The Colts must rebuild the roster and are restructuring the staff (coaching, personnel and administrative) in a way that is akin to an expansion franchise. This team has been gutted from top to bottom and will be starting from scratch.
The good news is Colts fans are the luckiest, getting to watch a Hall of Fame quarterback take the franchise to years of double-digit wins and a Super Bowl, then finding themselves ready to draft another generational pick in Andrew Luck.
Luck will likely start from the first snap. He will struggle like Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman did in their rookie years.
Aikman and Manning had a combined record of 3-24 as rookies. Both of them were on drafted to better teams than the one Luck is going to.
The Colts will be able to wrap the needed talent around Luck quickly enough to give him a chance to grow and display his considerable talents. Let’s just hope he can avoid being beaten up the way David Carr (the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans in 2002) was when he was sacked 76 times in his rookie year.
First-year head coach Chuck Pagano and new general manager Ryan Grigson have a pretty easy task in this draft after taking Luck. Easy because no matter what position they take, it will fill a need on this team.
Drafting: 7th Pick
When the Jaguars traded away their second-round pick to take quarterback Blaine Gabbert, it sealed head coach Jack Del Rio’s fate. It’s not that it was a bad selection, but to expect a rookie quarterback to elevate an average team in a year that the owner said the head coach had to go to the playoffs to save his job seemed sporting at best.
Of the quarterbacks taken in the first round after Cam Newton in 2011, Gabbert looked the most suspect.
The Jags signed Chad Henne this year as a backup just to cover themselves.
Head coach Mike Mularkey inherits a top-10 defense and will also get an opportunity to see if he can tap into Gabbert’s potential.
The defense has been reinforced via free agency with the re-signing of cornerback Rashean Mathis and the signing of Aaron Ross. They also re-signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey and free safety Dwight Lowery. The biggest need appears to be at wide receiver, even though they did sign Laurent Robinson from Dallas.
It’s unlikely the Jags will have the option of taking Justin Blackmon with the seventh pick, and he’s the only receiver worthy of going in the top 10.
They will have their pick of the top offensive linemen after Matt Kalil. Riley Reiff, Jonathan Martin or David DeCastro would be solid picks, but wouldn’t fill a top need. They will likely pass on running back Trent Richardson.
Drafting: 20th pick
The Titans exceeded expectations in 2011.
Not many people thought Tennessee would make come close to the playoffs after drafting Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick. Matt Hasselbeck was outstanding, but Locker was able to get some playing time.
The No. 1 question still remains at quarterback. Clearly, Locker is the quarterback of the future, but if they totally transition in that direction they may have a more difficult time actually making the postseason in 2012.
Whichever direction they go, they must address the interior of the offensive line, especially at center.
Leroy Harris and Jake Scott are not much better at the guard position so they may have to take a two-prong approach to filling their needs. They did sign veteran guard Steve Hutchinson, but will probably have to address this in the draft with a couple of picks.
Unfortunately, with the 20th pick there may be limited options to address the interior offensive line.
They could reach and get Cordy Glenn from Georgia, who is climbing up draft boards. Many project him as an offensive tackle, but he could start inside at guard. Their other need is at defensive end, which is also scarce in this draft. They could look at safety Mark Barron from Alabama to go along with the decision of franchising Michael Griffin.
Two players to watch on the interior of the line in the second round are Midwestern State’s Amini Silatolu or Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele.
Finished: 10-6 Eliminated in the Divisional Round
Drafting: 26th pick
The Texans are in pretty good shape after a 10-6 season.
They weren’t really active in free agency, but traded away starting linebacker DeMeco Ryans for a fourth-round pick and swapped third-round picks with the Eagles.
Replacing Mario Williams has to be the first priority and they could use a true nose tackle to build around Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme. Safety Glover Quin got exposed at times, so they could upgrade at that position as well.
Offensively, they need to shore up the interior of the line to keep Matt Schaub healthy and could use another wide receiver threat to balance with Andre Johnson. They did re-sign center Chris Myers.
The Texans have drafted well lately and hit two home runs with J.J. Watt (11th overall) and Brooks Reed (42nd overall). Ben Tate proved to be a good pick in the second round in 2010, but they need cornerback Brandon Harris, also a late second rounder in 2011, to step up.
They would love for Dontari Poe to fall to them, but that’s unlikely.
Whitney Mercilus could be a good edge presence for them, but he has limited tape and might be a bit of a risk. Kendall Wright from Baylor would fit the bill at receiver and would be a great threat opposite Johnson.
If they don’t get defensive end addressed in the first round, Vinny Curry or Jared Crick might be an option in the second.