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AFC South 2022 NFL Draft Preview: Current projected starting lineups, biggest remaining needs and ideal draft targets

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) runs the ball against LSU Tigers linebacker Mike Jones Jr. (19) in the second half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like the AFC South will be a two-man race again in 2022, as the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts both have win totals of 9.5 while the Jacksonville Jaguars (6.0) and Houston Texans (4.5) trail well behind the top of the division in the projected standings. 

It goes without saying that Jacksonville and Houston have holes on their respective rosters that need to be addressed in the 2022 NFL Draft, but so do Indianapolis and Tennessee if they have aspirations of competing in the AFC. 

Here’s a look at where every team stands entering the draft and what targets they could have their eye on to address some of their bigger needs. 

Tennessee Titans

Effective cap space (Over the Cap): -$1.0 Million
Picks in the 2022 NFL Draft: 26, 90, 131, 143, 169, 205, 220

Projected starters on offense
Position Player 2021 PFF grade rank 2022 cap hit
QB Ryan Tannehill 8/32 $38.6M
RB Derrick Henry 17/62 $15.0M
WR A.J. Brown 5/115 $4.5M
WR Robert Woods 29/115 $10.0M
SWR ?
TE Austin Hooper 31/70 $3.0M
LT Taylor Lewan 24/38 $14.7M
LG ?
C Ben Jones 8/38 $3.4M
RG Nate Davis 14/39 $3.0M
RT ?

The Woods trade takes away some of the urgency to add a wide receiver early in the draft, but there still isn’t much in the way of proven depth behind Brown and the 30-year old working his way back from a torn ACL. Ideally, the Titans could find a starting-caliber slot receiver to slide between those two. 

Offensive line is arguably the biggest need on the roster. The Titans brought back Jones in free agency to man the center position, but questions remain at left guard and right tackle. One would imagine that 2021 second-round pick Dillon Radunz wins one of those jobs after playing sparingly at guard (58 snaps) and tackle (62 snaps) as a rookie. Free-agent addition Jamarco Jones is the other primary competitor for those starting spots after playing 568 snaps at guard (52.6 PFF grade) and 168 at tackle (50.8 PFF grade) in four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks

Projected starters on defense
Position Player 2021 PFF grade rank 2022 cap hit
DI Jeffery Simmons 21/109 $4.0M
DI Teair Tart 55/109 $0.9M
EDGE Denico Autry 35/108 $8.7M
EDGE Harold Landry III 62/108 $5.1M
EDGE Bud Dupree 94/108 $19.2M
LB Zach Cunningham 29/87 $4.0M
LB David Long Jr. 18/87 $1.0M
CB Kristian Fulton 51/116 $1.5M
CB Caleb Farley N/A $3.1M
SCB Elijah Molden 63/116 $1.1M
S Kevin Byard 1/92 $7.1M
S Amani Hooker 3/92 $2.7M

Just because there aren’t any question marks in this projected starting lineup doesn’t mean that the Titans are completely set on defense. 

The hope is that Farley, Tennessee’s first-round pick last year, returns completely healthy from a torn ACL that limited him to 60 defensive snaps in 2021, but that is far from a given considering his injury history. The Titans could look to address cornerback early again. 

The Titans could also potentially add some depth on the interior behind the starting trio of Simmons, Tart and Autry. 

Ideal draft fit for biggest need: WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas

It would be a surprise if the Titans don’t use their first-round pick on the offensive side of the ball. 

Burks’ easiest projection is in the slot, which is where he ran the majority of his routes at Arkansas, and that works for Tennessee given it already has Brown and Woods on the outside. But at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds with plenty of examples of angle-changing speed on tape, Burks also has the tools to win on the outside.  He destroyed press coverage (7.0 yards per route run) in a very small sample of outside routes against press coverage in college. 

Add another big, physical offensive weapon alongside Henry, Brown and Woods. 

Indianapolis Colts

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