Flash-forward: AFC South strong 2009 draft

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jun 16, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar
Cold, Hard Football Facts font of knowledge


After looking at a few bad divisional drafts, the AFC South’s collective efforts in 2009 are a breath of fresh air. Let it serve as a reminder that the draft can work. We actually have players that have been productive and are still active members of each team to talk about.
 
The AFC South’s draft included some key picks that helped lead to an AFC championship in Indianapolis, the controversial Defensive Rookie of the Year in Houston, and significant starting contributions for both Tennessee and Jacksonville.
 
2009 Draft Reviews
Part I: NFC North
Part II: AFC North
Part III: NFC South
 
Notes: Players listed in bold are still on the active roster of the team that drafted them. A player with his games played (GP) and games started (GS) listed in red has appeared in games for a team other than his draft team. “CarAV” refers to data from the Approximate Value system at Pro-Football-Reference.com. References to snap data credited to Pro Football Focus.

4. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Injuries have slowed promising class which includes a Painter and a punter

Coming off another playoff season, the Colts went with their third choice of a first-round running back in 11 years (Edgerrin James in 1999; Joseph Addai in 2006) when they picked Connecticut’s Donald Brown.
 
At the time, it seemed like a good move, as Joseph Addai and the running game were completely impotent in 2008. Brown was a workhorse in college, and the Colts had their most success in 2006 with a committee approach to the running game (the rookie Addai and veteran Dominic Rhodes).
 
However, Brown is probably only known for two things to this point. First, it was Peyton Manning barking “God damnit Donald!” during a playoff game his rookie season. The next would be his 80-yard touchdown run to clinch the Colts’ first win of 2011 against Tennessee.
 
The best part of the draft came in the middle rounds when the Colts selected Jerraud Powers and Austin Collie. However, injuries have taken away from each player’s potential to be major building blocks for the franchise. Collie could have had an All-Pro season in 2010, and Powers was unable to finish Super Bowl XLIV as Drew Brees picked apart the secondary.

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 27 Donald Brown RB Connecticut 40 11 13 Indianapolis
2 56 Fili Moala DT USC 40 31 12 Indianapolis
3 92 Jerraud Powers CB Auburn 34 34 9 Indianapolis
4 127 Austin Collie WR BYU 41 16 17 Indianapolis
4 136 Terrance Taylor DT Michigan 0 0 0 None (AFL)
6 201 Curtis Painter QB Purdue 11 8 2 Baltimore
7 222 Pat McAfee P West Virginia 47 0 0 Indianapolis
7 236 Jaimie Thomas OG Maryland 8 0 1 None
 
Best Pick: WR Austin Collie (4.127) - A name we continue to mention in this series for all the teams that passed on him, this receiver out of BYU had a great transition to the NFL and Peyton Manning’s offense. After having 676 yards and 7 TD as a rookie, Collie was prolific in 2010, catching 58 of the 71 passes intended for him (81.7 percent). But due to multiple concussions from big hits, Collie missed seven full games and at least half of three more games. Without Manning last season, his production of course dropped (catch rate of 56.3 percent; one TD), but a healthy Collie paired with Andrew Luck could be a strong duo for years to come in Indianapolis.
 
Worst Pick: RB Donald Brown (1.27) - He has only rushed for 1,423 yards in 40 games (35.6 yards per game) and scored 10 touchdowns. In the new Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians era, Brown may see his workload increase, creating an opportunity to start living up to the first-round expectations. So far, he has not. While the Colts’ draft strategy was logical at the time, hindsight suggests taking WR Hakeem Nicks (1.29) would have been an incredible selection as a replacement for the retired Marvin Harrison, and to pair him up with Reggie Wayne. Instead, little brother Eli has reaped the benefits while Peyton got someone that made him swear on national television.

The Others

DT Fili Moala (2.56) - The Colts have clawed for years to find a good pair of interior linemen. Moala sat a lot as a rookie (played 187 snaps), and since becoming the starter, he has struggled against the run despite being a bigger lineman than the usual undersized players Indianapolis targets. Moala is inching closer to “bust” status and needs a big sign of improvement in 2012.
 
