With the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft, it is time to get the grades in. The AFC South had an eventful few days as Jacksonville found their franchise quarterback, and Houston may have as well. The Colts and Titans were able to address a few needs, but early picks will certainly carry some risk for them. Looking at the division as a whole, the teams certainly came out swinging and took some chances. While the Colts are favorites to win the division, Jacksonville could take a massive step forward and challenge right away.
Houston Texans: C
3 (67): QB Davis Mills, Stanford
3 (89): WR Nico Collins, Michigan
5 (147): TE Brevin Jordan, Miami
5 (170): LB Garett Wallow, TCU
6 (195): DT Roy Lopez, Arizona
Houston is already in a tough spot, given they didn’t have picks for the first two rounds. They are also dealing with Deshaun Watson, who has serious legal accusations against him and might be headed for never playing in the NFL again. Heading into round 3, Houston was able to add Davis Mills and Nico Collins. I am curious if Houston would have taken Kellen Mond if available. He was snatched up by the Vikings just a few picks earlier. Mills might not have the highest ceiling of the quarterback class, but he has above-average accuracy and can read the game.
After losing Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins in consecutive offseasons, adding pass-catchers was a major need. Collins was a sneaky Day 2 name to watch as he is someone with above-average speed after the catch and also has a large frame. While he has some work to do with separation, Collin’s upside is certainly there, and Houston won’t be asking for big production in his rookie year. Houston has had similar tight end prospects to Brevin Jordan, yet none ever asserted themselves as a TE1. Jordan has that upside when it comes to pass-catching but will need to work on his blocking to be an every-down tight end. The above-average athleticism makes him an intriguing name to watch within the next year or two as tight ends usually need a year or two before making a real impact.
Indianapolis Colts: C+
1 (21): EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
2 (54): EDGE Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt
4 (127): TE Kylen Granson, SMU
5 (165): S Shawn Davis, Florida
6 (218): QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas
7 (229): WR Michael Strachan, Charleston
7 (248): OG Will Fries, Penn State
The Colts came into the draft with two needs above the rest, and that was an edge rusher and a left tackle. Already having one of the best offensive lines in football, the retirement of Anthony Costanzo left a hole that needed to be filled. In one of the deeper offensive tackle drafts I have seen, I couldn’t grade them any higher due to the fact they didn’t draft a single one. They opted to go with Kwity Paye, who was a name that some had going within the top 15. This class didn’t have a Chase Young to go after. Instead, there were plenty of athletic edge rushers who were viewed as a project for teams. Paye was the best of these options. His character will be something everybody loves in Indy, and he does possess good hands and is an athletic monster. We will see if the Colts can put it all together now.
Dayo Odeuingbo is a very “Colts” type pick as he is very athletic and twitchy. He is even more of a project than Paye and is also coming off a torn Achilles that he recently tore this offseason. Given the Colts didn’t have a third-round pick to address the tackle position and names like Jalen Mayfield and Brady Christensen on the board, you wonder if it would have been worth it to get a potential future left tackle here. Now, this would change if they are able to grab a tackle still through free agency. Not a lot of the Day 3 names stand out, although Sam Ehlinger stands to be a long-term backup arm. Indy also did need secondary help, and Shawn Davis did show upside at Florida. He battled injuries and is still fairly raw in understanding the game.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B+
1 (1): QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
1 (25): RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
2 (33): CB Tyson Campbell, Georgia
2 (45): OT Walker Little, Stanford
3 (65): S Andre Cisco, Syracuse
4 (106): DL Jay Tufele, USC
4 (121): EDGE Jordan Smith, UAB
5 (145): TE Luke Farrell, Ohio State
6 (209): WR Jalen Camp, Georgia Tech
You might be wondering why they are not in the A range after taking Trevor Lawrence and making a few solid Day 2 picks? The answer to that is taking Travis Etienne at 25 overall. While I expect Etienne to take over the backfield at some point, Jacksonville is foolish to push aside James Robinson, who they did not have to use a pick on last season. I thought this was for sure a spot for safety, but they did luck out in grabbing Andre Cisco at 65. The value return for Etienne is not going to be worth it.
Day 2 was solid for the Jaguars, although you could question the Tyson Campbell pick at 33, given it isn’t a glaring need, and they have continuously added to the position. I do like Tyson Campbell, but I liked him far later than 33, especially with Teven Jenkins on the board and also some of the safeties. Jacksonville did add some depth at offensive tackle with a potential pro-bowler in Walker Little, but we have not seen him play in some time. The tools and size are there, but the floor is low, just given the injuries and time off. With this much draft capital, you can take the risk, but Jenkins was a safer pick at 33.
I love the Andre Cisco pick at 65. It makes it worth passing on some of the safeties at the time. Cisco is a big-time playmaker and has a high IQ that could make him a real threat for the Jaguars defense. Jay Tufele is also a nice value here who did opt-out last year but is a real threat on the interior defensive line. I would expect him to work in and out of the rotation in his rookie year.
Tennessee Titans: B
1 (22): CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
2 (53): OT Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
3 (92): LB Monty Rice, Georgia
3 (100): CB Elijah Molden, Washington
4 (109): WR Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
4 (135): EDGE Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
6 (205): WR Racey McMath, LSU
6 (215): S Brady Breeze, Oregon
Tennessee‘s draft has the upside of an A, but there are a lot of risks here. It starts with Caleb Farley, who likely would have been the first cornerback off the board if it wasn’t for the injury history. He has had multiple surgeries over the last few years, but he is a big and physical corner who has the upside to take away half the field. If he stays healthy, this is great value for the Titans. Dillon Radunz was one of the next tier tackles in this deep draft class, and this is about the range I had him. After the Titans seeing a few names walk from the line over the last few years, it makes sense to address it here.
The Titans went back to the defensive side in the third round getting Montry Rice, who will get to work under Mike Vrabel. He is a nasty linebacker with a high motor and will add some depth at least early on, but he has the upside to be a starting linebacker, especially on early downs. The defense against the pass has not been good for Tennessee, and regardless of having most of the secondary leave this offseason, they needed to add playmaking talent. They did that here with Elijah Molden, who projects to be a slot corner who can also play some safety. Molden was someone I thought would go a bit higher.
It was a surprise to me that the Titans had not addressed the wide receiver or tight end position yet. There are over 150 vacated targets from last season, and the offseason signings were dry. This was their first offensive skill position grab. Dez Fitzpatrick is a big-bodied possession wide receiver who could see some work in Year 1. Rashad Weaver was a nice Day 3 add at the EDGE position. Weaver has flashed some strong pass-rushing abilities and is also very good against the run.