AFC South: Brandon Graham
He’ll have ample opportunity to play early as the team sorts through a young group that lost Kyle Vanden Bosch as a free agent and let Jevon Kearse walk as his contract ran out.
Now Morgan will search for a role along with William Hayes, Jacob Ford, Dave Ball and Jason Babin, the journeyman signed as a free agent.
Morgan had 19.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for a loss in his 39-game career as a Yellow Jacket. Twelve and a half of those sacks came last year as a junior.
Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn is a top-flight position coach who’s done well developing pass rushers, and they want their defense to be able to rush effectively with only four. Right now they don't have the back end personnel that can allow for much blitzing.
Many estimated Morgan was the top ranked end in this class, but both Brandon Graham (Philly traded to 13 to get him) and Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants at 15) went before Morgan.
The Titans will say Morgan’s the one they prefer of the three. It may be true.
They will address cornerback later in the draft.
» Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Dream scenario/Plan B.
(Overboard) Dream scenario: Running back C.J. Spiller falls to them, but I cannot see that happening and I don’t see safety Earl Thomas lasting either. Next best is that they are in position to choose running back Ryan Mathews. He could work every down if needed and will be able to earn the tough yard and hold on to the ball in a way no one could last season, when the offense was very good despite its running woes. Plan B: Mathews is gone and they get a cornerback like Devin McCourty or Kyle Wilson. My inkling is that McCourty could be the guy in this situation.
(Overboard) Dream scenario: Center Maurkice Pouncey somehow lasts, giving the Colts a big interior presence who could help at guard and eventually succeed Jeff Saturday. Next best is that they find another lineman who’s especially well suited to what the Colts do, but brings a bit more size. That could be Rodger Saffold, who seems to project as a very good left tackle for them. Plan B: A speedy defensive end in the mold of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. TCU’s Jerry Hughes fits the bill.
Dream scenario: Someone wants the Jaguars' No. 10 pick and offers a deal that drops them down in the first round and gets them a second-rounder, which they currently lack. They’d be happy to dip down and still find a defensive end, defensive back or interior offensive lineman. Plan B: If they stay put, linebacker Rolando McClain could be too good to resist 10th overall. He can be a consistent playmaker and a face-of-the-defense guy for a team that’s still looking to develop its personality.
Dream scenario: Get a trade offer, move back to regain a second-round pick and still be able to add a defensive end (Sergio Kindle?) or cornerback (McCourty?) early on. If they stay at 16, they’d love to see a run at offensive tackle ahead of them and Jimmy Clausen go off the board by the time their turn comes. I think they’d be happy with Jason Pierre-Paul or Brandon Graham. Plan B: Wilson, who’d have a chance to earn a spot as a starter opposite Cortland Finnegan.
As we count down to Thursday, here’s the second of four posts with their answers, which are largely a lesson in how many different views there can be on the same subjects. (Check out part one here.)
Segment two focused on matchmaking.
The perfect fit for the Jaguars that you expect to be available at No. 10 is?
Scout A: Rolando McClain or Jason Pierre-Paul
Scout B: Pierre-Paul
Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.: Honestly, I really don't think that there is such a thing. The Jags are in no-man’s land. But if I had to pick one, I would take Earl Thomas.
Daniel Jeremiah, movethetticks.com: Pierre-Paul
The perfect fit for the Titans that you expect to be available at No. 16 is?
Scout A: Derrick Morgan or Brandon Graham
Scout B: Sergio Kindle
The perfect fit for the Texans that you expect to be available at No. 20 is?
Scout A: C.J. Spiller or Thomas
Scout B: Kyle Wilson
Williamson: This is a tough one and they should be very happy with Dan Williams, Thomas, Wilson or Ryan Mathews. But if I only get one, I will also go with Thomas, but I don't love his chances of still being on the board.
Jeremiah: Kareem Jackson
The perfect fit for the Colts that you expect to be available at No. 31 is?
Scout A: Maurkice Pouncey or Jared Odrick
Scout B: Rodger Saffold
Jacksonville, No. 10
Their pick: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
Scenario 1: Age and durability along the defensive front are issues even with the arrival of Aaron Kampman, and Pierre-Paul and his upside make sense here. Derrick Morgan also would have to be a consideration.
Scenario 2: Safety is the team's most glaring need and Earl Thomas is worth the pick, but the Jaguars might not want to spend another first-round pick on a free safety after missing on Reggie Nelson.
Scenario 3: This is yet another team that would like to see Spiller fall. He would give Jacksonville the kind of versatile playmaker who could help the Jags keep up with division rivals Indianapolis and Houston.
My thoughts: Pierre-Paul seems like a project to me, and I want more than a project this high when my team needs to win and draw better. Gene Smith has been willing to swallow mistakes that the team has made, so if they judge Nelson one, they won’t be hesitant to take Thomas if they feel he is their best option. Spiller is a playmaker, and they need playmakers. Maurice Jones-Drew and Spiller would be a heck of a one-two punch, but that would be an awful lot of money invested in one spot.
Tennessee, No. 16
Their pick: Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan
Scenario 1: There is a lot to choose from at the top need positions, but the Titans have had success with undersized ends in the past, and Graham certainly knows how to get to the quarterback.
Scenario 2: If cornerback is the choice, Haden becomes the best available option.
Scenario 3: The Titans could reach to fill their need at defensive tackle, but we do not believe any tackle on the board is worthy of this pick.
My thoughts: Graham has more polish that Pierre-Paul and it’s starting to seem like Graham is more likely to be available. Joe Haden could be a guy who starts in relative short order and would be good in combination with Cortland Finnegan. I think defensive tackle is being overrated as a need here. If there was a great interior pass-rusher, perhaps he’d be intriguing. But the Titans have spent second-round picks in consecutive years on the spot in Jason Jones and Sen'Derrick Marks.
