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2013 NFL DRAFT TOP NEEDS: AFC SOUTH

HOUSTON TEXANS (12-4)

2013 Draft Picks: 27 (1st), 57 (2nd), 89 (3rd), 95 (3rd), 124 (4th), 160 (5th), 195 (6th), 201 (6th), 233 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: OLB Whitney Mercilus, ILL (26, 1st), WR DeVier Posey, OSU (68 , 3rd), OG Brandon Brooks, MIA-O ( , 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Rick Smith, Head Coach Gary Kubiak

Another successful regular season in 2012 helped the Texans establish themselves as one of the top teams currently in the NFL, but they failed for a second year in a row to advance past the second round of the playoffs. This season will be about taking that next step by getting to the Super Bowl. They’ve found immediate game-changing talent over the last couple of drafts and if they can add a couple more of those guys this year than that next step should come a lot easier.

1.   Wide Receiver – The Texans have needed someone to pair with Andre Johnson for a while now and it appears to be their top focus heading into the draft. Any new receiver would also ideally be a potential heir apparent for the aging Johnson. Adding a young slot receiver would be a good idea as well. Long-time Texan Kevin Walter was allowed to leave in free agency.

2.   Nose Tackle – Sean Cody did a nice job at Nose Tackle for Wade Phillips’ defense the past few seasons, but he’s a free agent and probably needed to be upgraded anyways. Backup Earl Mitchell has been quietly getting better and has shown flashes throughout his first three seasons that he may be ready to move into the starting lineup. If the Texans fully believe in Mitchell than that lessens their need, but there is still nobody behind him should he struggle or get injured. Phillips prefers to use a smaller, more athletic tackle that can move around rather than the standard, mammoth nose that just takes up the middle of the field.

3.   Outside Linebacker – Connor Barwin departed for the Eagles in free agency leaving Houston in need of a third pass-rusher to go with Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. There is nothing on the roster behind them.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-)

2013 Draft Picks: 24 (1st), 86 (3rd), 121 (4th), 192 (6th), 230 (7th), 254 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: QB Andrew Luck, STAN (1, 1st), TE Coby Fleener, STAN (34, 2nd), TE Dwayne Allen, CLEM (64, 3rd), WR T.Y. Hilton, FIU (92, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Ryan Grigson, Head Coach Chuck Pagano

The 2012 season was a magical one for the Colts as they won eleven games and went to the playoffs after winning just two games the previous year, all while new Head Coach Chuck Pagano fought and defeated Leukemia. The key was landing Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in last year’s draft along with a number of prospects on offense that contributed immediately. This year’s draft should be about building their defense that continues to transition from a long-time 4-3 scheme to the type of 3-4 Pagano ran when he was defensive coordinator in Baltimore.

1.   Outside Linebacker – Long-time Colt Dwight Freeney was not resigned and probably wasn’t a good fit in the 3-4, while Robert Mathis made a successful transition and turned in another solid campaign, although he just turned 32 years old. 2010 first round pick Jerry Hughes had his best year to date, but still wasn’t all that impressive and left a lot to be desired. They also added Erik Walden and Lawrence Sidbury as free agents to upgrade their depth at the position. It’s probably time to find someone to play across from Mathis instead of Hughes.

2.   Offensive Guard – They filled one guard spot through free agency by adding Donald Thomas from the Patriots, while Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach desperately need to be upgraded on the right side. Andrew Luck was hit way too many times as a rookie and the Colts should find him the best protection possible.

3.   Defensive Line – Finding big, versatile defensive linemen is imperative to running a 3-4 defense and the Colts are in need of upgrades across their line as they continue to make their transition from a 4-3 scheme. They signed Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean-Francois, but they have their flaws and would be better suited as reserves if Indy can find better talent. Cory Redding is a terrific player, but he will turn 33 during next season and isn’t getting any younger. Adding a young five-technique defensive end or nose tackle or both to build the defense around would be fantastic.  

