2014 PFF All-AFC South Team
Kevin Connaghan unveils the best players at each position in the AFC South for 2014 based on their performance.
2014 PFF All-AFC South Team
For the seventh time in a decade the Indianapolis Colts stand atop of the AFC South, sweeping the division on their way to the AFC Championship game. That they don’t dominate this All-Star team is evidence of a flawed roster, but some stellar performers in key positions have allowed the team to punch above their weight once again. Bill O’Brien led a resurgent Texans team to a nine-win season, offering much promise for the future if they can just sort out the quarterback position. The youthful Jaguars remain in their perpetual rebuilding mode, while the Titans sank without a trace in 2014. Now both teams find themselves with a Top-3 selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
We continue our look at the standout performers from each division with the 2014 All-AFC South Team
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (IND)
Luck was the best quarterback in the division and it wasn’t close. He still has a penchant for making some rash decisions and reckless throws, but he led the league with 40 touchdowns, and helped take the Colts team further into the playoffs than their overall talent-level warranted.
Running Back: Arian Foster (HOU)
Despite suffering from injuries throughout the season, Foster still rushed for the sixth-most yards in the NFL (1,246), more than double the yards gained by any other back in the division.
Fullback: Will Ta’ufo’ou (JAX)
A strong blocking tight end in a division that didn’t feature the position heavily in 2014, Ta’ufo’ou is the obvious selection here.
Tight End: Delanie Walker (TEN)
Walker continues to be one of the more balanced tight ends in football, combining strong blocking with his most productive season as a receiver. He was fourth among tight ends with 890 receiving yards and second with 14.1 yards per reception average.
Wide Receivers: T.Y. Hilton (IND), DeAndre Hopkins (HOU) and Kendall Wright (TEN)
The explosive Hilton is one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league, while Hopkins has really blossomed as a sophomore. As second- and third-year players they look set to cause problems for corners in the AFC South for years to come. Wright continues to be one of the more productive slot receivers in the league, gaining 78% of his yards, and all bar one of his touchdowns from there.
Tackles: Duane Brown (HOU) and Derek Newton (HOU)
There were two excellent left tackles in the division this season, but Brown edges out Anthony Costanzo by virtue of being a more balanced player who is as effective in the run game as he is in pass protection. On the other side, Newton lacked that balance as he gave up more pressure than you would like. He was among the very best in the league as a run blocker, though.
Guards: Jack Mewhort (IND) and Brandon Brooks (HOU)
Two contrasting selections. Left guard is one of the weakest positions in the division, but Mewhort takes it by virtue of being decent as both a pass protector and a run blocker. Whereas right guard is one of the strongest positions in the division, either Brooks or Jaguars rookie Brandon Linder would have been a worthy selection, but Brooks edges it thanks to his excellence in the run game.
Center: Chris Myers (HOU)
Completing the Texans’ domination of this line is veteran center Myers, who continues to excel as a run blocker while allowing a little too much pressure to get to the quarterback.
Edge Defenders: J.J. Watt (HOU) and Derrick Morgan (TEN)
The three-time winner of our Dwight Stephenson Award as the league’s best player, Watt needs little introduction. Watt reached new heights as a pass rusher in 2014 with 21 sacks, a ridiculous 119 total pressures, and 10 batted passes; whether rushing on the edge or inside, he is the most disruptive pass rusher in the league. Morgan’s consistent ability to hassle the passer is enough to beat out the rest of the division’s edge rushers. He also proved himself to be capable when dropping in coverage, with the highest coverage grade among all rush linebackers in the league.
Defensive Interior – Ends: Sen’Derrick Marks (JAX) and Jurrell Casey (TEN)
While neither player is at their best against the run, they have each proven to be extremely disruptive interior pass rushers, combining for 14 sacks and 89 total pressures this season. For Marks it was a bittersweet season, reaching a career-high in sacks before suffering a serious injury in the final week of the season. For as well as Casey played as a 3-4 end, he was arguably less effective than he had been as a tackle in a four-man front, though either way he is a dynamic pass rusher.
Defensive Interior – Nose: Sammie Lee Hill (TEN)
Another position of weakness for the division, which is somewhat surprising given that three of the teams play with a three-man front as their base defense. Josh Chapman edges Hill as a run stopper, but Hill’s greater effectiveness as a pass rusher earns him the nod.
Linebackers: Geno Hayes (JAX), Telvin Smith (JAX)
Hayes enjoyed a terrific final six games in 2014, finding the form of his early years in the league that had made him seem such a promising linebacker for the Buccaneers. Smith was able to show off his excellent athleticism with some big performances, such as his standout game against the Browns in Week 7 when he seemed to be in on every play, the trick for the rookie will be to play that way on a more consistent basis.
Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis (IND), Johnathan Joseph (HOU) and Kareem Jackson (HOU)
Davis was head and shoulders above the rest of the division’s corners, and a PFF First Team All-Pro selection. Opposing quarterbacks had a lowly 38.8 NFL Rating when throwing his direction, the best mark of any starting corner. Joseph wins the spot opposite Davis by virtue of being solid in a division with many struggling corners. Jackson mans the slot after putting together a strong season with three picks and six batted passes. He didn’t quite match his 2012 form, but it was a timely reminder of his talent in a contract year.
Safeties: Mike Adams (IND) and Danieal Manning (HOU)
Adams enjoyed a career year in 2014, with five interceptions on his way to a +11.6 coverage grade, the second-highest among safeties this season. He was the division’s clear selection at free safety, and one of the best in the league. The same cannot be said at the strong safety spot where there were no standouts. Manning played both safety positions but had some good performances at SS and was solid in coverage.
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri (IND)
Vinatieri’s 96.8% field goal accuracy during the regular season led the league, and is enough to earn him the nod for divisional honours.
Punter: Pat McAfee (IND)
One of the best punters in the game and the league’s top performer on kickoffs, McAfee earned a place in the PFF All-Pro Special Teams selection and helped the Colts in the field position battle.
Returner: Joshua Cribbs (IND)
Cribbs led the AFC South in average distance on both kick (32.0) and punt (12.5) returns, making him an easy choice as the division’s top returner.
Special Teamer: Colt Anderson (IND)
One of the best in the league on kick coverage, Anderson completes the team’s clean sweep of the special teams positions.