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2023 NFL Draft Recap: AFC South Grades

The AFC South could have three new QBs of the future, with the Colts, Texans, and Titans all using top picks on signal callers. How did the Draft shake out for each team?

The AFC South made massive strides in the 2023 Draft, with three of the first four picks of the first round being potential game-changers in the division. The Jaguars won the division last season and improved with a slew of late-round picks. The Titans, Colts, and Texans all selected players they hope to be their quarterbacks for the future. Let’s dive into what each team did and grade the offensive and defensive picks. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Players

1.27: Anton Harrison, T Oklahoma

2.61 Brenton Strange, TE Penn State

3.88: Tank Bigsby, RB Auburn

6.185: Parker Washington, WR Penn State

7.226: Cooper Hodges, G App State

The biggest offensive move for the Jags was drafting Harrison, a strong tackle with room to get better but should be a day-one starter. Protecting Trevor Lawrence and opening holes for the running game was a top priority, and they got good value on Harrison. Strange gives them TE depth and is a solid all-around TE. He can block and is decently athletic. Bigsby is a really good option for depth behind Travis Etienne. He can fill in if Etienne misses time and has three down upside. Bigsby has great size and can take some goal-line carries away, also. Washington should find a role early, too. He’s a possession slot receiver built like a running back. He’s got ball skills and toughness and is dangerous after the catch. 

Offense Grade: B-

The Jags did well with their draft capital and addressed a few needs. Strange was a massive reach. These guys won’t win us fantasy leagues, but they will help the team. 

Defensive Players

4.121: Ventrell Miller, LB Florida

4.130: Tyler Lacy, DE Oklahoma State

4.136: Yasir Abdullah, LB Louisville

5.160: Antonio Johnson, S Texas A&M

6.202: Christian Braswell, CB Rutgers

6.208: Erick Hallett ll, Pitt

7.227: Raymond Vohasek, DT North Carolina

7.240: Derek Parish, EDGE/FB Houston

The key selection here is Johnson in the fifth round. He was many analyst’s S1 in the class, and he’s versatile and loves to hit. Miller and Abdullah give them depth at LB. Miller will be a valuable pass-rusher in third-down situations. 

Defense Grade: B 

Once again, without much higher draft capital on this side of the ball, Jacksonville did well to add a few players who can help. Johnson was a strong get; a starting safety in round five is sexy. 

OVERALL GRADE: B

Houston Texans

Offensive Players

1.2: C.J. Stroud, QB Ohio State

2.62: Juice Scruggs, C Penn State

3.69: Tank Dell, WR Houston

6.201: Jarrett Patterson, C Notre Dame

6.205: Xavier Hutchinson, WR Iowa State

Houston made the pick they had to make by selecting Ohio State QB Stroud with the second overall pick. Stroud can make all the throws and has the ability to move around to make plays. His work will be cut out for him, and the receiver corps is thin. They addressed it by adding diminutive dynamic receiver Dell in the third and Hutchinson in the sixth. Both guys should start right away and give Stroud a speedy receiver and a big-possession receiver. Both centers drafted have interior line versatility and are fine run blockers, but neither is athletic or overly mobile. 

Offense Grade: C

The trade to get the third pick will limit the ability to surround Stroud with young talent, but they can build other ways. The receivers are nice options, also. This team has an uphill climb and drafted what they needed. 

Defensive Players

1.3 Will Anderson Jr., EDGE Alabama

4.109 Dylan Horton, EDGE TCU

5.167  Henry To’oTo’o, LB Alabama

7.248 Brandon Hill, S  Pitt

The trade to pick up the third overall pick was ballsy, and the Texans went for the home run with Anderson. He’s a cornerstone defender, versatile, and can wreak havoc all over the field. I love the move to do it, but they may have handcuffed themselves a little. Horton is a solid rotational pass rusher, and if To’oTo’o can realize his potential, he could be a starter at LB for the Texans.

Defense Grade: B

Anytime you can get a talent like Anderson, I think you need to do what it takes. The Texans went in for him, but will he be an immense talent mired on a lackluster defense?  

OVERALL GRADE: B- 

Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Players

1.4: Anthony Richardson, QB Florida

3.79: Josh Downs, WR North Carolina

4.106: Blake Freeland, T BYU

5.162: Will Mallory, TE Miami

5.176: Evan Hull, RB Northwestern

7.236: Jake Witt, T Northern Michigan

The Colts had the most impressive draft of all the teams in the division. They took the gamble on the freakish upside that Richardson provides. He destroyed the combine and has a massive cannon. Can new coach Shane Steichen do for Richardson what he did for Jalen Hurts? If so, this team has finally found its QB1 again. Downs is a phenomenal pick in the third round; he can give Richardson a deep threat and a reliable slot option. He’s got the potential to see targets right away and will be a fantasy option from Day 1. Freeland is an interesting tackle prospect with the tools to develop into a plus starter. Mallory gives them a move option at TE, and he could develop into an interesting piece. Hull is a good depth back who can spot-start if needed. 

Offense Grade: A

The Colts went all-in, and Steichen has proven he can win with a quarterback of a similar skillset to Richardson. It’s a project, but if it succeeds, the Colts will get better incredibly quickly. They have a team that has needed a quarterback who wasn’t a liability.

Defensive Players

2.44: Julius Brents, CB Kansas State

4.110: Adetomiwa Adebawore, DT Northwestern

5.138: Darius Rush, CB South Carolina

5.158: Daniel Scott, S California

7.211: Titus Leo, LB Wagner

7.221: Jaylon Jones, CB Texas A&M

The team also picked well on defense. Brents played his high school ball in Indianapolis and returns as a solid option for the Colts to step in and play right away. He’s best in zone and has the size to play safety too. Adebawore had no business falling to the fourth round. He’s a powerful 282-lb. defensive lineman that ran a 4.49 40-yard dash. He will learn from DeForest Buckner and eventually be a good starter. Rush could develop into a starter. He’s an insane athlete but has only played corner for two seasons. Scott is a versatile downhill safety who should fill in for several positions and be a viable backup. 

Defense Grade: B

I like Brents and Adebawore to become strong starters, and Rush has the potential too. Adebawore gives them the B on his own for me, and he has the potential to be a tough inside defensive lineman. 

Overall Grade: A-

Tennessee Titans

Offensive Players

1.11: Peter Skoronski, T Northwestern

2.33: Will Levis, QB Kentucky

3.81: Tyjae Spears, RB Tulane

5.147: Josh Whyle, TE Cincinnati

6.186: Jaelyn Duncan, OL Maryland

7.228: Colton Dowell, WR UT Martin

The Titans grabbed a top tackle in the draft and still got their QB of the future (possibly) in the second. Skor is a blue-collar player who will play from Day 1 and potentially be a top-shelf tackle in the NFL. Then, they were still able to stop the draft day slide and take Levis early in the second round. It couldn’t have gone better for them. I am a huge fan of Spears, and he will give them a complimentary back to team with Derrick Henry. If Spears stays healthy, he gives them an option should Henry ever break down finally. Whyle is a solid all-around tight end that could see the field often and early. Duncan gives them a versatile piece to fill in along the line. I have no idea who Dowell is, to be honest. 

Offense Grade: B

The draft played out as well as they could have hoped. To grab a top tackle and potentially a future QB, the Titans have to be happy with their haul. 

Defensive Players: N/A

Overall Grade: B 

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