Houston Texans (F)
What is going on? The last 2 seasons have not been great for fans of the Texans as well as Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt. Watson and Watt are trying to drag this team to success whilst Bill O’Brien is trying to drag it back to where it’s been since it was founded in 1999 … mediocrity. Trading one of the best WRs in the game for a 2nd round pick, a running back who’s best days are behind him (David Johnson) and is the same as a RB already on the roster (Duke Johnson) and moving a fourth round pick forward a year is ridiculous. Hopkins carried the Texans offense since he was drafted. He finally had a good QB in Watson and O’Brien trades him for peanuts. The Texans used future draft picks on getting Laremy Tunsil, the defence is aging and only the Chiefs and Ravens look to be top tier teams in the AFC every year. The Texans must be in win now mode so pay Hopkins, you have 2-3 years to win until those draft picks that were traded hurt you because no young talent emerges. But O’Brien seems to be half in win now, and half win for the future, that indecisiveness just leaves a team between 7 and 9 wins, that’s where the Texans will be. At least they still have Watson … for now. They also lost DJ Reader from the middle of that defence so expect running games to be powerful against them. Randall Cobb was bought in, but there is already Fuller, Stills and Coutee. The Texans needed a NO.1 receiver, not another NO.2 or NO.3. They got Cooks for that role, but they have to pay him quite a bit of money. Sadly, Cooks has a concussion history and I can’t see him playing past 2-3 seasons. I hope I’m wrong and at least that’s within the “win now” time zone. However, what does he add that Hopkins doesn’t?
The draft was good but doesn’t in any way make up for the trades and free agency. Blacklock was a nice pickup and can replace Reader, but it will take a season or two to get up to speed. Greenard gets to learn from JJ Watt so his potential can be reached. Coulter is a good 5th round pick with a high ceiling but will need a few seasons before contending for a starting role.
Indianapolis Colts (A)
Chris Ballard is a genius. Himself, John Lynch and Bill Belichick are in their own league compared with other GMs in the NFL. Losing Eric Ebron isn’t a massive loss with Jack Doyle still on the roster and Trey Burton is a great NO.2. Xavier Rhodes on a one-year $3 million deal is brilliant. He can lead a relatively inexperienced defensive back group in Indy. This helps them on the backend, whilst Darius Leonard and their effective first round pick (later) terrorize QBs and stop the run. Then there is the big one. A one year $25 million for QB Phillip Rivers. Rivers needed a change of scenery after a disappointing year for the Chargers. It seem his career has been filled with the Chargers letting him down (first it was Eli Manning, of course, for making Rivers a Charger). Now the Colts can get the old Phillip Rivers, the gunslinger who throws to his own team and can play at hall of fame level. The Colts have now been moved into the 3rd position in the AFC and I fully expect them to pressure the Chiefs and Ravens.
The draft just continued this great free agency. Their 1st round pick was traded for Deforest Buckner. He is worth the 13th overall pick and will help stop the run game. I can’t wait to see Derrick henry run inside against the Colts. Then they took Michael Pittman Jr with the 34th selection. A possession receiver with great ball skills, won’t drop anything. His weaknesses are in his ability to separate; luckily, the Colts have a guy called TY Hilton and he’s pretty good at getting separation. Hilton can train Pittman and the young receivers already there, Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal. Jonathan Taylor will be electric. With Mack and Hines already in the backfield, it seems as if one of those runners’ time in Indy is coming to an end, but Taylor is an upgrade. Julius Blackmon will use his skills from playing corner to become a top safety. Taking Jacob Eason is a great pick. He can learn from Rivers and potentially take over. Otherwise he can be flipped for picks later down the road. Undrafted free agent kicker Rodrigo Blankenship will be kicking come the season opener. Chris Ballard is turning these Colts into a Superbowl team despite last years retirement of Andrew Luck.
Jacksonville Jaguars (B-)
Trevor Lawrence may well be destined for the Jags. Free agency does show that there is still some chance of a good regular season. Joe Schobert is a great tackler who will control the middle of the field, but $53 million over 5 years seems a big commitment for a plyer who thrives being a second guy, rather than the star of the defence. However, the contract has an out after 2 years with only $7.2 million dead cap. He can help get this young (getting younger) team to commit to a level they can play at (that 2017-2018 year). Tyler Eifert is a great low risk high reward pickup on a 2-year $9.5 million deal. There are holes at DB but the Jags relied on the draft to fix that hole. However, for a team in disarray who will probably lose their top pass rusher, after losing Calais Campbell, if they wanted to be competitive for the playoffs, they needed a better free agency.
In the draft the Jags took CJ Henderson 8th overall. A top corner, Henderson can have a chance of replacing Ramsey, however, tackling is clearly an issue but he will surely be willing to turn that around or he won’t cut it in the NFL, he gets the benefit of the doubt because his coverage skills are so extraordinary. K’Lavion Chaisson was one of my favourite players in the draft. A great leader (wore 18 at LSU). A great pick at 20 who can help replace the expected loss of Ngakoue. Laviska Shenault will provide some juice to a WR but he is injury prone. Josiah Scott out of Michigan State could be a steal in the 4th round but other than that the draft was underwhelming.
Tennessee Titans (B+)
Whilst the Titans did retain Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, their draft was just replacing losses in free agency, this may put them back a year or two. They lost Jack Conklin, one of the better right tackles in the league who helped create holes for Derrick Henry all season long. He was a great signing for the Cleveland Browns. Vic Beasley on a one-year deal can only help improve a pass rush. It was a shame that they let Jurrell Casey leave via trade, especially for so little (a seventh-round pick). They had issues with their cap so just to retain Henry and Tannehill was a success, however, will Tannehill continue in this newfound form?
The draft was used to correct losses. First, they selected Isaiah Wilson. A massive right tackle from Georgia to replace Conklin. A mauler at 350 lbs, Derrick Henry will love him. However, he is not quick in a division with JJ Watt and rookie K’Lavon Chaisson who will likely both be able to beat Wilson around the edge. Fulton was a great pick for a scheme full of zonal coverage, mainly cover 2. This allows him to sit and wait and use his explosiveness to get INT’s instead of using explosiveness to make up for recovering when getting separated in man in college. He’ll essentially be replacing Logan Ryan. Evans was my favourite pick by the Titans. The perfect complement to Henry, Evans can change the temp of the game and instantly fill the void of Dion Lewis. Cole McDonald has a chance to compete for the backup spot now Marcus Mariota is in Las Vegas with the Raiders. The Titans are still the same team from last year and as such they will probably have the same result, a playoff push that falls just short.