NFL Draft 2011: The 5 Prospects Who Scare AFC South Divisional Opponents Most
Every year, NFL teams put countless hours of preparation in their draft board. Front office personnel and scouts watch hours of film, talk to college coaches and other character witnesses, and discuss internally with position coaches to see who would fit their team concepts well.
Probably the next best judge of which talents fit a team best though, is that team’s divisional opponents.
Not only are they the main competition and therefore have a vested interest in not seeing that team do well, but they play them twice a season, guaranteed. They know exactly what teams in their division lack because they try to exploit those weaknesses.
All NFL teams surely watch intently as other teams are making their selections during the draft, but they likely give the most attention to how their divisional opponents are drafting.
After all, those selections will have lasting effects on the nature of the division for years to come.
The AFC South has been one of the most competitive divisions in football for the last half decade. Several of its teams are a possible turning point, however, and this year’s draft will affect their futures even more than average.
I went through and hypothesized five players for each AFC South team that the rest of the division does NOT want to see picked.
Keep in mind, this is not a mock draft; several of the picks defy normal draft strategy for the respective teams. This is simply what drafted players would scare divisional opponents.
Anyone could pick five first round players that are scary, but I wanted to make this a little more in depth. These picks are numbered one through five, which corresponds with the round that player would likely need to be taken by that specific team.
I’d be very interested in any feedback, specifically from fans from fans of the Colts, Jaguars and Titans as I am a Texans specific writer. Feel free to let me know what you think on twitter (@JakeBRB). Enjoy.
Indianapolis Colts: Round One
Stephen Paea–DT/Oregon State: For years, the Colts’ defense has been a welcome mat for opposing running backs. They have tried several times to draft a suitable, run-stopping defensive tackle for the middle, but to no avail.
Paea would be a scary proposition for the rest of the division. Not only would his strength in the middle immediately help against the run, but he would also keep opposing interior lineman from pushing the pile on passing plays, allowing Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to wreak havoc with their speed.
Houston Texans: Round One
Many believe that his first task will be to fix the porous secondary, but I think he’ll focus on the pass rush to alleviate pressure off the defensive backs.
Quinn is the prototypical pass rusher for Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. As a former state wrestling champion, Quinn has the balance and body control to match with incredible speed for his size for edge rushing. He uses this to set up inside moves as well, though. Peyton Manning and whoever else will play quarterback in the AFC would not like this pick.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Round One
Ryan Kerrigan–DE/Purdue: The Jaguars defense is quietly becoming a good—to even elite—unit. Tyson Alualu was a surprise pick at 10 last season, but the former Cal Bear standout made Gene Smith look like a smart man. Kerrigan would be a great addition to that front four.
Kerrigan is touted as a possible outside linebacker conversion prospect in the 3-4, but analysts almost universally state that he doesn’t have the athleticism to play that position. What he does have, however, is a relentless tenacity that allowed him to be the all time tackle-for-loss leader at Purdue.
Tennessee Titans: Round One
Blaine Gabbert–QB/Missouri: Most mock drafts have the Titans taking Nick Fairley, which the rest of the AFC South would love to see because that would mean Tennessee would continue to languish without a franchise quarterback.
Gabbert may not be there at eight, but if he is there he has to be the pick.
Even if Fairley turns out to realize his full potential as a Titan, it won’t matter how good the defense is with Kerry Collins or Rusty Smith running the offense. Mike Munchak needs to get a quarterback of the future this year, and if he thinks that it’s Ryan Mallet, the rest of the division should send him a fruit basket.
Indianapolis Colts: Round Two
Orlando Franklin–OT/Miami (FL): Peyton Manning looked almost human last year. Most people want to point the finger at the injuries to his skill position players, but the truth is for the first time in a while, he was feeling pressure.
Franklin is a possible first round talent because of his ability to play left tackle, but his work ethic will keep him in the second round. If the Colts were able to keep him on the straight and narrow and his weight down, he could be an integral part of keeping Manning upright and the offense on track.
