Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: AFC South

Four Downs: AFC South
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower

Houston Texans

Biggest Need: Running back

The Texans did draft a back to add to a collection that includes Lamar Miller, D'Onta Foreman further removed from his Achilles injury, and not much else. But not until the seventh round, and the player they chose was a fullback, Texas A&M's Cullen Gillaspia. Using their early picks to address the offensive line and cornerback were good selections at areas of greater need. Third-round pick Kahale Warring might be an upgrade on the tight end group but seems like an indulgence at a position where Houston already had plenty of depth.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Did you know Clemson had another defensive tackle? Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins went in the first round, but Albert Huggins might be a reliable NFL run-stopper in his own right. Karan Higdon was a productive back in Michigan's ground-oriented scheme, but may lack standout traits. Drew Lewis might be familiar from his cousin Louis Riddick's Twitter account, projecting as a run-and-chase linebacker who might be a good special teams player. Corner Derrick Baity played across from second-round pick Lonnie Johnson at Kentucky. Like Johnson, he brings good size. Unlike Johnson, he ran over 4.6 in the 40 at his pro day.

Indianapolis Colts

Biggest Need: Impact defensive players

Chris Ballard had a clear plan for the draft, focusing on the back seven of a defense that was surprisingly improved to slightly above-average last year. Second-round pick Parris Campbell also addresses wide receiver, the offense's weakest position. Will that be enough? Indianapolis' defensive performance might have been built on the league's easiest slate of opposing offenses, with 12 of their 16 regular season games coming against teams in the bottom dozen in offensive efficiency. The addition of Justin Houston gives Jabaal Sheard a complement at defensive end, but taking a medical risk on Montez Sweat, whom we projected as a high quality prospect, might have been a better option than trading down into the second round, even for a second-round pick next year.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: The Colts initially signed a modest cast of nine undrafted free agents. The most prominent names included a pair of highly productive wide receivers at smaller schools. Ashton Dulin was a nominee for the Harlon Hill Trophy at Division II Malone University, with over 1,100 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns as a senior. Penny Hart had two 1,000-yard seasons at Georgia State, but poor athletic testing numbers did not show the type of short area quickness to win as a slot receiver in the NFL. Both Dulin and Hart have return experience. Defensive end Jens Jegede started his college career as a basketball player before playing a couple seasons at Valdosta State. Jamal Peters was a teammate of draft pick Gerri Green at Mississippi State, where he played both corner and safety. The Colts are initially listing him at corner.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Need: Tight end

Josh Allen falling to the seventh pick was an unexpected surprise, and Jacksonville still got the right tackle they needed in the second round in the form of Jawaan Taylor (a player whom some mock drafts had Jacksonville taking in the first round). Using their first two picks there meant the Jaguars could not address one of their most pressing needs, tight end, until using a third-round pick on Josh Oliver. Coming from arguably the worst program in FBS football at San Jose State, Oliver will be required to produce immediately after joining one of the league's weakest and thinnest groups. New offensive coordinator John DeFilippo's past with Nick Foles featured plenty of two-tight end sets, and they will have to rely on the unpolished Oliver plus James O'Shaughnessy and former Cowboys backup Geoff Swaim, both among the league's most inefficient receiving tight ends last year.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: With no Belichick-era Patriots DNA in the organization, the Jaguars promptly released their list of undrafted free agents. Linebacker Joe Giles-Harris was a highly productive tackler at Duke, but might just be a nice college player. Miami transfer Tyre Brady had over 1,900 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns his two seasons at Marshall, drawing a stylistic comparison to Kenny Golladay from Dane Brugler. Alabama corner Saivion Smith might be best known for getting toasted by D.K. Metcalf and benched, but returned to the field after an injury. Long speed is a concern, buttressed by a 4.64 40 at his pro day. Guard Bunchy Stallings was an All-American at Kentucky and offers great toughness in the run game.

Tennessee Titans

Biggest Need: Defensive line

How can a position be the biggest remaining need when a team spends its first-round pick there and signs a veteran at the position (Cameron Wake) as well? Simple: when that first-round pick is coming off a torn ACL in February, and the team was exceptionally thin at the position. Free-agent signee Brent Urban will help the Titans until Jeffrey Simmons is ready, but Tennessee regularly dressed five defensive linemen last year and now only has four players of significance who are likely to be ready Week 1. Even with good health at the position not exposing their lack of depth in 2018, the Titans ranked fifth-worst by adjusted line yards allowed. Any injury could prove devastating. Outside linebacker is nearly as thin, so no help would be coming from that quarter.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Tennessee is not having their rookie minicamp until May 10 and had not yet officially signed any undrafted free agents as of press time, so this list is based on media reports. Thin depth behind Derrick Henry creates a potential opportunity for grinder back Alex Barnes out of Kansas State. Corner Hamp Cheevers was an All-American at Boston College with seven interceptions his final season. Size is a question mark at just 169 pounds, but he is a good athlete. Texas transfer Derick Roberson had 15.0 sacks his final season at Sam Houston State and could stick as a backup outside linebacker.

Portions of this article originally appeared at ESPN+.


3 comments, Last at 02 Jun 2019, 10:47am

2 Re: Four Downs: AFC South

I think it's a jab at the Titans for delaying the official release of their UDFA signings until the exact moment they had to. The Jaguars didn't have any Belichick-era Pats guys that I know of. The Texans do, but I don't know if they were also stingy with the UDFA signing releases or not.