Reviewing the 2015 NFL Draft: AFC South

Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the AFC South division teams and their respective draft classes. Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies. AFC East Review NFC East Review AFC North Review NFC North Review Here is a review of the AFC South Division: Houston Texans Biggest Impact – Kevin Johnson - Cornerback, Wake Forest, (1st rd. pick # 16 Overall) Heading into the 2015 draft the feeling was that Houston would be looking to restock their wide receiver position with their early round selections, instead the Texans went defensive first with cornerback Kevin Johnson. Johnson had a good rookie season finishing with 52 tackles, 9 passes defensed, and one interception. While his pre-draft reports raved about his quick feet, Johnson also possesses a smooth backpedal, and the ability to change directions with ease. What impressed the coaches even more with Johnson was his willingness to learn, coupled with maturity, and toughness. Johnson displayed that toughness not only in his commitment to come up and support the run, but he played the final month of the season with a stress fracture in his in his foot. Johnson also broke his left wrist in the Texans playoff loss to the Chiefs, and although that was a blowout Johnson attempted to play through the injury in that game also. Though Johnson was starting to get picked on by opponents towards the end of the season, his foot injury could have something to do with that, he along with veterans Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson give the Texans a nice trio of cornerbacks heading into next season. Surprise Impact – Benardrick McKinney - Inside Linebacker, Mississippi St. (2nd rd. pick # 43 Overall) After receiving his first start versus Tamp Bay in week three McKinney went on to finish the season as one of the starting inside linebackers, finishing with 35 tackles and a sack. Once the Texans coaching staff inserted McKinney into the starting lineup at middle linebacker Houston’s run defense got better and the unit as a whole became stout versus the run and finished the season ranked in the top ten in run defense. At 6’4” 246 pounds McKinney has the ideal size, speed (4.64), and athleticism (40 inch vertical) to succeed in the Texans system. As the season wore on McKinney displayed the instincts he has for the position and began to just read and react to what offenses were trying to do. Least Impact – Jaelen Strong - Wide Receiver, Arizona St. (3rd rd. pick # 70 Overall) When the Texans selected Strong he was seen as a possible replacement for the departed Andre Johnson. Strong possesses a solid build with strong hands, and while at Arizona State he showed the ability to go up and highpoint the ball with those hands; coming down with contested catches. Unfortunately for Strong his rookie season got off to a bumpy start when he reported to camp out of shape weighing 231 pounds. Strong did not make much of an impact at the beginning of the season, and his lone highlight early on was the Hail Mary touchdown grab right before halftime in the Texans week 9 matchup with the Colts. Strong caught only 14 balls for 161 yards and three touchdowns on the season, with 11 of those receptions coming in the season’s final five games. Once Strong improved his conditioning and lost some weight (got down to 197 pounds towards the end of the season) he improved his speed and quickness. After getting himself in better shape the Texans saw Strong making the type of impact on offense that they had envisioned when they drafted him. Strong’s improved showing at the end of the season give head Coach Bill O’Brien high hopes for Strong going into the 2016 season. Indianapolis Colts Biggest Impact – Henry Anderson, Defensive End, Stanford (3rd rd. pick # 93 Overall) The Colts were able to find two starting defensive lineman on days two and three of the draft last year. One of those lineman was Anderson who, after defensive end Arthur Jones was lost due to injury, was inserted into the Colts starting lineup and started the first nine games of the season. Anderson was having a solid rookie year, quickly becoming one of the Colts better defensive players. Anderson was anchoring the Colts run defense up front as he put up 35 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, to go with 2 passes defensed and had started garnering some Defensive Rookie of the Year attention. Unfortunately Anderson tore his ACL in the team’s week 9 victory versus the Broncos and was lost for the remainder of the season. The good news for the Colts is that it appears Anderson is ahead of schedule in his rehab, although no timetable has been established for his return, he is expected back sometime during training camp and might be available at the start of next season. Surprise Impact – David Parry, Defensive Tackle, Stanford (5th rd. pick # 151 Overall) Parry is the other Stanford defensive lineman who made an impact for Indianapolis last year. The former walk-on at Stanford, who ended up becoming a two-year starter, started all 16 games at nose tackle for the Colts last season. Parry added a rugged, hard-nosed, presence with a touch of nastiness to the Colts line upfront. He along with his Stanford roommate (Anderson) solidified the run defense and give the Colts two young defenders along that defensive line. Least Impact – Phillip Dorsett, Wide Receiver, Miami (1st rd. pick # 29 Overall) The second GM Ryan Grigson made Phillip Dorsett the Colts first round selection, bypassing some defensive options, the selection was immediately met with criticism from those who believed the Colts would have been better served adding to their defense in round one, and not the offense. Dorsett couldn’t do much to silence those critics in his rookie season due to injuries and a lack of production. It started in preseason for Dorsett when he missed two games due to a knee contusion, and continued into the regular season where in the opener versus the Bills he muffed two punts early in the game. Then in week seven versus the Saints Dorsett suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg which caused him to miss the next five games taking away a big chunk of his rookie campaign. Dorsett came back to play