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Undrafted Expansion Draft – AFC South

We are back, with your latest delicious helping of the Undrafted Expansion Draft, and we dive headfirst into the AFC South. Ant himself has a personal stake in this one representing his beloved Titans, the rest of us are looking for a way to usurp him atop the division. Who do we keep, who do we throw away? Any shocks both kept or thrown away? Join us on a journey into the teams, who stays, who goes, we decide. offense

Tennessee Titans – Ant

The season of success for my Titans meant that we won the division and made the playoffs from it. Then we came unstuck. The Offense was on fire all season but seemed to come to screeching halt against the Ravens when it mattered the most.

Image Credit – AP News

A successful season none the less, and something to build on going forward. With the Colts breathing down their necks the Titans will address some of the parts, mainly the defense, in the offseason, but question is, who is being kept and who is losing their place in Nashville. offense

Protected Players

  1. Derrick Henry
  2. Ryan Tannehill
  3. Jeffery Simmons
  4. Kevin Byard
  5. Jayon Brown
  6. Taylor Lewan
  7. AJ Brown
  8. Darrynton Evans
  9. Kristian Fulton
  10. Jonnu Smith

Offense

Derrick Henry

If you know me, you know I’m absolutely obsessed with King Henry. He was definitely one of the leading factors in my decision to support / follow the Tennessee Titans. 

Image Credit – The Athletic

This was without a doubt the easiest pick I have had to make throughout this whole series. Derrick Henry simply does all his talking on the football field. He’s a pure example of what a modern-day professional ‘should’ be like and an absolute idol in my eyes.

In his fifth season in the NFL, Henry had one of the best seasons for a running back in NFL history. With over 2000 yards rushing (fifth all time now), he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year and named to his second Pro Bowl. The only thing missing from having the ultimate year was an MVP accolade, Superbowl MVP and going to the super Bowl. Despite this it was remarkable what he managed to achieve. King Henry was an absolute leader in both the dressing room and on the football field.

Henry would make the roster for any team in the NFL and that’s why I’m saving him. The Titans offence would be below average without him which shows his importance to the team. Would they make the play offs without him? Never. This further shows how much of a weapon he is, with his pounding ground game combined with pure speed and agility. He wears down defences and comes up big usually in the 4th quarter when everyone else is dead on their feet. offense

I could sit here and talk all day about him …. 

Ryan Tannehill

When Tannehill made the switch from the Dolphins to the Titans, no one believed he would be a hit. 

To say that Tannehill has been a better quarterback with the Titans than he was with the Miami Dolphins is an understatement. In some ways, he has been unrecognisable, not to mention a difference-maker for a team that has won a division title and played for a conference championship with him under centre. Behind King Henry, Tannehill is the most important piece of the Titans puzzle. 

The question that keeps get thrown about is does this make him a system QB? Isn’t every QB a system QB? Who knows… it just works. The system, the play calling and the players around him have given Tannehill the basis to be among the elite QB’s in the league. 

The stats don’t lie. Ryan is one of the Highest Graded QB’s in play-action since 2019 (only behind league MVP Aaron Rodgers). Combine this with a PFF grade of 90 or better in back-to-back seasons and leading the ‘yards per pass attempts’ among all QB’s in the league just shows his efficiency. Another big part of Tannehill’s game is his ability to pull the ball down and run with it, on top of some designed runs we’ve seen. offense

Another easy save for my team. A player the Titan’s cannot afford to lose anytime soon.

Taylor Lewan

My next save comes as no surprise. Taylor Lewan!

The Titan’s did well to cover the loss of Lewan during the 2020 season. But it’s not something they should wish to happen again. When it got to crunch time in the play offs, they would have killed to have had Lewan available against the Raven’s. It could have been a different story … 

Image Credit – USA Today

There are not many OT in the NFL who do their jobs better than three-time Pro Bowl Left Tackle Taylor Lewan. He brings attitude and pure physicality to the position, combined with superb athleticism. Bringing elite level in both the passing and rushing attack, his versatility complements the Titan’s offensive scheme hugely.

