Tennessee Titans: Sizing up the AFC South after 2017 NFL Draft

Jan 1, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for a first down during the second half against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium. The Titans won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Following the 2017 NFL Draft, where do the Tennessee Titans stand according to the oddsmakers in relation to the rest of the AFC South?

The dust has settled. The draft grades are in. And the oddsmakers have weighed in once again about who they think will be the best teams moving forward. According to Betus.com, the Houston Texans have emerged as the odds-on favorites to win the AFC South at +1,000 to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

The Texans moved up in the first round of the draft to acquire Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. Tom Savage will open as the team’s starting quarterback and head coach Bill O’Brien has said the team won’t rush Watson into the lineup.

But considering the Texans mortgaged their future to acquire Watson, the first time Savage struggles — which is inevitable — the pressure will be great on O’Brien to go with the kid. And that’s when things will get dicey. Watson is a winner. He’s won at every level thus far.

The Texans also have a solid defense and what could be a nice one-two punch at running back with Lamar Miller and third-round pick D’Onta Foreman. But the quarterback position is such that the smart money won’t be on Houston. The Texans easily have the worst quarterback situation in the division and it’s still a quarterback-driven league.

Surprisingly, the Indianapolis Colts have the second-best odds to win the AFC Championship at +1,600. The Colts were quite active in free agency, but really, none of the players acquired were front-line guys. Indianapolis seemingly signed every backup or part-time starter available, hoping it could throw a bunch of guys against the wall and see who sticks.

First-round draft pick Malik Hooker was a gift at pick 15. Hooker dropped because of a run on offensive players ahead of him and a sports hernia and torn labrum in his hip. But he’ll bring much-needed playmaking ability to Indianapolis’ defense once the safety gets back on the field.

Second-round pick Quincy Wilson also will likely be in the starting lineup opposite Vontae Davis. He’s just the second cornerback the team has drafted in Chuck Pagano’s five seasons as head coach. The Colts also lost three of their top four sack producers from last season, so third-round pick Tarrell Basham, an edge rusher from Ohio, also has a chance to make an impact.

Even fourth-round pick, Zach Banner, an offensive tackle from USC, will have a chance to start, likely at right tackle, while another fourth-round pick, running back Marlon Mack, could contribute, as well. It’s going to be difficult for Pagano to bring all of those new moving pieces together on defense quickly — especially with limitations placed on offseason practices.

Quarterback Andrew Luck is very good. But can he be good enough to carry a defense that should be a work in progress? That’s doubtful unless Luck has a monster season.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans come in at +2,000 to win the AFC Championship. The Titans were stuck right in the middle of the run on offensive players early in the draft when they made the move to select receiver Corey Davis.

Some have argued that Davis was the only “No. 1 receiver” in this draft, whatever that means. Tell Antonio Brown that he’s not a No. 1 receiver. Tell T.Y. Hilton he’s not a No. 1 receiver. They come in all shapes and sizes. But the Titans didn’t really have one, so they wanted to make sure they acquired the one they wanted. Davis is one of the favorites to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Adoree’ Jackson, the cornerback the Titans selected with their second first-round pick at No. 18, also will likely make an impact this season. That will be particularly so as a return man. As a cornerback, Jackson is a work in progress. And he doesn’t solve the Titans’ need on the outside. He’s more of a slot cornerback.

Tennessee’s two third-round picks, receiver Taywan Taylor and tight end Jonnu Smith, also could make an impact on the offense.

For the Titans, defensive needs were largely addressed in free agency. This draft was about getting offensive weapons for quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans might be a slight favorite to win the division based on what they’ve done this offseason.

Given the quarterback situation in Houston and Indianapolis’ defensive deficiencies, the Jacksonville Jaguars should have the second-best odds within the division.

But nobody’s betting on Blake Bortles right now — not even the Jaguars. Numerous sources have said Jacksonville was interested in acquiring quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, meaning the team is close to giving up on Bortles. He’ll get one more shot to prove he can be a franchise quarterback and not just a player who puts up fourth quarter numbers.

First-round pick Leonard Fournette will help. The Jaguars tried to provide Bortles with a running game last season with the acquisition of Chris Ivory to pair with T.J. Yeldon. But both were nicked up at times and it didn’t work out. Fournette should provide a more stable running game. The defense also should be improved.

But the key for the Jaguars will be Bortles. If his first-half woes continue, Jacksonville will again struggle. If, however, the running game can help cover up for some of his deficiencies, Jacksonville could be a surprise contender.

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