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NFL Draft Grades: AFC South

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The Sports Xchange

Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the three-day event. But waiting is no fun, so let’s take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future.

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: Perhaps the most fluid cover corner of this draft, Kevin Johnson made a lot of sense for the Texans, a club that struggled against the pass a year ago when their “other” KJ (Kareem Jackson) was injured. There are some concerns about Johnson’s size and physicality but given the lack of power running in the AFC South (and the dynamic passing attack from AFC South leading Indianapolis), building the secondary to complement a potentially deadly pass rush makes sense. While I love the selections of wideout Jaelen Strong and defensive tackle Christian Covington later, otherwise the rest of the Texans’ draft lacks immediate help and isn’t likely to push Houston closer to the playoffs.

Grade: C-

Indianapolis Colts: Taking the approach that the best defense is an unstoppable offense, the Colts pulled one of the surprises of the first round with wideout Phillip Dorsett, whose blazing speed complements T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and savvy veteran Andre Johnson. The necessary defensive upgrades were found later with underrated cornerback D’Joun Smith and tough guy defensive end Henry Anderson. While safety Clayton Geathers may have been a bit of a reach, the Colts will get good value from strongman David Parry and squatty running back Josh Robinson.

Grade: B

Jacksonville Jaguars: It is, of course, easier to draft difference-makers when annually selecting early, but on paper at least, the Jaguars appear to be one of the real winners of the 2015 draft. After the Jaguars invested in picks on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage the past five years, the team finally gave defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley his dynamic edge rusher with local star Dante Fowler, Jr. Explosive, versatile and passionate, Fowler will prove a star in this scheme and looks like an easy contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Running back T.J. Yeldon and interior lineman A.J. Cann are plug-and-play starters and safety James Sample could surprise, as well. If defensive tackle Michael Bennett dedicates himself, he could prove a Day Three steal.

Grade: A-

Tennessee Titans: After much speculation that the Titans would trade the right to the No. 2 overall pick, Tennessee elected to stand pat and hand the keys to Marcus Mariota, a dynamic talent who could be the answer to this club’s prayers. Sure, Mariota has a lot of work to do to acclimate to Ken Whisenhunt’s offense but the growth in accuracy from under center he showed at the Scouting Combine, his pro pay and in private workouts speaks to his talent and work ethic. His selection is a roll of the dice to be sure, but the easiest way to become a contender in the NFL is to land a star quarterback and Mariota offers an upside that, frankly, Zach Mettenberger simply doesn’t possess. The rest of Tennessee’s draft offers similar boom-or-bust potential with wideout Dorial Green-Beckham viewed by some scouts as a 50-50 proposition to either be in the Pro Bowl or out of the league in a few years. Running back David Cobb has excellent vision and underrated burst given his poor workout and could surprise, as could seventh round wideout Tre McBride. This draft offers lots of upside but few sure things.

Grade B-

–Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for www.NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.


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