, a new franchise record. All of that is true but even with the inconsistent play from a season ago there is real talent on this line. This is a fringe top ten offensive line with three of five starters rating as above average.

Best Case Scenario:

The Jags are the only team in the NFL that would benefit from starting Tim Tebow, that is how bad the quarterback situation is in Jacksonville. The Jaguars need better play out of Blake Bortles this season, but it is unlikely the organization tries to improve the position in the draft. And that's ok, there are a lot of other holes on the roster. If the Jags can find adequate starters for the secondary and the defensive line it would be considered a wildly success draft.

Tennessee Titans

Top needs: Quarterback, Receiver, Secondary

Greatest Strength: Defensive Line

The best compliment we can give the defensive line is that the unit is above average. The Titans are anchored on that side of the ball by a pair of Pro Bowl caliber defensive ends in Jurrell Casey (impact score of 8.9 out of 10) and Ropati Pitoitua (8.6 out of 10).

Best Case Scenario:

The draft starts at No. 2. Tampa Bay is taking Jameis Winston, Tennessee isn't married to anyone with the second overall pick and are willing to make a deal. If the Titans are smart they keep the pick and select Marcus Mariota. Pundits claim it's an even race between Winston and Mariota but in fact it is not even close. Mariota has an impact score of 9.5 out of 10, Winston's impact score is 8.1. Mariota's impact score is better than Andrew Luck's coming out of college while Winston is closer to Brandon Weeden.

AFC South Unit Rankings

Team Offense Defense Skill O-line D-line Front 7 Secondary
Indianapolis Colts 14 23 8 27 32 28 8
Houston Texans 13 20 22 8 5 18 19
Jacksonville Jaguars 31 29 32 11 25 29 26
Tennessee Titans 25 18 25 18 11 13 28