CB Jerraud Powers (3.92) - He was arguably the best CB on the team as a rookie. Injuries have limited Powers’ career. He has missed 14 regular season games due to injury, along with two full playoff games (he also only played a quarter of the defensive snaps in Super Bowl XLIV). Powers has finished the last two seasons on injured reserve.
 
DT Terrance Taylor (4.136) - Taylor never made the Colts’ 53-man roster, and never played in a NFL regular season game. He is currently in the Arena Football League. It is hard to fault the Colts too much on this pick, as most players not named Johnny Knox were largely unsuccessful at this point of the draft.
 
QB Curtis Painter (6.201) - About the only player that could make a fan ask “where is Jim Sorgi when you need him”, Painter never had a chance for success in Indianapolis. In 2009, the Colts were 14-0 and hosting the New York Jets, who had the league’s best defense. With a 15-10 lead in the third quarter, the Colts replaced Peyton Manning with Painter. On the first play of his second series, Painter was sacked, fumbled, and the Jets returned it for a go-ahead touchdown. The Colts lost the game, and Painter was etched in lore. Last season, he went 0-8 as a starter. In his 11 career appearances, the Colts are 0-11. He managed to get a job with the Ravens, adding points to Joe Flacco’s value.
 
P Pat McAfee (7.222) - The Colts got their punter in the seventh round, and McAfee had his best season in 2011. If Andrew Luck is the real deal, McAfee’s 2011 may always be his “best” season, as it pays off (for a punter) to be part of a lousy offense. The longer the field, the more yards to average per punt.
 
OG Jaimie Thomas (7.236) - Played in eight games (only special teams) in 2010 for the Colts. Currently a free agent.
 

3. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Filling out the roster

After a disappointing 5-11 finish in 2008, Jacksonville had several holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Despite a struggling pass defense (95.4 defensive passer rating), they opted to try and protect quarterback David Garrard better, while helping Maurice Jones-Drew with running lanes.
 
That meant back-to-back selections of offensive tackles with Eugene Monroe (1.8) and Eben Britton (2.39). While a pass rusher like Brian Orakpo (1.13) may have been a better choice, it is hard to fault Jacksonville’s plan. Monroe and Britton have been inconsistent, but they are still starters.
 
Defense was addressed with two third-round picks before the Jaguars loaded up on five skill position players. They only hit on one starter, but they at least got some use out of each of their nine picks in 2009.

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 8 Eugene Monroe OT Virginia 45 42 18 Jacksonville
2 39 Eben Britton OT Arizona 26 25 12 Jacksonville
3 72 Terrance Knighton DT Temple 45 45 18 Jacksonville
3 73 Derek Cox CB William & Mary 35 33 13 Jacksonville
4 107 Mike Thomas WR Arizona 45 28 18 Jacksonville
5 144 Jarett Dillard WR Rice 21 5 3 Detroit
6 180 Zach Miller TE Nebraska-Omaha 33 5 8 Jacksonville
7 250 Rashad Jennings RB Liberty 28 3 8 Jacksonville
7 253 Tiquan Underwood WR Rutgers 19 0 1 TampaBay
 
Best Pick: DT Terrance Knighton (3.72) – During the decade Jacksonville was at their best when they had the duo of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson at defensive tackle. With Stroud gone to Buffalo, the Jaguars picked up Knighton early in the third round. He immediately stepped in as a starter and has 45 career starts. He may be less of a pass rusher than Stroud and Henderson, but he provides a good presence in the run defense. Jacksonville has tried several picks with defensive end in recent years to no avail, so it was about time they found someone that could represent the line well. With his best competition being B.J. Raji, Knighton is arguably the best defensive tackle taken in the 2009 draft.
 
Worst Pick: CB Derek Cox (3.73) - Jacksonville has been guilty of allowing some huge passing performances by opposing quarterbacks in recent years. Cox was drafted to start alongside Rashean Mathis at cornerback. On the first drive of his career, he intercepted Peyton Manning in the red zone. Quite a start, but it has been arguably all downhill from there. Cox was the second most targeted CB in 2009, as teams went after the rookie. He was playing better last season for Jacksonville’s improved pass defense, but missed 10 games with injury.

