AFC South: Keenan Allen


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars24-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Jaguars have not exactly been playing well all season, but they’ve been particularly ineffective in their three home games. How bad? The six points were a season high in a home game, and they’ve been outscored 89-11 in three games at EverBank Field. The Jaguars haven’t scored a touchdown at home since 9:34 remained in the first quarter of a Week 16 loss to New England last season.

Stock watch: Jacksonville’s defense couldn’t get off the field. The Chargers went with a dink-and-dunk approach and methodically marched down the field all day. The first four scoring drives all lasted at least 10 plays and were at least 79 yards. Three of the four took at least 6:08. Philip Rivers started the game 14-for-14, and the Chargers converted their first six third-down attempts before finally failing. Even when the defense made plays, it ended up hurting itself. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, wiping out a third-and-33 and giving the Chargers a first down. That drive eventually ended with a touchdown and a 14-0 Chargers lead.

Replay issues: The Jaguars were burned once because they couldn’t get a replay and a second time when a call wasn’t overturned that probably should have been. It appeared that Keenan Allen was touched down by Alan Ball on a sliding catch, but he got up and ran for an additional 20 yards. Jaguars coach Gus Bradley failed to call a timeout in time to challenge the play. Officials did review a play in which Antonio Gates appeared to fumble inside the 5-yard line but did not overturn the call. San Diego kicked a field goal on the next play.

What’s next: The Jaguars play host to the San Francisco 49ers in London next Sunday.

Colts defense fails to make the stops

October, 15, 2013
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Keenan AllenDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesThe Indianapolis defense could not get off the field, as the Chargers controlled the ball for almost two-thirds of the game.
SAN DIEGO -- The Indianapolis Colts' defensive unit has been in a good mood inside the locker room after most games this season.

That wasn't the case at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.

There was lots of talking among each other with voices lowered more than 45 minutes after the Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Colts had pushed the “bend, but don’t break” mind frame most of this season. That style finally caught up to them against the Chargers, and they can only blame themselves.

Penalties to give the Chargers first downs. Quarterback Philip Rivers making the necessary throw to keep a drive going. Running back Ryan Mathews finding a crease in the defense to run for 15 yards.

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Colts defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “We were getting the looks we wanted in every area, but we weren’t executing. It was a good example of not executing against a good quarterback. You were only going to get a look one time, and once that one opportunity was gone, they were going with it.”

Controlling the line of scrimmage and getting off the field on third down to give quarterback Andrew Luck plenty of time on the field is what the Colts have talked about on a regular basis.

They failed to accomplish their goal.

The Chargers were 7-of-14 on third down and ran for 147 yards, including 102 from Mathews.

Stopping the run didn’t suddenly become a problem on Monday.

The Colts have allowed 246 yards rushing between the tackles in their past two games. That total is only a yard less than they allowed in the first four games of the season.

“The first thing we always say is control the line of scrimmage,” Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. “They were able to run, but as a unit we have to play better. That’s what it is. We set our standard high and we didn’t play up to that.”

Not making the necessary stops allowed San Diego to control the clock. The Chargers had possession for 38 minutes and 31 seconds, keeping Luck watching on the sideline. The Colts gave up first downs on plays of at least 10 yards on third down twice and were called for penalties on third down twice.

“We couldn’t get off the field,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We held them to a touchdown and then forced the field goals, but time of possession, that just killed us.”

You knew the Colts were in for a long night when Rivers was being lauded.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
AP Photo/Denis PoroyUntil Monday night, Ryan Mathews had not rushed for more than 100 yards since October 2011.
The San Diego quarterback isn’t mobile like Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick or Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Rivers is a pocket-passer. That meant Robert Mathis should have been able to add several sacks to his total, right?

Wrong.

Mathis knew that. That’s why he spent most of last week talking about how dangerous Rivers is. The Chargers quarterback is now 4-0 against the Colts in the regular season.

Rivers kept the Colts off balance by constantly changing up his snap count, and he made quick throws against the sixth-best pass defense in the league.

Rivers was 22-of-33 for 237 yards and was sacked only twice. He didn’t even have to force the ball to tight end Antonio Gates. Receiver Keenan Allen was Rivers’ go-to target. He had nine catches for 107 yards.

