The AFC South is seen by many NFL analyst as one of the weaker divisions in football. That can be a positive because it will take less improvement by the Jags to turn things around. The negative is a total lack of respect. Aside from the Colts, there is not much to be excited about right now in the AFC South, except for the impending NFL draft in which three of their teams will be picking in the top 11, and two in the top three. What I will be doing is ranking the AFC South at multiple positions. For now I will be going with the players who would be the presumed starters while attempting to take into consideration free agency and draft picks. We have ranked QB & RB. Now we focus on the WR’s Corps.
(NOTE) – For the comparision, I will be rating each teams top three WRs as a corp in a 3wr set with two wideouts and a slot.
- Indianapolis Colts (Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, & Darrius Heyward-Bey)/ 149 catches, 258 targets, 1895 yards, 10 tds, 12.7 yards per catch – Of course a lot of this depends on Reggie Wayne returning healthy after his knee injury from last year. Wayne has been a true professional since entering the league so you would imagine he would come back strong. You could also say a player, in the league for 14 yrs and 35 yrs old, who has never dealt with an injury this serious may not ever play the same again. T.Y. Hilton took a while to adapt to being the main target but when he did, he was one of the better WRs in the NFL over the second half of the season. Heyward-Bey is as soft as toilet tissue and should be flushed ASAP. That this is the best WR group, with all their issues, should be an indication of how much work needs to be done on the AFC South WR corps.
- Houston Texans (Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, & Keshawn Martin)/ 183 catches, 314 targets, 2462 yds, 9 tds, 13.5 YPC – You may be wondering why I have this group as #2 when their stats are stronger than Indy’s. The reasons are 1) Wayne was hurt, so Indy’s stats would have been higher. 2) The QB play is more settled and stronger than Houston’s. 3) Because Andre Johnson’s stats are so ridiculously higher than the other Texan’s WRs. Johnson had 60% of the catches, 58% of the targets, 57% of the yards. Deandre Hopkins had an excellent rookie season so with better QB play, Houston could rival Indy for the best WR corp but for now Houston has the #2 rated WR in the AFC South.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts III, & Ace Sanders)/ 146 catches, 258 targets, 1676 yds, 5 tds, 11.5 YPC – Lots of variables going on here. 1) The Jags were without their best WR (Blackmon) for most of the season. 2) Though Chad Henne is INFINITELY better than Blaine Gabbert, he is far from a consistent starting QB by NFL standards. 3) The better slot receiver than Ace Sanders was probably Mike Brown (32 for 446 & 2 tds) but Sanders still had a nice rookie year. 4) Cecil Shorts III again couldn’t complete a full NFL schedule. What the Jags need, aside from no more substance abuse issues with Blackmon, is better QB play. They need a QB who throws more accurately so Shorts will actually catch more than half his targets and Sanders will average more than 9.5 YPC. That is a terrible stat for a slot WR with Sander’s kind of speed. With better QB play, the Jags could really compete for the top spot but for now they are easily the #3 WR corp in the AFC South.
- Tennessee Titans (Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, & Justin Hunter)/ 170 catches, 286 targets, 2352 yds, 9 tds, 13.8 YPC – The reason I have the Titans WRs as the least rated is because they are as dependent on Kendall Wright (55% catches, 49% targets, 46% yards) as Houston is on Johnson. What is worse is they may not keep their #2 (Washington) as he is in the last year of his contract and is not cost prohibitive. Next on the depth chart is Hunter (strictly speed guy), Damian Williams (under-achiever), Kenny Britt (I can’t believe he still pulls a check), & Kevin Walter (PUP list the entire 2013 season). Prospects don’t look to good. Look for the new coaching staff in Tennessee to be very active on the WR route, in both the draft and free agency. Even with the better stats than Jacksonville, I still rank the Titans with the worst WR corp in the AFC South.
The biggest obstacle for most of the AFC South teams in the passing arena can be laid directly on their QB’s front yard. Better QB play will cause a big change in the rankings in 2014.
Next up…Tight ends. See ya then!
List compiled by Michael McDonald.
I’m on Twitter @gumbussy!