Houston Texans: Round Two
Jerrel Jernigan–WR/Troy: Stopping the Texans offense is already a formidable task. Next season, Ben Tate will be back to spell Arian Foster. Owen Daniels should be fully healthy and show the regained burst that was evident at the end of last season. All this won’t stop teams from double covering Andre Johnson, though.
The Texans need a reliable deep threat opposite of AJ to draw safety help away or make teams pay for it. Jernigan has electrifying deep speed, but he is also extremely dangerous after the catch, something integral to being a receiver in a West Coast Offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Round Two
Titus Young–WR/Boise State: The short pass game of Jacksonville is becoming a good compliment to their running game with good possession receivers like Mike Thomas and Mercedes Lewis. Unfortunately though, they don’t a vertical threat to keep opposing defenses honest.
Mike Sims-Walker is a free agent, but was never that much of a deep threat to begin with. Young, who continuously draws comparisons to DeSean Jackson, would instantly make opposing safeties respect the fact that at any time he could burn press coverage deep.
Tennessee Titans: Round Two
Randall Cobb–WR/Kentucky: Kenny Britt can stretch the field when healthy, but the Titans lack a true threat in the slot. Instead, they rely on Chris Johnson too much who opposing defenses key on and therefore are able to contain him.
Cobb is an elite talent with incredible quickness. The Dexter McCluster like slot receiver would take away the complete focus on Johnson and their collective speed would give defensive coordinator’s nightmares.
The underneath game would also be a good security blanket for a new quarterback.
Indianapolis Colts: Round Three
DeAndre McDaniel–SS/Clemson: Bob Sanders may have been the best run defending safety of our generation, but he could not stay healthy because of the way he played. The year that the Colts won the Super Bowl, Sanders was able to transform the defense in the playoffs when he returned from injury.
McDaniel is the best run-defending strong safety in the draft. With him playing up in the box, the opposing teams would find it much more difficult to run all over the Colts. McDaniel may lack the elite speed usually coveted by Indianapolis, but he does a phenomenal job using technique to funnel plays to the inside.
Houston Texans: Round Three
Kenrick Ellis–DT/Hampton: Every 3-4 needs a good nose tackle in order to be successful. The Texans would have you believe that Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell will fill that role nicely. Despite Phillips making undersized nose tackles work in his defense in the past, they could still use a monster in the rotation.
Ellis is an elite talent for the 3-4 nose. He would likely be a second or even first round pick if it wasn’t for character concerns, which is why the Texans would never make this pick in real life.
If they were to somehow get over their stigma regarding off the field issues however, Ellis could anchor their defensive line for years.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Round Three
Ricky Stanzi–QB/Iowa: The last playoff season for the Jaguars in 2007 coincided with the year that David Garrard threw an incredibly low tally of three interceptions. Since then though, he has failed to take care of the ball as he did that year, and his tenure as starter is probably done, or at least it should be.
Stanzi’s lack of arm strength keeps him from consideration as a top flight quarterback, but he possesses a great understanding of how to manage the game. His 25/6 touchdown to interception ratio shows that he can be the perfect fit for Jacksonville’s ball control style of play.
Tennessee Titans: Round 3
Drake Nevis–DT/Louisiana State: Despite having a plethora of talented defensive ends, the Titans’ pass rush has not been the same since the departure of Albert Haynesworth. Defensive line coach Jim Washburn is gone, but his philosophy remains and that scheme requires a presence in the middle of the D line.
Nevis is a great prospect to play three-technique in the NFL. He lacks great speed to be a pass rusher in his own right, but has ample quickness to split double teams and collapse the pocket. This is what is needed to make last year’s first rounder Derrick Morgan successful coming off of a season ending injury.