“Philip Rivers strikes again,” Mathis said. “I’ve been around him long enough and I know that’s what he’s capable of. We weren’t able to get to him enough, and he converted those critical third downs. He has that clock that all good quarterbacks have. He was able to get it out there.”

Don’t worry, the Colts only have to face quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday. Yes, the former Colt who is on pace to rewrite the record books this season.

“You have to make plays,” Jean Francois said. “If you don’t do it against quarterbacks like Rivers, and next week you know who we’re playing, they can jump on you. We were frustrated because we know we were doing it ourselves. They’re a good team, hats off to them.”
In early March, I outlined a five-category plan for offseason moves for each team in the AFC South.

I considered finances, continuity, turnover, additions and the draft.

Today we’ll look back to see how my plan and the team’s offseason lined up and how they didn’t.

First up are the Texans. Here is the original post.

What I got right:

Finances: "Cut wide receiver Kevin Walter, saving $2.5 million in cap space."

Walter is now with the Titans.

Turnover: "Allow outside linebacker Connor Barwin to leave as a free agent if he gets a good deal. Although it would be nice to keep him, the team is equipped to move on without him and should be able to draft a player who can be the third guy at the position behind Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus."

Barwin jumped to Philadelphia. They drafted two outside linebackers in Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams.

"Be done with nose tackle Shaun Cody."

Cody is unsigned.

Draft: "Swing big for a wide receiver who can line up opposite (Andre) Johnson and pose a matchup threat. Perhaps Cal’s Keenan Allen or Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins fits the bill."

Hopkins was the team’s first pick.

"Use other early picks on inside linebacker, safety depth and corner/nickel depth."

Safety D.J. Swearinger arrived in the second round, and the team went with outside linebackers, not inside ones, with Montgomery and Williams. No corners, however.

What I got wrong:

Finances: "Restructure the deal of wide receiver Andre Johnson, reducing his base salary from $10.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary cap savings of $7.17 million. Restructure the deal of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, reducing his base salary from $7.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary cap savings of $4.373 million. Extend defensive end Antonio Smith, reducing his 2013 base salary of $6 million and his cap charge of $9.5 million significantly."

The team hasn’t restructured or extended anyone yet.

Continuity: "Re-sign safety Glover Quin. The Texans didn’t use the franchise tag on him but would face a tough hole to fill if they let him depart. He’s carved out a good role on this defense, and it would be mutually beneficial for him to stay. In addition to extending Smith and saving money, invest in inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who counts $4.643 against the cap in the final year of his initial deal and is due $3.143 million in base salary."

Quin went to Detroit as a free agent, but the Texans brought in again all-time great Ed Reed to take his place.

Additions: "Sign a free agent defensive tackle like Roy Miller from Tampa Bay. He’s a good run stopper who could replace Cody and be better in tandem with Earl Mitchell in Wade Phillips' 3-4 front, which allows for a smaller nose. Mike DeVito (New York Jets) could also work and wouldn’t have to transition to 3-4 thinking."

Miller wound up in Jacksonville. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is amused at how regularly many of us suggest the team needs a new nose. They are happy with Mitchell as the starter and will look to sixth-rounder Chris Jones as the backup.
Before making my pick on behalf of the Houston Texans, I talked with Philadelphia about a trade. (Everyone did, Dan Graziano was dying to deal in to the bottom of the first but wouldn’t part with enough.)

I do think the Texans could look to trade down to a team wanting a quarterback before the needy teams come around again in the second round. Then Houston could get its receiver early in the second round instead of late in the first.

Allen
I didn’t get a good enough offer to move, so I stayed put and stayed with priority one: a receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson and help the Texans be less dependent on their No. 1 guy.

Keenan Allen has nice size and sufficient speed and quickness, and even if he doesn’t grow into Johnson’s successor, I believe Allen can be a quality No. 2 receiver. The question is how quickly?

Gary Kubiak and the staff will work hard to get him up to speed and he could do some things in their offense right from the start.

