Ultimate Building Blocks: AFC South

June, 12, 2009
6/12/09
12:10
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Start a team by drafting any 10 players out of the AFC South while aiming for a three-year long Super Bowl window. Factor in age.

That was the request.

In my thinking, we have to start with a quarterback and we have to more heavily consider receivers, pass rushers and cornerbacks. Still, this was somewhat agonizing. Here are the first 10 players I would draft in trying to build the winner of Super Bowl XLV through XLVII.

 
  Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMI
  Indianapolis' Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the division and the starting place for a Super Bowl contender.
1) Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. Yes, he is 33 so he's 36 at the end of this window. Still, I start building with a quarterback. He's the best in the division now, and there is no one else I'd expect to be comparable in three years, even if Manning slides, which I don't anticipate. John Elway won Super Bowls at 38 and 39, Dan Marino threw 23 TDs the year he turned 37, Warren Moon went to the Pro Bowl as a 41-year old. Still, Manning's going to be the oldest player in this list, by far.

2) Andre Johnson, WR, Texans. He won't turn 30 until the final year of our window and he's a tremendous combination of size, speed, physicality and professionalism.

3) Mario Williams, DE, Texans. Already one of the most feared pass rushers in the league, he's only 24 and has bundles of sacks ahead.

4) Michael Roos, T, Titans. Athletic and smart, he'll adapt to whatever offense we need to run and be a quiet, super-steady presence.

5) Cortland Finnegan, CB, Titans. The best young cornerback in the division and one of the best in the league has the speed, skills and temperament teams covet.

6) Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. Early versions of this draft included no running backs in the top 10 picks, as there are so many good ones to choose from we could address it later. Yes, Maurice Jones-Drew is great and Steve Slaton is dangerous. But opponents fear no offensive weapon in the division outside of Andre Johnson more than Chris Johnson.

7) Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts. Does he have three quality years left? Well, 10.5 sacks as a 28-year-old certainly helped the case, and who's the second best defensive end in the division for the next three years?

8) Michael Griffin, S, Titans. A very good all-around football player, who will consistently be around the ball and deliver big hits from the secondary. Going into his third year, he's heading into his prime.

9) Eric Winston, RT, Texans. Strong, smart and still has his best football ahead of him. Probably a coin flip between Winston and Tennessee's David Stewart for the spot opposite Roos. I give Winston a tiny edge as he is better equipped to play left tackle or guard if we need to make a move.

10) Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. My first version had no running backs. Now I've got a tandem. A Chris Johnson-Jones-Drew tandem means there is a dangerous, versatile back on the field at all times.

Before the complaints roll in, a clarification and some explanations.

This isn't meant to be a list of the 10 best players in the division. The presence of Andre Johnson, for example, reduced the pull of Reggie Wayne. Wayne turns 30 this season, I expect he'll be productive for more than three more years, but am compelled to emphasize youth.

Go ahead, kill me on Bob Sanders.

Sanders is a great player, but as the scouting bromide goes, the best ability is availability. Based on his injury history I can't rely on him for 48 games over the next three years plus playoffs. The Colts have done OK without him in the lineup, and we will do OK building without him as a cornerstone. I had to go younger and healthier and look to other positions.

Texans LB DeMeco Ryans suffered a similar fate, as I don't put the same kind of value on linebackers as the positions I mentioned at the top.

Given all that, others who received my serious consideration were: Wayne; Stewart; Melvin Bullitt, S, Colts; Rashean Mathis, CB, Jaguars; Owen Daniels, TE, Texans; Steve Slaton, RB, Texans; Jason Jones, DT, Titans; Eugene Monroe, LT, Jaguars.

Thanks for your input, connected to this post from earlier this week.

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