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Early Look at the Biggest 2016 NFL Draft Needs for AFC South Teams

DeAndre Hopkins

DeAndre Hopkins

The AFC South was the worst division in football in 2015 and it wasn’t really close. The AFC South had the worst record against the rest of its conference (13-27) of any division in the NFL. If you take only the top two teams in each of the remaining AFC divisions, each pairing had 13 or more wins against conference foes.

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It was a rough 2015 campaign for every AFC South team, including division champion Houston, as the Texans got shutout at home in their wild card playoff game loss to Kansas City. Each team has talent to build around, but no team is lacking in gaping holes on their respective roster. Needless to say, this draft is very important for the AFC South.

Houston Texans

2015 Snapshot: The Houston Texans were the best of the worst in the AFC South, managing to win the division with a record of 9-7. The Texans' defense was nothing to scoff at, but a carousel of subpar quarterbacks led an offense that was often times hard to watch (e.g. J.J. Watt’s awful Wildcat attempt in the playoffs). They eventually suffered one of the worst home playoff losses in NFL history, falling 30-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs.

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Biggest Needs: Help on offense is key for the Texans. DeAndre Hopkins is an elite wide receiver, but teams can easily afford to double him up, as there are no other serious threats. Obviously quarterback is their biggest weakness, but with their pick coming so late in the draft they may not want to draft a multiple-year project. Targeting a deep threat wide receiver to stretch the field would certainly help, or perhaps they could take a running back that is more durable than Arian Foster.

First-round pick: No. 22 overall

Potential Picks: Baylor’s Corey Coleman and TCU’s Josh Doctson are a pair of explosive Big 12 wide receivers that are used to catching the ball at full speed 60 yards down the field. If Houston goes the running back route it would only be worth it at their spot if Ezekiel Elliott was still on the board. Finally, if the Texans feel they must take a quarterback, Michigan State’s Connor Cook figures to be the best available option.

Indianapolis Colts

2015 Snapshot: As much as Colts fans would love to blame this year’s failures solely on the loss of Andrew Luck, there are a lot of issues beyond the team's star quarterback. For starters, he’s never going to last a whole season if the Colts can’t give him a quality offensive line, an issue that hasn’t been properly addressed for several years now. Furthermore, the Colts' defense finished in the bottom fourth of the league against both the run (25th) and pass (24th).

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Biggest Needs: An offensive line that can keep Luck upright. He has proven he has the tools to be an all-time great, but Indianapolis will waste his incredible talents if they do not protect him. On the other side of the trenches, the Colts' defensive line is not any better. This team struggles against all types of offense, so a pocket-collapsing defensive tackle or an athletic defensive end would be an upgrade.

First-round pick: No. 18 overall

Potential Picks: If Ohio State’s Taylor Decker is still on the board, the talented left tackle could eventually work his way to protecting Luck’s blindside for years to come. If the Colts want to clog up the middle and create a distraction for their pass rushers, Baylor’s Andrew Billings and Penn State’s Austin Johnson can do just that. Lastly, a dominant defensive end in Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche could potentially be available at No. 18 due to some off-the-field issues. He is worth the risk for an Indianapolis defense that needs help right away.

Jacksonville Jaguars

2015 Snapshot: A fun, young roster that saw players post  breakout campaigns made for one of the more exciting Jaguars teams in recent memory. Their offense is undeniably explosive; with two talented wide receivers, a big tight end, and a promising running back. The defense is a different story entirely. Unless the Jaguars can manage to keep opponents scoring fewer than 28 points per game (31st in the NFL in 2015), they will continue to find themselves at the bottom of the standings.

Biggest Needs: Defense. This offense has all the tools it needs to succeed. Blake Bortles showed significant signs of improvement by throwing for 24 more touchdowns and 1,500 more yards than he did during his rookie season. The secondary and defensive line are atrocious, so that is where the Jaguars should focus their attention. The biggest question mark this offseason is the Jaguars' 2015 first-round pick (No. 3 overall), former Florida defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. On top of his ACL tear suffered in training camp last season, there is now a video of him involved in a fight between two women that the NFL is investigating.

First-round pick: No. 5 overall

Potential Picks: With their pick this high in the draft the Jaguars should be able to fill a positional need with a day one starter, a spot Jacksonville is very familiar with. That is the fun part about finishing near the bottom of the league every year. The pick will be between the trio of Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III, and Ohio State’s Joey Bosa. Either of the two Sunshine State cornerbacks would immediately be the best player in the Jags' secondary, and Bosa would contend for best defensive player from day one of training camp.

Tennessee Titans

2015 Snapshot: The Titans were finally able to find their answer at quarterback. Marcus Mariota proved he was worth the hype, and when healthy he was one of the better rookie quarterbacks in recent memory. Considering that Mariota may arguably have had the worst offensive line, running backs, and receiving corps in the NFL, his ability to put up the numbers that he did is truly remarkable (19 TDs, 10 INTs, 2,818 total yards in 12 games). Outside of Mariota’s impressive start in the NFL there aren’t many positive things to say about the 2015 Titans.

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Biggest Needs: Every position except quarterback. This is a big draft for the Titans' front office, which is headed up by rookie general manager Jon Robinson. They finally got past the hard part and landed their franchise quarterback of the future. Now it is time to get better at every other position.

First-round pick: No. 1 overall

Potential Picks: Laremy Tunsil is their man. Joey Bosa is a generational talent, but at No. 1 overall the Titans simply cannot take any risk. While Bosa’s off-the-field issues don’t drop him out of the top five, they likely take him out of the No. 1 spot. The Titans allowed their quarterbacks to get sacked a league-leading 54 times, and Mariota was forced to miss four games due to an ankle injury.