Michael Amato is going to study team-by-team each squad's NEEDS over the next few weeks. Enjoy the ongoing series of articles as we explore the upcoming NFL draft.
It was a forgettable year for the Jaguars in 2012 and the draft will be the first step towards turning things around. Jacksonville only had 20 sacks last season which was good enough for dead last in the NFL, so expect them to try and find that elite pass rusher with their number two overall pick.
Dion Jordan of Oregon is a logical selection and despite only having 14.5 career sacks, scouts feel he may have the most upside of any defensive end at the draft. At 6-foot-6 and 248lbs, Jordan was recruited as a tight end and his tremendous athletic ability was on full display at the combine where he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash. Many are comparing him to New England’s Chandler Jones, only with a lot more versatility since he can line up in several different spots defensively. One thing to keep an eye on with Jordan is how he recovers from a partially torn labrum that kept him out of his pro day, but isn’t expected to be serious.
Jacksonville, like many teams heading into this year’s draft, also must improve their pass protection. Blaine Gabbert was only sacked 22 times, but that was in just 10 starts. If you average that out over 16 games that equates to over 35 sacks, which would rank near the bottom of the league. If the Jags are unsure on Jordan they could always go with highly rated offensive tackle Eric Fisher from Central Michigan.
One area that Jacksonville will have to address that doesn’t get a lot of attention is fullback. Long-time Jaguar Greg Jones has left for Houston and he did a great job over the years of opening up holes for Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Titans actually have some decent players at the skill positions, so they may want to look at some offensive line help with the 10th overall pick. Chris Johnson and the running game his slipped in recent years and they are going to have to get that back on track to take some of the pressure of inexperienced quarterback Jake Locker.
Tennessee picks right before San Diego, who also figure to be targeting an offensive lineman. Lane Johnson, a tackle from Oklahoma, may or may not be gone at that point, but the Titans could make out just as well by taking a guard. Pass protection wasn’t the major issue in 2012, but instead they need to get back to opening up running lanes for Johnson. Guards Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina and Chance Warmack from Alabama would be excellent picks if they can get their hands on one. The Titans haven’t had an offensive lineman make the Pro Bowl since 2009 when Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards, and something tells me his struggles since then are directly related to that.
One other area the Titans need to address eventually is at tight end. Jared Cook is one of the more under rated players at his position, and losing him in free agency is going to sting. Bringing in Delanie Walker is going to help a bit, but if Zach Ertz, who had 69 catches and six touchdowns at Stanford in 2012 is still available in the second round, then the Titans would be wise to take him.
The Colts will have some decisions to make leading up to the draft since they only have six total picks, and no selections in the second or fifth rounds. A smart move would be to improve on their 22nd ranked rushing attack from 2012. Drafting Eddie Lacy, Giovani Bernard, or Johnathan Franklin would all be upgrades to a depth chart that currently only boasts Donald Brown and Vick Ballard.
Although grabbing a running back to make things easier for Andrew Luck would be nice, Indianapolis could look in many different directions late in the first round. They pick 24th, and that’s right about the time Manti Te’o is going to be discussed heavily by many teams. His tackling ability would certainly help a below average Colts defense.
Not having a second round pick, however, could really end up hurting Indianapolis as there are several strong players that always slip into round two. Defensive tackle Sylvester Williams from North Carolina and offensive tackle Menelik Watson from Florida State would really help them out, but grabbing one of them in the first round may be a bit high and it’s doubtful they are going to fall to round three.
Austin Collie and Donnie Avery won’t be back, so picking a receiver wouldn’t be a bad move either. Justin Hunter from Tennessee would give them an instant deep threat as he averaged almost 20 yards a catch during his college career. He can get a case of the drops at times, but with his upside he would be a solid pick.
Houston would be wise to look at a receiver late in the first round to play opposite Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub has a tendency to get tunnel vision when it comes to Johnson and with Kevin Walter being cut; the Texans need someone to fill that second receiver role anyway.
If they’re lucky DeAndre Hopkins could still be available when they pick at 27, but if not then they will have a decision to make. Houston could look at Robert Woods from USC at that stage, who had over 250 catches and 32 touchdowns during his collegiate career. Woods is slightly undersized at 6-foot-1 and 190 lbs, but he is a good route runner with excellent hands. Putting him in that Texans offense with all their other weapons shouldn’t be much of a risk.
Houston also has nine picks at their disposal so they can move up easily if they so choose. However, they would be wise to use a couple on the defensive side of the ball as New England exposed them twice in that regard during the 2012 season. The Texans have become one of the AFC’s elite teams, but they won’t be able to get over the hump until they can beat the Patriots.
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