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NFL draft preview: AFC and NFC South

Sam Farmer assesses the need of each team, beginning with the league's South divisions.

April 23, 2011
  • The Colts could use the draft to bolster the offensive line and help protect quarterback Peyton Manning, shown being sacked by Philadelphia's Jason Babin.
The Colts could use the draft to bolster the offensive line and help protect… (Darron Cummings / Associated…)

AFC South

No time like the present for the Indianapolis Colts to start rebuilding their offensive line, which has been in a downward spiral for a while. Peyton Manning isn't getting any more elusive with age. The Colts are in position to pick up a good tackle in the first round if they so choose. They could use a running back, too, to bolster that anemic ground game and, considering all their injuries at the position, a solid receiver.

New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has many of the pieces in place to assemble a tough 3-4 defense, but he could really use a good pass-rushing outside linebacker. The Houston Texans need a cornerback and a safety too, and should have some good choices in the early rounds. UCLA safety Rahim Moore could be a solid pickup in the second round, and Texas cornerback Aaron Williams could still be on the board at that point, too.

NFL mock draft: A lot on the line

The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't drafted a quarterback in any round since making Byron Leftwich their first pick in 2003. Is this the year they bank on finding a David Garrard replacement? They have more pressing needs, both on the front and back ends of their defense. They need a pass rusher, and good defensive ends are plentiful in this class, as well as players to patch a Swiss cheese secondary.

With Vince Young out of the picture, the Tennessee Titans need some type of answer at quarterback. Question is, will they have to move up from the eighth pick to get Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert? They might just stay put and take a defensive lineman. The good news for the Titans is there are all sorts of players in this draft who could help them. The bad news? Tennessee needs help just about everywhere.

NFC South

Count the Atlanta Falcons among the many teams looking to bolster their pass rush. They need a bookend to John Abraham to put heat on quarterbacks, and that's probably the way they'll use the 27th pick. Abraham, Jamaal Anderson and Kroy Biermann are set to become free agents after this season. The club has eight picks in the draft, and likely will use an early one to address its lack of depth at receiver.

Opportunism helped them get to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but now the New Orleans Saints have a lot of patching to do in their front seven. They have more free agents than anyone in the league. A lot of running backs figure to go in the middle rounds, and the Saints will be looking for one. Reggie Bush and Chris Ivory will probably stay, but both have had injuries.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made an impressive turnaround last season, and will try to keep the mojo going with another strong draft. The Bucs could use a good pass rusher, help on the offensive line and some depth at tight end now that the troublemaking Jerramy Stevens is gone. They might have to think cornerback too, as it's getting more difficult to justify keeping Aqib Talib on the right side of the law.

This time last year, the Carolina Panthers were looking for a quarterback. Now, the holders of the No. 1 pick are looking for … a quarterback. Most signs point to them taking Auburn's Cam Newton with the top selection. Of course, they could also use that on a defensive tackle, maybe their area of greatest need. The Panthers also need a cornerback to line up opposite Chris Gamble, although the elite ones aren't likely to last long.

COMING MONDAY: NORTH DIVISIONS

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