“The Amateur Ward”: Luck Dynasty or Emerging Division – AFC South

(Photo courtesy of goodworldnews.org)

When I look at the AFC South I see one stand out team, and 3 other teams on the rise. The division is going to be the Colts’s to lose for the next 2-3 seasons, but the Texans will be breathing down their necks this season and could be a challenge if the Colts fall asleep on them. The Texans were awful last season, but they, like the Falcons, lost a ton of key players (Foster and Tate, to name a couple) and were the victims of horrible QB play (looking at you Schaub). They should be fine going forward, however, with Fitzpatrick at the helm for the start of 2014, and Tom Savage as the QB of the future. The Jaguars will be adjusting to life without Justin Blackmon (they should be thankful to be rid of his issues), but had a great draft. The Colts had only five picks, and none other than Moncrief stands out, but they still had an average draft and should have addressed needs more.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best PIck:  Allen Robinson (WR) – This was by far the Jags best pick. He is 3 inches taller than Marqise Lee and about 20 pounds heavier. Robinson, out of Penn State, will be a matchup nightmare for defenses, as he has good size for the WR-1 type (won’t be WR1 this season) and catches the ball at its apex. Look for Moncrief to stretch the field as a starter on the outside in his rookie season in offensive coordinator Jeff Fish’s offensive scheme, and be a force in the red zone. He may not have ideal speed for a 6’3 WR (4.75/40 at the Combine), but his 42 inch vert should play well to his advantage. Don’t be surprised if Robinson leads all Jaguars WRs in scores this season. (Photo courtesy of bleacher report.com)

Worst Pick:  Chris Smith (DE) – This isn’t a bad pick overall, as Smith does have upside, but it’s a bad pick in the sense that he may not be NFL ready for at least a season. He will enter the season competing for snaps at the LEO rusher with Andre Branch, Chris Clemons, and Jason Babin; but Smith must improve his reads in the run game, learn to shed blocks more consistently, and improve strength. As of now, It appears as if Clemons will begin the season as the Jaguars LEO rusher and play around 60% of the snaps. That would give Smith time to develop more, as he is potentially eased into the LEO position when Clemons needs a breather.

Sleeper Fantasy Contributor:  Marqise Lee (WR) – I’m not as wild about this pick as most, due to his size (6’0) and average run strength. Lee has a tendency to let the ball come to him, as opposed to going up and getting the ball, but is very quick, has great route running abilities, and the ability to manipulate both man and zone coverages once he catches the ball. The main concern with Lee, however, is durability issues, as he battled nagging injuries at USC and can’t take hits well. He will be a starter for the jags week 1, but currently in a walking boot certainly doesn’t help with the “durability” label. Could be a sleeper for fantasy teams if he stays healthy.

 

Indianapolis Colts

Best Pick:  Donte Moncrief (WR) – Moncrief may not be an immediate starter in Indianapolis this season, but with the aging of Wayne, Moncrief is the Colts WR1 of the future. With 4.40/40 speed, a 39.5 inch vert, and great acceleration, Moncrief has drawn Gordon/Demaryius Thomas comparisons and the Colts will tailor Moncrief to be their WR1. He may find snaps hard to come by in his rookie season behind Wayne, Nicks, Hilton, Brazill, and Rogers, but expect Moncrief to at least jump Rogers and Brazill on the depth chart by season’s end. It could be as early as 2015 before Moncrief and Luck start connecting consistently. (Photo courtesy of i2.cdn.turner.com)

Worst Pick:  Ulrick John (OT) – When looking for offensive line help, don’t look at an FBS team that wins under one game per season and is just trying to get their football program off the ground (Georgia State University). This is the very definition of a developmental pick. Evidently the Colts see potential in John and will work with the narrow-shouldered, less than ideal lower body strength tackle to refine his game and improve his pass protection ability, but it may not happen. He’ll spend time on the practice squad this season and then try to make it as a third or fourth lineman in 2015. The Colts are not that deep on the offensive line, and this pick didn’t help any.

Sleeper Fantasy Contributor:  Andrew Jackson (LB) – [Insert Jacksonian Democracy joke here] Due to his liability in the passing game, Jackson may never develop into an every down starter, but against run heavy teams, and in goal line situations, Jackson should be used by the Colts as an inside linebacker. He attacks blocks, handles blockers well, has the ability to blitz, and can deliver and finish hits. He’ll be relied upon as a thumper in the linebacker core, as the only other true thumper the Colts have is Kelvin Sheppard. Worth keeping an eye on this linebacker going forward as a potential specialist for stuffs, tackles for loss, and a handful of sacks.

