AFC South: Brian Price
Jaguars, No. 10 overall
Problem: The Jaguars sacked the quarterback just seven times when sending four or fewer rushers in 2009, the fewest in the without an extra rusher.
Potential solution: End Derrick Morgan would be a nice piece to go with Aaron Kampman and Derrick Harvey as the Jaguars look to be more threatening.
Problem: The Jags allowed one sack for every 11.9 pass attempts against four or fewer rushers in 2009, the third worst rate in the league.
Potential solutions: Guard Mike Iupati might be a bit high here and would come a year after the Jaguars spent their first and second picks on offensive tackles. Center Maurkice Pouncey could be had a bit later in a trade down and would be an upgrade over Brad Meester.
Titans, No. 16 overall
Problem: Tennessee allowed 4.5 yards per rush on attempts in the middle of the field, the second-highest average in the league.
Potential solution: Linebacker Rolando McClain. But I see them counting on better play from interior linemen and the continued growth of middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch.
Problem: The Titans allowed opponents to complete 31 of their 64 attempts of 21 or more yards downfield in 2009 -- the most completions allowed on attempts over 20 yards in the NFL.
Potential solutions: Cornerbacks Kyle Wilson or Patrick Robinson could start at some point in 2010 opposite Cortland Finnegan.
Texans, 20th overall
Problem: Houston recorded just 12 sacks with four or fewer rushers in 2009, tied for the second fewest in the NFL. When sending four or fewer defenders after the quarterback, the Texans recorded one sack for every 32.3 pass attempts.
Potential solutions: They are thinking pass rushing tackle, not an end. But 20 may be too high for Jared Odrick or Brian Price considering other needs and possibilities. They drafted defensive linemen first in 2005, 2006 and 2007, so this problem is especially frustrating.
Problem: With eight or more defenders in the box last season, Steve Slaton averaged just 1.86 yards per attempt -- the fourth lowest average in the league.
Potential solution: Running back C.J. Spiller won’t last, but Ryan Mathews sure looks like a guy that can get some yards even against a stacked line.
Colts, No. 31
Problem: Indy gained an average of 3.9 yards per rush against seven or fewer defenders in the box last season, worst in the NFL.
Potential solutions: They are looking to work on the blocking, not the backs. Which points to Pouncey or maybe Rodger Saffold
Problem: Nearly 14 percent of the touchdowns the Colts' defense allowed last season were against four-wide sets, the highest percentage in the league.
Potential solutions: Add a healthy Bob Sanders and Kelvin Hayden to the secondary and put Melvin Bullitt and Jacob Lacey in nickel and dime situations and things should be a lot better. Though if they like a corner at the end of the first, I don’t think they’d hesitate to take him.
Given a choice, do the Texans upgrade the running game in the first round, rounding out the offense and helping keep the ball away from the opponent, or do they have to go defense early because of the number of positions they are looking to address on that side of the ball?
It depends, of course, on who is there for Houston at No. 20 in the first round. But presuming C.J. Spiller is gone and Ryan Mathews is the best choice at running back, how would he measure up against the top safety (is Earl Thomas gone?), corner (Kyle Wilson?), defensive tackle (Brian Price?).
My gut reaction answer is they have to go defense, and I really like the idea of Thomas.
But if they love Mathews and decided to go that direction, addressing defense with their next several picks, I suspect I’d wind up applauding the thinking.
To catch the Colts, maybe being Colt-like isn’t a bad idea. And while Matt Schaub is not Peyton Manning, he’s proved himself to be an offensive centerpiece. If Houston said, “Let’s load up on offense, looking to hold the ball more and score more points as a method of being a better defense,” it would be hard for me to be critical of the approach.
At least until the unnamed new safety and cornerback get shredded by Manning.
I’m curious, Texans faithful, what you think?
Would you object to a run-game answer at No. 20, or do you feel like Houston’s got to go defense?