The draft so far:

1. KC: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
2. JAC: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
3. MIA: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (Trade)
4. PHI: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
5. DET: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
6. CLE: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
7. ARI: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
8. BUF: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
9. NYJ: Barkevious Mingo, OLB-DE, LSU
10. TEN: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
11. SD: Jonathan Cooper, G, UNC
12. OAK: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU (Trade)
13. NYJ: Tavon Austin, WR, WVU
14. CAR: Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
15. NO: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
16. STL: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
17. PIT: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
18. DAL: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
19. NYG: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
20. CHI: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
21. CIN: John Cyprien, S, FIU
22. STL: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
23. MIN: Sylvester Williams, DT, UNC
24. IND: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
25. MIN: D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
26. GB: Johnathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
27. HOU: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

Follow our draft as it continues to unfold, right here.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What’s the ideal first-round scenario for each team?

Houston Texans

The first 26 picks of the draft probably won’t hit a lot on wide receivers, giving the Texans their choice of a large group. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin likely will be gone, and Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee will probably be intriguing to some team. Ideally, if all of the other receiver prospects are on the board, there will be one the Texans believe is an ideal complement to Andre Johnson, whether it’s Cal’s athletic Keenan Allen, Tennessee’s burner Justin Hunter, Clemson’s sure-handed DeAndre Hopkins, USC’s daring Robert Woods or Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton.

Indianapolis Colts

Beyond Alabama’s Dee Milliner, it’s a quiet first round for cornerbacks and the Colts get Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. He’s got the size, skills and mentality that should make him a great candidate for coach Chuck Pagano to deploy in man coverage against big receivers like Andre Johnson and Justin Blackmon. A cornerback crop of Vontae Davis, Rhodes, Greg Toler and Darius Butler should be significantly better than last year’s, and improved coverage will help the pass rush, where the Colts also need to add an outside backer.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Chiefs take a left tackle at No. 1 and leave the Jaguars to take a pass-rusher like Oregon’s Dion Jordan or BYU’s Ziggy Ansah. Although Jacksonville has gaping holes at right tackle and cornerback, the prospects at those positions do not seem as valuable as the draft's top pass-rushers. And the Jaguars have had pass-rush deficiencies for years. Coach Gus Bradley has a defensive background, and a premier player who can put heat on quarterbacks is an absolute priority.

Tennessee Titans

The top nine teams in the draft lay off guards, or if one is drafted before the Titans are on the clock, it’s UNC’s Jonathan Cooper. That leaves Alabama’s powerful Chance Warmack there at No. 10 for the Titans, who draft him to play right guard beside right tackle David Stewart. Tennessee pledged a revamp of the offensive line to maximize the opportunities for quarterback Jake Locker and running back Chris Johnson. After the addition of free agent Andy Levitre as the left guard, Warmack would finish the project.
There is no tidy stacking, no obvious, orderly listing, no neat way to sort the receivers at the top of the upcoming NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeAllen
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsCould standout WR Keenan Allen end up with an AFC South team?
Tavon Austin of West Virginia is a DeSean Jackson/Percy Harvin type who figures to be gone by No. 20. Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee has the potential to be a freak talent-wise, but will scare some teams with his inconsistencies. He, too, figures to be off the board by the time the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock at No. 24.

In a recent conversation with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, I asked him about who would fit for the Colts there and the Texans at 27 as the two teams look for receiver help.

Here is his rundown of the next tier of guys, all of whom he said a team would ideally get in the second round.

Keenan Allen, Cal: "He’s not 100 percent, he ran a 4.7 the other day. It’s not a perfect situation. But he’s a late-first, early-second round prospect and he should play like that. On tape we estimate him at 4.53, 4.55, that range. I thin he’s going to be a really, really good No. 2 in the league.

“…He was catching the ball better than ever this past year. He knows how to use his body. He’s very athletic. He’s got size and he’s thickly built. While he’s not near a burner, he’s quick and he’s got enough speed to challenge you and to take advantage of mistakes. To me he would be the highest-rated wide receiver when Tavon and Patterson are off the ball."

