Here’s a look at what the rest of the AFC South was up to while you were contemplating how to properly celebrate Chris Ballard’s inevitable perfect first draft pick:
Round 1 – Pick 4 // Leonard Fournette RB
With the 4th pick of the 2017 draft, the Jaguars selected the player they hope returns their run game to the Maurice Jones-Drew type dominance that they used to have (especially over teams like the Colts). Fournette’s 2016 season resulted in 843 yards and 8 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry–all while missing time with an ankle injury. This pick reemphasizes the importance of Ballard’s efforts to rebuilt the Colts’ front 7. The question surrounding this Jags pick is simple: In a league necessitating “pass the ball/stop the pass” ideologies, is using the 4th overall pick on a Running Back truly the best choice as a ton of top defensive talent falls? Time will tell. But, taking Fournette this high means the Jaguars expect (and need) him to be a complete game changer from day one.
Round 1 – Pick 5 // Corey Davis WR
Corey Davis is widely considered a top 3 (if not a top 1) Wide Receiver in this years draft. Primary concerns seem to come from his college level of competition (dominated the measly MAC to the tune of 97 receptions, 1500 yards, 19 touchdowns). But his route running ability and size gives Marcus Mariota a significant weapon to throw to after last season didn’t see any of his receivers hit the 1000 yard mark. This pick might have been a bit of a reach, but the Titans may have read the tea leaves on the offensive player run that happened early in the first round and pounced on the guy they wanted.
Round 1 – Pick 18 // Adoree’ Jackson CB
With this pick, the Titans became the only other AFC South team (besides the Colts) to draft a defensive player. After the Titans released former starter Jason McCourty, they found themselves with a definite need at Cornerback. Many mock drafts had the Titans snagging Marshon Lattimore as the first corner off the board, but they wait and take the third corner instead while also managing to come away with the top WR in the process. The knock on Jackson is that his height (5’10”) leads to giving up plays over the top (hello, TY Hilton down the sideline). But his man coverage abilities as well as the fact that he can returns punts and kickoffs makes him a valuable asset for the Titans.
Round 1 – Pick 12 // Deshaun Watson QB
The Texans leapfrogged the Colts to become one of Cleveland’s eight million (estimated) trade partners on this first night of the draft, moving up from 28th to 11th overall. Like the two teams that traded up before them (Chicago and Kansas City), the Texans moved up to grab a quarterback. In exchange for dropping back, the Browns received the Texans’ 2018 first round draft pick and the Texans proceeded to make Deshaun Watson the 3rd QB off the board. Include the Brock Osweiler trade and the Browns now have the 2018 first and second round picks of the Texans. Watson is a very good player and, depending on who you ask, perhaps the best QB in the draft. The Texans put a premium price on getting him, apparently thinking that he can be the missing piece for a team that has a defense in place and who beat the Colts twice with nobodies running the show under center. Still, after Texans head coach Bill O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle that “Tom (Savage) is our stater,” you have to wonder what’s going on deep in the heart of Texas. After Trubisky and Mahomes went earlier than expected, this trade up starts to feel more like a desperation move to get somebody, anybody decent at QB.
The AFC South regularly enjoys a great offseason only to see everything stay pretty much the same. Yet again it looks like all three teams improved on paper. If I had to give one of these three teams the win for the day, it would easily go to the Titans. The Jaguars don’t have a QB and the Texans don’t know what they have a QB. Mariota may finally be able to put together a worthwhile offense with Corey Davis, Demarco Murray, and Delanie Walker and, as Mariota is the best non-Andrew Luck QB in the division, that’s worth keeping an eye on.
All three teams went offense early, but expect that to take a turn toward defense in rounds two and three as a lot of good defenders got pushed out of the first round.