AFC South draft analysis

April, 27, 2013
4/27/13
6:07
PM ET
The AFC South’s two 3-4 teams spent first-, third- and fourth-round picks on pass-rushing outside linebackers, trying to amp up the pressure they can put on opposing quarterbacks.

The Colts will be converting first-rounder Bjoern Werner of Florida State from a college defensive end to an outside linebacker, where he probably will compete for time on the strong side with free-agent acquisition Erik Walden. Walden is a solid run player, so if Werner can get into the backfield, they might complement each other well.

Werner has drawn comparisons to Paul Kruger, who left the Ravens after the Super Bowl to join the Cleveland Browns.

In Houston, the pass rush was overly reliant on J.J. Watt last season and lost Connor Barwin to Philadelphia in free agency. Enter third-rounder Sam Montgomery from LSU and fourth-rounder Trevardo Williams from UConn.

The two college ends will move back a unit in Wade Phillips’ defense. If they pan out on the strong side, Brooks Reed probably will move inside and work there with Brian Cushing.

BEST MOVE

The Jaguars steered clear of a quarterback.

They had the second pick overall and flip-flopped between first and second in each subsequent round. It’s a great landscape to add a lot of talent to a team that needs an influx and chose not to spend a lot in free agency.

Jacksonville added cheaper veterans who it thinks might blossom and be more productive in its systems.

A team that wants to be draft-centric wasn’t tempted by EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson or Landry Jones.

Meanwhile the Jaguars grabbed a cornerstone lineman in Luke Joeckel, probable starting strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, big corner Dwayne Gratz, receiver/punt returner Ace Sanders, running back/kick returner Denard Robinson and free safety Josh Evans with their first six picks.

They dealt away the first pick of the fourth round and let Philadelphia draft Barkley.

I don’t believe Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne will prove to be a long-term answer for the franchise. But I don’t believe any of the alternatives available through six rounds of this draft would have either. So I like the focus and determination to add pieces elsewhere.

When the time comes, probably next year, to add the quarterback, he’ll be joining a better roster.

RISKIEST MOVE

Indianapolis fifth-round defensive tackle Montori Hughes had issues at the University of Tennessee that got him thrown off the team. He told Indianapolis reporters that the Colts were the only team he would be talking to.

There are indications that he matured as he finished up at UT-Martin, but if his previous troubles are a predictor of future troubles, the Colts could be bringing a headache onto themselves.

“I went through some academic troubles and I went through some team issues and then I transferred down to UT-Martin,” Hughes said. “I had a new coach, so I transferred down, and I felt like it was a good fit at the time. Everything from when I first went on the campus at UT-Martin had a good feeling about it.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireJacksonville draftee Denard Robinson rushed for 4,495 yards and had 42 rushing TDs in four years at Michigan, but as a quarterback.
“So when I went down there, I just went to work and knew I had to prove to myself and others that I was a better person than what was out there and just go to work every day, go hard, go hard on the field, on and off, and just learn to play football, the passion for the game. I just love being out there, so just taking it one day at a time.”

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

Outside of the first round, the biggest name to come into the AFC South was Robinson, the former Michigan quarterback. Jacksonville drafted him in the fifth round, 135th overall, as a running back and kick returner.

The Jaguars need playmakers for sure, but it feels like there is a bit of danger connected to a guy drafted to play running back who has never played running back. Robinson is regarded as a high-character guy with great drive. He wants to succeed and is willing to do whatever is asked of him.

If he pans out, it could be a real boom pick, offering hard-to-defend, hard-to-predict chunks of yardage.

FILE IT AWAY

Jaguars corner Gratz, Titans cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and two Texans -- outside linebacker Williams and tight end Ryan Griffin -- all played together for the UConn Huskies.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni spent six years in the NFL coaching ranks, including terms as defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys.

The Titans said they had Gratz (5-11, 201) and Wreh-Wilson (6-1, 195) rated close to each other on their board. As teams look for corners with more size who can press, hit and hold up, they’ll be an interesting duo to watch grow up in the same division.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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