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Thursday, April 28, 2011
The AFC South in Mel's last go-round

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Here’s the AFC South slice of Mel Kiper’s final mock draft.

No. 8 -- Tennessee Titans

Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

“I'll stick with Fairley here. As I've said before, defensive line probably falls lower on the list of team needs behind the obvious question of who will be taking snaps, but it's not a minor need. And to get the most productive interior lineman in the college game last year, a player who was simply unblockable against really good competition, is a solid get for the Titans at No. 8 overall. Fairley gives you immediate help at a key position and he offers the value of a top-five pick. Disruptive versus both the run and the pass, he will help this defense now and the Titans can look for a linebacker later on. Why has Fairley fallen? For me, it's just mainly because of the fact that, while brilliant in that one season, he has less of a body of work. But he's by no means dropping on talent questions.”

My thoughts: If Blaine Gabbert falls to the spot, this blows up. Otherwise, if Fairley doesn’t go here, how far might he fall after the team where his Auburn defensive line coach now works passes on him?

No. 11 -- Houston Texans

Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

“The Texans have needs all over the defensive side of the ball and I also think they're looking to move off this pick for the right package of picks. But if they can't get a deal done and stick at No. 11, Smith represents a ton of upside for a defense that really needs to add some pass-rushing help opposite the great Mario Williams. Again, a lot of the problems in the Houston secondary started up front. I think they should find the tools Wade Phillips needs to get to opposing quarterbacks in his scheme, and Smith will remind him of Ware, a real matchup headache to be used on the edge of that 3-4.”

My thoughts: Trading up isn’t a crazy idea if you consider the potential cost. But Smith can rush and that’s what they need. Don’t knock him because he’s not Von Miller or Robert Quinn.

No. 16 -- Jacksonville Jaguars

Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

“Earlier in the draft process, Kerrigan was saddled with the tweener tag, but that's not the worst problem in the world. Guys like DeMarcus Ware have heard the same and went in a similar range. What Kerrigan can do is line up on the edge and cause problems in opposing backfields. The Big Ten is loaded with talent at the tackle position and nobody could consistently stay in front of this guy. Jack Del Rio will love his relentlessness and motor, and quarterbacks will learn quickly to find out where he's lined up while going through reads. Jax needs the pass-rush, and Kerrigan can help.”

My thoughts: Kerrigan is such a popular pick for the Jaguars and Gene Smith made such an unpredictable call last year with Tyson Alualu at No. 10. So we might all miss by a lot here.

No. 22 -- Indianapolis Colts

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

“One more pick that stays at least relatively the same from previous mocks, I just really like the fit. The Colts have to improve on the offensive line and even while Peyton Manning is a maestro working out of the shotgun, they need to be able to do more both in the run game and in pass protection. I had another O-lineman here in previous mocks, but Solder also offers a smart, athletic tackle who has been consistently rated as a first-round option. Indy has brought in some quarterbacks to work out, but Solder is more of an immediate help to a team still thinking about titles.”

My thoughts: Is it finally a time where need and value and outside desire all line up for the Colts and we see a semi-predictable pick? I would think Peyton Manning and the running backs hope so.