AFC South Team Needs
- Quarterback – Peyton Manning may never be able to play football again and after missing the entire season, its clear that the guys they had backing him up don’t belong as NFL starters. With the first overall pick in tow and the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning coming out of college, the Colts will be addressing this need with Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
- 3-4 Defense pieces – New head coach Chuck Pagano is a 34 guy and he’ll be looking to bring that defense to the Colts. Starting defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both have the skillset to move to OLB in a 34 but Mathis is a free agent and Freeney is a potential cap cut that has expressed disinterest in making the move to OLB. First round bust Jerry Hughes is one player that could definitely benefit from this move as many thought he’d be a better fit as a 34 OLB. The Colts have some pieces that will translate to the 34 but for the most part, they’re going to need a major overhaul of the roster to make the switch. I expect them to run a hybrid that is more 43 at least for this year but expect them to start signing, trading, and drafting 34 pieces, with guys like Jarret Johnson, Kendall Langford, and Paul Soliai as logical free agent targets.
- Interior offensive line – The Colts like the two tackles they drafted last year in Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana but they still have some major needs up front. Long-time starter Jeff Saturday is a free agent that could walk as is starting guard Ryan Diem and top backup Mike Pollak. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians always had bigger, mauling type offensive linemen in Pittsburgh so a change in philosophy could be in play as the Colts look to add size and power to the offensive line.
- Wide Receiver – The top two WRs for the Colts are set to hit free agency in Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne. Garcon should be targeted to return but Reggie Wayne could follow Peyton to a new team and will likely be looking for more money than the Colts should be willing to dish out.
- Secondary – The Colts really only have one above average starter in the secondary and that’s Antoine Bethea. They should be looking for help at both corner and strong safety help.
Other Needs: Pretty much any defense would be helpful, Tight end as Dallas Clark could be departing
- Interior offensive line – Starting guard Jake Scott is set to hit free agency and starting center Eugene Amano is getting paid much more than he’s worth. Starting LG LeRoy Harris looks like a keeper at one spot but the weak play from the other spots was a large contributor towards Chris Johnson’s weak season. Look for Tennessee to try and find someone in free agency as well as the draft, with Wisconsin center Peter Konz being high on the list.
- Weakside linebacker – The Titans found starters in MLB Colin McCarthy and SLB Akeem Ayers in last year’s draft but the weakside spot leaves much to be desired as veteran Will Witherspoon simply isn’t a starting caliber player in the NFL anymore. There are a number of quality weakside backers in this class that Tennessee could look at in the second and third rounds with guys like Lavonte David, Travis Lewis, and Sean Spence topping the list.
- Secondary – Starting corner Cortland Finnegan and starting safeties Michael Griffin and Chris Hope are scheduled to hit free agency. Expect Finnegan to be a hot commodity that signs elsewhere and Hope lost playing time last year to Jordan Babineaux and Griffin is mediocre at best. Babineaux will probably be the starter on the strong side next year but the Titans could be on the lookout for a new free safety and a new number one corner.
- Defensive End – Starting defensive end Jason Jones was miscast this season as he’s much better suited inside. Derrick Morgan has been a solid overall player but the Titans lack a true pass rushing threat from the DE position and need to at least obtain a third down pass rushing specialist, probably a full-time starter.
- Wide Receiver – Kenny Britt has had off-field and injury troubles and while Damian Williams and Nate Washington played well in his absence, neither one is a true number one receiver. The Titans also have no depth behind those three and might look to grab a receiver early in this deep WR draft.
Other Needs: Nothing really jumps out at me, the Titans have solid depth at most positions and a good mix of experience and youth
- Wide Receiver – Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are both potential cap casualties due to their lack of production and the need to re-sign other players. Neither has really proven to be legit number two or number three receivers and Andre Johnson’s absence this season really exposed them. Houston would be wise to target one of the top WRs in this free agent class like Mario Manningham, Pierre Garcon, Reggie Wayne, or Stevie Johnson if they hit the market and have a backup plan of someone like Ted Ginn, Laurent Robinson, Robert Meachem, or Early Doucet. I think they should double up signing a veteran and drafting a receiver high as they need to find a number 2 and a number 3 receiever.
- Secondary – Part-time starter Jason Allen is a free agent that is expected to look for a deal elsewhere which leaves Kareem Jackson as a likely starter. In addition, while the team likes Glover Quin, I think its time they give up on him as a starter and look to replace him. They have a bunch of young players that they like so I’m not sure they will be looking to find someone who may be able to step in and start, they’d be best suited to find a definitive starting CB like Brent Grimes and allow the rest of them to battle it out for spots. Mark Barron is an option in the first round for the safety position.
- Nose Tackle – Veteran Shaun Cody held up much better than anyone expected and Earl Mitchell showed signs of potentially being a Jay Ratliff-type nose tackle. That being said, neither player really blew anyone away and it wouldn’t be surprising to anyone if they went out and drafted someone like Josh Chapman or Hebron Fangupo in the middle rounds.
- Outside Linebacker – The odds of Mario Williams returning seem slim to none, largely because his talents are wasted in a 34 defense and he’s probably out of the Texans price range. Starting duo Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed both played excellent and look to be a good starting duo for the foreseeable future but there is no depth behind them so the Texans will need to look to add some depth behind them. Signing a veteran depth guy in free agency that can contribute on special teams and drafting someone in the mid to late rounds would be wise.
- Interior offensive line – Starting center Chris Myers and guard Mike Brisiel are both free agents but the Texans may only be able to afford one of them. If either depart via free agency, finding another starter will move up on the needs list as backup Antoine Caldwell simply hasn’t shown starting ability when he’s played.
Other needs: Tight end depth as Joel Dreessen is likely going to find a more lucrative job elsewhere, inside linebacker depth, defensive end depth
- Defensive end – The Jaguars had solid overall production from starting defensive ends Matt Roth and Jeremy Mincey but both are free agents and Aaron Kampman’s playing days are likely beyond him. Even if they are both brought back, Roth didn’t generate very much pass rush and they need someone that can get after the QB. The Jags have tons of cap space so stealing Mario Williams could be a major get for them. I also think they will look to grab someone early in the draft with Quinton Coples potentially being a choice at 7 overall.
- Wide Receiver – General Manager Gene Smith wants Blaine Gabbert to succeed in the NFL and in order to do that, he needs to get him some weapons. I expect the Jaguars to go HARD after some WRs this year in both free agency and the draft. Harry Douglas from Atlanta is a name that makes sense given his familiarity with Mularkey. They would be smart to make a run at some of the bigger named free agents like Marques Colston or Stevie Johnson in addition to looking to draft someone as there isn’t really any receiver on the Jags roster that has a starting spot locked down.
- Secondary – Starting CB Rashean Mathis is a free agent and there isn’t really a whole lot else to discuss when talking Jaguars CBs. If Mathis walks, they need two starters at CB. Starting strong safety Dwight Lowery is also set to hit free agency and could be replaced.
- Offensive Line – Eben Britton suffered a potentially career ending injury so they at least need insurance for him in case he can’t play anymore. In addition, Brad Meester is rumored to be heading for retirement so they’ll need a new starter inside at center. I’d expect them to grab a swing OT in free agency that can hold down RT in case Britton can’t return. If Meester returns for another year, they can take a center late and groom him, if he retires, it becomes a higher need.
- Outside Linebacker – Paul Posluszny has the middle linebacker spot locked down and Daryl Smith is serviceable on the strongside but they could use an upgrade on the weakside.
Other needs: DT depth, tight end depth, Quarterback?