2017 AFC South Draft Grades

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Houston Texans

First-Round Pick: Deshaun Watson-Quarterback-Clemson

Best Pick: Deshaun Watson

Grade: A

Each of the last two years has seen the Houston Texans with the AFC South, and their productivity at the 2017 National Football League Draft could make them the team to beat in this division for years to come. In a bold move the Texans moved up 13 spots in the first round in order to select Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Deshaun Watson

The Texans made a trade with the Cleveland Browns in order to move up to select Watson and it could be well worth it. Watson’s record as a starter in college was 32-3 which included leading Clemson to the national championship last year. And that ability to win games caught the eye of the Texans who may have found their franchise quarterback.

In the second round the Texans got a steal when they drafted Vanderbilt Commodores outside linebacker Zach Cunningham. Cunningham had the potential to be a mid first-round selection, but surprisingly he fell to the second round and he is going into a great situation. At Vanderbilt, Cunningham tackled everything that moved as he led the team in tackles last year with 125. Now Cunningham will join an already strong linebacking core where he can learn from the likes of outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and inside linebacker Brian Cushing.

D’Onta Foreman

Last year the Texans were eighth in the National Football League in rushing and that trend should continue after drafting Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman in the third round. Foreman was a workhorse for the Longhorns as he carried the football 323 times last year for 2,208 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns to earn the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. The Texans already had plenty of talent in their backfield which features Lamar Miller, but now the addition of Foreman will allow head coach Bill O’Brien to keep fresh tailbacks throughout the season.

The Texans would then beef up in the trenches as they pegged Bucknell Bison offensive tackle Julien Davenport and Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins in the fourth round, while nabbing Baylor Bears center Kyle Fuller in the seventh.

Of the coaches who have worked under New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, O’Brien probably possesses the best pedigree of knowing how to put a quality team together as this draft illustrated that.

Tennessee Titans

First-Round Pick: Corey Davis-Wide Receiver-Western Michigan, Adoree’ Jackson-Cornerback-USC

Best Pick: Adoree’ Jackson

Grade: C

The Tennessee Titans had a solid showing at the 2017 National Football League Draft, but things could have been much better for them. Last year the Titans traded the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams with part of their compensation seeing them receive an additional first round pick this year. The Titans entered this year’s draft with the fifth as well 18th overall selections, and instead of hitting home runs, they reached with their choices.

First, the Titans would select Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis who was a lock to go in the first round, but if Tennessee was that focused on him, they could’ve traded down a little bit and still gotten him. Davis does fill a hole for the Titans who need a presence at the wide receiver position to off-set their power running game, but the pressure will be on him to live up to the expectations as far as where he was drafted.

Adoree Jackson

Later on in the first round the Titans would peg USC Trojans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. And like Davis, Jackson can come in and have an impact for the Titans; it’s just that it was a reach to select him where they did. Jackson’s initial impact with the Titans could come on special teams where they need a play maker, and don’t be surprised to see Titans head coach Mike Mularkey implement some plays for him on offense.

After the first round the Titans would add seven more players in the draft. But with none of those players showing the ability to stand out, Tennessee missed a golden opportunity to load up on impact players in the draft.

Indianapolis Colts

First-Round Pick: Malik Hooker-Safety-Ohio State

Best Pick: Malik Hooker

Grade: D

After quarterback Andrew Luck helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the AFC Championship Game during the 2014 National Football League season, he has taken a football beating. In each of the last two years the Colts have gone 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. A big reason for the Colts struggles is that the team has failed to put talent around Luck which begins with their inability at the draft. The Colts have a new general manager in Chris Ballard, but his first draft with the Colts wasn’t be a memorable one.

The Colts entered the 2017 National Football League Draft with multiple needs on both sides of the football. In the first round the Colts selected Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker whom they are hopeful can solve some of their coverage issues. The second round would see the Colts select Florida Gators cornerback Quincy Wilson, but I am not sure if either he or Hooker will be able to come in an have an immediate impact in Indianapolis.

In Luck’s last 22 games he has been sacked 56 times, but the Colts only used one draft pick on an offensive lineman in the fourth round when they selected USC Trojans offensive tackle Zach Banner. The Colts were 23rd last year in rushing which saw them use another fourth-round selection on South Florida Bulls running back Marlon Mack, but with their issues on the offensive line who is going to block for him?

The Colts also needed to improve the wide receiver position, but in failing to do so this could be a very long season in Indianapolis for Luck and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

Jacksonville Jaguars

First-Round Pick: Leonard Fournette-Running Back-LSU

Best Pick: Round Two-Cam Robinson-Offensive Tackle-Alabama

Grade: B+

It’s been ten years since the Jacksonville Jaguars had a winning record or made the playoffs which can be traced back to their inability to find and develop talent in the first round of the National Football League Draft. But with former Jaguars and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin now as the executive vice president of football operations in Jacksonville, there may finally be some law and order there.

The Jags have let it be known that they are committed to Blake Bortles as their franchise quarterback. And since that is the case it means that Jacksonville must put more talent around Bortles.

Coughlin attended Syracuse University as a running back which saw him in the same backfield with Hall of Fame running backs Larry Csonka and Floyd Little. Coughlin’s dedication to the run followed him throughout his head coaching career in the National Football League and he has brought that same game plan with him to the Jaguars front office.

Leonard Fournette

The first round of the draft saw the Jags select LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette. At 6’1″, 235 lbs., Fournette can be like a runaway freight train with the football in his possession and he will have every opportunity to have an impact in Jacksonville. And if you want to run the football while also protecting Bortles, why not select a proven offensive tackle early which is what the Jaguars did.

With the second pick of the second round Jacksonville selected Alabama Crimson Tide offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson has the potential to be a solid player for the Jaguars and the fact that he slipped to the second round could mean that he’ll be extra motivated when he puts the pads on.

The fourth round saw the Jags select Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook who despite the baggage that he brings due to his off-the-field issues while in college, he could add to an already talented receiving unit in Jacksonville. Westbrook could be a very valuable slot receiver; especially on third down which will be important for a Jaguars team that is seeking to not get lost in the shuffle in the AFC South.

We’ve heard this before, but things appear to be finally turning around in Jacksonville.

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