AJ Brown

Where do you start with the season A.J Brown had? With Henry providing the physicality in the ground game, Brown decided to start showing it in the passing gaming. He was the only regular starting receiver in the NFL to break one tackle per six receptions or fewer on average. Combine that with 19 receiving touchdowns his output is hugely impressive and reliability for Tannehill was clear to see. 

At 23 years old, his NFL career is whatever he wants it to be, he’s that good and has that much raw ability. With back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and a Pro Bowl Honour in the mix, Brown is a player the Titan’s need to plan to keep for the long haul which is why he is probably one of my most important 10 protects.

Darrynton Evans

I make the choice to hold on to Darrynton Evans as I believe he is a potential breakout candidate for the 2021 season with Injuries limiting his output this season. 

Image Credit – Titans Wire – USA Today

Behind Henry in the pecking order, Evans’ speed adds another dynamic to the Titans’ offense. With A.J. Brown, and Derrick Henry being protected, the offense is already full of size. Evans, who is 5’10”, brings speed and elusiveness behind Henry. 

Week 15 versus the Lions, Evans finally managed to take to the field to show the Titans what he can do, given the chance. In Henry and Evans, they could have a lethal one-two punch at running back in the making, for years to come. 

Jonnu Smith

I absolutely love Jonnu Smith. What’s not to love. But protecting him for my team is not down to the fact I love him, it’s fully deserved. 

Jon Robinson did a stellar job drafting him in the 2017 draft. Coming in behind Delanie Walker would have been a tough feat to follow, but Smith stepped up to the No 1 a few years later and never looked back. 

In the Titan’s offence Smith has really flourished. His attitude to blocking and impacting the run game for Henry to capitalise on, combined with his impressive route running ability in the pass game makes him a proper team player. 

The Titans have to keep Jonnu Smith, it’s not even up for discussion.

Defense

Jeffery Simmons

My next protected player has been big boy Jeffery Simmons. Having drafted Simmons in the 2019 draft, he took a massive step forward this year to becoming a truly great defensive lineman for the Titans and filling the void Jurrell Casey left. 

Image Credit – A to Z Sports Nashville

Jeffery Simmons was a force and a major disruptor, finishing with three sacks, 14 QB hits and a combined 49 tackles, with five passes defended. The only thing holding Simmons back is the lack of weapons around him. As the season went on, offences began to account for his disruption at the line of scrimmage and used double / triple teams to control him. 

Now it’s up to general manager Jon Robinson to surround his superstar lineman with more weapons in the Titan’s front seven in order to help Simmons flourish. 

Kevin Byard

The Tennessee defence struggled hard this year and did not live up to expectations, nor the standards expected by defensive minded Head Coach Mike Vrabel. Every third down you knew would result in a new set of downs as the team struggled to contain the pass and get off the field. 

This has no bearing on my decision to save Kevin Byard who is in my eyes one of the best ball-hawking safeties in the league on his day. Reinforced by the fact he led the league in interceptions over the past three seasons.   

The thing with being a safety is you rely on the guys upfront to bring the pressure for you to be able to capitalise on the panic decisions made by the QB. The pressure wasn’t this year and that explains everything. 

Jayon Brown

Jayon Brown falls into the Titan’s free agency class this off season. I’m just not willing to let this man go. Moving on from Brown would likely make what’s already a bad defence worse. 

Image Credit – Tennessee Titans

When the Titans drafted Jayon Brown in the 5th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, he quickly became a starter with his ability to come downhill and impact the run game while also serving as the team’s main coverage Linebacker. This made Brown an every down type player. Which is vital for consistency and continuity for a defence, especially in the LB position. As a result of this ability to stay on the field, he is the defences main play caller by all accounts and a heavy communicator on the field.

