Draft Grades

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AFC South draft grades: Jaguars set foundation for new era; Colts play long game

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2021 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Dan's review of the AFC South.

NOTABLE SELECTIONS

Best Pick:

Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence
Clemson · QB

Draft slot: Round 1, No. 1 overall


I’m not going to overthink this one. Everyone knew Lawrence was headed to Jacksonville since the Jaguars secured the No. 1 overall pick on Dec. 27. It was said that Urban Meyer did his due diligence on the other top QBs available, but there were no signs of wavering. Duval gets a generational talent who’s being compared to Andrew Luck. Lawrence can be a transformational figure the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.

Most Surprising Pick:

Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
Travis Etienne
Clemson · RB

Draft slot: Round 1, No. 25 overall


A first-round running back for the Jaguars was not on many (any?) radars. With bigger needs elsewhere, some jaws undoubtedly dropped when the team decided to reunite Etienne with college teammate Trevor Lawrence at No. 25 overall. Remember, Jacksonville already had undrafted rookie sensation James Robinson -- a 1,000-yard rusher last season -- and Carlos Hyde on the roster. Etienne was the top RB in the draft on some boards and will be a huge help to Lawrence as he adjusts to the next level, so we can understand why the decision was made. We just didn’t see it coming.

Biggest Sleeper:

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
Elijah Molden
Washington · CB

Draft slot: Round 3, No. 100 overall


The Titans might have found themselves a Day 1 starter and All-Rookie Team dark horse candidate late in Round 3. Molden was NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s 60th-ranked prospect, but he lasted until Pick 100, likely because of concerns about his speed. He might not have every measurable teams covet, but his intangibles should have Tennessee fans very excited. Instincts, toughness, feisty playing demeanor, NFL bloodlines -- Molden brings all of that to the table. The guy earned comps to Tyrann Mathieu and Antoine Winfield Jr. this spring. Again, why was he still available so late? I have a feeling some teams will be kicking themselves for passing on him when they see him wreaking havoc as a nickel back this fall.

TEAM GRADES

NOTE: Draft classes are displayed from best to worst within the division.

Grade
B+
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
Total picks: 9

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 6:


The Lawrence pick carries a lot of weight in the Jaguars’ grade. They drafted the best player to enter the league in a long time. There are points for that, no matter how easy the decision might seem. He’s going to be walking into a situation vastly superior to the ones many of his No. 1 overall pick predecessors inherited. Instant success is there for the taking. We’re not as high on some of Urban Meyer’s other moves in his first draft at the helm of an NFL team, but he was certainly consistent, addressing the team’s primary areas of need and spending all but one pick on players from the Power Five conferences. Etienne could be an absolute dynamo in Meyer’s offense, but we would have opted to fill a more pressing need with that pick. There were some reaches here for guys who haven’t played in a while -- Little has suited up for one game since the start of the 2019 season -- and waiting until Round 5 to take a tight end (one with 34 career receptions) was questionable. That said, if Lawrence and Etienne do their thing and a couple of the Day 2 picks eventually become solid starters, this will be a celebrated class.

Grade
B-
Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
Total picks: 8

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Round 4:

Round 6:


To give you an idea of Farley’s talent, he opened draft season as NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 5 overall prospect and his highest-ranked defensive player. He has a rare blend of size and skills that had scouts salivating until medical concerns caused his stock to sink late in the process. Jon Robinson was still willing to take a shot at No. 22 amid chatter that the former Hokie would slide to Round 2. If Farley stays healthy, the Titans’ GM will look like a genius. Robinson definitely showed wisdom taking Radunz and Molden, two undervalued prospects who could be Day 1 starters. Unfortunately, the cupboard is looking somewhat bare at wide receiver beyond A.J. Brown after the team waited until Day 3 to address the position. Tight end was a need that went completely unaddressed.


After the draft, troubling news surfaced involving Weaver. The former Panthers defensive lineman was charged with assaulting a woman in Pittsburgh during an incident that occurred on April 18. Weaver’s attorney has called the allegations “completely false and reckless.” The Titans said in a statement that they were not aware of the news until Monday morning. “We obviously take this seriously and are in the process of gathering details and working with the league,” the statement read.

Grade
B-
Houston Texans
Houston Texans
Total picks: 5

Round 3:

Round 5:

Round 6:


Nick Caserio came away with a respectable, albeit small, class in his first draft as general manager. Houston was without a pick in the first two rounds (former head coach/GM Bill O’Brien sent those selections to Miami in the Laremy Tunsil trade), so Caserio was working with very limited capital. He added further insurance behind Deshaun Watson, whose future remains murky, with his first pick. Mills has just 11 collegiate starts under his belt after injuries plagued him during his Stanford career, so there’s some significant risk here. His ceiling is as high as any quarterback picked outside the first round this year, though. The Texans filled one of their biggest needs by trading up for Collins, who gives the team the size (6-foot-4) it lacked at the position, and Jordan was a great value in Round 5. The former Hurricanes tight end isn’t going to wow anyone with his athletic testing, but that’s not going to stop him from becoming a trusted target for whoever is under center. There were some needs Caserio never addressed, but that’s not a surprising result given the circumstances he inherited.

Grade
C+
Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts
Total picks: 7

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 4:

Round 5:

Round 6:

Round 7:


We were digging how the draft started for the Colts. They found their edge rusher in Round 1, and we assumed that meant the left tackle replacement for Anthony Castonzo was coming in Round 2. But it didn’t arrive in the second round. In fact, GM Chris Ballard didn’t pick an offensive lineman until late in Round 7. Maybe Ballard has a plan for the position that hasn’t yet surfaced, but the idea of welcoming Carson Wentz to Indianapolis with Sam Tevi and Julie’n Davenport as the top left tackles on the depth chart isn’t a plan we endorse. Now, there’s plenty to like about Paye’s explosiveness and upside, even though he produced just 11.5 sacks in four years at Michigan. Doubling down off the edge was an interesting choice, with Odeyingbo coming off the Achilles injury he suffered in January. He’s another pass rusher who could develop into a quality starter down the road. Granson and Strachan are intriguing talents, too, but this draft felt a bit reach-y after Round 1. The Colts only landed two of NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s top 150 prospects, and one of them might need a redshirt year in 2021. 

Follow Dan Parr on Twitter.

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