With the 2018 free agency period dwindling and free agent signings coming to a halt, the league now focuses its full attention to the 2018 NFL Draft.
The AFC South had a wild offseason: The Jacksonville Jaguars rank third in free-agent spending this offseason for the third year in a row, the Tennessee Titans have spent the fourth-most money in free agency, and the Houston Texans rank just inside the top 12. The three find themselves in “win-now” mentalities and are looking to capitalize off their playoff windows.
The Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, have used the ninth-fewest cap space in the offseason as general manager Chris Ballard comes true to his word by saying this team will be primarily built through the draft. With countless holes throughout the roster, the draft is going to be essential if Indianapolis wants to have a fighting chance in a strong AFC South.
The division is essentially up for grabs, and with each team having at least one need to fill before the offseason concludes, the draft could very well decide who wins the division come next January.
The Jaguars — Quarterback
Don’t be confused, the Jaguars have the most talented team in football. They have more freak athletes at every position on the field, and have combined great draft picks — like running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Jalen Ramsey — with free agent signings — defensive lineman Calais Campbell and offensive lineman Andrew Norwell.
With a roster filled with this much talent, it’s hard to believe they didn't hoist the Lombardi Trophy last season — they were a mere first down away from making it to Minnesota. However, when you have one of the worst starting quarterbacks in all of football, your potential is greatly limited.
An average quarterback in the NFL would’ve beaten the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, plain and simple. With the Jags holding a lead in the second half the coaching staff lost all faith in Blake Bortles and played conservative football, which cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. In clutch moments with the game on the line, you need a quarterback that can throw a five-yard out route or can put a playable ball near receivers.
To me, the big five quarterbacks — Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Sam Darnold — would all be an upgrade from Bortles. Baker, Lamar and Allen’s abilities to move outside the pocket fit the west coast offense in Jacksonville, but seemingly anyone could bump this unit to Super Bowl favorites.
Other needs: Offensive tackle, middle linebacker, slot corner
The Titans — Outside Linebacker/EDGE
The Titans did a tremendous job this offseason in fixing its coaching staff and biggest roster needs. Hiring Mike Vrabel as head coach has been a hot commodity the last few years and will bring a youthful presence to this locker room, while bringing in ex-Patriots Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis filled some of their biggest needs (a No. 1 corner and a complementary back to Derrick Henry). While the Titans are moving in the right direction, they’re in dire need of help in the receiving corps.
Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are not just approaching the final year of their contracts, but are also getting up there in age. With having a prolific pass rush on the edge essential to success in the NFL, the Titans need to get a young gun into the organization to complement and eventually replace their aging ends.
With the 25th pick in the draft, there are a few options likely for Tennessee. While they’re likely out of reach for Bradley Chubb or Marcus Davenport, taking a late Round 1 flier on Harold Landry from Boston College or Arden Key from LSU seems like the perfect fit to accumulate depth and build for the future at the same time.
Other needs: Wide receiver, inside linebacker, offensive line
The Texans — Offensive Tackle
Moving forward with new management in Brian Gaine, the Texans have had a solid free agency period and are systematically building the team to match the potential of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Adding Aaron Colvin, Tyrann Mathieu, Johnathan Joseph (re-sign) and Johnson Bademosi quickly repaired a Houston secondary that lost star corner A.J. Bouye just one offseason ago, and Zach Fulton and Senio Kelemete are young but true upgrades on the offensive line. However, none of these signing replace the Pro Bowl-talent they traded away in the middle of the season.
Losing Duane Brown to Seattle left a gaping hole at the most important position on the offensive line. Houston gave up 54.0 sacks last season — second-worst to Indianapolis’ 56.0 — and they've made zero signings in free agency that point in the direction of a left tackle for the future.
What’s even worse for Houston is the fact they don’t have a pick in the first round, thanks to the trade they made last offseason to acquire Watson. A situation that only gets worse, this is a relatively weak class at the tackle position, making it uncertain their answer is in this year’s draft. Nevertheless, expect Houston to address the position early-on in the draft in hopes for a diamond in the rough.
Other needs: Tight end, cornerback, wide receiver
The Colts — Offensive Line
Last but not least we head to Indy, where we find a team plagued with holes on offense and defense. Pass rush, wide receiver, inside linebacker and cornerback are all big-time needs for the draft, but to me, none are as important as help on the offensive line.
Andrew Luck is set to return to football this upcoming season. He has missed 26 games in the last three seasons. The Colts have put its franchise quarterback in harm’s way for too long to let him seemingly walk back onto the field without a blanket of protection.
Fortunately for the Colts, they’re in prime position to take the best offensive lineman, and potentially the best overall prospect, in the draft — guard Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame. Health and inconsistency has been the biggest issue for Indy’s O-line, and Nelson has the right frame to be at least a 10-year starter in the NFL.
Other needs: Edge defender, inside linebacker, wide receiver
For more on the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, buy the very first Stampede Blue Draft Guide! Tons of information about this year’s draft including position-by-position scouting reports, needs for all 32 teams, an extended look at the Colts’ needs, mock drafts, seven-round Colts mock drafts and much more!