Justin Hunter, Tennessee: “If you’re looking for someone who can run vertical routes and stretch the field. If New England is looking for that guy, a poor man’s Randy Moss, that’s what Justin Hunter is: 6-4, 196, can burn, can climb the ladder. He’s a silky smooth route runner and quite honestly when they needed to pick up a first down, when they needed a play at Tennessee, that’s where they went, it wasn’t to the other guy Patterson.

“And he’s the one who showed up consistently. I think he’s a better football player than Cordarelle Patterson. But with the ball in his hands, Patterson is just freakish. But he really disappears. He’ll show up with one or two big plays that just kind of blow your mind and leave you wanting more."

After Allen and Hunter, McShay groups USC’s Robert Woods, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. They are all in the rage of 6-0, 6-1, 200-212, low 4.5s.

“I think Hopkins has the best hands of the three," McShay said. "I think Woods is the quickest, best athlete and certainly he’s been productive for a long time. He’ll go over the middle, he’ll do a lot of different little things for you and I think he’s going to be a really good No. 2 receiver in the NFL as well. Quinton Patton, he doesn’t like going over the middle, but he’s very athletic. He has great hands and ball skills 90 percent of the time, but he’ll have some focus drops. He’s kind of a wildcard to me. But if he plays to his potential he may be the third- or fourth-best receiver of this group in the NFL."

After Austin, McShay would prefer all of these guys in the second round. But he said he sees Patterson going before the 20th pick, and one or two of the others going in the late first-round range.

I asked McShay about the comparisons of Woods to Reggie Wayne. He said he only sees it a little bit, that Woods doesn’t run like Wayne. Woods' ability to snatch the ball on the run, the way he can make some things happen and his ability to be savvy in coverage may be the root of the comparison. But there have been some questions about the consistency of Woods’ work ethic, and Wayne is a big-time worker.

Woods needs to land with a team where a peer in his position group will ride him regarding his work ethic and mistakes. If he’s among a more passive group it won’t bode well for him, McShay said.

So there is some deeper thinking on receivers who could be in play for Indianapolis and Houston in the 20s. It is one man’s opinion, of course, and we’re not taking into account all of the other potential context that could steer Ryan Grigson or Rick Smith somewhere else entirely.

Both Indianapolis and Houston need to add a receiver somewhere in this draft, though based on what they have in house, the Texans are more needy than the Colts.
Mel Kiper's got a new mock draft out Monday. We carve out the pieces relevant to our four teams. For reference and comparison, here's our look at Todd McShay's most recent mock .

2) Jacksonville Jaguars: OT, Eric Fisher, Central Michigan

Kiper’s analysis: “The Jags really need help on the pass rush, but they can get help there in Round 2. In taking Fisher, they improve their situation at left tackle, and there's no certainty that incumbent Eugene Monroe will be around in 2014. The Jags will never know what they have at QB if they can't do a better job in pass protection.”

Kuharsky’s reaction: I can see the logic, but if they like Monroe I wouldn’t move forward presuming he won’t be re-signable. And if there is a defender there who can transform a pass rush, he’s got to be the more intriguing.

10) Tennessee Titans: G, Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

Kiper’s analysis: “Adding Cooper just provides an immediate upgrade on the interior of your offensive line. A complete player who gets a great punch and moves really well for his size, he can run block well, pull with ease, move exceptionally well in the screen game and hit moving targets.”

Kuharsky’s reaction: We’ve increasingly seen Cooper going ahead of Chance Warmack in scenarios like this, often to the Titans. I’m not convinced Tennessee likes Cooper better than Warmack. If they went guard here with both available, I’d expect it to be Warmack.

24) Indianapolis Colts: OT, Menelik Watson, Florida State

Kiper’s analysis: “Whether he ends up at left tackle, right tackle or even as a potentially dominant guard, Watson has a high ceiling and the Colts have to get better along the offensive line. The franchise has arrived at quarterback -- time to protect him.”

Kuharsky’s reaction: Maybe he’s great, but I believe this is the first I’ve seen him up in this range. As Kiper notes, free-agent attention to the line would likely shift this pick to the other side of the ball.

27) Houston Texans: WR, Keenan Allen, Cal

Pick analysis: “Andre Johnson is now officially old by the standards of the position, and while effective, he could use some help. In Allen, the Texans get a great route-runner with exceptional hands and a knack for creating and finding space, perhaps because he was such a good safety as a younger player.”

