AFC South: AFC draft analysis 09

AFC South draft analysis

April, 26, 2009
4/26/09
6:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The best players on the board and clear team needs lined up for three of the four teams as the AFC South made first-round selections in the NFL draft. Jacksonville needed an offensive line anchor and found Eugene Monroe, Houston wanted a big, athletic linebacker and found Brian Cushing, and Tennessee needed a playmaking receiver and grabbed Kenny Britt.

AFC South Draft Picks
• Houston Texans
• Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
• Tennessee Titans

Indianapolis will say that adding UConn running back Donald Brown didn't have a lot to do with Joseph Addai, but clearly the Colts thought him too good to pass up and will now look for Addai to be part of a young one-two punch out of the backfield.

If the Colts can pick up a couple tough yards on the ground in crucial situations, it can make things a lot easier for Peyton Manning. And Brown should help make sure that Indy's play-action is an effective weapon that keeps defenses off balance.

Best move

The Titans broke an 11-year streak of avoiding first-round wide receivers and added Britt from Rutgers at No. 30. No, he's not a guarantee. But a team that went 13-3 a year ago was in position to take a swing and did. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Britt is roughly the same size as Justin Gage but he's faster, younger and brings much more upside, particularly as a red zone target.

 
  Charles LeClaire/Getty Images
  Wide receiver Kenny Britt has the potential to dictate change in opposing defenses.

More significantly, Britt is said to have a bit of the give-me-the-ball attitude. That can be trouble when a prima donna gets too much amplitude, but that shouldn't be the situation in Nashville. I've long maintained that the placid group personality of the receivers in Tennessee's locker room is an element of the production problem and that one semi-demanding guy -- provided he backs up the tone with solid play -- could add some juice while also being kept in check by the overall dynamic.

Britt and Jeff Fisher said the attitude is more about Britt's determination to go get the ball when it's in the air, not in any sort of out-of-the-team framework desire for passes to be thrown his direction.

The Titans said they are looking to get him on the field right away. Saying it and doing it are two different things when it comes to a lot of rookies on Fisher teams. But if Britt pans out, he can help the Titans find more big plays and find more space for their running game and he's the one player added to the division that could dictate a change in a defense.

Riskiest move

Jaguars general manager Gene Smith and his staff believe what they saw on film of William & Mary cornerback Derek Cox and said the team valued him as a second-round pick. The Jaguars traded next year's second to New England in order to draft Cox in the third. He'll have to be a very good player to justify the move, considering analysts' horror over him being taken so early. If he's what the team expects, perhaps he will lock in opposite Rashean Mathis and allow Brian Williams to be a full-time safety with Reggie Nelson. If he doesn't pan out, Smith will have to answer questions about his own vision as well as Cox's skills.

Most surprising move

Tight end wasn't regarded as a major need for the Texans, who have a great one in Owen Daniels. But they took a pair with back-to-back picks in the fourth and fifth rounds. Anthony Hill of NC State is said by some to qualify as an extra offensive lineman when he's on the field, which has to sound good to running back Steve Slaton. Local favorite James Casey is a versatile player who can throw and may provide some wrinkles in the offense.

File it away

The Colts spent their sixth-round pick on Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter, the first player they've drafted at the spot since Jim Sorgi in the sixth round in 2004. The Colts are unlikely to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster as long as Manning is healthy. If he's taking every snap, why take up two additional roster spots? So will Painter be fighting Sorgi for the backup job? I've speculated that it's too early to start thinking about Manning's heir, but if the Colts didn't see qualities in Painter that make the strong-armed Boilermaker a long-term possibility, they wouldn't have spent the pick on him.

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