Indianapolis Colts 8--8
This is an article from the Feb. 15, 2016 issue
TOP PRIORITY: OFFENSIVE LINE
It would really behoove GM Ryan Grigson to use an early draft pick here; his fleet of recent middle-round O-line selections has floundered. Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck took a decade's worth of body blows in 2015, when opposing defenses infiltrated with inside blitzes and pass-rushing stunts, tactics that force interior linemen to make quick adjustments. Luck's brilliance is in extending plays from the pocket; he needs blockers who can actually create and maintain one.
ALSO: DEFENSIVE BACK. Starting cornerback Greg Toler and free safety Dwight Lowery have expired contracts, and several key backup DBs do next year. Chuck Pagano likes matchup coverages, which demand one-on-one skills.
TENNESSEE TITANS 3--13
TOP PRIORITY: CORNERBACK
Jason McCourty is good, not great. The rest of the cornerbacking corps is a week-to-week proposition. Whether the Titans use a high draft pick or a middle-rounder at this position will be determined by how much of their scheme comes from defensive coordinator Ray Horton and how much from assistant head coach Dick LeBeau, who was brought in by the now-fired Ken Whisenhunt. Horton prefers man coverage concepts; top-round corners will be needed. LeBeau plays more matchup zone, meaning middle-rounders will do. Either way, new blood at this position can only help.
ALSO: DEFENSIVE LINE. The depth is iffy.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 5--11
TOP PRIORITY: EDGE RUSHER
With a talented young offense and underrated defensive back seven, the Jags are one defensive difference maker away from being a playoff contender. In a speed-oriented zone scheme like coach Gus Bradley's, the best way to amp up the playmaking is by an infusion of talent on the edge. The third pick in last year's draft, Dante Fowler, is coming off left ACL surgery, and Chris Clemons is average and probably not worth re-signing. The Jags like to loop their outside rushers around on long stunts, attacking the middle of the offensive line. Bradley needs players who are fast and lanky.
ALSO: CENTER. They'll have to acquire a new one if Stefan Wisniewski is not re-signed. (They could also use a development left tackle to push Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in 2013.)
HOUSTON TEXANS 9--7
TOP PRIORITY: RUNNING BACK
Obviously, Houston would jump at a potential franchise quarterback. But this well-coached team won nine games in both 2014 and '15 without one. Bill O'Brien and OC George Godsey could expand their offense with a dynamic, multifaceted backfield weapon—the sort they had inherited in Arian Foster, who has been unable to avoid injuries and will likely be released. The Texans need an upgrade over Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes, who lack speed and agility. They do have a hidden gem in speedster Akeem Hunt, who went undrafted in 2015, but he's better suited to a complementary role.
ALSO: INTERIOR O-LINE. RG Brandon Brooks and C Ben Jones are free agents.