Every year the draft comes and goes with analysts and draftniks alike rushing to put a letter grade on each teams draft, despite the overwhelming fact that it will take years to determine their level of success. Instead of attempting to predict the future, the goal is to analyze various aspects of each divisions draft class. Focusing on which players are in the most advantageous positions and which players could be looking at early struggles. Next up, the AFC South:
Top Contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year
DeAndre Hopkins – WR, Houston Texans #27 Overall
The Texans have been searching for a legitimate #2 wide receiver to complement Andre Johnson for so long that “eventual replacement” has now been added to the job description. The Texans haven’t taken a first round wide receiver since Johnson in 2003 and are hoping that 2013 first rounder DeAndre Hopkins can bring the playmaking ability needed to help the Texans offense reach new heights. Hopkins possesses great length and athleticism, his polish and ability to gain separation with his route running will quickly endear him to quarterback Matt Schaub as he looks to leap frog tight end Owen Daniels as the #2 target in the passing game. Hopkins has impressed in early OTA’s and mini-camps and has drawn praise from head coach Gary Kubiak along with Schaub and Johnson. Hopkins is already running with the first team offense and is looking to be a key player on team many consider a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Top Contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year
Bjoern Werner – OLB, Indianapolis Colts #24 Overall
The last two years have brought quite a bit of change in Indianapolis, much of it coming on the defensive side of the ball. A totally revamped defensive roster saw the Colts move on from all-time sacks leader Dwight Freeney earlier in the off-season, leaving Robert Mathis as the lone pass rushing threat on the roster. With the 24th pick in the first round, the Colts selected former Florida State Seminole Bjoern Werner to bolster an improved front 7. The German born Werner was a defensive end in Tallahassee but will move to strong side outside linebacker in head coach Chuck Pagano’s hybrid 3-4 defense. Werner is an under-rated athlete with an excellent feel for the game. He rarely takes false steps and does a very good job at setting the edge in the run game. His relentless motor, accompanied by Mathis’s burst off of the edge will give opposing quarterbacks nightmares in 2013. The Colts are counting on Werner to be in the starting line up on opening day and be an impact player in 2013.
Best Schematic Fit
DJ Swearinger – SS, Houston Texans #57 Overall
After a season ending injury to star inside linebacker Brian Cushing exposed the Texans defense in 2012, Houston general manager Rick Smith knew that he had to address the safety position in order to support his talented front 7. Smith added two very different players to impact his secondary in both run defense and against the pass. The first was future Hall of Famer and former Baltimore Raven Ed Reed at free safety, the second player was added in round 2 of the 2013 NFL draft as the Texans drafted South Carolina’s DJ Swearinger. Swearinger is a violent “in the box” strong safety who will be given more freedom to attack near the line of scrimmage due to Reed’s strength as a deep safety. With Reed, Swearinger, and the healthy return of All-Pro Brian Cushing, the Texans should have a top 5 defense with the ability to shutdown the run while smothering opposing quarterbacks with a ferocious pass rush led by 2012 Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
Chance Warmack – OG, Tennessee Titans #10 Overall
There are several factors contributing to Chance Warmack’s sky high expectations entering his rookie season, and a few of them have nothing to do with Warmack’s ability. To start things off, Warmack was drafted in the top 10 which is a true rarity for interior offensive lineman. He was also drafted with the idea of helping kick off the Jake Locker era at quarterback as well as reviving the once dominant career of running back Chris Johnson. Warmack will be a day one starter in Tennessee at right guard and could very well end up next to another rookie in center Brian Schwenke. The Titans completely revamped the interior of their offensive line with Warmack, Schwenke, and prize free agent left guard Andy Levitre from Buffalo, all in an attempt to kick start the two struggling faces of the franchise Locker and CJ?K. There will surely be growing pains and a learning curve for Warmack as he settles in to life in the NFL while learning a new system, but also re-learning his technique from the right side of the line after playing primarily left guard at Alabama. There is no denying the All-Pro ability that Warmack possesses but if the Titans struggle in the win/loss column there will be plenty of Tennessee faithful wondering why such a hefty price was paid for a non premium position.
Under the Radar Impact Player
Denard Robinson – OW, Jacksonville Jaguars #135 Overall
O.W. Short for Offensive weapon, that is precisely how the Jaguars view their 2013 5th round pick. He is even listed as such on the official Jaguars team website. Robinson fell deep into drafts 3rd day due to his lack of a true position, an issue the Jaguars were willing to gamble on while taking advantage of his versatile skillset. The Jaguars plan on playing Robinson primarily at running back, but will also split him out wide and in the slot, use him in the return game, and even implement a wildcat package for the former Michigan Wolverine quarterback. With a Jacksonville offense which is short on playmakers and has a weakness at quarterback, a do it all player capable of creating on his own, like Robinson, can be very impactful.
Biggest Reach and Highest Bust Potential
Justin Hunter – WR, Tennessee Titans #34 Overall
Trading multiple picks in order to move up in the draft and select a player is always a risky proposition. Doing so in order to draft a wide receiver with inconsistent hands, questions about his toughness, and an injury history becomes a straight up gamble. It is easy to see why Tennessee fell in love with Hunter, considering his length, leaping ability, deep speed, and the rare ability to find the football at its highest point. The Titans are also looking to surround quarterback Jake Locker with as much talent and support as they can get their hands on, so a dynamic talent like Hunter who can take the top off of a defense makes sense. Hunter will push veterans Nate Washington and Kenny Britt for playing time opposite 2012 first round pick Kendall Wright, and at the very least should provide a solid red zone target. Unfortunately some issues have already come up, as Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson called out Hunter for failing to practice through pain and take part in recent OTA’s and mini-camps. Not to mention, a young and developing quarterback like Locker needs to be able to trust his receivers to catch the football, something Hunter failed to do consistently for the Tennessee Volunteers during his college career. What makes Hunter’s impact even more challenging is the inconsistencies of the Titans passing game under Locker, so even if Hunter is able to overcome his problem with drops and stay healthy and on the football field, he may not be playing with a quarterback who can exploit his talents.
