The AFC South has historically had one dominant power and usually one or two teams fighting to get a wildcard berth in the playoffs. Since the division’s creation that power has been the Indianapolis Colts – with the exception of 2002 and 2008 when the Tennessee Titans won and the Colts got the wildcard. The most recent two seasons the Houston Texans have dominated, resulting in a wildcard for the Colts in 2012. At one point the AFC South was not considered a weak division. In 2007 three teams (the Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Titans) all made the playoffs, with each team having 10 or more wins.
These days the Titans and Jaguars are bottom feeders as the Texans sit atop the AFC South throne only lackadaisically defending from the Colts. As Andrew Luck and company get better, that will be a tougher defense. While the eyes of the NFL will be on those two teams this season, the Titans and Jaguars quietly put together a very good draft class and are laying the foundation to make this division strong from top to bottom again.
In an effort to get less biased ratings of the teams’ drafts, we’ll turn to Fox Sports’ three-writer grades. Here’s how the AFC South did.
- The Jaguars now have two quality offensive tackles in a division that demands you protect your quarterback. They didn’t get any more threatening to opposing QBs, drafting no pass rushers, but they did drastically improve their secondary. Odds are the Jags won’t be able to stop the Colts’ and Texans’ offense still this season, but they may be able to begin to compete in more offensive-focused games…assuming Blaine Gabbert can develop some more.
- Just one season removed from a 9-7 record and a second place finish in the division, the Titans restocked enough to get back in the conversation in 2013. The entire interior offensive line is now rebuilt with first-rounder Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke at guard and center, respectively. I like what the Titans have done, putting Jake Locker in a position to succeed. They just need the personnel to translate the good team build to good play on the field.
- I personally like the Bjoern Werner pick more than others, especially since the Colts needed to restock at pass rusher. They didn’t solve any offensive line concerns but brought in some competition to get better. You have to think GM Ryan Grigson has a plan here, especially considering his quiet turnaround into a playoff team last season.
- The Texans look to stave off the competition as they prep for another playoff run by filling needs. They finally add a quality receiver opposite Andre Johnson in Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins which will make this offense considerably more potent. I really like the pickup of LSU pass rusher Sam Montgomery. He’s a competitor with some serious skills.
The AFC South is getting tighter this season. The draft, the great equalizer of the NFL, has done its work well in the division and 2014 may prove to open this division wide. For once the teams all have competent leadership and strong plans that they are sticking to heading into the season. It’ll be exciting to see how it plays out.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims