2014 Depth Charts Update: AFC South
One of the things we wanted to do with the depth chart series was keep them updated and in most respects this article is about that – reminding you that we’ll be keeping things relevant until at least the season starts.
However, as we published the series and listened to your comments, something else became apparent. Beyond the section of fans who think half their starters are “elite” and for whom there is very little hope of cure, there were other groups too.
Firstly there are those who felt we see our own grades as absolutely definitive – that we believe they are carved on tablets of stone and the last word in player performance. Now while we are certainly proud of our work and think they are the most accurate view available (as the only people anywhere to watch and grade every player on every facet of play they really should be) they are far from perfect.
So on another level we wanted to let readers know that not only may you disagree with our ratings but internally we have a lot of debates too. If there are 20 players in a particular category, by its very nature, some are at the top and some the bottom and as such are also often a hair away from being in the adjacent group/s. We wanted everyone to understand from the debate points below just how narrow some of these bands are.
Finally these updates are also for another set of people; those who took the time to make well-argued points in the comments section for each team. I read every single one and found myself agreeing with many. This is also about addressing those concerns; those of the readers who like us have no vested interest other than in getting it “right”.
Our process now will be to take one division at a time and debate among our analysts where we need change. Below are the results for the fifth division up; the AFC South.
– Though he struggled mightily at outside linebacker, we felt that the position change to the inside was a big enough deal to move Brooks Reed to the “Not Enough Information” category. Truth be told, Ben, Sam and myself all agreed that Reed has a decent shot to be much better on the inside, considering that the lowest graded part of him game has always been as a pass rusher, something he won’t be asked to do as much in 2014.
– Adding Akeem Dent to the mix at inside linebacker, we opted to have him in the “Below Average Starter” group. Grading negatively both against the run and in coverage, his -8.9 overall grade doesn’t suggest that he’ll be in the mix for a starting role in Houston.
– We originally had kicker Randy Bullock as “Average” but after closer inspection this was a touch on the generous side. With 19 kickers grading better last season when it came to field goals, he connected on just 75% of his attempts in 2013.
See the updated depth chart: Houston Texans
– We opted to drop a pair of receivers down one category each, with Hakeem Nicks (-2.8) and T.Y. Hilton (+4.7) falling a little short of where they need to be to stay in their original categories. With Nicks he really needs to get back to his 2011 season form, where he was far better than an average receiver, while Hilton was performing at a “High Quality” level in the playoffs, but needs to do that more consistently next season.
– We’ve given the benefit of the doubt to a fair few rookies who showed flashes in their rookies seasons despite performing poorly overall, but when it comes to outside linebacker Bjoern Werner we were a bit generous with our initial assessment. Finishing the year with a grade of -6.7 on just 352 snaps and generating very little from a pass rushing standpoint, it’s clear he has a lot of improving to do heading into his second season.
– We did feel that “Below Average Starter” was harsh to Greg Toler though, with the bulk of his -4.0 coverage grade coming in the playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs. That, coupled with a solid year in 2012 in Arizona, prompted us to bump him up to “Average Starter”.
See the updated depth chart: Indianapolis Colts
– In the original run through of these, labelling Toby Gerhart as a “Below Average Starter” was harsh, with a +2.7 grade as a runner last year. There’s little to suggest he can be anything more than average, but he’s certainly deserving of that at least.
– It might be fair to suggest that tight end Marcedes Lewis is on the downside of his career, but considering +1.4 is the lowest he has graded since 2008, and graded in the top 10 players at his position every year between 2009 and 2012, we felt that “Good Starter” was much more fair.
– Considering that we saw just 12 snaps of work from him at left tackle, we decided to move the first pick in the 2013 draft, Luke Joeckel to “Not Enough Information”. The concern for Jaguars fans will be that he struggled at right tackle early in the year, and graded at -2.5 on those 12 snaps at left tackle, with a bit improvement needed in his second year.
See the updated depth chart: Jacksonville Jaguars
– With Dexter McCluster moving to running back in Tennessee, we had originally opted to have him in the “Not Enough Information” category, but looking back to his second season in Kansas City we found enough snaps at running back to pass judgement on. With a grade of +2.4 we didn’t want to go any higher than “Average” but running back does seem to be his best position and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him have an impressive season in 2014.
– Though his play has verged on it at times, we felt that “High Quality” was a bit generous to Kendall Wright at this stage in his career. His grade of +5.9 as a receiver puts him 22nd amongst players at his position, something which doesn’t really justify anything more than good at this stage.
– We did decide to move Andy Levitre up to “High Quality”, however, with now three seasons in a row where he has graded at +13.7 or better. In that same three-year span the lowest he has finished a season is as our 13th-highest-graded guard, so the bump up seemed reasonable.
See the updated depth chart: Tennessee Titans
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