Rookie Recap: AFC South

PFF's Steve Palazzolo runs down the rookies from the AFC South and recaps their 2012 performances.

| 4 years ago

Rookie Recap: AFC South

With the AFC East and AFC North in the books, it’s time to look at the first-year players from the AFC South. Though the Houston Texans ran away with the division title, they did so with much less rookie impact than that of their division rivals. The Indianapolis Colts found their quarterback of the future to go along with some new offensive weapons, while the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans found numerous starters for their respective rebuilding projects.

Be sure to check out our PFF Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie Team which are both good reference points for the best rookie performances of the season

Here’s a look at all of the rookies from the AFC South.

Houston Texans

Whitney Mercilus, OLB
Draft: First round, 26th overall
Snaps/Usage: 504 snaps, including four starts at outside linebacker

Notes: With Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin already returning at outside linebacker, Mercilus had the luxury of easing into the lineup this season. He saw spot duty before picking up four starts in the second half of the year. Like Reed and Barwin, Mercilus was unable to consistently provide pressure off the edge, so don’t be fooled by his six sacks. He picked up only 21 pressures on 310 pass rushes, good for a pass rush grade of -13.7 and Pass Rushing Productivity of 6.0 (26th out of 32 qualifying 3-4 outside linebackers).

Ben Jones, G
Draft: Fourth round, 99th overall
Snaps/Usage: 703 snaps including 10 starts at right guard

Notes: The right side of the Texans’ line was their clear weakness up front and Jones was part of the problem. Though he showed some ability to seal defensive linemen and climb the second level in the running game (+0.3) he struggled in pass protection, grading at -6.2. He gave up 21 pressures on his 374 pass blocks for a Pass Blocking Efficiency of 95.3, which ranked 61st out of the top 72 guards.

Other Texans rookies:

Third-round wide receiver DeVier Posey saw the majority of his 165 snaps in the second half of the season as the Texans’ search for a viable No. 2 wide receiver continued. He picked up 87 yards on his six receptions (14.5 yards/reception) though he dropped two passes. RG Brandon Brooks saw some time in a platoon with Jones at right guard and fared better in pass protection surrendering only one pressure (a sack) on his 68 pass block attempts. Houston grabbed another wide receiver in the fourth round in Keshawn Martin. He struggled with catching the ball, as he dropped five of the catchable balls thrown his way. Fourth-round defensive end Jared Crick played 220 snaps as part of the defensive line rotation. His Run Stop Percentage of 10.9 tied for third among 34 3-4 defensive ends. Undrafted safety Eddie Pleasant saw all three of his snaps in Week 16 and he also picked up both a tackle and a missed tackle on special teams.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck, QB
Draft: First round, 1st overall
Snaps/Usage: Starting quarterback for all 16 games

Notes: Luck’s strong rookie season was overshadowed by record-breaking performances from fellow first-year players Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III. Still, the future is bright in Indianapolis as Luck was asked to do a lot in his first year. His 101 deep passes led the league, and his 42.6 % Accuracy Percentage ranked eighth.  Luck’s +8.1 overall grade ranked 17th among all quarterbacks.

Coby Fleener, TE
Draft: Second round, 34th overall
Snaps/Usage: 461 snaps, 404 as an inline tight end

Notes: Fleener was drafted to provide a receiving threat from the tight end position, but he was targeted only 45 times on the season. He finished with 26 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns. His 1.12 Yards Per Route Run ranked 32nd out of the 37 qualifying tight ends.

Dwayne Allen, TE
Draft: Third round, 64th overall
Snaps/Usage: 925 snaps at various tight end positions

Notes: Despite being drafted a round later than Fleener, Allen was the primary tight end, and it was well-earned as he graded second in the league at the position at +19.1. He was among the league’s best blockers, as he ranked third as a run blocker (+10.1) and second as a pass blocker (+3.6). Allen added 45 catches for 521 yards (11.6 yards per reception) and was an easy choice for our All-Rookie Team.

T.Y. Hilton, WR
Draft: Third round, 92nd overall
Snaps/Usage: 682 snaps, 426 at outside wide receiver

Notes: Hilton was one of Luck’s favorite targets, as he had 88 passes thrown his way, catching 50 for 861 yards (17.2 yards/reception) and seven touchdowns. While he did a nice job of getting open, he struggled to catch the ball — he had the third-highest Drop Rate (16.67%) of all wide receivers with at least 50 targets.

Vick Ballard, RB
Draft: Fifth round, 170th overall
Snaps/Usage: 589 snaps as team’s top running back

Notes: Ballard started so see an increased workload in Week 7 as he received at least 10 carries in all but one game from that point. He graded at +1.9 as a runner and finished eighth in the league in Elusive Rating at 38.6 with 32 of his 35 forced missed tackles coming in the running game.

Other Colts rookies:

Sixth-round wide receiver LaVon Brazill played 209 snaps, 169 of which came on the outside. He picked up 16.9 yards on 11 catches (16.9 yards/reception). Among the undrafted free agents, WR Nathan Palmer caught one pass for -4 yards on his 16 snaps, and tight end Dominique Jones saw 33 snaps and caught the only ball thrown his way for 8 yards. OT Bradley Sowell played 60 snaps at both right tackle and as an extra tight end. He surrendered five pressures on only 22 attempts for a pass block grade of -2.0.


Go to Page 2 for the Jaguars and Titans… 

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Gabriel

    What about T.Y. Hilton?

  • Ben

    Isn’t it a fascinating coincidence that Blackmon had the epiphany immediately when Blaine Gabbert was replaced by Chad Henne?

    • Garrygtrent

      Not really because he was dropping balls from Gabbert.

      • Garrygtrent

        Lets not act like henne is better.