Apr 12, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and this edition is much clearer than last year, at least in terms of team needs, because free agency has already taken place. Here on the staff blog, I’m going to break down each team’s top needs and fantasy outlook for the draft, going division by division. Today we head to the AFC South, and, if you missed it, check out the AFC East from Tuesday and the AFC North from Wednesday. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to take a look at our massive 2012 Pre-Draft Rookie Report, which takes an in-depth look at all the top fantasy prospects.
Picks: 26, 58, 76, 99, 121, 161, 195, 233
1. Wide Receiver – The Texans have been unable to find a consistent producer opposite Andre Johnson the last few years, as
neither Kevin Walter nor Jacoby Jones has been reliable. Walter is fine in the slot but shouldn’t start on the outside, while Jones has never lived up to his potential on a week to week basis. To make things worse, Johnson was out half the season last year with a hamstring injury, so the Texans clearly need to add someone who can compete for a starting job. The ideal scenario is for deep threat Kendall Wright to fall to them with the 26th overall pick. If that doesn’t happen, the Texans could reach for raw deep threat Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech or also target LSU’s Rueben Randle, who’s a more complete receiver. If they decide to wait until the 2nd round, A.J. Jenkins of Illinois would be a good pick.
2. Offensive Tackle – The Texans surprisingly cut starting RT Eric Winston to create cap room, which delivers a pretty big blow to one of the best offensive lines in the league. For now, Rashad Butler, who has started four games in three years in Houston, will likely start at RT, so the Texans need to add someone here. If they don’t pick a WR in the 1st round, they could try to grab someone like Stanford OT Jonathan Martin or Ohio State OT Mike Adams. A guard can’t be ruled out either after Mike Brisiel signed with the Raiders.
3. Cornerback – New DC Wade Phillips helped the Texans make a miraculous turnaround defensively last year, as they jumped from 32nd in the league against the pass to 3rd. Of course, it also helped that they significantly improved their personnel, as CB Johnathan Joseph was one of the best corners in the league, and Danieal Manning was also an upgrade at FS. Still, the one trouble spot remains the other starting CB spot opposite Joseph. Kareem Jackson, a 2010 1st-round pick, was better last year, but he’s still unreliable, and #3 CB Jason Allen signed with the Bengals. Don’t expect the Texans to add a CB in the 1st round, but using one of their Day Two picks on the position would make sense.
Fantasy Outlook: Aside from WR, the Texans appear to be set at the fantasy positions. They’re solid at QB with Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates, and they have one of the best RB situations in the league with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The one spot they could target is depth at TE, where Owen Daniels is entrenched as the starter but Joel Dreessen is gone. Depth right now consists of versatile FB/TE James Casey and 2010 4th-round pick Garrett Graham.
Picks: 1, 34, 65, 97, 136, 170, 206, 208, 214, 253
1. Quarterback – Well, this is perhaps the most obvious need and choice in the league. The availability of Stanford QB Andrew Luck allowed the Colts to do the previously unthinkable and cut Peyton Manning, possibly the greatest quarterback in NFL history. For the most part, the Colts are starting over, and it’s safe to say they’re not going to do that with QBs Drew Stanton and Trevor Vittatoe. An argument can be made for taking Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, but they’re going to take Luck.
2. Offensive Line – The Colts need almost everything, but they need a decent offensive line to help Luck make as smooth a transition as possible. The offensive line was atrocious last year, and the Colts no longer have Manning to mask deficiencies up front. In time, Luck could become a similar type of quarterback, but he’ll only be a rookie. Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem, and Mike Pollak are gone, and while the Colts brought in Samson Satele and Winston Justice and have some young talent, like LT Anthony Castonzo, it might be a smart move for them to take a lineman at the top of the 2nd round, depending on who’s available.
3. Tight End – In addition to getting offensive line help, it would be nice if Luck had some talent at the skill positions. RB and WR aren’t exactly great, but the biggest hole is at TE, where Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme are gone. At the moment, that leaves blocker Brody Eldridge atop the depth chart. Obviously, that’s not going to cut it. The 2012 TE class is a weak one, but the Colts may be in perfect position to grab Stanford TE Coby Fleener with the 33rd overall pick. If making Luck comfortable is the goal, pairing him with one of his favorite college targets would be a nice start. The Colts could also wait until the beginning of the 3rd round and hope that Clemson’s Dwayne Allen or Georgia’s Orson Charles is still available.