Best 2nd Round Pick
Jonathan Cyprien – S, Jacksonville Jaguars #33 Overall
There is a strong majority of NFL fans who wondered what the Jacksonville Jaguars were thinking when they selected little known Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien with the first pick of the second round. Those feelings will not last long once Cyprien gets on the field and begins making plays for Gus Bradley’s Jacksonville defense. Cyprien has proto-typical safety size, and has the perfect combination of range in the passing game and in the box physical ability in run support. Quickly making his mark in Jacksonville, Cyprien has drawn praise from coaches and media outlets for being a “man among boys” in rookie mini-camps and earning MVP honors for the first full squad mini-camp he participated in. The Jaguars entire roster has a long way to go before it can be considered a serious contender, but a playmaker like Jonathan Cyprien is a very good step in that direction.
Best 3rd Round Pick
Sam Montgomery – OLB Houston Texans #95 Overall
Entering the 2012 college football season, LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery was considered a strong contender for a top 10 pick and a rising star on the radar of every NFL talent evaluator. After a decent, though disappointing and underwhelming season in Baton Rouge a rocky “draft season” led to Montgomery ultimately falling to the 95th pick in round 3 to the Texans and their loaded defense. If Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and a bevy of Texans veteran defenders can keep Montgomery motivated and focused, Houston general manager Rick Smith will look like a genius. Montgomery is not your typical LB/DE tweener and lacks a little bit of the fluidity that most edge defenders have to have in order to play stand up linebacker. He is a strong and fundamental player though, capable of stacking and shedding in the running game but with natural pass rush ability and a nose for the football. Montgomery will compete with fellow rookie Trevardo Williams for reps behind Whitney Mercilus and Brooks Reed.
Best 4th Round Pick
Brian Schwenke – C, Tennessee Titans #107 Overall
The final piece added to the overhaul of the Tennessee Titans interior offensive line was California center Brian Schwenke. Well built at 6’3 315 lbs, Schwenke will immediately enter a competition with veteran Fernando Velasco for the starting center position. Strong, and technically sound, the Titans are hoping Schwenke can win the job and start immediately between prize free agent addition Andy Levitre and first round pick Chance Warmack. The Titans have the makings of an elite offensive line and are looking for the resurgence of Chris Johnson and the running game to help lead to a breakout season for Jake Locker.
Best 5th Round Pick
Denard Robinson – OW, Jacksonville Jaguars #135 Overall
It is uncommon for an NFL franchise to have a plan in place or lofty expectations for a 5th round pick. The positive buzz surrounding Denard Robinson in Jaguars camp is a testament to both Robinson’s talent as well as the Jaguars lack of talent. Robinson will be used as a jack of all trades weapon for Jacksonville, he will factor in the return game, while lining up at running back, wide receiver, slot receiver, and even taking snaps in wildcat formations within the offense. Denard Robinson is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, the Jaguars will spend all season trying to figure out ways to get him the football.
Best 6th Round Pick
David Quessenberry – OL, Houston Texans #176 Overall
A favorite amongst the staff at here at WTFP, David Quessenberry falling to the Texans appears to be a match made in heaven. A perfect fit in the zone blocking scheme Houston has run since head coach Gary Kubiak took over, Quessenberry will begin his career as a versatile and valuable back up capable of playing either inside or outside on both sides of the offensive line. Very smooth athletically, Quessenberry will eventually challenge for a starting job once he acclimates physically to the NFL game and should carve out a niche early in his rookie season as a utility lineman for a Super Bowl contender.
Best 7th Round Pick
Kerwynn Williams – RB, Indianapolis Colts #230 Overall
Kerwynn Williams had a breakout 2012 season for the Utah State Aggies, and will bring his versatile and explosive skillset to an Indianapolis Colts backfield which is currently lacking game breaking speed. A threat to create on his own, both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield, Williams could factor into the competition for the 3rd down back early in his rookie season. He will also get plenty of looks in the return game with his ability in the open field. With Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard handling the early down duties, Williams can focus on making his impact in passing situations.
UDFA Most Likely to Earn a Roster Spot
Jordan Rodgers/Matt Scott – QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
At one point in the pre-draft process, Matt Scott was a trendy name rising up boards and considered a sleeper candidate at quarterback capable of going as early as round 3. Raw mechanically, accuracy issues, and only one year of starting experience in Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense at Arizona dropped him out of the draft entirely after numerous quarterback prospects fell further than expected. In Jacksonville, Scott will compete with fellow un-drafted rookie free agent Jordan Rodgers for the #3 quarterback spot behind Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Rodgers, the younger brother of Packers super star Aaron Rodgers, is a very similar prospect to Scott. Both players have strong arms, excellent athleticism, and are just scratching the surface of their potential. It is not out of the realm of possibility that both players make the team in some capacity, one on the active roster the other on the practice squad. Given the inability of Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne to produce or even stay healthy for that matter, one or both of these guys could even see the field in 2013. Again, mostly a reflection of the dire talent void in Jacksonville right now than anything else, but both of these players made a very wise decision by choosing the Jaguars organization after the draft.
Tags: 2013 Nfl Draft 3-4 Defense 3-4 Outside Linebacker AFC South Defensive Linemen Houston Texans Indianapolis Colts Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Linemen Quarterback Running Back Safety Tennessee Titans Wide Reciever