The Tennessee Titans edged the Indianapolis Colts for the AFC South last season thanks to a better divisional record. The rest of the division didn't fare nearly as well, however, as the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars combined to go 5-27. So the 2021 NFL Draft meant something different to each team. The Titans and Colts should battle for the top spot once again while the Jaguars and Texans are embarking on rebuilds, with each employing a different approach. Here's how each team used this year's drafts to get closer to realizing these goals.
Objective Achieved: Tried to make the most of what picks they had
The Texans face a bunch of questions, starting with the status of quarterback Deshaun Watson, and didn't have many draft picks at their disposal due to trades orchestrated by the previous regime. Houston used its first pick, a third-rounder, on Stanford quarterback Davis Mills, who may nor may not be the future at the position. The Texans also traded up to grab Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins in the third, an indication they really liked him given their limited draft capital, and added Miami (Fla.) tight end Brevin Jordan to the offense as well. TCU linebacker Garrett Wallow and Arizona defensive tackle Roy Lopez rounded out Houston's five-man draft class.
Objective Achieved: Boosted pass rush
Even though the Colts finished second in the NFL in rushing defense and tied for 10th in scoring, general manager Chris Ballard sees room for improvement. That's why he used his first two draft picks on defensive linemen – Michigan's Kwity Paye and Vanderbilt's Dayo Odeyingbo. Paye will probably see action right away while Odeyingbo's debut will be delayed as he recovers from a torn Achilles he suffered in January while training for the Senior Bowl. It's unclear what type of role SMU tight end Kylen Granson and Charleston wide receiver Mike Strachan will have but there are some questions when it comes to the depth of Indianapolis' receiving corps and how things will shake out with Carson Wentz taking over at quarterback. Penn State guard Will Fries will look to carve out a spot in the offensive line rotation while Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger landed in a great spot, getting a chance to learn from head coach Frank Reich, but will have to compete with Jacob Eason for the backup job.
Objective Achieved: Got their franchise quarterback
No surprise, the Jags used the No. 1 overall pick on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, who is considered one of the best quarterback prospects to come out in the draft in a number of years. What as a slight surprise was that Jacksonville then selected Lawrence's Clemson teammate, running back Travis Etienne, with the team's other first-round pick. Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell has familiarity with head coach Urban Meyer while Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little and Georgia Tech wide receiver Jalen Camp will fight for their spots in the new-look offense. On defense, Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell should get on the field right away while Syracuse safety Andre Cisco, USC defensive tackle Jay Tufele, and UAB edge rusher Jordan Smith will get their chances to impress during training camp and the preseason.
Objective Achieved: Filled their major needs
The Titans are taking a chance and hoping that cornerback Caleb Farley makes a complete and quick recovery from his recent back surgery as the first-round pick can give their secondary a major jolt of talent and attitude. Tennessee also took two wide receivers after three departed in free agency so Louisville's Dez Fitzpatrick and LSU's Racey McMath will get plenty of opportunities to claim roles in this offense. Second-round offensive tackle Dillon Radunz should help solidify the line, if he doesn't earn a starting job outright. The Titans further addressed their secondary depth with the selections of Washington cornerback Elijah Molden and Oregon safety Brady Breeze, and the front seven got some new blood in Pittsburgh defensive end Rashad Weaver and Georgia linebacker Monty Rice. It was a little curious that the team didn't draft a tight end following Jonnu Smith's departure.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Trevor Lawrence photo by Logan Bowles, courtesy of jaguars.com)