Mel Kiper’s newest mock draft is out, so those of you on hunger strike awaiting it now have something to read while you pig out.
Here’s a look thorough our AFC South lens:
No. 8 -- Tennessee Titans
Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Kiper: “A tremendous natural pass-rusher, Bowers falls a little because of needs elsewhere before this pick and because of some very small but lingering questions about his knee. He was unable to work out in Indy as a precaution with his recovery. Tennessee targeted their pass rush in the first round last year, but Bowers simply represents too much value at this position, and with the pass rush still in need of an upgrade, he provides immediate help as well.”
My thoughts: With Derrick Morgan and Bowers as their top two rush ends, the Titans would be set with front-line pass-rushers. If they can consistently hurry quarterbacks, perhaps issues at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety shrink. But it takes time for most rush guys to find their mojo and Morgan was hurt early in his rookie season. It’ll be akin to putting two rookies out there.
No. 11 -- Houston Texans
J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Kiper: “Wade Phillips will love Watt, a big, aggressive, smart, scheme-versatile defensive end who can offer an immediate help for a defense in need of bodies for the front seven. At 290 pounds, with a really good burst and a relentless nature, you can do a lot with Watt along the defensive line. Houston has to find some pass-rush help to complement the great Mario Williams, and this is a good place to look.”
My thoughts: I like it. The Texans absolutely need to stock their front with the best players they can find, and Watt looks to be the sort of tone-setter the team doesn’t always have. Still, they have Antonio Smith to go opposite Williams on a three-man front and the far bigger holes are at outside linebacker and safety. But there is no safety worthy of this spot, and who’s the linebacker who’s a better pick?
No. 16 -- Jacksonville Jaguars
Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri
Kiper: “Smith offers a raw talent package with a lot of upside. He's a player that could easily have been a top ten pick in 2012 had he stuck around Missouri for another year of development. The Jags went for veterans to spackle over the holes at defensive end last year, but it's time to develop some edge talent to go with what is a really promising defensive interior.”
My thoughts: Smith may be a wonderful player, but I feel like he’s been landing with the Jaguars in a lot of mocks sort of by default. In this scenario, they could pick between Smith and other DE/OLBs: Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue, Cameron Jordan from Cal, Justin Houston from Georgia, Akeem Ayers of UCLA and Adrian Clayborn from Iowa.
No. 22 -- Indianapolis Colts
Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
Kiper: “One more that stays the same from previous mocks, I just really like the fit. The Colts have shown their age on the offensive line, and even while Peyton Manning is a maestro working out of the shotgun, they need to be able to do more both in the run game and in pass protection. Castonzo is a smart, versatile tackle who has been consistently rated as a first-round tackle option. He's added bulk, and with good awareness footwork, he fits well in Indy at a position the Colts need to fill.”
My thoughts: Castonzo does seem like a natural fit, which is why the match seems too easy. Only one tackle, USC’s Tyron Smith, if off the board at this point. So the Colts could be choosing between Castonzo, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Colorado’s Nate Solder. Could they look away from offensive tackle to defensive tackle and Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple? Or if they see Torrey Smith or Leonard Hankerson as an eventual No. 1, could they look for the heir to Reggie Wayne?