TENNESSEE TITANS (6-10)

2013 Draft Picks: 10 (1st), 40 (2nd), 70 (3rd), 97 (3rd), 107 (4th), 142 (5th), 202 (6th), 216 (7th), 248 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: WR Kendall Wright, BAY (20, 1st), OLB Zach Brown, UNC (52, 2nd), DT Mike Martin, MICH (82, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Ruston Webster, Head Coach Mike Munchak

The Titans missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and Mike Munchak will be on the hot seat if they fail to qualify for them again this season, especially if they endure another year like 2012 where they were blown out six times. Tennessee could be in for a major rebuild should that happen so upgrading this roster in the draft is a must.

1.   Offensive Guard – The Titans added coveted left guard Andy Levitre from Buffalo in free agency, but still have a hole at right guard that needs to be filled to complete their offensive line. A run-blocking mauler to clear the way for Chris Johnson would be ideal. Selecting at the tenth pick overall, Tennessee will likely have the opportunity to land the top guard prospect in the draft, which would give them one of the best guard tandems in the league.

2.   Defensive End – The Titans have a nice group of defensive ends led by Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan, but don’t have anyone that strikes fear into opposing teams or forces them to alter their protection. Adding another young pass-rusher, hopefully with game-changing potential would be a big help in elevating this defense.

3.   Best Player Available – The Titans don’t really have too many glaring holes in their lineup, however the majority of this roster is made up of a lot of good or solid players, but not the type of elite, game-changing talent they need to take their team to the next level. Adding elite talent should be their main goal to the point that the front office can sit there and take the best player of their board regardless of risk with every pick.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-14)

2013 Draft Picks: 2 (1st), 33 (2nd), 64 (3rd), 98 (4th), 135 (5th), 169 (6th), 208 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: WR Justin Blackmon, OKST (5, 1st), DE Andre Branch, CLEM (38, 2nd), P Bryan Anger, CAL (70, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM David Caldwell, Head Coach Gus Bradley

A new regime takes over in Jacksonville led by GM David Caldwell and former Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley as the new Head Coach. The Jags have won just seven games over the past two years and haven’t had a winning season since 2007.  There are huge holes that need to be filled throughout the lineup, but upgrading the current talent and adding elite prospects to the roster is what this new front office has to do more than anything else.

1.   Quarterback – New regimes mean new quarterbacks and Blaine Gabbert has struggled badly since coming into the league two years ago and appears to be an early first round bust, while Chad Henne remains a solid backup that actually played pretty well and was able to help young wideouts Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts start to produce. The Jags front office has worked out the majority of top quarterback prospects and will have the opportunity to draft one early in the first or second round if they want.

2.   Defensive End – The Jags finished dead last in sacks in 2012 where they’ve been at or near the bottom of the league in for the last four years. Houston’s J.J. Watt actually had more sacks himself than the entire Jacksonville team last season. Their top pass-rusher Jeremy Mincey produced just three sacks, while 2012 second round pick Andre Branch was slow to adjust to the pro level. Jason Babin was brought over from Philadelphia during last season and could be an intriguing guy if he can get back to the form he showed in 2012 and 2011. While a defensive end is needed, Bradley will be looking for a certain type of player that will be able to play his “LEO” position, which features an athletic, versatile pass-rusher with great speed that lines up wide on the weak side and has the ability to rush with his hand in the dirt or standing up and can be lined up from multiple spots on defense.

3.   Cornerback – The Jags cornerback corps has been almost as bad as the pass rush these past few years and is in desperate need of new and better talent. Derek Cox left for San Diego in free agency, while Aaron Ross was cut before heading back to the Giants. Meanwhile Rashean Mathis will be 33 when the 2013 regular season begins and Mike Harris is still a developing talent.  Adding at least one corner that can start is a must in this draft.

Written By: Mark Scott

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