Brown is still in the prime of his career at just 26 years old. The Titans have a couple of other good Linebackers on the roster, but make no mistake, Brown is their best Linebacker in every area of the game.

Protect. Protect. Protect.

Kristian Fulton

Another player drafted in the 2020 NFL draft but had his season impacted by injuries. This is the one I was most excited about as he dropped to the second round and the Titans swopped in. 

Fulton was nailed on to start in the slot with Adoree Jackson this year, but injuries halted his progression. Fulton is a technically-sound cornerback with a solid physicality in press and can also play in off-man. He is a hugely talented player and given the right people around him that can keep him on the straight and narrow the Titans have a fabulous player available. 

With the glimpses of talent and performances he displayed at the start of the season before the injuries plagued him, I’m going to go with my gut on this one and protect him for the Titans. Sometimes you have to believe in the rookies. Put it this way Adoree Jackson isn’t getting any younger…

Indianapolis Colts – Chris

The Colts finished the regular season 11-5, therefore qualifying for the playoffs. The season was full of up’s and down’s in Indy, culminating in a playoff defeat to Buffalo in the Wild Card Round.

Image Credit – Indianapolis Colts

The defeat to the Bills, however, was full of positives. The Colts put up a serious fight, losing 27-24, but they really showed character and nearly managed to earn a result.

Protected Players

  1. Jonathan Taylor
  2. Darius Leonard
  3. TY Hilton
  4. Quenton Nelson
  5. Kenny Moore II
  6. Michael Pittman Jr.
  7. Jack Doyle
  8. Rodrigo Blankenship
  9. Khari Willis
  10. DeForest Buckner

Once again this was a massively tough decision. I’ve gone for youth, as like I touched on, I believe this will be the start of something big in Indy. offense offense offense offense

Offense

Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor was nothing short of spectacular during his first season in the NFL. In his rookie season, Taylor managed over 1,000 yards with 11 touchdowns. Not only did Taylor do the rushing work for his team, he also amassed 300 receiving yards, with a receiving touchdown.

Image Credit – 1070 The Fan

With JT improving by the week, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can produce in the upcoming season. I personally think he will make the 2021 All-Pro team, and once again make the playoffs with the Colts.

TY Hilton

In 2020, Hilton once again was the go-to man for Philip Rivers, managing 762 yards with 5 touchdowns.

I believe his future in Indianapolis may be in doubt, however if he does stay in Indy, he will be another vital weapon in the Colts offense.

If he does however venture in a different direction, he will be leaving massive shoes for someone to fill.

Quenton Nelson

Quenton Nelson has been in the National Football League for 3 seasons.

Quenton Nelson has been selected for the All Pro first team in each of those 3 years.

Image Credit – Stampede Blue

At just 24, he’s already one of the best guards in the game. A massive cog in the wheel of the offense, Nelson will continue learning and improving with every game he plays. Once again, I believe he will have a standout season for the Colts and be crucial in the team’s post season chances.

Michael Pittman Jr

MPJ is a player I have followed for a few years now, mainly thanks to his YouTube channel he shares with his wife.

As I have been watching his video’s, I’ve also seen the massive strides he’s made in progressing as a top-class wide receiver. During the 2020 campaign, Pittman suffered an injury which kept him out for a number of games, however he was back in time for the Playoff games against the Bills and seemed to be the standout WR for the game. He’s really impressed me during 2020, and I think he will be crucial if TY Hilton does leave Indy.

Jack Doyle

Jack Doyle is a fantastic tight end. What you see with him is what you get. 2020 wasn’t his strongest season as a pro, however he still makes my top 10 quite comfortably. Another player who I think will have a huge 2021 and be a big player if the Colts are to make the post season.

Image Credit – Colts Wire – USA Today

Rodrigo Blankenship

Rodrigo Blankenship. What a whirlwind 2020 this man has had.

Hot Rod was undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, however the Colts soon snapped him up. This proved an excellent decision, with Blankenship becoming the Colts’ all-time leading rookie scorer in a single season.