the final four games and finished with just 18 receptions, for 225 yards and just one touchdown. Jacksonville Jaguars Biggest Impact – T.J. Yeldon, Running Back, Alabama (2nd rd. pick # 36 Overall) Yeldon made an immediate impact on the Jaguars offense rushing for 740 yards and 2 touchdowns, while catching 36 balls for 279 yards with one touchdown in just 12 games. With his rushing yardage Yeldon ranked third among rookie running backs. Yeldon was on pace for a 1,000 yard season if not for injuries costing him four games. Yeldon kept getting better as the year went on displaying the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and improving his pass blocking, proving to the coaching staff he can develop into a three-down back. Surprise Impact – A.J. Cann, Guard, South Carolina (3rd rd. pick # 67 Overall) Guard AJ Cann did not make his first start at right guard until week four after he replaced starter Brandon Linder who was lost for the season due to an injury. Cann would go on to make 13 starts for the season and impressed the coaches and management by responding well to just being thrown into the fire like that. Cann was credited with giving up just one sack all season, and displayed his strength in both the run game as well as pass protection. With his strong base Cann was stout versus bull rushers, while showing accelerated awareness in picking up stunts and helping chip when lineman played line games up front. In fact the Jaguars were so pleased with Cann’s performance that they released guard Zane Beadles, who was a big ticket free agent for Jacksonville a couple off-seasons ago, to make room for Cann to start next season with Linder returning from his injury. Least Impact – Dante Fowler Jr, Defensive End, Florida (1st rd. pick # 3 Overall) The third overall selection in the draft was tabbed as a potential early favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors right after the draft mainly due to his pass rushing ability and him being a perfect fit in Gus Bradley’s aggressive attacking defense. Unfortunately it was not to be as Fowler tore his left ACL an hour into his first mini-camp practice and was lost for the season. Fowler has added ten pounds of muscle during his rehab and is expected to be ready to go for the start of training camp. Even though he didn’t play a down last season Fowler was kept around the team participating in meetings and helping cut-up some of the coaches game tapes. He is slotted to be the starting LEO end in the Jaguars base packages this coming season. Tennessee Titans Biggest Impact – Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon (1st rd. pick # 2 Overall) There was no question who made the biggest impact on the Titans from last year’s draft class, as Tennessee was able to find their franchise quarterback and new face of the franchise in Marcus Mariota. Mariota broke several franchise rookie records in 2015 including most touchdown passes (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818), and attempts (370) while playing in just 12 games. Mariota also had three or more touchdown passes in four different games tying Peyton Manning (1998) as the only other rookie quarterback to accomplish the feat. Mariota did miss four games due to two separate MCL knee sprains, partially due to the fact that the Titans allowed a league-high 54 sacks last season. That is why this off-season for Tennessee has been all about building an offensive line around Mariota and supplying him with weapons both on the outside and in the backfield. Surprise Impact – Dorial Green-Beckham, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma (2nd rd. pick # 40 Overall) Former Titans General Manager Ruston Webster took a gamble in the second round by selecting Green-Beckham who had sat out all of the previous season at Oklahoma due to NCAA transfer rules, right after he was kicked off the team at Missouri for off the field issues. Heading into the draft Green-Beckham had basically not played college football for almost two full seasons. After his first season in the NFL it appears Webster’s gamble might pay off in the long run for the Titans. As a rookie Green-Beckham led all Titan receivers with 549 receiving yards, to go along with his four touchdowns and 17.2 yard per reception average. Even though he struggled early on with dropped balls, blocking, and learning the offense Green-Beckham was able to take advantage of his size mismatch over shorter defenders and was able to get physical with them to win at the top of his routes. The fact he moves well for his size and has such length, which gives him a big catch radius, allows quarterbacks to feel comfortable knowing that by just getting the football in the vicinity of Green-Beckham chances are good he will come down with it. Although Green-Beckham still has a ways to go in order to be considered a complete receiver, his rookie campaign was very encouraging for both him, and the Titans organization. Least Impact – David Cobb, Running Back, Minnesota (5th rd. pick # 138 Overall) David Cobb had done a nice job of drawing some positive attention from the coaching staff in the preseason, as it appeared the rookie out of Minnesota was going to have an opportunity to carry the ball some in the regular season. Unfortunately Cobb suffered a preseason calf injury that saw him get placed on short-term IR causing him to miss the first eight weeks of the season. When he did return Cobb was not given much of a chance to carry the football, until the season finale versus the Colts where he got his only start of the season and carried the ball 19 times for 73 yards scoring his first career touchdown in the process. Cobb finished his rookie season rushing for just 146 yards with that lone touchdown. The Titans early this offseason acquired running back DeMarco Murray from the Eagles so Cobb’s chances of starting appear to be slim, but he is still going into the off season with the mindset that he will competing with Murray for the starting tailback position. Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp.  Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56
Danny Shimon
NFPost Scouting 101 & Scouting Seminar Graduate. Bears writer for

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