Kuharsky’s reaction: It seems too easy. Yes, Keshawn Martin and DeVier Posey, once healthy, still factor in. But neither is going to be the caliber of a No. 2 with the potential to grow into a No. 1 that Allen might be.

My plan for the Houston Texans

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
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My plan for the Houston Texans as we approach the start of the 2013 NFL calendar year:

Finances: Cut wide receiver Kevin Walter, saving $2.5 million in cap space. Restructure the deal of wide receiver Andre Johnson, reducing his base salary from $10.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary-cap savings of $7.17 million. Restructure the deal of cornerback Johnathan Joseph, reducing his base salary from $7.5 million to $940,000 (giving him the rest now as a bonus), resulting in a salary-cap savings of $4.373 million. Extend defensive end Antonio Smith, reducing his 2013 base salary of $6 million and his cap charge of $9.5 million significantly.

Continuity: Re-sign safety Glover Quin. The Texans didn’t use the franchise tag on him but would face a tough hole to fill if they let him depart. He’s carved out a good role on this defense, and his staying would be mutually beneficial. In addition to extending Smith and saving money, invest in inside linebacker Brian Cushing, who counts $4.643 million against the cap in the final year of his initial deal and is due $3.143 million in base salary.

Turnover: Allow outside linebacker Connor Barwin to leave as a free agent if he gets a good deal. Although it would be nice to keep him, the team is equipped to move on without him and should be able to draft a player who can be the third guy at the position behind Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. Brice McCain can be a nice nickel but should be replaceable if he finds an opportunity he prefers. Be done with nose tackle Shaun Cody.

Additions: Sign a free-agent defensive tackle like Roy Miller from Tampa Bay. He’s a good run-stopper who could replace Cody and be better in tandem with Earl Mitchell in Wade Phillips' 3-4 front, which allows for a smaller nose. Mike DeVito (New York Jets) also could work and wouldn’t have to transition to 3-4 thinking.

Draft: Swing big for a wide receiver who can line up opposite Johnson and pose a matchup threat. Perhaps Cal’s Keenan Allen or Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins fits the bill. Tavon Austin from West Virginia, who is smaller and quicker, could give the Texans the sort of weapon they don’t have. Use other early picks on inside linebacker, safety depth and corner/nickel depth. Emphasize linebacker with late picks, looking to boost special-teams coverage and blocking.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Last year they took a shot, drafting wide receivers in the third and fourth round.

The Texans still have high hopes for DeVier Posey and Keshawn Martin, though Posey’s recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered in the playoff loss in New England. They still like Lestar Jean, too.

But Houston’s being honest: It needs a dynamic second receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson and eventually, potentially, take over his mantle.

[+] EnlargeKeenan Allen
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsHouston needs a receiver able to stretch the field. Is Cal's Keenan Allen a solid fit for the team?
“I think that continues to be right now a big focus for us as an organization,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We drafted a few young guys last year. I do have a young guy in Lestar Jean that I think a lot of. DeVier Posey was making big, big progress and now we're dealing with a significant injury that is going to take some time

"So I think it’s important that we continue to strengthen our team in that area. Andre is in Year 11 or something like that now, so we’ve got to find some other guys to continue to produce alongside of him.”

The team's current No. 1, Kevin Walter, could wind up a salary-cap casualty. He does dirty work that doesn’t get enough credit, and that’s important. But if your dirty-work guy is also the second receiver on the field most of the time, it helps the offense if he’s a bigger threat against the one-on-one coverage he’s likely to draw.

Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee is likely to be gone by the time the Texans draft 24th in the first round.

Cal’s Keenan Allen and Terrance Williams of Baylor probably rate as possibilities at the spot.

Evaluators say Allen can line up outside or inside and is a smooth route runner and at 6-foot-2 and about 210 pounds, he’s got some size. Allen rates himself as a physical, Anquan Boldin-type of receiver.

He won’t run at the combine because he tweaked an old knee injury in training so questions about his speed are likely to linger until his pro day on March 14.