Known for his iconic glasses, Hot Rod will be easy to keep an eye out for in 2021, where I again expect him to carry on progressing into one of the best kickers in the NFL.

Defense

Darius Leonard

Since joining the league in 2018, Darius Leonard has been nothing short of spectacular for the Colts.

In his rookie year, his performances earned him NFL Defensive Rookie of The Year, and also a spot in 2018 All-Pro first team.

Image Credit – Horseshoe Heroes

Like much of this Indy roster, Leonard is still young at 25, and I believe his best years are still to come. An absolute beast in this side, Leonard will be looking for more sacks in 2021.

Kenny Moore II

Kenny Moore II joined the NFL after he went undrafted in 2017. After a pre-season in New England, the Colts snapped him up, and this turned out to be a shrewd move.

Moore has since been a consistent figure in the first team, proving his worth over his 3 seasons in Indianapolis.

2020 was a standout year for the cornerback, having made 50 tackles, and 2 interceptions for his side, despite missing 6 games of the season.

Khari Willis

I know I keep mentioning it, but it really is crazy how much potential is in this team. Khari Willis, another 24-year-old, was picked up in the 4th round of the 2019 draft.

Image Credit – Colts Wire – USA Today

Ever since then, Willis has clocked up 156 tackles in 2 seasons, and Colts fans can see the clear improvement he made in his second year, earning praise from the Indy faithful.

Another who I believe will come into his own during his third year in the league, becoming a standout star. offense offense offense offense offense offense offense offense offense offense

DeForest Buckner

Last but not least, the absolute beast that is DeForest Buckner.

Colts signed the former round 1 draft pick from San Francisco 49ers last year, and he certainly hit the ground running.

Buckner made the All-Pro 1st team in his first season with the Colts, making a massive 9.5 sacks in the 15 games he played, with 3 coming against the Houston Texans, on Deshaun Watson.

The 2nd highest paid defensive tackle in the league does his job and does his job well. Probably the most important player on this Indy defence.

Houston Texans – Adam

Looks like we may as well call it “Dumpster Fire Central” in the Hilton household at the moment. The Jets last time and now everyone’s favourite sideshow, the Houston Texans. Having scraped through last year, somehow managing 4 wins, I now get to take a look at what remains of a once promising squad.

Following the worst trade of all-time last year, shipping Hopkins to Arizona for peanuts, Deshaun Watson carried a largely turgid offense through the season and even a rallying cry from J.J. Watt towards the end could not inspire much in the way of a spark. I feel sorry for those two, they are far better than this team. It’s no surprise that they won’t be wearing Texan blue come opening day of the 2021 season.

Image Credit – PaperCity Magazine

Watt has already made his exit. The Texans allowing him his release was the most stand up thing they have done in a while. “Thank you J.J., you’ve given your all, you can go”. He instantly improves the Cardinals and Hopkins is reunited with his buddy. offense

Watson has made his position perfectly clear and whilst it is true that the Texans hold some of the cards it is not as many as you would think. The no-trade clause in Watson’s contract means he effectively chooses where he goes. The interesting thing will be if it is only teams, he doesn’t fancy joining who make a move for him. Does he then suck it up and play? The other options are 1) to take a move he doesn’t fancy or 2) to sit out the year, not accrue a contract year and lose a shedload of money whilst then having to do this all over again next year.

Texans-wise, it is a total rebuild for this team so without further ado, who is brought along for the ride? offense

Protected Players

  1. DeShaun Watson
  2. Brandin Cooks
  3. David Johnson
  4. Laremy Tunsil
  5. Keke Coutee
  6. Whitney Merciless
  7. Zack Cunningham
  8. Benardrick McKinney
  9. Bradley Roby
  10. Justin Reid

Offense

Deshaun Watson

This is a player that is protected purely for the trade value he offers. He will not be a Texan next year but letting him go early would cost the franchise probably 3 first round picks, not acceptable. It is time he is able to go and flourish for a team who will allow him to challenge to achieve the goals his potential deserves. offense

Image Credit – CBS Sports

If the Texans can do the impossible and keep him around then they have a foundational, franchise Quarterback for the next 10 years. Chances of that happening? I think it is more likely that we see the Devil in ice skates to be honest.

