Analysis  

 

AFC South projected starters: Jaguars loaded; Texans top-heavy

Print

Gregg Rosenthal will project post-draft starting lineups for all 32 teams -- because that's his idea of fun.

Houston Texans

QB: Deshaun Watson
RB: Lamar Miller
WR: DeAndre Hopkins
WR: Will Fuller
WR: Bruce Ellington
TE: Ryan Griffin
LT: Julie'n Davenport
LG: Zach Fulton
C: Nick Martin
RG: Senio Kelemete
RT: Seantrel Henderson

DE: J.J. Watt
DT: D.J. Reader
OLB: Jadeveon Clowney
ILB: Benardrick McKinney
ILB: Zach Cunningham
OLB: Whitney Mercilus
CB: Johnathan Joseph
CB: Aaron Colvin
CB: Kareem Jackson
S: Tyrann Mathieu
S: Andre Hal

» The top-heavy Texans offense reflects the team as a whole. Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins give Houston a very high ceiling, but a look at the rest of the unit makes me worried the team is asking Watson to do too much.

» The defense is deeper, but no one can be sure how J.J. Watt will play after missing 24 games over the last two seasons. Peak seasons from him, Whitney Mercilus and Tyrann Mathieu would make this group special. Otherwise, that secondary could be exposed.

» Second-year running back D'Onta Foreman is coming off Achilles surgery; otherwise, he might be in line to start over Lamar Miller, if not kick Miller off the roster entirely. With Foreman recovering, Miller should keep his roster spot and starting job to open the season.

» Houston's offensive line was among the league's worst last year. Unless third-round pick Martinas Rankin surprises as a blind-side protector, the tackle situation doesn't look much better this time around. The Texans threw money at their guard problem, with two starters possibly found in free agency. After former Chiefs guard Jeff Allen struggled to live up to his contract last year, the team gave another former Chiefs guard (Zach Fulton) good money.

» The Texans would love fourth-round pick Keke Coutee to step right into the slot-receiver role. But counting on mid-round rookies to play big snaps right away is often foolhardy, as the Texans learned with Braxton Miller two years ago.

» Add it all up, and there are few AFC teams with greater boom-or-bust potential than Houston. Anything between 11-5 and 5-11 feels on the table, depending on health and Watson's development.

Indianapolis Colts

QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Marlon Mack
WR: T.Y. Hilton
WR: Ryan Grant
TE: Jack Doyle
TE: Eric Ebron
LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Quenton Nelson
C: Ryan Kelly
RG: Braden Smith
RT: Joe Haeg

DE: Jabaal Sheard
DT: Hassan Ridgeway
DT: Denico Autry
DE: John Simon
OLB: Darius Leonard
MLB: Najee Goode
OLB: Antonio Morrison
CB: Quincy Wilson
CB: Pierre Desir
S: Malik Hooker
S: Clayton Geathers

» Andrew Luck's early offenses were loaded with receivers and not much help from the offensive line. That formula could be flipped if general manager Chris Ballard's emphasis on toughness up front pans out.

» This is the most promising O-line the Colts have fielded in a while. It shows progress that Jack Mewhort, a quality starter plagued by injuries, and veteran Matt Slauson aren't listed among the starters. If rookie guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith live up to their draft pedigree, right tackle might be the only relative weak spot.

» Ryan Grant is the favorite for the No. 2 wide receiver job, based on the money he received in free agency. An injury to Hilton would be devastating; this wideout crew is thin, with Chester Rogers as the No. 3 option and very little behind him. Eric Ebron, signed as a catch-first tight end, might wind up as the team's de facto third receiver. This is a far cry from the group of receivers who reached the 2014 AFC title game with Luck.

» Marlon Mack figures to lead a committee at running back that includes Robert Turbin and rookie scat back Nyheim Hines.