 

Houston Texans

Best Pick:  Jadaveon Clowney (DE) – The best defensive prospect to come into the league since Luke Kuechly, Clowney is going to be a force to be reckoned with opposite J.J. Watt. The Texans’s rush defense is going to be nasty this season, and Clowney will be a big part of the reason why. The only concern with him could be his motor occasionally, but that shouldn’t come to play too often. Clowney is firmly in the fix to be Defensive Rookie of the Year, and could eclipse the 8 sack plateau in his rookie season. Vincent Smith still doesn’t know what hit him. It was the Clownerator! (Photo courtesy of doublefootballcoverage.com)

Worst Pick:  Dre Hal (CB) – The Texans needed help in the secondary, but waiting until the 7th round to address the secondary doesn’t help. Hal profiles as a situational corner with less than ideal size, but good cover skills. He has great eye discipline and the ability to read routes, but his skills could be mitigated due to his size, short arms, and tendency to get beaten on one-on-one blocks. One of his highlights was limiting Mike Evans to two receptions in Vanderbilt’s game against Texas A&M (Aggies won 56-24), and he also had a nice game against Moncrief (now in Indianapolis). The potential is there for Hal to develop into a starting corner, but he needs to refine his technique, stop grabbing when he’s beat by more physical and bigger receivers, and work on getting off blocks cleaner. Look for Hal to contribute in special teams and against pass-heavy offenses when Houston needs 4-5 DBs on the field.   

Sleeper Fantasy Contributor:  Alfred Blue (RB) – Blue will begin his rookie season behind Andre Brown as Arian Foster’s (back surgery) backup, but given Brown’s injury concerns, Blue may wind up being the primary backup if Brown goes down again. Blue will look to fill the void left by Ben Tate (CLE) and make an impact in his rookie season, but he needs to stay healthy (torn ACL). Blue is versatile, explosive, and athletic; has nice size, speed, and power; and was the starter at LSU, but logged only 209 carries over 4 seasons due to various injuries. Look for the Texans to use Blue to preserve the career of the workhorse, Foster, and use him in 3rd down plays or as the change-of pace back out of the backfield. There’s sleeper potential here, and he is a must for all Foster owners.

 

Tennessee Titans

Best Pick:  Bishop Sankey (RB) – All of you out there who think the pedestrian, Shonn Greene, is going to challenge Sankey as the starting runningback, get off the high train. Sankey will be the starter, and given his field vision, speed burst, and ability to break tackles, he could be a sleeper to break the 1,000 yard plateau in his rookie season. He may not be the most gifted runner from the Draft (Hyde, Mason, and Freeman are all better all-around), but he is the back with the most immediate opportunity. The only downside to Sankey is he has average explosion, can be chased down from behind due to lack of ideal speed, and is ankle tackled often. Still, look for Sankey to be a focal point in the offense this season and be in contention for Offensive Rookie of the Year. The numbers in the box may limit his upside, however, until the Titans find an identity in the passing game outside of Kendall Wright. Nate Washington is a decent option, but won’t contribute more than 60 receptions. Could Justin Hunter finally live up to expectations? Better QB play would certainly help both the receivers establish an identity and free up the run game. (Photo courtesy of sportsworldreport.com)

Worst Pick:  Avery Williamson (LB) – Williamson will work as a special teams linebacker and as rotational backer on the Titans’s defensive line unit behind Woodyard (another UK product), Brown, and Colin McCarthy on the inside. He’s more suited for an inside role, due to his ability to tackle soundly, be an asset in the run game, and the ability to make adjustments. However, he is poor in the passing game, doesn’t cover well, and has weak lateral range. Williamson is likely a future rotating middle linebacker as opposed to full-time starter, due to pass game deficiencies, but should see playing time as a rookie. The Titans line needs some help, and Williamson should help in the run game (the Titans finished tied for 21st in sacks and 20th in total run defense last season), but isn’t the answer to their need for a starting ILB (although I think McCarthy and Brown are great anchors).

Sleeper Fantasy Contributor:  Zach Mettenberger (QB) – Mettenberger will open the season behind Jake Locker as the starting QB, but with the Titans declining Locker’s 2015 option, the Titans essentially decided their QB of the future. Honestly, Mettenberger was one of the best QBs in the draft and slid due to a torn ACL and off-field questions (who really cares about pot anyways), and misdemeanor sexual battery while he was at Georgia (2010). He must improve his pocket awareness, pocket mobility, and shorten his long release, though. He has projection, and could see the field for a few games, especially if Locker struggles, but Titans fans are more likely looking at 2015 for the start of Mettenberger’s career as the QB. Definitely worth a late round pick in dynasty and long-term keeper leagues, and a must for Locker owners.

The Jaguars had the best draft and look vastly improved on offense with Bortles (more likely 2015 than 2014 for starter), Robinson, and Lee, but still will be bottom feeders in the division. The Texans got the best player by far in the draft and could challenge for a wildcard spot with a healthy Foster and a revamped defensive line, but the division is still going to be won by the Colts, as Luck continues to improve. The Colts had one good pick (Moncrief) and should focus on the corner position and defensive end answers going into 2014, or they could be in trouble in a division with three other emerging teams in the future. The Titans will attempt to find a new offensive identity with the departure of Chris Johnson (Jets), a volatile QB situation, and the addition of Bishop Sankey going into 2014, but still likely won’t challenge Houston or Indy. Tennessee improved on both sides of the ball, but must find consistency in the passing game before they can think of a playoff berth. The battle for 2nd place will be interesting in the Division of Andrew Luck with the Texans the favorite to be 2nd, but watch out for the Jaguars in 2-3 seasons now that the Blackmon fiasco days are over.

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