Draft Grades

AFC South draft grades: Texans restock cupboard; will Jaguars' bold moves pay off?

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2022 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Dan's AFC South report card.

NOTE: Draft classes are displayed from best to worst within the division.

Grade
B+
Houston Texans
Total picks: 9

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The 2022 NFL Draft was a big moment for the Texans, who had made a first-round pick only once in the four drafts between 2018 and 2021. Trades for veteran players by the previous regime put the team in a purgatory of sorts, with limited resources to build a young core of talent. That time has come to an end. After trading Deshaun Watson to the Browns for a package of picks, general manager Nick Caserio might have delivered five future starters to the franchise with his work over the three days of selections, although Houston’s class does have a little bit of a boom-or-bust element to it. Three of the first four players the Texans drafted were picked significantly higher than they were ranked by NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah: Stingley (third overall pick; ranked 12th), Green (15th overall pick; ranked 36th) and Metchie (44th overall pick; ranked 73rd). If Stingley gets back to playing like he did as a freshman at LSU in 2019, there will be no debate over whether Caserio made the right call with the initial first-round pick of his tenure. Green has a chance to be a dominant road grader right off the bat, so I’m not going to quibble with taking a guard of his caliber so early. The Texans need players like him to take pressure off young quarterback Davis Mills, who will also benefit from eventually having Metchie, who is coming off an ACL tear, available in the slot. There was certainly solid value in the selections of Pitre, Harris and Pierce, who each have a good shot to become starters early in their careers. With so many needs, Houston had to take a best-player-available approach, and it did a nice job of finding prospects who can help push the team in a better direction.

Grade
B
Tennessee Titans
Total picks: 9

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The Titans were at the center of two of the most shocking developments of draft weekend. First, they traded Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Eagles, a blockbuster move but one we are not evaluating here under the prospect-focused parameters in this exercise. Then they ended up landing Willis -- who might be the best quarterback in the class -- late in Round 3. Given the former Liberty QB’s upside, that selection has a chance to go down as the best pick of the entire draft. It remains puzzling to me that Willis slid out of the top 85 in an era where we’re used to seeing passers get pushed up the board – including those who need time to develop at the next level -- because of the premium placed on the position. Even if he never develops into a quality QB1 after backing up Ryan Tannehill early on, the pick was well worth the risk at No. 86 overall. To give his quarterbacks a chance to succeed, general manager Jon Robinson absolutely had to draft a receiver in the first round after sending Brown to Philly. Burks has drawn comparisons to Brown. The fit made a lot of sense. McCreary went earlier than I expected but does provide nice depth at a marquee position, while Petit-Frere has been labeled as a high-ceiling/low-floor prospect and might not be able to challenge for a starting job right away. Tennessee did find the RB depth it needed on Day 3 in Haskins, who fits the brand as a back who brings some thump when he has the ball in his hands. I’m not sure the Titans nailed every pick, but my optimism about Willis long-term helps push this grade up a bit.

Grade
B
Indianapolis Colts
Total picks: 8

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The Colts have been crushed for trading their 2022 first-round pick for Carson Wentz (now a member of the Washington Commanders after a disappointing '21 campaign), but we won’t be piling on here since we’re not including trades for veteran players in our draft grades. General manager Chris Ballard did a decent job with the remaining capital he had at his disposal. He addressed the need opposite Michael Pittman Jr. with his first selection, landing a physical wideout in Pierce. The former Cincinnati star went a little earlier than I expected -- Indy passed on Skyy Moore, who went to Kansas City with the next pick -- but he has the potential to become a quality WR2 for Matt Ryan. It was wise to keep the focus on adding help for the 36-year-old quarterback with the first two of their three third-rounders. Woods is an ascending talent and Raimann was an excellent value. He might have fallen a bit because he’ll be an older rookie (turns 25 in September) but he has the tools to become a good starter at a marquee position. The defense finally got a jolt with the team’s final third-rounder. Cross could be an enforcer from the safety position for Indianapolis. Ballard plucked a postseason riser in Round 5. Johnson will be intriguing to monitor in camp as he makes the jump from Missouri State. I thought corner was one of Indianapolis’ top three needs this year, so it was a little disappointing to not see the team address the position. For the most part, though, the Colts made the most of their picks.

Grade
B-
Jacksonville Jaguars
Total picks: 7

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The Jaguars took NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks’ No. 4 edge rusher in the draft with the first overall pick. Obviously, that leads to some questions. Walker’s clearly a special talent. His stock skyrocketed after the college football season, as he shined brighter in workouts than he did during his time at Georgia, which fueled a classic debate on how to weigh a prospect’s game tape versus his athletic testing. I’m just not particularly confident that general manager Trent Baalke landed the best player available. Time will tell if Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux would have been a better choice. One thing we can be certain of: The Jaguars are now loaded at off-ball linebacker, a spot that some teams have seemed to not prioritize in recent years. After signing Foye Oluokun to a three-year, $45 million deal this offseason, Jacksonville traded back into Round 1 to nab Lloyd and then took Muma, who was unquestionably a value early in Round 3. Brooks believes Muma-to-Duval was one of the best player-team fits in the entire draft. I like both Lloyd -- the 2021 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year -- and Muma, but it just seemed a bit odd to go so heavy at LB when the team has needs elsewhere. Baalke did address the need for more offensive line help by adding a potential starting center in Fortner. He came off the board a bit earlier than I expected. I know the Jaguars spent a lot of money on skill-position players in free agency, but I was a little surprised they didn’t invest in more weaponry for Trevor Lawrence earlier. Perhaps Conner will become a key contributor as a short-yardage back in Doug Pederson’s offense.

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