The Others

OT Eugene Monroe (1.8) - Monroe was the hopeful franchise left tackle there to protect the quarterback’s blindside. It has been an up-and-down ride for him, but 2011 was his best season to date. Now if only the Jaguars had something worth protecting at quarterback.
 
OT Eben Britton (2.39) - Like Monroe, he has been inconsistent. Worse, he has been a bit injury prone, missing 21 games in the last two seasons. That is almost as many as he’s started (25).
 
WR Mike Thomas (4.107) - Led the team in receiving in 2010 with 66 receptions for 820 yards. Thomas has also done some return duties, once returning a punt for a touchdown. His most famous play is catching a deflected Hail Mary to beat the Texans on November 14, 2010. That 50-yard play is the longest catch of his career, as Thomas has been catching mostly short passes for Jacksonville. He averages just 10.7 yards per reception. Now you can understand why the team was intrigued with Justin Blackmon.
 
WR Jarett Dillard (5.144) - In 21 games, Dillard caught 35 passes for 398 yards and a touchdown. He broke his ankle in 2009 and spent 2010 on injured reserve. He was released on May 7, 2012, and is currently on Detroit’s roster.
 
TE Zach Miller (6.180) - Not to be confused with the big receiving tight end from Oakland (now Seattle), Miller has provided depth behind Marcedes Lewis for Jacksonville. He has 45 catches for 470 yards and four touchdowns. Miller only played 57 snaps in four games last season.
 
RB Rashad Jennings (7.250) - While Jones-Drew is the workhorse in Jacksonville, Jennings has been impressive in limited chances. He has 123 carries for 661 yards (5.4 YPC) and five touchdowns. He missed all of 2011 after a concussion and knee injury in the preseason.
 
WR Tiquan Underwood (7.253) - He had eight receptions for 111 yards in Jacksonville. This receiver is best known for what happened in New England last season. Namely, his hi-top fade, and being released the night before Super Bowl XLVI. He is now in Tampa Bay.
 

2. TENNESSEE TITANS

Relying on the unreliable

Hard to believe now, but the Titans had the best record in football at 13-3 in 2008. They were upset by the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional playoffs, but they looked to still have a pretty good roster to compete again in 2009.
 
They went with Kenny Britt (1.30) late in the first round, because no one could fathom another season with Justin Gage as the leading receiver. The pick made sense, and it is easy to defend when you look at the best players available.
 
Britt is a real talent, but his off-field problems are a big concern. He missed 13 games last season with a knee injury, and has just 16 career starts.
 
Though Tennessee retains nine of their 11 picks in this class, Britt is the big name. Their success hinges on him developing into a legit No. 1 wide receiver that is available to play each week.

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 30 Kenny Britt WR Rutgers 31 16 16 Tennessee
2 62 Sen'Derrick Marks DT Auburn 37 12 8 Tennessee
3 89 Jared Cook TE South Carolina 46 6 14 Tennessee
3 94 Ryan Mouton CB Hawaii 23 2 2 Tennessee
4 130 Gerald McRath LB Southern Miss 40 12 8 Tennessee
4 135 Troy Kropog OT Tulane 6 0 0 Tennessee
5 173 Javon Ringer RB Michigan St. 35 0 5 Tennessee
6 203 Jason McCourty CB Rutgers 42 24 12 Tennessee
6 206 Dominique Edison WR S.F. Austin 5 0 0 None
7 239 Ryan Durand OG Syracuse 1 0 0 Tennessee
7 242 Nick Schommer SS North Dakota St. 13 0 1 None
 
Best Pick: CB Jason McCourty (6.203) - Though not as popular as his twin brother Devin (drafted by New England in 2010), Jason has been the more consistent McCourty in the NFL. The team was not that afraid to lose Cortland Finnegan to free agency this offseason, because they knew they had McCourty’s coverage skills and other capable players.
 
If you split the draft in half (128 picks each half), then what the Titans found here is the second best player , after Johnny Knox, taken in the second half of the 2009 draft.
 