Brandin Cooks

He comes with a big cap hit but with Watson off the books Cooks is affordable. Whoever takes Watson’s sport will need a lot of help and Cooks has been a reliable Number one receiver for the majority of his career. Concussion worries do exist but, on his day, he is a better than average receiver and could quickly become the favourite target on the team.

David Johnson

Image Credit – ESPN

This is not the David Johnson of a few years ago. That said last year down the stretch he showed enough that he is worth bringing back. Perhaps on a team with more good players he wouldn’t make it but let’s give the running back room some help and experience to utilise.

Laremy Tunsil

One of the better Left Tackles in the league by quite a way he is going nowhere. Although the Texans overpaid for him, he can be the anchor for the O-line for the foreseeable. Having the Left Tackle sport sorted is a weight off any team’s mind.

Keke Coutee

Image Credit – Battle Red Blog

Bill O’Brien seemed not to like this guy. Why? I couldn’t tell you as his production when he was given a chance was pretty good. The team is losing Will Fuller and does not have much else in the way of a receiver room. Coutee is going to be a cheap effective option for the next couple of years for the new look Texans.

Defense

Whitney Mercilus

Whilst not hitting the sack numbers of a few years ago Mercilus is all that remains from the glory days of Watt, Clowney and himself. He is a player who will be cheap to move on from next year should his production dip but that is not necessarily expected. Age indicates use as a more situational rusher at this stage in his career but the experience and leadership he brings is invaluable. This guy can educate younger players on what it takes to play well in this league.

Zach Cunningham and Benardrick McKinney

Linebacker will be a position of relative strength for the Texans after this exercise. Cunningham and McKinney have both put up good numbers for years now. Although he missed much of 2020 McKinney put up over 100 tackles in 2018 and 2019 and that should be expected upon his return to fitness in 2021.

Image Credit – Pro Football Network

Cunningham’s numbers have increased every year since being drafted and he hit over 100 last year for the first time. He offers good speed and presence against the run and is a great complement to McKinney. These two should be around for the long haul.

Bradley Roby

He ended last season suspended and has the threat of a full 16 game suspension hanging over him should he be caught again. That said, despite his spotty play last year, he is the team’s best Corner. It is not really even close. When I am doing these articles some thought goes into maintaining continuity at most levels. Roby is better than he has played recently and with a potential out after next year I will give him one last year to prove himself.

Justin Reid

Image Credit – Toro Times

Reid may will be the best young defensive player this team has. Although he didn’t start last year well, he ended in much better form. Whilst other areas of the team are sorted out Reid offers some security at the back. He is only the 3rd Defensive Back in franchise history to record 75 tackles in each of his first 3 seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Tom

 In our latest piece I am taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team which struggled all year last year and will go into this offseason in full rebuild mode. They are however quite the attractive option for a fantasy draft. They have some good pieces on both sides of the ball, and with the upcoming number 1 pick likely to be Trevor Lawrence, they should be all set at Quarterback for years to come.

Image Credit – SB Nation

Let’s have a look then at the 10 players I would save in the hopes of building around a potentially generational talent.

Protected Players

  1. James Robinson
  2. Laviska Shenault Jr.
  3. DJ Chark
  4. Myles Jack
  5. DaWuane Smoot
  6. Josh Jones
  7. Tre Herndon
  8. Andrew Wingard
  9. DaVon Hamilton
  10. Joe Schobert

I can quite comfortably say this will be the youngest overall team in the picks, with the oldest player on the keep pile being Joe Schobert at 27 years old. The whole team is young and while they were a 1-15 team last year, they were more competitive than they will get credit for. There is a long way to go, but with stars like Myles Jack in their ranks, the sky is the limit.

