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Sunday, May 1, 2011
Mel's grades are in

By Paul Kuharsky

Grading at the end of the draft is an odd exercise. Draftees haven’t suited up for so much as a photo. So the measure is against need and expectation, and need and expectation don’t tell us if a guy will play well.

Nevertheless, people will absolutely eat up Mel Kiper’s grades and he does break them into pieces for us.

Here’s what he has to say about the AFC South:

Indianapolis Colts

Top needs: OT, OG, DT, WR

Summary: The Colts started springing leaks on the offensive line in 2010, as Peyton Manning faced more pressure and the running game all but stalled. Bill Polian clearly had his priorities in order, adding immediate help on the offensive line with his first two picks. [Anthony] Castonzo isn't seen as a really high-ceiling tackle, but he's a very good one, always healthy and with good feet, making him a potential long-term solution on the blindside. [Ben] Ijalana can convert to guard and be effective. Indy also needed help on the defensive interior and got a pretty good value fit with [Drake] Nevis in the third round. [Chris] Rucker can be a pretty good player when he's focused on football. He has a chance to outplay that spot on the board.

Needs: A-

Value: B

Overall: B+

My thoughts: The first three look to be very nice fits and can have immediate impact. Running back Delone Carter and Rucker were a bit more curious and we’ll have to see.

Houston Texans

Top needs: S, OLB, WR, DL

Summary: It's the prospects who get the red carpet treatment here in New York, but it's Wade Phillips who got the carpet laid out for him in this draft. The new defensive coordinator for the Texans got a lot of new toys to work with, and I think Houston did a solid job in terms of value in addressing what was simply a bad defense in 2010. [J.J.] Watt is a versatile defensive end who will fit that 3-4 scheme and [Brooks] Reed is the outside rusher they needed. The Texans then went to the secondary, a disaster in 2010, adding [Brandon] Harris with a particularly good value pick, then [Rashad] Carmichael and [Shiloh] Keo. I would have liked to have seen another wide receiver in the mix, but I love the pick of [T.J.] Yates, who could be a good one if given time to develop. With Matt Schaub there, he should get plenty of clipboard time.

Needs: A-

Value: B-

Overall: B

My thoughts: This seems about right. I really like that they got Harris and I am anxious to see Keo. Phillips clearly had a big influence. I hope they still plan to do some free-agent shopping.

Tennessee Titans

Top needs: QB, OLB, DT, WR

Summary: Tennessee provided the first true shock of the draft. The Atlanta-Cleveland trade wasn't really a shock -- it was more about the compensation. But the Titans took the first major value shot that didn't involve the No. 1 pick. The story of this draft will be how they use [Jake] Locker. Will they have the patience not to rush him? Will he become more accurate in the NFL than he was in college? The guy has a remarkable skill-set, but productivity is the question. As a pick, you can say the value perhaps wasn't too poor because he wouldn't have lasted past No. 12, but even then he's still a bit of a project. All these quarterbacks taken early were reaches in terms of value, but those are the risks teams feel they need to take to find an answer. After Locker, I do like the [Akeem] Ayers pick. He has Round 1 tape and was taken at No. 39. [Jurrell] Casey is also a talented kid who needs to mature. Another wide receiver would have been nice, but so would an idea of who will be throwing the ball in 2011.

Needs: C+

Value: C-

Overall: C

My thoughts: Will Locker pan out? We don’t know, but he certainly fills a huge need. They couldn’t have drafted a veteran quarterback. Need-wise, I think they did pretty well.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Top needs: DE, QB, S, WR

Summary: Jacksonville got a quarterback at No. 10 I had rated as the No. 1 quarterback on my Big Board. Of course, I had [Blaine] Gabbert at No. 14 overall. Bottom line: this draft will be viewed through the prism of Gabbert and whether he succeeds. I think he has a shot but he needs time to develop, and after this draft I see a team that didn't really improve much in the near term, but believes it has its franchise quarterback of the future. [Will] Rackley is a nice player to plug in at guard when he's needed, and [Cecil] Shorts could be another find from Mount Union. But a clear need at defensive end wasn't addressed, and I thought that was a key. Last year the Jaguars addressed it in free agency, and hopefully that bandage will hold. A corner also could have been used.

Needs: C

Value: C-

Overall: C-

My thoughts: Our expectation was defensive end would be addressed and we know linebacker is a need. They say they will still add two to four players in free agency. If they fill needs that way, then this could be just fine and the need grade won't mean a lot.