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NFL Mock Draft: Houston Texans & AFC South

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The Texans selected Brian Cushing in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. (credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The Texans selected Brian Cushing in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. (credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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By: Tony Meale

The 2012 NFL Draft is just one week away so we’ve pulled together a mock draft featuring the first and second rounds for the NFC East. Do you agree with the picks? Comment below.

AFC South

Texans

If the Texans had bad luck with injuries last year, they probably would have played in the Super Bowl. Instead, their luck was horrible and they lost to Baltimore in the divisional round.

T.J. Yates solidified himself as an above average backup quarterback, but Houston needs Matt Schaub on the field to be truly dangerous. He’s not a top-five quarterback, but he’s probably top 10, and when he plays, the Texans have one of the most explosive offenses in football. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster are arguably the best at their respective positions, while Owen Daniels is nothing to scoff at.

That said, Houston, one of the most run-heavy teams in football, could use another wideout, and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill would be a perfect fit. He’s 6-4, 215, runs a sub-4.4 40, and played in an offense that requires receivers to block – and block well.

Defensively, no unit can replace Mario Williams. But none is better-suited for the task than the Texans, which boast playmakers all over the field. At this point, it’s all about adding depth to the 3-4, and Southern Cal outside linebacker Nick Perry is indeed versatile.

Fresh off their first playoff win in franchise history, the Texans may emerge as the team to beat in 2012 – and not just in the AFC South.

Colts

Something tells me the Colts are going to draft Andrew Luck.

Just a hunch.

With their franchise quarterback locked in for the next decade and beyond, the Colts’ next job will be protecting him. One of the reasons Peyton Manning was so successful in Indy was that he rarely took sacks, and investing in the offensive line will be the Colts’ No. 1 priority for years to come.

That said, if Stanford tight end Coby Fleener is available at Pick 34, it’d be good to surround Luck with a familiar face as he begins his NFL career. Besides, it’s not like Indy couldn’t use a pass-catcher. Reggie Wayne isn’t short on mileage, and Austin Collie’s head injuries are well-documented. After Wayne and Collie? Question marks. If Fleener is gone, perhaps Stephen Hill or Alshon Jeffrey won’t be.

Luck will likely be handing off to Donald Brown and Delone Carter, which is fine. Neither is great, but neither is bad.

Defensively, the Colts need help at nose tackle and in the secondary. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are obviously great pass rushers, but when’s the last time Indy had a stud run-stuffer to clog the middle on early downs? Memphis’ Dontari Poe will likely be gobbled up in the first round, but Washington’s Alameda Ta’amu should still be there in the second. If not, Alabama’s Josh Chapman and Baylor’s Nick Jean-Bapiste are mid-round options.

Jaguars

The Jaguars finished last in the league in total offense last year, but that won’t stop them from taking South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram with the seventh pick.

After that, offense. A lot of it.

Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 1,606 yards last year – no other player broke even 1,400 – and the Jags still averaged a paltry 259.3 yards per game. Even worse, no Jacksonville receiver had more than 44 catches or three touchdowns. If the Jags don’t select Ingram, Michael Floyd would be a solid pick. Either way, this team needs help at receiver.

Also, the Jags might want to consider drafting a quarterback. Blaine Gabbert is only 22, so he certainly has time to develop, but did he do anything last year to make you stop and think, “Wow, this guy is the real deal”?

Probably not. With 2012 slated to be a deep draft for quarterbacks, the Jaguars would be wise to grab one, especially since some fans wonder just how hard the organization tried to acquire Tim Tebow.

Titans

Tennessee was the only team in the NFL to finish with a winning record and miss the playoffs last year, so there are definitely some positives to build on.

Step one is committing to Jake Locker as their starter. He is an exciting young player who gives Tennessee the best chance to win now. The Titans also need a more productive – and more consistent – Chris Johnson, as well as a healthy Kenny Britt, who missed much of the season with a knee injury. Nate Washington performed admirably as the lead receiver (74 catches, seven touchdowns), while tight end Jared Cook emerged as a dangerous weapon (15.5 yards per catch). A healthy Britt would put Tennessee in the playoff hunt.

The Titans’ biggest needs, without question, are on defense. Drafting an elite cornerback (think South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore) at Pick 20 would mitigate losing Cortland Finnegan to free agency. Other first-round options are Illinois outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, Southern Cal defensive end Nick Perry, and LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers. The Titans can go a lot of different avenues, but as long as that first pick is defensive, they’re headed in the right direction.

>> more: Mock Draft AFC North | Mock Draft AFC East | Mock Draft AFC West | Mock Draft NFC North | Mock Draft NFC South | Mock Draft NFC East | Mock Draft NFC West

Tony Meale is a freelance writer for MLB.com, cincinnati.com and ffjungle.com, among others. His fantasy football work has led to guest appearances on several radio outlets, including ESPN Radio and Sirius Radio. He has a Master’s in Journalism from Ohio University and has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists for outstanding work. A Cincinnati native, he is currently writing a book on one of the great sports stories never told. Follow Tony Meale on Twitter @tonymeale.

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