2015 Draft Needs: AFC South
The 2015 NFL draft is finally at hand and here at PFF we are more prepared for it than we’ve ever been. In tallying a full season of FBS data we’ve been able to present you with tons of info at our College Football Focus home page on the soon-to-be NFL rookies that will soon be appearing at training camps across the league.
Armed with this information we’re suggesting viable targets at key positions of need for all the teams, here for the AFC South:
Early Round Target: Stephone Anthony, Clemson
Brian Cushing’s injury history is a serious concern at this point for the 28-year-old linebacker. On the opposite side of him are Akeem Dent and Justin Tuggle who inspire little reason for confidence. Anthony could come in as a two-down linebacker early and provide insurance for Cushing. Anthony had just one missed tackle versus Power 5 teams last season.
Early Round Target: Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma
Jared Crick came on in a larger role last year, but was still a liability against the run. The Texans signed Vince Wilfork and still have third-round pick Louis Nix on the roster, but neither has proven yet to be a long term solution. Phillips has the size and length to play base end early on and eventually move to full time nose tackle in the future. Phillips’ 20 run stops were the fifth most among defensive tackles last season.
Early Round Target: Sammie Coates, Auburn
Losing Andre Johnson leaves a gaping hole at the number two receiver spot in Houston. They’ve added Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington, but neither has been a star player of late. Coates should be a good complement to Hopkins as a deep threat. The Auburn receiver gained the fifth-most yards on deep passes in the NCAA last year (439).
Early Round Target: Paul Dawson, TCU
Obviously D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman are firmly entrenched as starters, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a need here. All one needs to do is watch the Week 11 game against the Patriots to figure out why the Colts need an impact linebacker against the run. Paul Dawson has questions about his athleticism, but there is no questioning his production against the run. His 23.3 Run Stop Percentage was far and away the best in college football.
Early Round Target: Tevin Coleman, Indiana
The running back position has been a serious thorn in the Colts side in the Andrew Luck era. Luck dropped back to pass on over two-thirds of his snaps last season. That rate is far too high and teams took advantage of their one-dimensional nature. Tevin Coleman can come in and provide a solid change of pace to the more patient running of Frank Gore. Coleman’s 734 yards after contact were the second most in the NCAA last year.
Early Round Target: Quayshawne Buckley, Idaho
Cory Redding and Ricky Jean-Francois led the Colts defensive line in snaps last season and both have since moved on. With the Arthur Jones signing looking like a huge flop at this point, the Colts’ interior needs to be addressed in a big way. Quayshawne Buckley was our highest-graded defensive tackle outside the Power 5 conferences and could make an impact early as a Day 2 or 3 selection.
Early Round Target: Dante Fowler, Florida
Chris Clemons and Red Bryant were supposed to revamp the Jaguars’ defensive line, but both fell flat a year ago. They’re still in search of the LEO player that can bring disruption play after play. There are a few solid options at the top of the draft, but none combines run and pass ability quite like Dante Fowler. The Florida end recorded pressure on 17.6% of his pass rushes last season.
Early Round Target: Breshad Perriman, UCF
Allen Hurns was forced into playing time more by default last season rather than exceptional play. The rookies that were thought to be impact players, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, were each limited by injury and inconsistent quarterback play. A true deep threat could aid in Blake Bortles development and there are few better in this class than Breshad Perriman. Projections for Perriman have been all over the map, but if he’s still there at the top of the second round the Jaguars could have the makings of a deep receiving corps.
Early Round Target: P.J. Williams, FSU
Even with the signing of Davon House there are still big question marks at the corner position for Jacksonville. Demetrius McCray and Dwayne Gratz are still young, but neither has had a positively graded season yet in coverage. P.J. Williams has the size and athleticism you want in a cornerback, but his inconsistency will drop him to the middle rounds. William still racked up 33 defensive stops on the season, the second-most among corners in the draft.
Early Round Target: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Zach Mettenberger wasn’t a complete liability as a rookie last season, but he showed nothing to suggest that the sixth-round pick is the future of the franchise. They’ll have to grab one at some point and Mariota at No. 2 provides considerably more upside than any of the later round options. The Oregon quarterback has all the tools you could ask for, but he might require a completely different offensive scheme from Mettenberger. On passes thrown within 2.5 seconds of the snap, Mariota had a passer rating of 131.9, the highest in the NCAA last year.
Early Round Target: Eric Rowe, Utah
The Titans recognized this was a need in the offseason and already brought in Da’Norris Searcy from Buffalo. They’d be prudent to start looking for Michael Griffin’s replacement as well as his inconsistency and age (30) are an issue on the back end. Eric Rowe would give them the ability to be a nickel corner early on and then transition to safety later in his career. Rowe’s 40.4% catch rate allowed was third best among corners last season.
Early Round Target: D.J. Humphries
Taylor Lewan was a slam dunk as a rookie, but with the retirement of Michael Roos the Titans are once again left with a need at the position. It’s a terribly deep class at tackle and the Titans might be able to grab an immediate starter as late as the third round. D.J. Humphries wasn’t at the top of the class in terms of production, but his physical tools profile well to the next level. Humphries didn’t allow a pressure in half of his games a year ago.
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