It was a division that disappointed some, but not those in Indianapolis. The Colts ran away with the AFC South as comfortable winners, able to watch as the Texans imploded, the Titans faded away, and the Jags rebuilt. With a roster reminiscent of old Colts teams (a far from balanced roster) the team rode big players making big plays to the playoffs, proving that some positions are far more valuable than others.
Quarterback: Andrew Luck (IND)
2013 was a step forward for Luck in a year where the rest of the AFC South was left with some serious questions at the quarterback spot. He’s still far too streaky and the team would like for him to take less time to get going (part of making a comeback is falling behind after all), but he’s a real playmaker at the QB spot who overcame an, at times, non-existent ground game and the loss of his favorite weapon.
Running Back: Chris Johnson (TEN)
As much as Donald Brown was more productive, his sample size was too small for a number one back. That means Johnson gets the nod by default even if at this stage he’s a back that needs a big hole to really show off his skill.
Tight End: Delanie Walker (TEN)
Walker isn’t the type of tight end to blow you away, failing to consistently make the receiving impact he is capable of. But he is a solid every down tight end in a division that really lacks a complete package with Dwayne Allen missing the entire year.
Wide Receivers: Kendall Wright (TEN), T.Y. Hilton (IND) and Andre Johnson (HOU)
We’ve opted for three here and that means putting Wright into the slot where he had more yards than any other receiver this year. On the outside the speedy Hilton had the eighth-most deep catches as he showed himself to be a field-stretcher, with the excellent Johnson finishing the year with the sixth-highest grade of all receivers.
Tackles: Michael Roos (TEN) and Gosder Cherilus (IND)
With Duane Brown not living up to his 2012 play, Roos swooped in to steal the starting job with another good year. You’d like for him to give up a little less pressure, but you’re also grateful for his work in the run game. On the right side, Cherilus was definitely an upgrade for the Colts if not completely worth the money. Yet.
Guards: Andy Levitre (TEN) and Brandon Brooks (HOU)
He came around toward the end of the year but you can’t help feeling the Titans spent a little too much on Levitre. This division wasn’t exactly blessed with talent at guard outside of these two, with Brooks the only player to really step up and make a name for himself.
Center: Chris Myers (HOU)
Outside of a whooping he took against Denver it was business as usual from Myers. Excellent at setting up cutback lanes and always a bit prone to giving up ground protecting the passer. His selection was a no-brainer.
Defensive Tackles: J.J. Watt (HOU) and Jurrell Casey (TEN)
Our top-ranked defensive player and now two-time winner of our Dwight Stephenson Award for the best player in football. There was no down year and anyone who tells you so about J.J. Watt has an agenda or just hasn’t watched him play. The bigger story though is the change in Jurrell Casey from two-down run-plugger to genuine pass rushing beast. His first two years in the league suggested nothing of the sort.
Defensive Ends: Derrick Morgan (TEN) and Robert Mathis (IND)
To some Morgan doesn’t get enough sacks, but the overall pressure was enough to see him get the sixth-highest grade of all 4-3 defensive ends rushing the passer. Joining him is Colts’ outside linebacker Robert Mathis who no longer lives in the shadow of Dwight Freeney. He’s not the most consistent getter of pressure but no pass rusher creates turnovers like he does.
Linebackers: Akeem Ayers (TEN), Jerrell Freeman (IND) and Russell Allen (JAX)
A trio that doesn’t exactly excite. Freeman made his share of plays, Allen had a solid year and Ayers impressed in his 737 snaps, particularly against the run. But this division lacks talent at linebacker.
Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis (IND) and Alterraun Verner (TEN)
One of the more stacked positions in the division with Alan Ball and Jason McCourty both having cases to make this team. As is, Davis was the first choice with some big games leading the way, while a contract-year Verner didn’t hurt his bank account with five picks and 14 more pass breakups.
Safeties: Michael Griffin (TEN) and Bernard Pollard (TEN)
Again it wasn’t a strong spot for the division but the Titans’ duo at least performed to the best of their abilities with the enigmatic Griffin continuing his yo-yo career with a good year after his horrid 2012. Pollard remains one of the best safeties against the run.
Kicker: Josh Scobee (JAX)
He’s not getting any younger but hit a healthy 23-out-of-25.
Punter: Shane Lechler (HOU)
Just beat out Pat McAfee with both men having excellent years and ranking in our top three punters.
Returner: Ace Sanders (JAX)
Didn’t get much of a chance to return kicks but looked dangerous when the opposition punted.
Special Teamer: Kavell Conner (IND)
Only Darrell Stuckey could match his grade for work on kickoffs. Tackle numbers aren’t everything with how he operates.
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