Pat Kirwan: Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Bucky Brooks: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Kuharsky says: Kiwan’s scenario would be a bummer for the Texans, who hope Thomas is there 10 picks later. I’d lean in Brook’s direction based on the depth of the pass rush issues.
Brooks: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Kuharsky says: Looks like both could help in a big way. Are they influenced by if they believe Jason Babin (if Philly doesn’t match) or Rod Hood can contribute more?
Kirwan: Brian Price, DT, UCLA
Brooks: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
Kuharsky says: I’m falling in love with Thomas for them if he’s there. With more needs on defense, can they afford to use the top pick for offense?
Kirwan: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Kuharsky says: The big need is on the line. But the Colts don’t draft the big need in the first round, they draft the best player. Chance he’s a lineman? Ten to 15 percent?
So here they are, with thoughts from yours truly:
10th – Jacksonville
Kiper: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
McShay: Earl Thomas, S, Texas
Kuharsky: From what I know, I think either would stand to help the Jaguars. A lot depends on what they are feeling about Reggie Nelson, who didn’t earn a lot of confidence in 2009.
16th – Titans
Kiper: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texans
Kuharsky: Need wise, I see more for Morgan than for Kindle. A prime pass-rusher is, as it was in 1999, the primary missing ingredient for this defense, when Tennessee drafted Jevon Kearse 16th.
20th – Texans
Kiper: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Kuharsky: Wilson can certainly help fill the Dunta Robinson hole, but if the right running back or free safety is there (Kiper has C.J. Spiller and Thomas still available), Houston could easily go one of those directions.
31st – Colts
Kiper: Brian Price, DT, UCLA
McShay: Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida
Kuharsky: With Ryan Lilja let go, the Colts lack established guards. And trying to get bigger, Pouncey can bring that. But they draft the best player available at the top, and if it’s Price, they could go there.
Today we’re using Mel Kiper, Bleacher Report, Bucky Brooks, newnfldraft.com, NFLDraftDog.com, NFLDraftUpdates.com and KDraftonline's consensus.
Jacksonville (10 or 11)
Kiper: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (11)
Bleacher Report: Brian Price, DT, UCLA (11)
Brooks: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (10)
NewNFLDraft.com: Brian Price, DT, UCLA (10)
NFLDraftDog.com: Joe Haden, CB, Florida (10)
NFLDraftUpdates.com: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State (11)
KDraftonline consensus: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (11)
My thoughts: If there is a pass-rusher the Jaguars love here, it’s hard to imagine them going a different direction, especially without a second-rounder.
Tennessee (16 or 17)
Kiper: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (17)
Bleacher Report: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (17)
Brooks: Brian Price, DT, UCLA (17)
NewNFLDraft.com: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (16)
NFLDraftDog.com: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee (16)
NFLDraftUpdates.com: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (17)
KDraftonline consensus: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida (16)
My thoughts: The more the whole world gives the Titans a defensive lineman, the more inclined I am to think they’ll wind up going cornerback.
Houston (19 or 20)
Kiper: Brian Price, DT, UCLA
Bleacher Report: Taylor Mays, S, Southern California
Brooks: Earl Thomas, S, Texas
NewNFLDraft.com: Earl Thomas, S, Texas
NFLDraftDog.com: Earl Thomas, S, Texans
NFLDraftUpdates.com: Brian Price, DL, UCLA
KDraftonline consensus: Taylor Mays, S, USC
My thoughts: Mays or Thomas would be a fantastic addition to a defense that needs free safety to be settled.
Kiper: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
Bleacher Report: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
Brooks: Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
NewNFLDraft.com: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
NFLDraftDog.com: Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
NFLDraftUpdates.com: Daryl Washington, LB, TCU
KDraftonline consensus: Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
My thoughts: Predicting Bill Polian is incredibly difficult, because he’s as serious about "best player available" as anyone. At this point, I’ll say a defensive tackle would surprise me.
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.