Kiper's Offseason Audits: AFC South
Mel breaks down the offseasons and needs of each AFC South team
The draft is obviously the focal point of the NFL offseason for me, but it certainly doesn't end there. The picks are only half of the equation. How they fit is where the draft is really made. And part of that has to factor in the personnel that teams have added around them.
So with the draft clearly in mind, let's do a quick summer audit on the situations of the teams in the AFC South. I kicked this off last week with the AFC West and then the NFC West. (You can find all the pieces together in one place by going here.) What I'll do is hit three things:
1. A crucial influx, such as an impact player or position group.
2. A question mark that still lingers.
3. If the team had a chance to pick anyone from the 2011 draft class right now to address a hole, who it would be. (Whether a team has an early pick in next year's draft isn't the issue -- it's just a hypothetical involving top college talent and current needs.)
So call it a checkup and look-ahead wrapped together -- part deep projection, part current need.
Crucial influx: At 30 years old, and given the thousands of reps he's piled up, you'd think Dwight Freeney might be slowing down some. But witness his 13.5 sacks last year, and his impressive performance on a bad ankle in the Super Bowl, and you still see a player capable of changing game plans. Now, the Colts have added Jerry Hughes, arguably the best pure pass-rusher in the entire draft. He could be an effective pinch-hitter in lots of situations for either Freeney or Robert Mathis. Even with the loss of Raheem Brock, the Colts should have a chance to improve on the 34 sacks they racked up in 2009, which left them tied for 16th in the league. But Hughes might be less important than the corner depth the team added well after he was selected.
The question mark: Jerraud Powers was a surprise as a rookie contributor last year, performing well beyond his years and pretty dependably from early in the season. But both he and Kelvin Hayden dealt with injury hiccups in 2009, and the secondary depth remains a question. Kevin Thomas was largely seen as an underachiever at USC, and he would have been needed to be able to play well in nickel situations early in his career, but now he's out with an ACL. (The Colts also liked later pick Ray Fisher, out of Indiana.) And if the Colts face what seems like a routine injury to Bob Sanders -- he's played in six or fewer games in four of six NFL seasons -- this secondary will look soft. Indy was in the middle of the pack against both the pass and the run, and after years of consistently low draft slots -- a product of success -- the roster isn't quite as deep as it has been.
If you want to see Kiper's breakdown on the rest of the AFC South, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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Kiper's Look Toward 2011
Mel is always going to be looking at the draft first, but he's also taking a close look at how teams have tweaked their personnel heading into camp. Who could be a help, who won't be and what players in the next draft would be nice to have around right now.
Kiper's Offseason Audits