» The holes on offense are more concerning because Luck's side of the ball has to carry the team. There isn't a position group on the Colts' defense that is more talented than the NFL average -- except perhaps safety, where Matthias Farley comes off the bench. The team is transitioning to a 4-3 base defense and many of the old pieces -- like John Simon -- don't quite fit. Free-agent pickup Denico Autry can play inside or out, depending on the down.

» To think about it another way: Who is the best player on the Colts' defense?

Jacksonville Jaguars

QB: Blake Bortles
RB: Leonard Fournette
WR: Marqise Lee
WR: Donte Moncrief
WR: Dede Westbrook
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins
LT: Cam Robinson
LG: Andrew Norwell
C: Brandon Linder
RG: A.J. Cann
RT: Jermey Parnell

DE: Calais Campbell
DT: Malik Jackson
DT: Marcell Dareus
DE: Yannick Ngakoue
OLB: Telvin Smith
MLB: Myles Jack
CB: Jalen Ramsey
CB: A.J. Bouye
CB: D.J. Hayden
S: Barry Church
S: Tashaun Gipson

» The Jaguars brought back nearly the entire defense that destroyed the league a year ago. Pulling off an encore will be difficult, but the defensive line shouldn't slip much with a full season from Marcell Dareus. First-round pick Taven Bryan will come off the bench and former No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler remains a sub.

» One of the only changes on defense will come from Myles Jack moving to middle linebacker on every down. The team also downgraded at slot cornerback after losing Aaron Colvin. The lack of cornerback depth makes keeping A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey healthy a key. Jacksonville was one of the healthiest teams in football last season and had a favorable schedule -- two factors that aren't likely to repeat.

» The Jags have done everything possible to make Blake Bortles feel more comfortable. They gave him a new contract, no competition and a stronger offensive line. Even after losing Allen Robinson, the depth at receiver is strong. Keelan Cole played well last year, but Dede Westbrook's upside is higher. Second-round pick D.J. Chark will also be a threat, especially if free-agent pickup Donte Moncrief doesn't pan out. There are five promising wideouts here, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins might have been a steal in free agency.

» It speaks to the Jaguars' stability that their battle royale for receiver snaps is practically the only unsettled position on either side of the ball.

Tennessee Titans

QB: Marcus Mariota
RB: Derrick Henry
WR: Corey Davis
WR: Rishard Matthews
WR: Taywan Taylor
TE: Delanie Walker
LT: Taylor Lewan
LG: Quinton Spain
C: Ben Jones
RG: Josh Kline
RT: Jack Conklin

DE: DaQuan Jones
DE: Jurrell Casey
OLB: Brian Orakpo
ILB: Wesley Woodyard
ILB: Rashaan Evans
OLB: Derrick Morgan
CB: Malcolm Butler
CB: Adoree' Jackson
CB: Logan Ryan
S: Kevin Byard
S: Johnathan Cyprien

» Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis form a fun backfield, but there are still question marks about Marcus Mariota's weapons. Corey Davis flashed potential as a rookie, but it's asking too much for him to be a No. 1 receiver already. Taywan Taylor didn't graduate past gadget player as a rookie, with only 16 catches. Tajae Sharpe, a pleasant surprise in 2016, returns from injury in what's an otherwise thin group.

» Rishard Matthews is an underrated veteran, but another weapon here wouldn't hurt. This would be a logical landing spot for Dez Bryant.

» The entire offensive line returns after a season where it didn't quite play to its reputation. A return to the unit's 2016 form could make the Titans true AFC title contenders.

» General manager Jon Robinson has done an excellent job remaking this roster. Robinson arrived with virtually nothing to work with in the secondary, and now the group looks like an asset. Adoree' Jackson has breakout potential in his second season.

» Rashaan Evans should make an early impact as a rookie, while second-round pick Harold Landry adds a situational pass rusher to support the grown-man tandem of Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan.

» While this is coach Mike Vrabel's first year at the helm, it is Year 4 for Mariota and Year 3 for Robinson. It's go time for an organization that has done a nice job crawling out of a two-year hole in 2014-15, when the Titans only won five games combined.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop