2018 NFL Draft
The Titans defense took a big step forward after the 2018 NFL Draft (Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books and now it’s time to grade how each team fared. The AFC was already a weird division to judge. You could make the argument that the two worst teams in the division actually made the playoffs in 2017. The Colts and Texans get their franchise quarterbacks back this year and should be nipping at the heels of the Titans and Jaguars which creates an interesting dynamic. When it comes to the draft, the waters only continue to look muddy in what looks like a really tough division to predict. How did each team in the AFC South stack up in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Houston Texans: Draft Grade C+

  • Round 3, Pick 4 (No. 68 overall): Justin Reid, S, Stanford
  • Round 3, Pick 16 (No. 80 overall): Martinas Rankin, C, Mississippi State
  • Round 3, Pick 34 (No. 98 overall) * compensatory selection: Jordan Akins, TE, Central Florida
  • Round 4, Pick 3 (No. 103 overall): Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech
  • Round 6, Pick 3 (No. 177 overall): Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
  • Round 6, Pick 37 (No. 211 overall * compensatory selection: Jordan Thomas, TE, Mississippi State
  • Round 6, Pick 40 (No. 214 overall) * compensatory selection: Peter Kalambayi, OLB, Stanford
  • Round 7, Pick 4 (No. 222 overall): Jermaine Kelly, CB, San Jose State

Before you start yapping those gums over there just let me remind you that this draft grade is subjective because of the Deshaun Watson grade. Does that trade factor into this grade? Maybe or maybe not but I gave them an A for that a year ago so you twitter people can calm down. With what the Texans had to work with, I think they did a really nice job of finding some value that should contribute right away.

Houston really started the offseason with zero safeties. They come out of it with two really good ones. Tyrann Mathieu is one of the best and now you pair him with Justin Reid. Reid is a really smart and great cover guy. Houston now has a really rangy safety group and neither of which have to be box safties which does not give away game plans for defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Let’s also not forget that this Texans defense was already pretty darn good, to begin with.

There’s also no doubt that Houston needed offensive line help. If Julie’n Davenport is really their answer at left tackle this year it could ruin their season. Here comes Martinas Rankin who could play all over the offensive line. Rankin becomes a starter from day one on a team that might have the worst offensive line in the league. Rankin has some athletic traits to his game which helps because Deshaun Watson is a mobile quarterback. Rankin wasn’t a top-tier elite talent but getting him in the third round could turn out to be an all-around solid pick.

You also have to appreciate the Texans trying to fix the tight end spot. They seriously did not have one before the draft. C.J. Fiedorowicz retired leaving a black hole over the position. Here comes Jordan Aikens who flashed a bit in the Senior Bowl. Pairing him with Jordan Thomas also wasn’t a bad move. Lastly, Duke Ejiofor is a sleeper to watch. Ejiofor will be used as a situational pass rusher on third downs and really could come away with some big sacks in the upcoming season.

The Lead Word – AFC Draft Review – 5.2.18

Indianapolis Colts: Draft Grade C-

  • Round 1, Pick 6 (No. 6 overall): Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
  • Round 2, Pick 4 (No. 36 overall): Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina St.
  • Round 2, Pick 5 (No. 37 overall): Braden Smith, G, Auburn
  • Round 2, Pick 20 (No. 52 overall): Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers
  • Round 2, Pick 32 (No. 64 overall): Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
  • Round 4, Pick 4 (No. 104 overall): Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State 
  • Round 5, Pick 22 (No. 159 overall): Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa
  • Round 5, Pick 32 (No. 169 overall): Jordan Wilkins, RB, Mississippi State
  • Round 6, Pick 11 (No. 165 overall): Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
  • Round 7, Pick 3 (No. 221 overall): Matthew Adams, LB, Houston
  • Round 7, Pick 17 (No. 235 overall): Zaire Franklin, LB, Syracuse

There are a lot of picks to dive in here with the Colts but it really looks like the Colts blew a huge opportunity. Do I like Quenton Nelson? Sure, but 6 is too high for a guard. I made that same mistake when I loved Chance Warmack coming out. Tackles turned guards tend to work a lot better in the NFL than guards who stay guards because Nelson’s feet are not as nimble as Zack Martin’s. The Nelson pick is one that should work out and protecting Andrew Luck is an obvious priority so I’m ok with it. The problem is the Colts really had some head-scratchers the rest of the way.