Fantasy Outlook: The Colts need help at every fantasy position, with QB and TE having the most obvious holes. In the backfield, former 1st-round pick Donald Brown is the likely starter, and while he improved last year, he’s probably not the long-term answer. Joseph Addai is still a free agent, and the other back is second-year runner Delone Carter. This is a problem area, but the Colts won’t address it early in the draft. At WR, the Colts brought back the veteran Reggie Wayne and signed Donnie Avery, but they lost Pierre Garcon. Wayne, Avery – if healthy – and Austin Collie could be serviceable, but this position still needs help.
Picks: 7, 38, 70, 101, 142, 176, 228
1. Defensive End – The Jaguars are pretty solid up the middle led by Tyson Alualu, but the big problem on defense remains the pass rush. They finished 25th in the league in sacks last year, and Jeremy Mincey (8 sacks) was the only consistent threat. Matt Roth is a free agent, and Aaron Kampman has played in a total of 11 games in two seasons with the Jaguars, so this unit clearly needs another pass rusher. With the 7th overall pick, the Jaguars may be in perfect position to grab talented Alabama pass rusher Melvin Ingram.
2. Wide Receiver – The Jaguars helped solve a huge problem by signing Laurent Robinson, who enjoyed a breakout season with the Cowboys last year. Still, this remains a position of concern. Mike Thomas is best off as a #3 WR, and nobody else in this unit is proven, although Cecil Shorts has potential. Plus, Robinson is no sure thing, as he’s dealt with injuries throughout his career. It doesn’t help that this unit must deal with questionable QB play from Blaine Gabbert and possibly Chad Henne, but another quality receiver is definitely needed. If he slips to #7, Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon must be considered by the Jaguars. Otherwise, the Jaguars could wait for someone like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins or Wake Forest’s Chris Givens on Day Two.
3. Offensive Line – QB Blaine Gabbert has the tools to develop into a decent passer, but his biggest issue is that he looks totally lost under pressure. The Jaguars allowed 44 sacks last year, and while a lot of blame can be placed on Gabbert, they could use a talent upgrade. DE and WR are bigger needs, but it still wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jaguars take Iowa OT Riley Reiff with the 7th overall pick.
Fantasy Outlook: WR is clearly the position the Jaguars are most likely to address for fantasy. At QB, the situation is bad with Gabbert and Henne, but there’s not much else they can do at this point. At RB, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best in the league, and the Jaguars get Rashad Jennings back from injury, so they could be in good shape, although they may look to add a change-of-pace back like Florida’s Chris Rainey in the middle rounds if they want to move on from Deji Karim.
Picks: 20, 52, 82, 115, 155, 190, 227
1. Cornerback – The Titans appear to have a pretty solid roster overall, but the one glaring need is at CB. They lost top CB Cortland Finnegan to St. Louis, leaving Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner as the projected starters. It appears to be close to a lock that the Titans will draft a CB in the 1st round, and with the 20th pick they’re in pretty good position. Morris Claiborne will be long gone, but they could be in position to grab the #2 CB on the board, whether they think that’s Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore, or North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins.
2. Defensive End – The Titans lost Jason Jones and added talented pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley, but they still need to add someone else here. With DL coach Jim Washburn gone, the Titan pass rush was awful last year, as they finished 31st in the league with 28 sacks. You can never have enough pass rushers in today’s NFL, so if for some reason they don’t take a CB in the 1st round, someone like Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus is a possibility.
3. Safety – The Titans franchised FS Michael Griffin and also bring back SS Jordan Babineaux, so they’re solid at safety. Still, they have little depth, and given that Griffin doesn’t have a long-term deal, they could look to the future on Day Two.
Fantasy Outlook: Neither RB nor WR is a glaring need, as the Titans have talent at those positions with Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt, and Nate Washington starting. However, they could spend picks late in the draft on both for depth and competition purposes. At QB and TE, they have a lot of potential in QB Jake Locker and TE Jared Cook.