“I feel like I'm a starter, self-motivated, a humble guy,” Allen said. “My work ethic is there. I'm a film junkie so I'm definitely doing that type of preparation for the game.”

Williams ranks as more of a vertical guy, and stretching the field more is something the Texans need to do to pen space for Arian Foster and Owen Daniels.

“I can stretch the field in a hurry,” Williams said.

He dismissed concerns that he’s only a vertical route runner, saying that when he’s asked to run other routes he’ll prove he can do so reliably.

West Virginia’s Tavon Austin is most different from anyone the Texans already have. He’s a smaller, slot-type of guy and should bring a spark to the team that lands him. But like anyone who’s 5-8 and 174 pounds, durability is a concern.

Austin admires Wes Welker, who’s pretty much the patron saint of up-and-coming slot guys nowadays.

“I think I’m a little quicker and faster than him,” Austin said. “So I figure if he can do it, I can do it, too.”

It’s not a great receiver class overall. Pro Football Weekly rates it as a "C" group.

Houston went for guys in the middle of the draft last year and didn’t find immediate impact. A choice near the top of a middling class could do a lot for a team that could be one big piece away from being a constant matchup problem.
NFC combine preview: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation previews the 2013 scouting combine by identifying the most important thing for each team to learn about its greatest area of need.

Houston Texans: Andre Johnson still dictates matchups, but the Texans lack sufficient options in the receiving group after him. Last year they tried to fill out the position with a third-rounder (DeVier Posey) and fourth-rounder (Keshawn Martin). Both have promise, but aren’t especially dynamic. And Posey is recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in the playoff loss at New England. So the combine question is, can a receiver who can stretch the field and qualify as a No. 1 guy in a few years be there for them at No. 27? Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee and Keenan Allen from Cal could be gone. Does DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson have enough speed? Does Tavon Austin of West Virginia have enough size?

Indianapolis Colts: How do the cornerbacks run? The Colts have a lot of needs, but none ranks bigger than cornerback, where they need a second starter and perhaps a nickel, as well as depth. Alabama’s Dee Milliner seems largely regarded to be the top guy at the spot heading into the combine. Odds are he’ll be gone by the 24th pick. So how do the next guys run, and how capable are they of playing man-to-man coverage? I think sorting through that for Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes, Washington’s Desmond Trufant and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks could be the biggest thing Indianapolis needs to do at this combine.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Who are the two best pass-rushing defensive ends in this draft class for a Gus Bradley/Bob Babich defense? That’s the biggest question for the team holding the No. 2 pick in the April draft. Because if the Chiefs take a pass-rusher first overall, then the Jaguars can do no worse than get their second-favorite guy. Certainly they can go in virtually any direction given the state of their roster. But coming off a season that saw the Jags produce fewer sacks (20) than J.J. Watt had by himself for Houston (20.5), they need to answer a long-standing problem. A new defense simply has to get to the quarterback more than the old defense did. Is Bjoern Werner from Florida State or Damontre Moore of Texas A&M a potential answer?

Tennessee Titans: A pass-rusher and a strong safety are big needs. But they won’t help Jake Locker the way an interior offensive lineman (or two) can. So the Titans need to see if they rate Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper as highly as many analysts do, and if they find one or both worth the No. 10 pick if they are available. If they don’t think they are, is there a second- or third-round prospect they believe can be an immediate and long-term starter? If Tennessee doesn’t find a guard scenario it loves, perhaps it will be more likely to shop for a free agent for the interior.
We’ve got updated mock drafts from Todd McShay and Mel Kiper , so it’s time to take a look at what they have the teams of the AFC South doing.

No. 2 -- Jacksonville Jaguars

McShay: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

“Werner is a good overall player who is also strong against the run and would fit well opposite DE Jason Babin, but is he worth this pick? Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore is a better athlete but could slip a bit due to growing concerns about maturity.”

Kiper: Damontre Moore, DE, Texans A&M

“He's an exceptionally productive defensive end prospect with very good quickness, long arms and elite closing burst as a rusher. He will get to the quarterback, period.”

My thoughts: The need is clear. This team has needed a pass-rush boost for some time. Hopefully one of these guys or someone else proves to be worth the spot and provides an answer.