Indy is really gambling on some of these picks they used. Darius Leonard is a small school guy who really boosted his stock at the Senior Bowl. Leonard was a tackling machine but to take a guy from South Carolina State who wasn’t highly touted coming into the process is a huge risk at the top of the second round. Then they went back to back with Braden Smith. The Auburn guard is flat out terrible and he showed that at the Senior Bowl. His game tape wasn’t much better, the Clemson front abused him. Will Hernandez was picked right in front of him which has to sting because Hernandez is a much better player. Smith really shouldn’t have been picked until the fourth round.

Later in the second round, they gambled again with Kemoko Turray. His get off is unreal and the potential is off the charts but this is no sure thing. Turray has almost zero production in college and is the definition of raw. Turray is also really undersized and banking on him to play defensive end in a 4-3 makes little sense. Turray has a shot at making it and becoming a great player but taking projects in the second round is far from ideal. Now Tyquan Lewis is a really solid player from Ohio State. He may have been my favorite pick they had. The problem is when you have four 2nd round picks you better nail them and the Colts may have whiffed big time.

Indy also came away with essentially nothing in the later rounds. Daurice Fountain is probably a return guy. Both running backs are severely overhyped. Deon Cain has talent but he has some off the field issues. This roster still stinks and they could have changed that outlook overnight.

The Lead Word – NFL PreDraft Special And NBA Finals – 4.25.18

Jacksonville Jaguars: Draft Grade D+

  • Round 1, Pick 29 (No. 29 overall): Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
  • Round 2, Pick 29 (No. 61 overall): D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
  • Round 3, Pick 29 (No. 93 overall): Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
  • Round 4 Pick 29 (No. 129 overall): Will Richardson, T, North Carolina State
  • Round 6, Pick 29 (No. 203 overall): Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
  • Round 7, Pick 12 (No. 230 overall): Leon Jacobs, LB, Wisconsin
  • Round 7, Pick 29 (No. 247 overall): Logan Cooke, P, Mississippi State

I’m not sure what the Jaguars were trying to accomplish but on the surface, it wasn’t a whole lot. Taven Bryan has upside but you also can’t find him on tape. The movement skills are there but I can’t remember not being able to find someone for multiple games. That’s a problem. Maybe it works out but it’s a big risk. D.J. Chark is another risk. The LSU wide receiver has speed to burn but I’m not sure he actually knows how to run routes. The question to figure out is whether the LSU system hurt him or that he had no one to throw him the football. Both picks here are coin flips but I guess you can afford to take some risk with a loaded roster.

The only pick I really like here is Ronnie Harrison. The Alabama safety comes in that mold of a Landon Collins who can be a real physical presence for any defense. Harrison’s pure coverage skills do not stack up to Minkah Fitzpatrick but he has the tools be a solid starting strong safety in this league for years to come. The problem is Jacksonville wasted their remaining four picks. Let’s all have a laugh at Tanner Lee! Will you join me?

Tennessee Titans: Draft Grade B-

  • Round 1, Pick 22 (No. 22 overall) [via Baltimore]: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
  • Round 2, Pick 9 (No. 41 overall, via Raiders): Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
  • Round 5, Pick 15 (No. 152 overall): Dane Cruikshank, S, Arizona
  • Round 6, Pick 25 (No. 199 overall): Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

It’s hard for me to go higher than a B- despite the fact that I like what the Titans did. When you only come out of a draft with four picks, you better hit. I think the Titans did just that with Rashaan Evans. You know what you’re getting with Alabama linebackers. Evans will be a downhill thumper to stick in the middle of that defense for years to come and it’s exactly what the Titans needed. Evans brings physicality and leadership to the Titans. He won’t be the best cover guy but on third down, he can really get after the quarterback with a similar play style to the C.J. Mosley’s and Dont’a Hightower’s of the world. Great pick there.

The other with Harold Landry could end up working wonders. The Titans had to get themselves an edge rusher. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are ready to hit their respective expiration date. I think there is a chance the Titans just grabbed Vic Beasley in the second round which would be an obvious bargain. Landry notched 16 sacks in 2016 but wasn’t the same this past year. We really don’t know who we are getting here but Landry has the chance to be a dominating speed edge rusher. I like what the Titans did but its more quality than quantity which isn’t a bad thing. Hey, maybe Luke Falk is the steal of the draft. I’ve compared him to Matt Hasselbeck.