Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Optimist/Pessimist - AFC South Draft Review


Jacksonville Jaguars:

OPTIMIST:

Jack Del Rio doesn’t do subtlety or grace; his Jaguars have always been about scraping, scratching, grind-them-to-dust football. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his first two picks were used to get a couple of massive blockers for his offensive line. OT Eugene Monroa and OT Eben Britton should help revive a unit that was decimated by injuries last year, causing the once dominant ground game to fall to 18th in the league. With holes to run through, there isn’t a more explosive back in the league than MJD, and this should get Mighty Mouse flying high once more. Meanwhile, DT Terrance Knighton brings some much needed size to a defensive interior that wasn’t as effective at disrupting the pocket as it has been in the past. In fact, this draft represents exactly the kind of return to the past Del Rio had to be hoping for during last year’s strange tumble into mediocrity.

PESSIMIST:

David Garrard emerged in 2007 as a potential franchise quarterback for the Jaguars, combining massive size with deceptive quickness and an arm big enough to hit any point on the field. While his team never asked him to do too much, Garrard made good use of his athletic, if underwhelming wideouts, punishing defenses for thinking Jacksonville couldn’t fly too. This year, he’s going to look back on the Matt Jones/Reggie Williams era as “the good old days.” WR Torry Holt has been an amazing receiver, but the man is in the twilight of his career and has a knee that can tell him when it rains. After that, it’s…well, that’s about it, actually. Outside of perpetual disappointment TE Mercedes Lewis, there’s really nobody else who can catch a pass, and two undersized, underwhelming late round receiver picks in this draft aren’t going to make teams any less likely to shut the run down and dare Garrard to beat them through the air. Without big targets with the speed and agility to compensate for what can at times be an inaccurate arm, I’m not sure Jacksonville has enough of a pass game to effectively run its one dimensional offense.

Indianapolis Colts:

OPTIMIST:

If the Patriots are draft geniuses thanks to their ability to trade up and snag physical freaks for low personnel costs, the Colts have the same reputation thanks to their ability to quietly reload with talent that goes unnoticed until later in rounds. Their last two first round picks, RB Joseph Addai and WR Anthony Gonzalez both failed to wow scouts with any particular part of their games, and yet both had the undeniable ability to become consistent NFL starters, which they have done. RB Donald Brown is a pick in the same mold. After a heralded career at UConn, Brown fell behind flashier back Knowshon Moreno on most draft charts. Meanwhile, thanks to the need for big names that cripples other teams, the Colts picked up the most consistent RB in the draft at the 27th pick. As a platoon back with the aforementioned Joseph Addai, Brown should give the Colts the kind of mechanical consistency in the offensive backfield that allows Peyton Manning to dissect overmatched pass defenses (last year’s ground game was the second worst in the league). Oh, and don’t sleep on WR Austin Collie, who could step in as an excellent slot option as Gonzalez replaces Marvin Harrison at the #2 spot.

PESSIMIST:

Last year marked the first time in a long time that the Colts looked beaten and battered in the trenches. Considering just how many talented defensive linemen were on the board, it’s a bit surprising that they went with a first round RB in a draft class that had become notorious for its dearth of special ball carriers (although again, ignore Cedric Peerman at your own peril). Furthermore, with Peyton getting older, QB Curtis Painter may be the most boring quarterback taken this year. I’m all for consistency, but at some point this team is going to have to make a big move at the positions that have always been consistent (OL, QB).

Tennessee Titans:

OPTIMIST:

Vince Young must be so pissed right now. WR Kenny Britt gives the team it’s first legitimate receiving talent since Young joined the team, and they waited until Kerry Collins took over at QB to draft him. Combining hands, size, and speed that , if it translates to the NFL, could do a lot of vertical damage, Britt is like a less explosive Braylon Edwards, which the Titans can get away with thanks to a run-first offense. DT Sen’Derrick Marks is another smart pick, particularly considering the loss of Albert Haynesworth in free agency. If his quickness can get a little bit of strength added on, we could be looking at Haynesworth light (ok, VERY light), which could take some of the heat off of a depleted DL unit. Finally, Jared Cook might have been my second favorite TE in the draft, and in Tennessee he fills the need for a vertical threat down the middle perfectly. Don’t look now, but the Titans suddenly have an athletic corps of receivers with the size to manhandle most DB units (don’t sleep on WR Dominique Edison either). PS: Javon Ringer will take LenDale White’s job sooner rather than later.

PESSIMIST:

What they don’t have is an answer to the simple question of what happens when Kerry Collins inevitably breaks down. At this point, the team had better hope that VY is coming back more focused than ever, because otherwise Patrick Ramsey or a less than exciting Alex Mortensen is getting the nod, and nobody wants to see that. Furthermore, while receivers routinely prove that speed isn’t everything, corners rarely do, making the knock on CB Ryan Mouton’s speed all the more damning for his pro prospects.

Houston Texans:

OPTIMIST:

What initially looked like stupidity in draft strategy has now become something of a calling card for the Texans in that their defense has once again picked up incredible talent. LB Brian Cushing steps into a LB corps that desperately needed another playmaker to join DeMeco Ryan solidifying a level of the defense that too often got beaten with quarterback safety valves (17th best pass defense in unacceptable for this squad). Meanwhile, the defensive line, perhaps the best in the division now that Haynesworth is gone, picked up DE Connor Barwin, who shows incredible speed for being such a massive individual, not unlike another first day pick that was mocked mercilessly in 2006, only to become one of the league’s most frightening defensive forces. Quick question: What’s worse than getting hit by a small motorcycle moving at motorcycle speeds? Answer: Getting hit by two. If Barwin develops along similar lines, quarterbacks had better start investing in better life insurance policies.

PESSIMIST:

Of course, QB Matt Schaub is probably way ahead of them on preparing for life after being broken into twenty different pieces. Waiting until the second day to pick up an offensive linemen is a risky move, particularly considering that Matt Schaub has proven to be less than sturdy. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching QB Dan Orlovsky run outside of the back of his own end zone as much as the next guy, but we’re wasting the prime of Andre Johnson’s career here, and the fact that we should be talking about him as the best WR in the league but don’t is a shame.

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