Worst Pick: DT Sen’Derrick Marks (2.62) – This pick reeks of an attempt to fill the large void Albert Haynesworth left, rather than take the best player available. For one, who the hell names their kid Sen’Derrick? With that out of the way, it is clear Marks is no Haynesworth, unless we’re talking about the unmotivated version of Haynesworth. Three of these AFC South teams went for a defensive tackle for their 4-3 defense in this area of the draft, and the Jaguars snatched the best one with the lowest pick (Knighton).

The Others

WR Kenny Britt (1.30) - Britt has been very good. He just hasn’t been on the field enough. He has six games with at least 100 yards receiving, including a 225-yard, 3 TD performance against Philadelphia in 2010. He averages 17.5 yards per catch, so he is a big-play threat. The biggest concern is rehabbing from the torn ACL and staying out of trouble.
 
TE Jared Cook (3.89) - With so many skill players taken late in the third round failing to pan out, this was another strong pick for the Titans. Just like how Britt was an upgrade for Gage, the Titans needed something better than Bo Scaife at tight end. Cook is a good, athletic receiving tight end, and he had a career-high 759 yards in 2011. Assuming Jake Locker is the quarterback this year, Cook may have a real breakout season in his fourth year.
 
CB Ryan Mouton (3.94) - True to form with the draft, five picks later the Titans were up again and struck out this time. Mouton played just nine snaps in 2010 after 179 as a rookie. He spent last year on injured reserve.
 
LB Gerald McRath (4.130) - After making 12 starts his first two seasons, McRath was exclusively a backup in 2011, playing 142 snaps. His best season was in 2010 (462 snaps) when he had 58 tackles.
 
OT Troy Kropog (4.135) - Has appeared in six games (none since 2010) without playing any snaps on offense. Kropog has spent time on Tennessee’s practice squad.
 
RB Javon Ringer (5.173) - Ringer has had at least 50 carries in the last two seasons, though he averaged just 3.14 YPC in 2011 as Tennessee struggled to run the ball. He also caught 28 passes for 187 yards. As Chris Johnson’s backup, Ringer is a low-cost solution.
 
WR Dominique Edison (6.203) - Playing five games as a rookie, Edison only saw two offensive snaps in Tennessee. He was released in 2010, and spent brief, non-playing time with Seattle and Dallas. He received an injury settlement from Dallas last August, and is a free agent.
 
OG Ryan Durand (7.239) - Made one appearance against Dallas in 2010, where he played seven snaps at left guard. It is hard to call him good depth with the lack of playing time, but the fact that he is still on the roster is a positive.
 
SS Nick Schommer (7.242) - After spending his rookie season on the practice squad, Schommer played 13 games in 2010, but only saw five snaps on defense. He was waived last August and is a free agent.

1. HOUSTON TEXANS

Defensive improvements pay off for uprising Texans

Things could not have gone better for Houston in the first round of the draft. With their choice of linebackers, the Texans made the right decision. Rather than take Northern Illinois’ Larry English, they selected USC’s Brian Cushing, who is the face of their 2009 draft.
 
Pairing him with DeMeco Ryans, the 2009 Texans (9-7) had their first winning season in franchise history. Cushing went to the Pro Bowl (as a starter) with four interceptions, four sacks, 10 pass deflections, 133 tackles, two forced fumbles and a safety.
 
For his efforts, Cushing won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
 
But not everything went smoothly from there. In May 2010, it was announced Cushing would be suspended the first four games of the season in violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy. He tested positive for an increased level of the hCg hormone.  Cushing was suspected of taking such substances at USC, even before the draft.
 
After a revote, Cushing retained his award, and served his four-game suspension to start 2010. Last season, he moved to inside linebacker and was voted team MVP as the Texans won their first division title.
 
Keeping his name out of the wrong type of headlines, Cushing is one of the best young linebackers in the league. Along with selections of Connor Barwin and Glover Quin, the Texans added a trio of starters to their defense in the 2009 draft.

