Sun Apr 25 07:44pm EDT
Once again, the Indianapolis Colts paced the division and made it to the Super Bowl, but the AFC South was a more interesting place to be than in some years past. The Tennessee Titans finally found the Vince Young(notes) they thought they had before, and looked like one of the NFL's best teams down the stretch after losing their first six games. The Houston Texans stopped playing little brother to the Colts, and only the Jacksonville Jaguars fell back in the rankings. Will things be as competitive after the 2010 draft? Let's take a look.
Houston Texans: The Texans certainly needed a cornerback after losing Dunta Robinson(notes) to the Falcons, and they got a good one in Alabama's Kareem Jackson(notes). Houston's second-most pressing need - a big back that can eat up carries - was taken care of in the person of Auburn's Ben Tate(notes), a Combine star with surprising speed for his feature back size. This is a team with a great appreciation for athletic defensive tackles, and they got another one in the third round with Earl Mitchell(notes), who's run sub-4,8 40 times. Their last two picks may be the most interesting - 5-foot-5 waterbug Trindon Holliday(notes) is a punt return burner, and tight end Dorin Dickerson(notes) from Pitt fits Houston's concept of hybrid tight ends doing more catching than blocking.
Indianapolis Colts: Of all the edge rushers in this draft class, TCU's Jerry Hughes(notes) might have the most explosion off the ball, and he hits the edge like DeMarcus Ware(notes). With Dwight Freeney(notes) trending down a bit, Hughes will be a perfect fit on the front four. Along with light, quick pass-rushers, the Colts also like athletic linebackers who can cover as well as they run to the ball. Iowa's Pat Angerer(notes) is a safety-sized guy who can run in space - like Hughes, he'll start as a depth player as he established starting potential. In the third round, Bill Polian went with the third level of his defense, taking USC cornerback Kevin Thomas(notes). Few teams are better than the Colts in picking up late-round offensive line picks, so Tennessee guard Jacques McClendon(notes) is one to watch.
Jacksonville Jaguars: If Tim Tebow(notes) wasn't the biggest reach in this draft, Cal DT Tyson Alualu(notes) may have been. A great player, no doubt - but even if the rumors are true and other teams were looking at him in the low teens, the Jags would have done well to investigate a trade down. Passing on Texas safety Earl Thomas(notes) with the 10th overall pick was an interesting decision given the state of Jacksonville's secondary. Still, Alualu will form a dynamic inside duo with nose tackle Terrance Knighton(notes). Picking up Kirk Morrison(notes) from the Raiders for a couple of used K-balls mitigates the averageness of this draft to some degree, but it's a bit embarrassing that a team that's spent so much energy and currency on the front seven over the last few years is still trying to get it right - all of Jacksonville's first four picks were for the front line. Murray State's Austen Lane(notes) is the sleeper to watch here. An odd draft that could some back to haunt the current administration.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans lost Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) to the Detroit Lions, and drafted the evolutionary version in Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan(notes). Like KVB, Morgan is equally suited to rush the passer and defend the run. The next step was to continue to help Vince Young with more reliable playmakers. USC receiver Damian Williams(notes) doesn't blow up the tape, but he's an ideal receiver for a run-first offense - sharp routes, dynamic after the catch, and tough in traffic. Taking a sixth-round flyer on safety and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle(notes) made the most news, but the difference-maker in the secondary could be fourth-rounder Alterraun Verner(notes) from UCLA. Verner comes to the NFL with good instincts, but some wonder if he has the speed to hold up against elite professional receivers.
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