The final “big” event of the 2022 offseason has come and gone. With the conclusion of the NFL draft, many consider the offseason to be over. There are still waves of free agency, but all of the significant swings teams have taken to improve their roster have come and gone. Enough time has passed, and the dust has settled; it is time to grade how each team did. Read on to find out how each team managed! For this installment, we will be focusing on AFC South draft grades.
Houston Texans: B+
Now that the Laremy Tunsil picks have been spent and more draft capital acquired, the Texans can spend early-round draft capital on rebuilding the roster. This franchise has been starved for selections in the last few draft classes. Assuming no trades for veteran players or moving up in future drafts, general manager Nick Caserio will pick twice in the first round. The 2022 NFL draft was his first chance to show his hand when deploying draft resources.
Houston took a gamble on an LSU corner with the third overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Derek Stingley Jr. had a sensational first year in 2019 but has been dealing with a string of injuries and a lack of production since then. He will justify his draft selection if he can regain that 2019 form. However, the risk is that he can be one of the big first-round busts from this draft class. With the pick acquired from the Deshaun Watson trade, the Texans traded back once and then selected guard Kenyon Green at 15. Green will slot in at left guard and work next to Laremy Tunsil.
Throughout the remainder of the draft, Caserio did an excellent job of letting value fall to him at various points. The later rounds were spent adding depth at multiple points on the roster. Jalen Pitre from Baylor was drafted as a corner but can play up to four different positions on defense. John Metchie out of Alabama will add a nice piece to the receiving room once he returns from injury.
Indianapolis Colts: A-
The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2022 NFL draft without a pick in the first round. Thanks to the Carson Wentz experiment, that pick was owned by the Philadelphia Eagles. And Wentz is the current quarterback of the Washington Commanders. Not the best trade in Colts’ franchise history. Regardless, Chris Ballard was able to reacquire some draft capital by dealing Wentz to the Commanders.
The first three picks selected by the Colts all have the possibility of making week one impacts on this roster. Alec Pierce of Cincinnati adds much-needed depth in the WR room. Jelani Woods was one of the most athletic TEs in this draft class and, if used correctly, can make a huge difference. The last of this fantastic trio was Bernhard Raimann, a tackle from Central Michigan that many industry insiders had as a first-round talent.
The Colts could have come out on top with no other picks with a trio as good as that. They did, however, have five more selections throughout the final few rounds. In these final rounds, they could grab some key depth pieces at various positions.
Jacksonville Jaguars: B-
Having the first overall pick in back-to-back years cannot be a good sign for this franchise’s direction. The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t do much to ease those concerns as they shot for immense upside at number one. Travon Walker is an athletic freak out of Georgia but has minimal production on his resume to match that athleticism. This pick is about upside, and the Jaguars have gone all-in on that bet. Jacksonville added a second pick this year when they traded up to grab Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd. Lloyd was the first LB drafted in 2022 and should immediately contribute to this defense.
Due to the trade-up, Jacksonville picked only five more times in the remaining six rounds. They added Center Luke Fortner out of Kentucky and LB Chad Muma out of Wyoming in the third. Taking two LBs on the first two days of the draft seems like a questionable decision, but both times were good values as players slid. With the poor play on the interior of the offensive line in 2021, Fortner has a chance to push for the starting role this year. The Jaguars added some depth at RB with Snoop Conner and a couple of depth corners with Gregory Junior and Montaric Brown in the final rounds.
Tennessee Titans: B+
The Tennesse Titans had one of the more exciting drafts in 2022 as they said goodbye to Pro-Bowl wide receiver AJ Brown. Brown was nearing the end of his rookie deal, and instead of resigning him, Tennesse dealt him to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the 18th overall pick. Like the Stefon Diggs deal, Tennesse used the pick received to try to replace AJ Brown immediately. Treylon Burks will have some big shoes to fill for the Titans. The Arkansas product is entering a team with 351 vacated targets. If he is willing to take it, the WR1 chair is available.
With three picks on Day Two, the Titans could add a couple of players that will hopefully be starters in year two and beyond. Cornerback Roger McCreary and tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere are developmental-type players that the coaching staff will have to work on improving. They are unlikely to contribute to the roster this year, which leaves the team in a much weaker position for 2022.
The most exciting name, however, is QB Malik Willis. Once projected as a top-ten pick in this class, Willis fell to the 86th overall pick. Malik is a dual-threat QB who played at Liberty after transferring out of Auburn. The small school pedigree was a big knock on his profile alongside his rawness. The Titans organization hopes he can develop behind Ryan Tannehill and eventually take over as the starter. That could be as early as the next offseason as Tannehill carries a dead-cap hit of only $18.8 million. If not, he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2023 season concludes.
The final few rounds included many depth pieces highlighted by RB Hassan Haskins out of Michigan and WR Kyle Phillips from UCLA. Haskins profiles very similarly to Derrick Henry and will serve as a direct back-up. Phillips is already impressing in training camp and can make a push for snaps as early as Week One. There is not much behind Burks besides Robert Woods on this team, but Woods is coming off of an injury.
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