The most anticipated part of the off-season is officially in the rearview mirror, as the 2021 NFL Draft has officially passed. Every team in the league added young talent to their squad, but which teams made the biggest improvements? This installment of the 2021 NFL Draft Grades features an in-depth breakdown of every team in the AFC South.
2021 AFC South NFL Draft Grades
Houston Texans: B
The Houston Texans, due to questionable moves/trades they made in the past, didn’t make their first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft until 67 and they used it to take Davis Mills, the former quarterback for Stanford. While this pick makes sense due to the off-field issues surrounding Deshaun Watson and Mills has a lot of talent, including a big arm, this doesn’t necessarily help their team get better immediately. Mills also doesn’t have a ton of experience with only 11 career starts in college, due to knee injuries. He needs to get better at recognizing pressure and his mechanics are inconsistent.
With their second pick of the draft, the Texans selected Nico Collins, a former Michigan wide receiver, who opted out of the 2020 season. Collins has good size (6’4” and 215 pounds) and speed and he gets pretty good separation for a player his size. He has top-end speed but he isn’t great at breaking tackles after the catch. However, the Texans needed to bolster their receiving corps after the departure of Will Fuller V in free agency.
Former Miami tight end Brevin Jordan has good speed and he can stretch the field vertically. He’s productive after the catch with good burst and contact balance. Garrett Wallow, a former linebacker at TCU is a well-rounded player and a good athlete with good agility and speed. Due to a lack of size and strength he won’t be a starter, but he could be a nice backup linebacker and nice special teams player. Roy Lopez, a former defensive lineman at Arizona has good core strength and a low center of gravity. He needs to improve at getting off blocks. He has average closing speed and is just an average athlete.
Indianapolis Colts: C
With the 21st pick in the draft, the Indianapolis Colts selected Kwity Paye out of Michigan. Paye absolutely fills a need for the Colts, particularly after they lost Justin Houston in free agency. But he is a raw prospect. If he gets good coaching and refines his game he could be a good player.
With the 54th pick the Colts selected Dayo Odeyingbo, an edge rusher out of Vanderbilt. Drafting an edge rusher here didn’t address their biggest need as they could have gone offensive line, but Odeyingbo is capable of being a disrupter. However, he is coming off an Achilles injury.
The Colts probably got correct value when they took former SMU tight end Kylen Granson at 127. He doesn’t really stretch the seam consistently, and he’s an older prospect, but he can produce as a receiver. Former Florida safety, Shawn Davis is a freak athlete but his instincts and coverage recognition need to improve.
Sam Ehlinger, the former Texas quarterback, is good at buying time when the pocket breaks down, but he doesn’t really have an NFL arm or pocket presence. However, the Colts needed to add some depth behind Carson Wentz.
Mike Strachan has size, speed and a good catch radius. But two areas where he needs to improve are beating press coverage and working through contact. Former Penn State offensive lineman Will Fries is versatile and can play any position on the line. He has good power and balance.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A-
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a lot of picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, including the first overall pick, which they used to make the obvious selection of former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has the potential to change the dynamic and fortune of Jacksonville’s franchise for the next 10+ years. Most people had Lawrence and former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts as the two best players in this year’s draft. The Jags franchise and their fans should be ecstatic they were able to add a quarterback the caliber of Lawrence in this year’s draft.
The Jaguars also added Lawrence’s teammate, Travis Etienne with the second of their two first-round picks. While the Jags may not have needed to draft a running back, they made the pick because they have seen what Etienne is capable of. The former Clemson back can run with power and speed and catch the ball out of the backfield. He will immediately make an impact on the field, even if the Jags could have used this pick to address a need.
Tyson Campbell, the former cornerback at UGA, is tall and long and doesn’t back down from playing one-on-one on the outside. But he has allowed big plays. However, this selection addresses a real need for Jacksonville and he is a willing tackler and has sub-4.4 40 speed.
The Jags had to try to fortify their offensive line after drafting Lawrence and they did so by selecting Walker Little, an offensive lineman out of Stanford, with the 45th overall pick. Little has size (6’7” and 313 pounds) and he has a lot of talent. But he hasn’t played since the first week of the 2019 season after he suffered a torn ACL and then opted out of the 2020 season.
With the 65th overall pick the Jags made a really good selection when they took Andre Cisco, the former Syracuse safety. That pick addressed a huge need and Cisco has tremendous instincts, ball skills and range. He tallied 12 interceptions in 2018 and 2019, but he suffered a torn ACL which cost him his final season. If he remains healthy, he will be a great player.
Jay Tufele, former USC defensive lineman, fills a huge need for the Jags. He isn’t great against the run, but his swim move is impressive. Former UAB edge rusher Jordan Smith is a pure pass rusher who was really productive in 2020. Luke Farrell isn’t great at blocking and his receiving upside isn’t particularly high. He absolutely could improve later in this career, but the Jags probably didn’t need to take him at 145. Jalen Camp, the former wide receiver out of Georgia Tech, needs to expand and improve his route tree and route running, but he has size, speed and athleticism.
Tennessee Titans: A-
With their first-round pick, the Tennessee Titans selected Caleb Farley, the former cornerback from Virginia Tech, with the 22nd overall pick. Farley’s talent is undeniable, but his health is a question mark. If Farley remains healthy and, on the field, this will wind up being a great pick by the Titans. But if he ends up missing a lot of action due to injury, he could be a bust.
The Titans also selected Dillon Radunz, an offensive lineman from North Dakota State, with the 53rd overall pick. The Titans lost Jack Conklin in 2020 so they had to address the offensive line. Radunz could be a good player, especially in zone-blocking, but he does have to get stronger in order to excel at the next level.
Monty Rice, a former UGA linebacker, is a reliable tackler and can cover tight ends down the seam. With the 100th pick Tennessee took former Washington cornerback Elijah Molden, which the Titans needed. He will play in the slot and probably continue to be a playmaker in the middle of the field.
Dez Fitzpatrick, a former Louisville wide receiver, runs crisp routes, has good size and is an incredible downfield threat. With Corey Davis no longer in Tennessee the Titans were smart to add a receiver and Fitzpatrick could be great value at pick 109. The Titans needed more talent and depth at EDGE and they got it with former Pittsburgh EDGE Rashad Weaver. Weaver has great pass-rush moves and has a really high floor.
Racey McMath, a former LSU wide receiver, has size and speed but not much else. Brady Breeze, the former Oregon safety, was a good addition because the Titans secondary was bad last season. He also has the versatility to play free and strong safety.
Time will tell how all of these picks work out for each of these teams.