No. 10 -- Tennessee Titans

McShay: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

"Warmack is the best guard prospect in a decade and would help solidify the offensive line in front of young QB Jake Locker. Warmack has an elite combination of strength, mobility and consistency, and he would be the perfect successor to Steve Hutchinson."

Kiper: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU*

“The guy is long, fast, has a great burst and can flat-out turn the corner. But he also needs to play with better leverage, take on blockers more effectively and find ways to simply be more productive.”

My thoughts: If Warmack is as good as advertized and lasts to this spot, it sure would be nice to see the Titans invest in the interior line like they’ve said they would.

No. 24 -- Indianapolis Colts

McShay: Johnthan Banks, CB, Miss. St.

"Banks has good size, is an instinctive cover corner, and shows toughness and outstanding ball skills."

Kiper: Banks

“We know the defense could use help in a few places, and the chance to take the second-best CB in the draft is something that could make sense here. Banks can start early and help this defense.”

My thoughts: Banks certainly makes sense, but the Colts have a lot of needs on both sides of the ball. Picking the best available player here could go a lot of different directions.

No. 27 -- Houston Texans

McShay: Keenan Allen, WR, California

"The Texans need more legitimate pass-catching options outside of Pro Bowl WR Andre Johnson. Allen lacks elite top-end speed, but he's a great athlete with a good frame, and his ball skills are much-improved from early in his career."

Kiper: Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

“Simply put, Patton was really, really hard to cover in 2012, and when he went to the Senior Bowl against some of the top competition in the draft, he didn't get any easier to cover."

My thoughts: Everyone wants the Texans to find a quality No. 2 receiver, including me. But they drafted a couple last year and have tended not to regard the need the same way as we outsiders.
The draft is 99 days away. Mel Kiper’s first mock is out.

Where does he see teams of the AFC South heading at this point?

Let's have a look:

No. 2 -- Jacksonville: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

Kiper: “The Jaguars sacked opposing QBs on a league-low 3.6 percent of drop backs this season. I hear people question where Jacksonville will go at the QB position, but if they really want to make a change at QB in 2013 (and that's absolutely no guarantee), free agency is a better option than this spot in the draft. Meanwhile, I've had a pass-rusher as a top need for this franchise going on four years. Moore is an exceptionally productive defensive end prospect with very good quickness, long arms and elite closing burst as a rusher.”

Kuharsky: Oh, for a top-two spot last year instead of this year. A quarterback will rise, but the Jaguars shouldn’t force it. They need building blocks at a lot of spots, and if Moore can be one, then addressing the pass rush with this pick would be just fine.

No. 10 -- Tennessee: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

Kiper: “This is a very good athlete, a player who probably could have developed into a draft-worthy tight end, but Oregon made the right call in putting him on defense. There is development left in his game, but his quick first step, long arms and overall athleticism are all high level and he could become a very good NFL pass-rusher.”

Kuharsky: They need a guy who can consistently disrupt the passer, and if he could work with Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, he could fill a need. He’s a developmental guy, and with a coach who will be on the hot seat, the Titans may seek immediate impact.

No. 24 -- Indianapolis: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

Kiper: “Who? Well, suffice to say, after just one year at Florida State, scouts know all about Watson, and people in NFL front offices are starting to catch up. This is a kid who has played basketball at the D-I level, can really use his hands to swat away rushers given a track record as an emerging boxing talent, and will go to the combine and run in the 4.8 range at around 320 pounds.”

Kuharsky: Protecting Andrew Luck has to be a priority and Kiper loves the ceiling for Watson. If he can upgrade the right tackle spot in a hurry, he sounds good to me.

No. 28 -- Houston: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

Kiper: “If he hadn't become a wide receiver, it's entirely possible that Allen could be a coveted safety in this draft. His experience on defense shows up on offense, where he has a great knack for finding space in coverage, working back to the ball to help his quarterback and using great hands as a dependable pass-catcher. He's dangerous with the ball in his hands.”

Kuharsky: With DeVier Posey now recovering from a torn Achilles, finding a receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson and eventually take over for him should be a priority. Houston needs to be more threatening at wideout.

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