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Grading the 2017 NFL Draft: AFC South

By
Rob Rang, The Sports Xchange
Deshaun Watson poses for photographs after being selected by the Houston Texans as the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater in Philadelphia, PA on April 27, 2017. Photo by Derik Hamilton/UPI
Deshaun Watson poses for photographs after being selected by the Houston Texans as the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater in Philadelphia, PA on April 27, 2017. Photo by Derik Hamilton/UPI | License Photo

Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu.

It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend.

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But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a look at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2017 draft.

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AFC South

Houston Texans

The bold trade for national champion quarterback Deshaun Watson will determine whether this is a winning or losing draft for the Texans. Watson's intangibles and clutch play in big moments earned most of the attention but it was the surprisingly impressive mechanics he showed in pre-draft workouts that perhaps most intrigued head coach Bill O'Brien, suggesting that he could challenge Tom Savage for the starting role even as a rookie. Zach Cunningham lacks the imposing build that most prefer at linebacker, which is why he was available at No. 57 overall despite two first team All-SEC campaigns at Vanderbilt. I wasn't as high on D'Onta Foreman as some, believing that his monstrous 2016 campaign was as much a reflection about the quality of defense being played in the Big 12 as it was the Longhorn's raw talent but he should prove a quality handcuff to Lamar Miller in this scheme. Don't be surprised if trash-talking young corner Treston DeCoud surprises among Houston's Day Three picks.

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Grade: B-

Indianapolis Colts

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Throughout most of his time in the NFL, Andrew Luck has had little choice but to attempt to outscore opponents as the Colts' defense was unable to slow down anyone. Addressing the defense was clearly the top priority for first-year general manager Chris Ballard, who found a falling star in Malik Hooker to give the Colts a potentially dominant center fielder and a highly physical press cornerback in Quincy Wilson in the second round to complement Vontae Davis. MAC Defensive Player of the Year and Senior Bowl standout Tarell Basham will outplay his selection at No. 80 overall. An offensive line known more for its passivity will get a jolt of size, power and exuberance with the massive Zach Banner, a future starter. Marlon Mack adds juice to the backfield still reliant upon Frank Gore. The Colts nabbed one of the more intriguing sleepers in big man Grover Stewart. Hooker must clean up his aggressive pursuit angles but this is one of the year's best draft classes on paper.

Grade: A

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Like Ballard in Indianapolis, Tom Coughlin has brought a renewed focus on toughness and accountability to Jacksonville. His selection of LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and Oklahoma wideout Dede Westbrook are all the more interesting, as each of them come with questions about focus. If these three players commit to maximizing their naturally born talent, the Jaguars' offense could return to form in 2017. Dawuane Smoot has some natural pass rush ability but is joining a squad already gifted in that area. Blair Brown is an instinctive linebacker and Jalen Myrick offers intriguing upside.

Grade: B-

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Tennessee Titans

The Titans' offense was so reliant upon its running game in 2016 that it was clear that the club would focus on adding weapons for Marcus Mariota. It was a bit of an upset to see Corey Davis go fifth overall given that he was coming off ankle surgery that kept him from working out before the draft. Few will quibble with how high was selected, however, when the polished Davis quickly emerges as Mariota's favorite target. Conversely, Adoree' Jackson is raw despite the fact that he won the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back (giving up seven touchdowns in 2016, alone) but his elite athleticism and ball skills make him a possible difference-maker in the secondary and he certainly an immediate impact returner. Third-rounder Taywan Taylor should be able to feast in the slot with Jonnu Smith a nice complement (and eventual replacement) for the similarly built Delanie Walker. Of Tennessee's Day Three selections, I'm most intrigued by the local product, guard Corey Levin, who some scouts characterized as a poor man's Forrest Lamp.

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Grade: B+

Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for , a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.>www.NFLDraftScout.com

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