AFC South Looking Much Improved

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans, Jaguars, and Titans all drafted twice before the Colts even took a single player, and all three of the other teams in the AFC South are already much improved.

We're inching closer and closer to the Colts first pick of the draft at number 59 overall, but all three of the other AFC South teams have already picked twice.  And it's absolutely safe to say that all three of them have improved quite a bit in the past 24 hours.  Let's look at those three teams and their picks, along with how each one affects the Colts - who will play each of them twice this season as they attempt to win their second consecutive AFC South title.

Houston Texans:

Round 1 (1 overall) - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Everybody knew that this pick was coming if the Texans stayed at number one overall, which they did.  Clowney was the clear top prospect in the draft and has insane physical abilities.  He's 6-6, 266 pounds with 34 and a half inch arms.  He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is just crazy good.  His talent is off the charts and the potential is there for him to become one of the league's best.  NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said about him:

"He's 6-foot-5, 266 pounds. He's got 34-inch arms. He ran a ridiculous 4.53 (40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine) at 266. He's explosive. He flashes in every game. When he woke up this morning, he was the most talented (defensive) lineman on the planet. The knock on him is that he's not always consistent. The criticism is that he flashes explosion, but he doesn't do it enough. The talent demands that he becomes the best defensive player in the league."

The pick pairs the best player in the draft with one of the best defensive players in the NFL, J.J. Watt.  The duo of Clowney and Watt is one that scares many Colts fans and one that likely gave Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus nightmares last night.  The two tackles for the Colts will have their hands full in playing Clowney twice a year this season, and it is absolutely expected that the duo of Clowney and Watt will become one of the most fearsome in the league.  Not so lucky for Andrew Luck, who will have to face them twice a year.

Round 2 (33 overall) - Xavier Su'a Filo, G, UCLA

Many expected the Texans to either go with a quarterback or a guy like Louis Nix, who was still there at pick 33.  Instead, the Texans took an offensive lineman in Xavier Su'a Filo, another guy who potentially could have gone in the first round.  He projects to be a left guard in the NFL and he should be a good one at that.  Mike Mayock said of the pick:

"We talked about them getting stronger inside on both sides of the football. Played some tackle, but when they kicked him inside (to guard) it was a completely different picture. He is a plug-and play guy; a Day 1 starter. With (Jadeveon) Clowney on defensive side and Su'a-Filo on offensive side, I think GM Rick Smith is making a statement."

That "statement" Mayock mentioned is that the Texans strengthened the trenches with their first two picks of the draft.  They took a defensive lineman in the first round and an offensive lineman in the second round.  Both of them should be good starters for the Texans and the direction the franchise is heading is clear, which is placing an emphasis on the trenches.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Round 1 (3 overall) - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

Many people were surprised by this pick, but it turns out they shouldn't have been.  Blake Bortles was the guy the Jaguars wanted all along, and they got him.  While the focus was completely on Johnny Manziel (I'm talking about you, Jon Gruden), many teams thought that Bortles was the top quarterback in the draft, and obviously the Jaguars did too.  His abilities and talents are good enough to think that he will turn into a great quarterback in the NFL.  Mike Mayock offered some brief analysis of the pick:

"It was Blake Bortles the whole time. They believe in this kid. He reminds me a bit of a young Ben Roethlisberger."

The thing about Bortles is that he needs some work.  He's not as polished of a quarterback right now and he will need to improve some and polish up his game in the NFL.  But there's no doubt that he has all the physical skills he needs to succeed, and in Jacksonville he likely will start right away.  There might be some rough patches early on, but I think that Blake Bortles absolutely looks like a guy who can develop into a top quarterback in the NFL.  A quarterback can change an entire franchise, and the Jaguars are hoping that's the case here.

Round 2 (39 overall) - Marqise Lee, WR, USC

I thought the Jaguars would go with a center with this pick, but the selection they ended up making was a great one.  Marqise Lee was a first round talent, but I guess some teams were scared away by his knee issues.  The Jaguars weren't, and they got a great receiver to go with Blake Bortles.  Mike Mayock said of the pick:

"Keep in mind, Justin Blackmon -- their first-round pick from a couple years ago -- is indefinitely suspended. The Jaguars aren't expecting anything out of him. The Jaguars needed a wide receiver and for Lee to be available at pick No. 39 is a bonanza for this franchise."

The Jaguars now have Lee and Cecil Shorts at receiver, both of whom are playmakers and talented.  I've been saying for a while now that under David Caldwell and Gus Bradley the Jaguars are moving in the right direction fast, and their first two picks of this year's draft should help make that improvement even faster.  Blake Bortles must be happy and Jaguars fans should be as well.  The Jaguars have had a great draft so far.

Tennessee Titans:

Round 1 (11 overall) - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

There was nothing flashy about this pick, but the Titans took a great overall player and the best offensive lineman available in Taylor Lewan out of Michigan.  He is a very good left tackle who does well in pass protection especially but is solid in every aspect.  Mike Mayock offered his thoughts on the selection:

"They signed Michael Oher in free agency to play right tackle. Michael Roos, their starting left tackle, will turn 32 years old this season. I guess they trusted their board here. Lewan was the best available and the Titans took the best available player. He was the best athlete among offensive tackles testing at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has to get a little better in power. He has a nasty streak and occasionally you can see the power. Lewan is an immediate starter and will help the Tennessee Titans."

The 6-7, 309 pound tackle certainly should help the Titans right away and should help to continue to improve the offensive line, an obvious emphasis in recent years.  There still is the question of who Lewan will be blocking for, but the selection of Lewan is one that I can't argue with for the Titans.

Round 2 (42 overall) - Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

It took until the 54th pick to do it, but the first running back went off the board to the Tennessee Titans.  He is a hard runner who is tough and a good overall running back.  Mike Mayock said of the pick:

"What he gives the Titans is not a Chris Johnson clone. He runs inside and can get to the edges. He's a big-volume guy; he gets better with more touches."

Sankey will help the Titans replace Chris Johnson, who signed with the Jets this offseason.  The Titans got good value with the pick of Sankey in the second round, but I wonder whether he was the best running back available.  Still, the Titans must like him and he should help the team, especially as Johnson left in the offseason.  It seems the Titans are sticking with their run game, as their first two picks were a lineman and a running back.

The Colts have the weakest schedule in the entire NFL in 2014 based on last year's standings, but I'm sure that at the end of next season they won't have had the easiest.  The only reason it's ranked that way now is because of the division they play in - in fact, the AFC South has the four easiest schedules in the league in 2014 based on last year's records.  The division was terrible last year, but this year the Jaguars, Texans, and Titans all should be improved, and a lot of that is thanks to the draft.  And while each team has already taken two players in the draft so far, the Colts have still yet to select a single player.

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