2014 record: 9-7, 2nd place AFC South
Key additions: Brian Hoyer, Vince Wilfork, Cecil Shorts
Key losses: Andre Johnson, Brooks Reed, Chris Meyers
Top draft pick: Kevin Johnson
The Good: J.J. Watt was the best player in football last year and was an absolute terror to opposing offenses. DeAndre Hopkins played well last season also, finishing up as the No. 12 wide receiver, allowing the Texans to release longtime receiver Andre Johnson.
The Bad: Watt’s 107.5 overall grade skews the Texans team ranks as a whole. Also, last year’s first overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney is still injured. Losing Arian Foster for the start of the season will also stifle the offense, as Alfred Blue was among the bottom of the league ranks at running back.
The Ugly: You may as well take your bathroom break or go find some food when this team is on offense. New acquisitions Brian Hoyer and Cecil Shorts were both subpar in 2014. Brian Cushing has also seen quite the fall from grace after moving to the inside.
Much like the Carolina Panthers, the Texans has a competitive defense, but the team’s struggles on offense will hold them back. It’s a shame that Watt can’t play all 22 positions, because that may be the only way this team could be seen as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
2014 record: 11-5, 1st place AFC South
Key additions: Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw
Key losses: Trent Richardson, Reggie Wayne, Gosder Cherilus, A.Q. Shipley
Top draft pick: Phillip Dorsett
The Good: Vontae Davis was second only to Chris Harris in cornerback rankings last season and didn’t allow a single touchdown all year. Plus, Andrew Luck is by far the best quarterback in this division, finishing 2014 as the No. 9 ranked signal caller. If the offense stalls, Pat McAfee is one of the league’s top punters.
The Bad: Aside from Anthony Castonzo, this offensive line is terrible, especially on the interior. Additionally, Frank Gore is on the downswing of his career. This mixture of a bad offensive line and bad running game spells disaster.
The Ugly: The front seven is horrific. D’Qwell Jackson made the Pro Bowl despite being among the league’s worst inside linebackers and Arthur Jones struggles on the defensive line. Luckily, Bjoern Werner will not be starting this season after the Colts signed Trent Cole in the offseason.
The Colts are likely to repeat as division champions because of Luck, but the Colts need to bring in more talent before they waste his best years. Because of this, there are a number of directions the Colts could go in for the draft, but keep an eye on defensive ends DeForest Buckner (Oregon) and Shawn Oakman (Baylor) as potential draft targets.
2014 record: 3-13, 3rd place AFC South
Key additions: Julius Thomas, Jermey Parnell, Stefen Wisniewski, Jared Odrick
Key losses: Cecil Shorts, Ace Sanders, Justin Blackmon (suspended)
Top draft pick: Dante Fowler
The Good: Jacksonville quietly made several quality moves this offseason, adding four new starters on defense, three of which received a positive grade last season. Jermey Parnell was a big addition for the offensive line as he finished 2014 with a 8.2 grade while playing with Dallas. The Jaguars were led by rookies last season, none of which played better than right guard Brandon Linder. The third round draft pick ended the year as the No. 10 guard in the NFL.
The Bad: This roster is lacking in talent across the board. Tyson Alualu was a bottom-10 defensive end last year and will be kicked inside for this season. Paul Posluszny was playing poorly before landing on injured reserve at the end of the year, as he does every season.
The Ugly: Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles was the worst quarterback in the NFL last season. It didn’t help much that Luke Joeckel was also one of the worst left tackles in the league. To add to the plague of poor players on offense, Allen Hurns ended 2014 ranked 104th out of 110 wide receivers.
A lot of the poor play by the Jaguars can be chalked up to youth. Jacksonville has one of the league’s youngest teams and will likely take their lumps again, but they have the potential to have a core of Bortles, Allen Robinson and rookie running back T.J. Yeldon if they all improve. If Joeckel flops again, expect them to look for tackles Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame) and Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss) in the draft.
2014 record: 2-14, 4th place AFC South
Key additions: Brian Orakpo, Perrish Cox, Harry Douglas, Da’Norris Searcy, Anthony Fasano
Key losses: Jake Locker, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Kamerion Wimbley
Top draft pick: Marcus Mariota
The Good: Derrick Morgan may have finally found his role on this team. In his first year under a 3-4 defense, Morgan finished as the league’s No. 8 3-4 outside linebacker. Jurrell Casey is the best player on the team and is virtually unknown around the league because he plays for the Titans. The Titans also made a few upgrades on defense, adding Da’Norris Searcy, Perrish Cox and Brian Orakpo. Tennessee also saw a lot of addition by subtraction on this roster. Jake Locker and Kamerion Wimbley retired and Shonn Greene was cut after a pair of disappointing seasons.
The Bad: Andy Levitre played poorly again for Tennessee and is reportedly a cut candidate. Michael Griffin has been polarizing at safety. He was awful last season, finishing with a grade of -15.7. He has received poor marks in two of the last three seasons.
The Ugly: The Titans had to deal with the nightmare of Michael Oher last season and somehow downgraded this offseason. Tennessee and Carolina essentially swapped disappointing tackles as Oher signed with Carolina and Byron Bell inked a contract with Tennessee. Last year, as a left tackle, Bell had the second-worst grade among NFL tackles.
Tennnessee is in rebuild mode in the post-Jake Locker era. Marcus Mariota was drafted and immediately named the starter, so the team will deal with the growing pains that comes with a rookie quarterback. The Titans made a lot of improvements this offseason and will win a few games, but they aren’t ready to compete yet. Expect them to target a pass rusher in the draft next season. Keep an eye on Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun.
Final Predcted Standings: