Rogers: Colts had 'phenomenal draft,' earn A grade
Connor Rogers breaks down the AFC South's 2023 draft selections, explaining why he loved what Colts GM Chris Ballard accomplished, what he liked and disliked about the Texans' moves and much more.
CONNOR ROGERS: Retooling going on in the AFC South, and I think this is a division that drafted pretty strongly across the board, and let's go with a team that didn't just draft well-- they had a phenomenal draft. And that is Chris Ballard's Indianapolis Colts, who walk away with an A grade for me. It started with Anthony Richardson. Yes, there was a lot of risk picking him at quarterback, but you cannot deny the traits.
But the way they were able to refill this roster, not just through the draft picks, but how about UDFA Emil Ekiyor, the undersized but talented offensive lineman from Alabama? I thought he should have been drafted in round four. They got him throughout the UDFA process. They got a starter at corner in Julius Brents, a starting slot receiver and return man in wide receiver Josh Downs.
You look at adding Adetomiwa Adebawore, the versatile defensive lineman from Northwestern in round four. Darius Rush might be another starting corner, and then just as insurance, again at corner, they got Jaylon Jones in round seven. So I thought the Colts knocked this one out of the park. It's going to be tough for any team to top their draft in this division, but the Texans certainly tried.
When you look at it from me, the only thing that knocked the Texans out of the A range and down to a B-- they gave up a lot to get Will Anderson. They mortgaged some of their future, but CJ Stroud leading things under center long-term, Will Anderson being that pass rusher for DeMeco Ryans.
And then I'll tell you the value pick, Henry To'oto'o. They got him at 167. I had him at 86 overall. I think he is a starter in the middle of the defense, somebody that's fundamentally sound, understands how to flow to the run. And he'll get great help from his new head coach in DeMeco Ryans.
Moving over, the Tennessee Titans-- they matched the Texans and also walk away with a B here. Peter Skoronski, I thought, was one of the safest players in this draft. Whether you value him at tackle or value him at guard, it doesn't matter. He has a higher floor, though, on the inside. A value pick here-- Jaelyn Duncan, a depth tackle. They took him 186 overall. I had him 152nd overall.
And I like the dart throw on Will Levis. Who cares in the second round? See what you got. Ryan Tannehill is on an expiring deal. Bring Levis in, see if he can grow behind Tannehill and be your future. And if not, that's OK for Ran Carthon. So I like what Tennessee was able to do. They really needed to get this roster upgrade in multiple areas, and they took their big shot on Levis without having to use a first round pick. That's something you love to see.
One draft I do have some questions about in this division is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now, I will say-- Anton Harrison was an undervalued player in this draft, and they now do have a significant need on the offensive line in the early portion of the season. The value pick here for me was Antonio Johnson. I had him in the top 50. They got him at 160. Something is not adding up there for the tough, rugged, big slot, big nickel defender that can play down in the box as a strong safety.
Only a B-minus from me for Jacksonville. Those are the two selections that stood out. But overall, this division just seems to get tighter and tighter each year, and it's going to be fascinating to see the new quarterbacks in this division trying to catch up to the guy on the rise in Trevor Lawrence.