Indianapolis Colts: Round 4
Kendall Hunter–RB/Oklahoma State: The Donald Brown experiment has about run its course. If the former first-round pick could claim the starting role last year with Joseph Addai failing yet again to stay healthy, he probably never will.
Hunter is a great fit for the Colts offense. The shifty runner is a great receiver out of the backfield, and ideal for the stretch plays and screens they like to run. Additionally, he proved at the Senior Bowl that he is a great blocker despite his size, an attribute the kept Brown off the field for so long.
Houston Texans: Round 4
Tyler Sash–SS/Iowa: Under Frank Bush’s 4-3 under defense, the main culprit for gashing the pass defense wasn’t wide receivers—it was tight ends. The Texans have neglected the safety position since, well… forever, which has allowed opposing tight ends to post career numbers against them continuously.
Sash is not your typical, in-the-box strong safety. At Iowa, he played primarily in two-deep set or over the tight end. What he gives up in classic run stopping ability normal for a strong safety, he makes up for with athleticism necessary for coverage. He is also a phenomenal special teams player.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Round 4
Nate Irving–ILB/North Carolina State: Terrance Knighton was a revelation for the Jaguars at nose guard last season, and yet opposing defenses were still able to run up the middle somewhat effectively. The reason being that despite Knighton tying up two blockers consistently, no one was behind him to clean up the mess.
Irving would bring a presence to the middle linebacker position that matches the blue collar mentality of the defensive line. Irving is a thumper who loves contact, and is probably flying under the radar because he missed the entire 2009 season due to injury from a car accident.
Tennessee Titans: Round 4
Delone Carter–RB/Syracuse: Remember the Smash-and-Dash moniker that made Chris Johnson successful? LenDale White was far from special as a runner, but his size and strength wore defenses down which Johnson was able to then exploit.
Carter does not have great speed for a running back, but he is a strong downfield runner perfect for short yardage situations. As opposed to other power backs, however, he is an adept receiver which is important because he will be primarily in on third downs to spell Johnson and change the pace.
Indianapolis Colts: Round 5
Greg Salas–WR/Hawaii: Austin Collie is one concussion away from a possible retirement, and Anthony Gonzalez appears to have the chronic injury bug. The Colts have continuously made smart, dependable receivers the staple of their offense rather than the prototypical receiver types besides Reggie Wayne.
Salas is that to a T. He won’t wow you with his speed, but he makes up for that with body positioning and catching the ball away from his body. He would bring a physicality to the Colts receiving corps over the middle that they missed last season when Dallas Clark was injured.
Houston Texans: Round 5
Chris Culliver–FS/South Carolina: For Texans fans that watched the safety tandem of Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson try to cover last year, safety is likely a need they would like to see filled early in the draft. Unfortunately, general manager Rick Smith has never picked one earlier than the fifth round.
Culliver has rare talent for a prospect found this late in the draft. He has great speed and ball skills, but is extremely raw as a prospect. If paired with a veteran free agent brought in just to be a stopgap to allow the rookie time to learn, Culliver could develop into a true ball hawk the Texans have never had.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Round 5
Keith Williams–OG/Nebraska: While Maurice Jones-Drew enjoyed another great season last year, one aspect of the Jacksonville rushing attack that was disappointing was goal line running. Time and again, MoJo was stuffed on runs from the one or two yard lines.
Williams made Roy Helu and the rest of the Nebraska rushing attack look good during his four years there. Williams was the model of durability and consistency blocking in one of the most renowned collegiate rushing attacks, and could make a potent Jacksonville run game even better.
Tennessee Titans: Round 5
Jordan Cameron–TE/Southern California: Bo Scaife is a decent tight end, but he has been at odds with the Tennessee front office since their application of the franchise tag on him. Furthermore, he is not a great vertical tight end which all the other teams in the division possess.
Cameron has the athleticism to play this role. As a former basketball player, he has the innate ability to play in space that has made other former players on the hardwood like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham so successful. Also, he would be yet another addition to make life easier on a rookie quarterback.