AFC South draft analysis

April, 30, 2011
4/30/11
6:55
PM ET
NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Quarterbacks are the faces of franchises. The 2011 draft gave half the teams in the AFC South facelifts.

What are the odds that both Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert pan out as long-term fixtures for their teams? Probably long. We’ll all be watching how and why they develop or don’t.

The two teams that already have known entities at quarterback worked hard to build up things around them. Peyton Manning gets better protection. Matt Schaub gets a revamped defense.

Front offices and coaching staffs usually work the phones to court undrafted free agents about now. With no CBA and the lockout back in place, no such signings will occur at this point. The three-day festival is over. We’ve got new classes to contemplate while we return to labor impasse fever.

BEST MOVE

All the Colts had to do was sit and wait. Then with what happened in the first 21 picks of the first round, they found themselves in a scenario unlike any they’d played out in their draft preparations. one in which Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo was available.

Need met value, and the Colts added a player who’s probably the biggest immediate impact player in the AFC South. It’ll be a major upset if Castonzo isn’t the starter at left tackle on opening day. If Indianapolis retains Charlie Johnson or if he doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent, he could move inside to guard and the Colts could get better at two spots.

It will mean more time for Manning to work and more room for the Colts' stable of backs to run. Expect years of review about how things came together so nicely at No. 22 for the Colts in 2011.

RISKIEST MOVE

The Titans took Locker, a quarterback who didn’t throw well from the pocket and didn’t throw accurately while at Washington. He’s a super-likeable kid who will work hard for Mike Munchak, offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and quarterback coach Dowell Loggains.

They can love everything about him, but can the things about him that are not right be made right? If so, it will look like a genius move. If not, the franchise will forever hear how it took Locker over whichever quarterback taken after No. 8 pans out.

It’s a giant pick for general manager Mike Reinfeldt and a giant coaching job for Munchak and his staff. All of them will be linked to Locker’s success or failure for a long, long time.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Mark J. Rebilas/US PreswireThe Jaguars will have time to develop Blaine Gabbert behind current starter David Garrard.
If you need a quarterback and see one that you like as a value, I say go get him. I don’t know if Gabbert’s going to be a great quarterback for Jacksonville. There is built-in risk with any quarterback in the draft. But I like how the Jaguars believed Gabbert was a value at No. 10 and did what they needed to do to move up from No. 16 to get him. I never would have predicted a trade up.

There will be a ton of debate about just when Gabbert should get into the lineup with David Garrard in place. But as Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said, that’s part of the fun of all of it.

The Jaguars are rebuilding around draft picks. It makes sense to get a quarterback to put into the middle of it all. In two or three years, if they have been selecting well, they can really challenge. And there is always a chance of a team maturing ahead of schedule.

FILE IT AWAY

The Jaguars expect to add two to four players to the defense in free agency and clearly plan to address linebacker through that avenue. Corner, safety and defensive end are all possibilities too.

But their nickelback could be in place. William Middleton held the job last season, and it sounds as if he’ll face some serious competition from fifth-round pick Rod Isaac from Middle Tennessee.

“I’m in that group of people in the building that are very excited about the tape that I saw,” Del Rio said. “We brought him in for a visit, he was very good in the visit. The tape is excellent. He’s a very aggressive corner. We think he can come in and help us, contend for the nickel spot and certainly help us with the multiple wide receiver sets that we face, whether it’s three wide or four wide. You need somebody that can come in and help you do those things. He is a physical player, he’s an aggressive player, he ran pretty well. The tape is fun to watch on this player. We like him and he was definitely a guy that was below the radar. Which is OK by us.”

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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