Offseason Grades: AFC South

  • Indianapolis Colts
    • Best Draft Pick – Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State
      • Quenton Nelson was a slam-dunk pick, but Leonard had better value for the pick they took him. When I saw Leonard’s stats for the first time, I wondered why I hadn’t heard his name before. Then I saw that he was from SC State, and assumed that the numbers were inflated by the level of competition. This is true, to a certain extent, but once I started watching his tape, I realized that the majority of the plays he made, were plays he made. By that I mean, he wasn’t just dominating because of the level of play, he was showing traits that would allow him to dominate at the NFL level as well.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Jordan Wilkins, RB, Mississippi State
      • Admittedly, I haven’t watched very much tape on Wilkins here. My biggest reason for putting him here is less about his college performance and more about the fact that they waited until the fifth round to take a quality first and second-down back. Yes, they took Nyheim Hines in the fourth, but he’s a third-down back at the best. I personally think they should’ve taken Derrius Guice with either the 36th or 37th picks, but that’s just me. Wherever it would’ve been, they needed to take a back within the first two days of the draft.
    • Best Signing – Ryan Grant, WR
      • The Colts didn’t have a true splash signing this season, but Grant was definitely the best signing that they did make. You could make an argument for Eric Ebron, but Grant will probably have the biggest immediate impact. The team has now provided Andrew Luck with two proven targets beside TY Hilton, which was very needed since Donte Moncrief left for the Jaguars.
    • Worst Loss – Johnathan Hankins, NT
      • While Hankins is a very capable nose tackle, he is purely a 3-4 player in terms of scheme fit. This is unfortunate for the Colts, who switched to a 4-3 this offseason. With Hankins’ age and effectiveness, though, he immediately became one of the top players on the free agent market.
    • Grade: B


  • Houston Texans
    • Best Draft Pick – Justin Reid, S, Stanford
      • Reid was the perfect first pick of the draft for the Texans. Without a first or second round pick (both belonged to the Browns, sent in separate trades), the Texans had to make the absolute most of the picks they did have. For this pick, at least, they did. I had a late first-round grade on Reid. In fact, I think he will even be a better NFL player than his brother, former 49ers safety Eric Reid. Justin is a great all-around center safety who will fit nicely into one of the Texans’ biggest areas of need.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Jermaine Kelly, CB, San Jose State
      • Kelly began his career at Washington. He won the Scout Team MVP as a freshman and then proceeded to play very little the next two years. He then transferred to San Jose State, where he started and played decently. But my question is: If he had to transfer out of the Power 5 to get a starting job, where will that leave him in the NFL?
    • Best Signing – Tyrann Mathieu, DB
      • Mathieu was clearly one of the best free agents on the market this year. He immediately gives the Texans much more versatility in the secondary than they have had for quite a while. Reid and Mathieu immediately form an above average safety group for the Texans.
    • Worst Loss – Brian Cushing, LB
      • It’s been a few years since Cushing was an effective linebacker in this league, so at this point, he had more of an effect as a locker room presence than anything. But the Texans’ linebackers are quite young still at this point, so keeping him around could have been helpful for their development.
        • Grade: A


  • Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Best Draft Pick – DJ Chark, WR, LSU
      • I had Chark as an early second-round value, so the Jaguars getting him late in the second round was pretty nice. Having him also play at their biggest position of need is also pretty great. Add the fact that there aren’t many people that are 6’4”, run a 4.3 40-yard dash and can jump 40 inches, and Chark was a huge boom-or-bust pick. If he can improve his shorter-yardage route-running, he could become an elite receiver. As it is, he is immediately one of the few players in the NFL who can be effective deep threats and red-zone targets due to his height and speed.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Tanner Lee, QB, Wisconsin
      • I get the pick of a quarterback here, I just don’t understand why they picked Lee. Better options were available (Logan Woodside, JT Barrett). They also could have traded up five picks to grab Luke Falk, who is an extremely better prospect than Lee. Lee looks the part when you first see him, but on tape, he often appears to have too much arm strength to be able to handle, which leads to many turnovers and should’ve-been-turnovers. He just wasn’t worth the pick here, as I thought he would go undrafted.
    • Best Signing – Andrew Norwell, G
      • Norwell simply shouldn’t have reached the market. The Panthers should not have let him go, especially since he was essentially the lone bright spot on their dismal line. As for the Jaguars signing him, they now have the ability to totally dominate opposing teams in the trenches on both sides of the ball. If only they can get Blake Bortles to live up to his number three pick expectations, then maybe they can dethrone the Patriots atop the AFC. But that’s beside the point. The Jaguars were a quality team last year, but they leaned hard on their defense. The addition of Norwell helps shore up the offensive line so that the offense can take some of that load off.
    • Worst Loss – Allen Robinson, WR
      • Robinson, like Norwell, should’ve been franchise tagged but wasn’t. I understand the Jags’ thought process in letting him walk, but I think true number-one receivers are just too hard to find. You can’t let injury concerns prevent you from signing a potential difference maker. When you get into that mindset, you end up in situations like Nick Saban did with Drew Brees, and we all know how that turned out.
    • Grade: B-


  • Tennessee Titans
    • Best Draft Pick – Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
      • I wasn’t as high on Landry as many were, as I had him as a high second-round talent. Nonetheless, I figured he would go much higher than my grade, so the Titans made a good move in trading up to grab him. If he turns out like they think he will, he could be the biggest steal of this draft.
    • Worst Draft Pick – N/A
      • I think the Titans had clearly the best draft class of any team this year, so I just can’t put any player as the worst pick. If I had to choose one, it would be Dane Cruikshank, but he was still a very good pick. I would not be surprised to see all four of their picks be solid starters in this league in a few years.
    • Best Signing – Malcolm Butler, CB
      • Butler is immediately going to be the Titans’ number one corner, something they have needed for a while. Plus, with Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson already at corner and Kevin Byard and Johnathan Cyprien at safety, the Titans suddenly have an elite secondary that rivals any other in the league.
    • Worst Loss – Avery Williamson, LB
      • I think Williamson is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league, and his loss essentially forced the Titans’ hand in moving up for Rashaan Evans. While I do think Evans was a great value pick anyway, they could have been more conservative and stuck at their pick if they hadn’t lost Williamson.
    • Grade: A-
Posted in NFL

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