The Class

Rnd Pick Player Pos. College GP GS CarAV 2012 Team
1 15 Brian Cushing LB USC 44 44 29 Houston
2 46 Connor Barwin DE Cincinnati 33 16 10 Houston
3 77 Antoine Caldwell OG Alabama 28 13 7 Houston
4 112 Glover Quin DB New Mexico 47 44 10 Houston
4 122 Anthony Hill TE North Carolina St. 12 2 1 None
5 152 James Casey TE Rice 45 11 9 Houston
6 188 Brice McCain CB Utah 44 4 4 Houston
7 223 Troy Nolan S Arizona St. 30 6 2 Houston
 
Best Pick: LB Brian Cushing (1.15) - There was an interesting mini-battle going on in the 2009 draft with the San Diego Chargers picking after Houston. Each targeted players at the same position in the first and third rounds. With Houston having the first choice, the results were split. Cushing has been a much better player than Larry English, with the only real flaw being that "I was overtraining" suspension in 2010.
 
Worst Pick: OG Antoine Caldwell (3.77) - While looking to bolster their line, the Texans had their choice of two guards: Caldwell or Texas Tech’s Louis Vasquez. They went with the smaller Caldwell for Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking scheme, but he has had little impact. He started three games at right guard as a rookie, playing 362 snaps for the season. He improved with more playing time (558 snaps) in 2010. After dealing with a high-ankle sprain last season, Caldwell only played 225 snaps (including playoffs). Meanwhile Vasquez has been a more consistent guard with 38 starts for the Chargers.

The Others

DE/OLB Connor Barwin (2.46) - This pass-rush specialist played 367 snaps as a rookie at defensive end. He was lost after 10 snaps into the 2010 season with an ankle injury. Last season, he had a breakout year at outside linebacker in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense, which was missing Mario Williams for most of the year. Barwin had 11.5 sacks last season.
 
DB Glover Quin (4.112) - Projected as a safety, Quin spent two seasons at cornerback for the Texans. Last year he was moved to safety, experiencing some growing pains in the process. But Quin has started 44 games for the Texans; the most of any 2009 fourth-round pick.
 
TE Anthony Hill (4.122) - After a Pro Bowl season for Owen Daniels, the Texans looked to add depth at tight end. Hill only played 20 snaps as a rookie, and made no appearances in 2010. He was waived and signed by Indianapolis, where he played 72 snaps last season.
 
TE James Casey (5.152) - In a Belichick-esque move, the Texans went right back to the tight end position. Casey has been much more successful than Hill. He played 174 snaps as a rookie. In 2010 he made four starts, but only saw 161 snaps all season.  Last year he moved to more of a fullback/H-back role, and had his best year yet with seven starts (386 snaps), 18 receptions for 260 yards, and his first career touchdown.
 
CB Brice McCain (6.188) - A good depth choice in the sixth round, this corner played 482 snaps last season and showed legit coverage skills as a nickel back. It was a huge turnaround from 2010, where he struggled on a pass defense that allowed 33 touchdown passes and a 100.5 defensive passer rating. McCain has played in 44 games and has three interceptions. He scored his first touchdown on a pick six last season.
 
S Troy Nolan (7.223) - Has played in 30 games with six starts the last two seasons. For a seventh-round pick, he provides good safety depth and could start if necessary.

SUMMARY

Team Houston Tennessee Jacksonville Indianapolis
Players 8 11 9 8
Still on team 7 9 7 5
Total GP 283 279 297 221
Total GS 140 72 186 100
Total CarAV 72 66 99 54
 
Did you notice anything odd about the order in which the teams were ranked? It is the order they finished in the division in 2011: Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Indianapolis.
 
Halfway through our 2009 draft recap and the AFC South has done the best job thus far. They have the highest rate of players still on their team three years later, with 28 of the 36 (77.8 percent) picks active.
 
It may not be a division loaded with Pro Bowlers from this draft, but each team had that important draft every team needs where you can get multiple quality players to fill out your roster.
 
Up next: all the media darlings in the NFC East are put to the test.
 
Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. He despises any Austin Collie-Wes Welker comparisons. You can send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.

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