Houston, No. 20
Their pick: Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Scenario 1: The Texans look to a pressing need and take Haden, who is on the board in this scenario.
Scenario 2: Should Haden be taken earlier, Houston likely will choose between cornerbacks Kareem Jackson of Alabama and Kyle Wilson of Boise State, taking whichever player is higher on its board.
Scenario 3: With running back being their top need, the Texans could conceivably look at a prospect like Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, but it seems unlikely given the corners who should be available.
My thoughts: I can’t see Haden lasting this long, especially if he’s the top corner to most teams. A choice between Jackson and Wilson wouldn’t be bad. I think either would be the team’s best corner in short order. Mathews could really round out the offense, especially if there is a quality interior lineman later to block for him.
Indianapolis, No. 31
Their pick: Tyson Alualu, DT, California
Scenario 1: With no offensive tackle worth the pick on the board, the Colts opt for a defensive tackle who fits their quick, penetrating style on that side of the ball.
Scenario 2: In an ideal world Indianapolis sees a tackle like Charles Brown or Rodger Saffold fall to this point.
Scenario 3: A pass-rusher is not a pressing need, but if someone like Sergio Kindle or Brandon Graham drops, then he would be a value pick to fill what will be a need in the near future.
My thoughts: Their top scenario could happen, but I think they are a little happier with their interior defensive line than people think, especially if they like the progress of last year’s No. 2, Fili Moala. Saffold seems like a real possibility. I could definitely see them looking to a pass-rusher. With Raheem Brock gone and an injury to Dwight Freeney hurting them so much in the Super Bowl, I say it’s more pressing than these guys suggest.
As we count down to Thursday, here’s the first of four posts with their answers, which are largely a lesson in how many different views there can be on the same subjects.
I started with a focus on defensive end and cornerback, as I think all four AFC South teams will consider cornerback in the first round and three of our four teams will consider an end the first round (not Houston).
In order, rank defensive ends you think are top 35 picks:
Scout A: Derrick Morgan, Jason Pierre-Paul, Brandon Graham, Sergio Kindle, Jerry Hughes, Everson Griffen.
Scout B: Morgan, Pierre-Paul, Graham, Corey Wooten, Kindle, Carlos Dunlap, Hughes, Griffen
Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.: Morgan, Graham, Pierre-Paul, Hughes, Jared Odrick (but only for a 3-4, otherwise he is a DT), Griffen
Daniel Jeremiah, movethesticks.com: Pierre-Paul, Graham (could be DE or OB), Morgan... that's it for 4-3 DE's.
Combined/consensus order: Morgan, Pierre-Paul, Graham, Hughes, Kindle, Griffin. Wooten, Dunlap and Odrick all get one mention as top 35 picks.
In order, rank cornerbacks you think are top 35 picks:
Scout A: Joe Haden, Patrick Robinson, Kyle Wilson.
Scout B: Haden, Wilson, Robinson, Devin McCourty, Brandon Ghee, Kareem Jackson, Dominique Franks, Perrish Cox
Williamson: Haden, Jackson, Wilson, McCourty
Jeremiah: Haden, Jackson, Wilson, McCourty
Combined/consensus order: Haden, Wilson, Jackson are one-two-three, with Wilson and McCourty even at four, though Wilson was mentioned as a first-rounder by all four. Ghee, Franks and Cox each got one mention.
You’ve got to be an ESPN Insider to see it all, but you only have to be a devout AFC South Blog reader to get a four-team slice of it.
And right now, Kiper’s got every team in the division fortifying its defensive line:
17) Titans: Everson Griffen, DE, USC. Kiper says Griffen looked like a pro coming out of high school.
20) Texans: Brian Price, DT, UCLA. Kiper calls him a disruptive force.
32) Colts: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan. Kiper says Graham can help Indy build on the tradition at the position.
So let’s match up Mel Kiper’s most recent big board with some team needs and do the first of our super-early 2010 draft projecting. (You need to be an Insider to see it all, but I have clearance to share some details.)
Jaguars, 10th or 11th: The pass rush is clearly the most pressing issue, but the Jaguars are likely going to decide a new quarterback is a necessity as well. Based on what Kiper’s got lined up, Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Georgia Tech end Derrick Morgan are gone. There isn’t another quarterback in the top 24, but there are several ends -- South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul, Florida’s Carlos Dunlap, USC’s Everson Griffen and Michigan’s Brandon Graham.
Right now: Pierre-Paul, though he could need time to develop while the Jaguars really need immediate impact.
Titans, 16th or 17th: Decisions on their own free agents will have a big bearing on what stacks up as the primary needs, but they are predominantly on defense right now: a cornerback to compete to replace Nick Harper, a defensive end who can help generate pass rush, an outside linebacker to help replace aging vets and a return man who can settle special teams and provide some field position. Based on this board, the value is at defensive end, where position coach Jim Washburn could be voting for Griffen or Graham.
Right now: Graham brings the sort of effort that they’ve become accustomed to with Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Texans, 19th or 20th: If the Texans find the right pieces for three or four remaining needs they can really be poised to play well even with a tough slate of opponents. I say free safety, running back, defensive tackle and cornerback are the spots. They’d just miss on USC safety Taylor Mays in this scenario. Kiper says the best of the available players at those spots could be Cal’s running back Jahvid Best and Florida State corner Patrick Robinson.
Right now: Best may not be different enough from Steve Slaton, but he’d come into the league as a more explosive and better prospect.
Colts: Will have one of the last five picks of the first round based on their playoff results.