2022 AFC South All-Division Team: The Offense

2022 AFC South

In this series, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be selecting the best players in each division by position. Taking a look at the 2022 AFC South offenses, let’s take a look at the best of the best in the division…

2022 AFC South All-Division Team: The Offense

Quarterback: Matt Ryan, Colts

The AFC South is not the strongest quarterback division in football. Both the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars have second-year signal callers in Davis Mills and Trevor Lawrence. While Mills had the better rookie year, most consider Lawrence to have better promise. However, neither of these quarterbacks is considered to be in the upper echelon of their position. The Tennessee Titans have Ryan Tannehill, who, while serviceable, has struggled in the playoffs. 

This leaves the Indianapolis Colts and the recently acquired Matt Ryan. While Ryan is entering the twilight of his NFL career, he should still be an effective passer for the next few years. Last year on the Falcons, he threw for close to 4000 yards and 20 touchdowns with a lackluster receiving corps. The improved personnel of veterans Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell, with help from rookie Alec Pierce, should help Ryan improve on his numbers from last year. 

Running Back: Derrick Henry, Titans

The division has two of the best runners in the league in Jonathan Taylor of the Colts and Derrick Henry of the Titans. No one else in the division is anywhere close to these two backs. Taylor had an exceptional 2021 season with his league-leading 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. He is only 23 and could develop into a Hall of Fame career. However, the edge still goes to Henry.

Simply put, when healthy, Henry is the better player. Through eight games last year Henry had 937 yards and 10 touchdowns, ranking ninth and T-fifth at the end of the year respectively. This fall, he will be only two years removed from a 2,000 rushing yard season. This generational talent still holds his grip upon the division, and league, as the best running back. 

Wide Receiver: Brandin Cooks, Texans

In a division with no true “superstar” receiver, Brandin Cooks is the best option available. On a bad Houston Texans team, Cooks had over 1,000 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In fact, Cooks has topped 1,000 yards in every season in which he played all the games. With rookie receiver John Metchie III looking to be sidelined for the entire season, Cooks will once again be the unquestioned number one receiver on his team and should be on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards once again. 

Wide Receiver: Michael Pittman Jr., Colts

One may be able to argue that Jacksonville Jaguar veterans Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones Jr. could beat out Michael Pittman Jr. for the second receiver spot on this team, yet Pittman’s productivity, situation, and youth allow him to beat these two out. Pittman was a popular breakout candidate before the 2021 season and he definitely improved on his rookie numbers, tallying over 1,000 yards. This year he will be in the situation to improve even more. As mentioned previously, the Colts have brought in Ryan to upgrade over former quarterback Carson Wentz. If a strong chemistry forms between these two, Pittman will see his numbers improve once again this year.

Slot Receiver: Robert Woods, Titans

Before Metchie was diagnosed with APL leukemia, the speedy rookie was in a prime position to become the best slot receiver in the division. The search must now regrettably turn to other teams in the division to figure out who the best slot man is. Former Los Angeles Rams wideout Robert Woods stands out as a strong candidate. The Titans acquired Woods after he missed most of last season with a knee injury. Woods was productive with Los Angeles in the past, and with Derrick Henry and rookie Treylon Burks able to take some of the pressure off of the 30-year-old, Woods could thrive in Tennessee.

Tight End: Evan Engram, Jaguars

Arguably the worst positional group in the division has a few new faces. Austin Hooper and Evan Engram both joined the Titans and Jaguars, respectively, in the off-season. Mo Alie-Cox of the Colts has been serviceable when called upon. The Texans have 2021 fifth-round pick Brevin Jordan on the roster. 

All-in-all, none of these players really stand out above the others. However, the edge goes to Engram after he collected 400 yards and three touchdowns last fall. In his five NFL seasons, Engram has never caught below 400 yards, nor recorded fewer than 44 receptions in a single season. In other words, Engram, even with his consistency issues, is reliable enough to produce over the course of a season. 

Left Tackle: Laremy Tunsil, Texans

There are plenty of serviceable tackles in the AFC South, yet Laremy Tunsil stands out as the best amongst them. One could make a case for Taylor Lewan of the Titans, pointing to his three Pro Bowls. However, Lewan’s last Pro Bowl was in 2018 and his numbers last year were not exactly magnificent. He allowed four sacks and put up four penalties. On the other hand, Tunsil’s youth and productivity point to a strong year to come. While he did miss most of the 2021 season with a thumb injury, he is 27 and should return to his Pro Bowl form, last seen in 2020.

Left Guard: Quenton Nelson, Colts

There is really no debate in this position. Since being drafted sixth overall in the 2018 Draft by the Colts, Quenton Nelson has been a dominant force on the line, being elected to a Pro Bowl all four years of his career. He has paired this with three All-Pro selections and is in the conversation for best offensive linemen in the game. He allowed only one sack during the 2021 season and has been active for all but three of his career games. 

Center: Ryan Kelly, Colts

The AFC South does not have a strong grouping at center, however, the former first-round pick in 2016, Ryan Kelly is the best choice. Coming off three consecutive Pro Bowls, Kelly is charged with the task of protecting Taylor as well as Ryan as the Colts attempt to return to the Playoffs after a late-season collapse last year. 

With rookie Luke Fortner on the Jaguars, Ben Jones of the Titans, and Justin Britt from the Texans are the only other centers with lots of playing experience. However, when comparing their numbers and experience, Kelly has the edge. 

Right Guard: Brandon Scherff, Jaguars

When the Jaguars were looking to spend $49.5 million dollars over three years this past off-season, they were probably envisioning a stronger protective force to help upgrade a unit that allowed 32 sacks during 2021. Brandon Scherff will be part of this solution. During his time on the Washington Commanders, Scherff was elected to five Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. In 11 games last year, Scherff allowed zero sacks off of 638 snaps. No one else at this position comes close to Scherff’s prestige and productivity.

Right Tackle: Tytus Howard, Texans

While the 2019 first-round pick has struggled at times through his first three years in the league, Tytus Howard is emerging as a solid starter in the tackle position of an underrated Texans offensive line. In 15 games last year, Howard allowed two sacks and only one tackle for loss. The next closest competitor in the division, Jawaan Taylor, allowed six sacks and five and a half tackles for loss. Howard stands alone as the best right tackle in the division and can look to improve in the next few years.

Be sure to check out the 2022 AFC South All-Divison Defensive Team.

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