Notable omissions for people like Gardner Minshew and Keelan Cole just show that this team is worth a full rebuild and why not begin with some of their more recently drafted players.

Offense

James Robinson

Image Credit – The Draft Wire – USA Today

Not many teams cut the number 4 overall pick after 2 out of 3 seasons rushing over 1000 yards and look smart to do so. Now granted Leonard Fournette did win the Superbowl on his first try elsewhere, however that does not mean it still was not the right decision. The Jags replaced him with James Robinson, who as an undrafted Rookie rushed for 1070 yards, and it looked like it came easily to him too.

Laviska Shenault Jr.

With their second round pick last year, Jacksonville grabbed a future piece of the receiving core for Trevor Lawrence in Laviska Shenault Jr. The Jaguars struggled all year, however he still managed to collect 5 touchdowns and 600 yards in his Rookie outing in only 14 games. Gardner Minshew tries his best but expect that production to go way up next time out.

DJ Chark

Image Credit – The Denver Post

The Batman to Shenault Jrs Robin, Chark is the big bodied receiver that Quarterbacks dream of. T-Law will need himself some gamebreakers and with the right Quarterback under centre, DJ Chark can absolutely be that player. In 39 career games, he already has 1888 receiving yards on a team with double digit losses in all three of his seasons in the league.

Defense

Myles Jack

Since entering the league in 2016, Jack has been one of the stars on a distinctly average Jacksonville Jaguars team. A player with serious name value, he has posted solid numbers since winning the starting job in 2017 and is the leader of an extremely young defense. Look for him to lead the charge alongside the new wave of player into the future for Jacksonville.

DaWuane Smoot

Image Credit – Last Word on Sports

Another young player who is beginning to carve out a serious role within the team is DaWuane Smoot. With 11.5 sacks in his last two years, he is one of the Jaguars main sources of pressure chasing down the Quarterback. While 5.5 sacks are far from all-pro, his 17 Quarterback hits show he is in the backfield and those numbers are ready to jump up to the next level.

Josh Jones

Jones has found himself bouncing around the league, first drafted by Green Bay in 2017, 2 years later onto the Cowboys and now having just completed his 1st season in Jacksonville. In his inaugural season, he managed to carve out a role as the starting Strong Safety for quite frankly a bad team. With Jacksonville in a transitional rebuild though and at 26 years old, I would be keeping him around.

Tre Herndon

Image Credit – Jaguars Wire – USA Today

A player showing how the draft does not always spell success is Tre Herndon. Undrafted in 2018, he has begun to make a name for himself in Jacksonville. Becoming the number 1 corner for the Jags this offseason has meant that he is targeted more, however he looks like he has the ability to lockdown the job. Combining for 76 tackles including 4 for a loss is solid numbers for a team who struggled all last year.

Andrew Wingard

Another undrafted player (this is becoming a theme) to land in Jacksonville is Free Safety Andrew Wingard. He only managed 4 starts last year, however that still did not stop him collecting 2 interceptions and 3 tackles for a loss. Another player who is young, he is only 24, the Jags have a core group with something to prove.

DaVon Hamilton

Image Credit – Black and Teal

A monster in the middle, Hamilton assumed the role of Nose Tackle in his Rookie year with the Jaguars and while his numbers are not flashy, he is an integral piece in what is a team starting from scratch. The theme of this set of players is they are all young, they are hungry for success and after going 1-15 will feel they have something prove. Watch this space for Hamilton to lead the charge.

Joe Schobert

The old guard of this list, at 27 years old, is a tackling machine, Schobert just never stops bringing people to the ground. In his 5 years in the league, excluding his Rookie season he has managed over 100 combined tackles every year, including 141 in his first season with the Jaguars. Schobert alongside Myles Jack make this pairing of Middle Linebackers one of the better pairs in the league.

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