2014 NFL Preview: Best players in the AFC South

Before we get started, the favorites to win the AFC South this year are the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, I may be a Colts writer, but it’s obvious who has the better team and the better quarterback. Right now, the Colts are that team with the better quarterback. I do see the Tennessee Titans being a little better this year, but that’s all. Here is my list of the best players in the AFC South.

Offense

Quarterback

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

nfl_u_luck_ap_400There is no question who the top quarterback in this division is. Quarterback Andrew Luck is not only the top quarterback in the AFC South, but some even have him as a top five quarterback in the game today. With pieces being added around him and players returning from injury, look for Luck to have his best season yet.

Running back

Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Foster is probably the best back that is in the division, even though last year was a downer for Foster. Foster missed eight games in 2013 due to injury, but his history in the NFL over the previous three seasons still makes him the top running back in the division. Plus with running back Ben Tate now in Cleveland, Foster will get more carries this season if he stays healthy.

Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

Yes, I know. Trent Richardson? Honestly, who else is there? Toby Gerhart? Richardson is the other most decorated running back in the division and if running back Donald Brown was still with the Indianapolis Colts, I would be putting him in this spot after a stellar 2013 season. But with Richardson most likely getting the starting nod in Indianapolis and having a full offseason to work on the timing with his offensive line, look for him to have a better season in 2014.

Fullback

Will Ta’ufo’ou, Jacksonville Jaguars

I will say this; I am not the best at evaluating fullbacks. But when I watch the film on Will Ta’ufo’ou, I see a guy who does a great job opening the holes for running backs. To add onto that, his rookie year he had the opportunity to learn from Greg Jones, one of the top fullbacks in the game today.

Wide receiver

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Hilton is the fastest receiver in this division, and one of the fastest in the game today. When wide receiver Reggie Wayne went down with an ACL injury last year, Hilton stepped up his game to the next level. Even with Wayne and newly signed receiver Hakeem Nicks on the roster, look for Hilton to have his best season as he continues to grow.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Even if Andre Johnson doesn’t have his best season this year, he is still one of the top receivers in the game today. With the Houston Texans in rebuilding mode, Johnson has shown that he can beat defenses for big games even with a quarterback like Matt Schaub throwing him the football. While quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is a downgrade, Johnson will get the majority of the targets this season.

Tight end

Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

Out of all the tight ends in the AFC South last season, Coby Fleener had the biggest year. Fleener was healthy this past season and was able to step up after fellow tight end Dwayne Allen went down due to injury in 2013. Fleener is tall, athletic, and has great speed after the catch.

Duane_BrownOffensive Tackles

Duane Brown, Houston Texans

Brown has been a Pro Bowl tackle the past two seasons for the Texans and has been strong at left tackle. A stat I found when reading his profile on Houston Texans home page, Brown has been called for holding just four times in 90 games.

Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans

To many, Roos might be the top left tackle in the game today. I know I already have Brown on here for left tackle, but if I was building a team from the AFC South, I am sure Roos, or Brown, would be just as effective playing right tackle as well.

Offensive Guards

Andy Levitre, Tennessee Titans

Levitre has been an offensive guard who has been on the rise over the past couple of years and has been solid at holding his own on the Titans’ offensive line. Levitre is one of the top five left guards in the game and the Buffalo Bills made a mistake letting him go in free agency, where the Titans were able to pick him up.

Chance Warmack, Tennessee Titans

This may come to a shock for most of you, but I believe Warmack had a great rookie season that put him in this spot. As we all know, Warmack had tremendous success at the University of Alabama, winning three national titles. Warmack was solid at pass protection and is a strong run blocker on a Titans’ offensive line that is, as you can see from this list, a top notch group.

Center

Chris Myers, Houston Texans

Myers has been the leader for the Texans’ offensive line as any center should be. Since coming to Houston in 2008, Myers has not missed a game and was elected to the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2013.

Defense

Defensive ends

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Need I say more? No, but I should.

J.J. Watt is one of the most feared defensive ends in the game for opposing quarterbacks. His ability to not only rush the passer is tremendous, but the way he is able to swat passes to the turf is unmatched in this league.

Chris Clemmons, Jacksonville Jaguars

After being with the Seattle Seahawks’ amazing defensive front a year ago, Clemmons decided to bring his talents to Jacksonville to help a defense which I personally believe will be a much better unit than a year ago.

Defensive tackles

Jurrell Casey, Tennessee Titans

Jurrell Casey has become one of the top ranked defensive tackles in all of football. In 2013, he tied for second among NFL defensive tackles with a career-high 10.5 sacks and set a career high with 90 tackles. Casey is a tackle who is a strong force to be reckoned with for the Titans.

Arthur Jones, Indianapolis Colts

After coming over from the Baltimore Ravens, Jones was one who was overshadowed by the success defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was having. Jones is going to a scheme in Indianapolis where he will feel right at home in a system he played in when head coach Chuck Pagano was his defensive coordinator in Baltimore.

Outside Linebackers

Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

Even though Cushing missed a lot of last season due to injury and is starting off on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Cushing will be a force on the field once he gets his chance to get back in the game. Cushing was the leading tackler for the Texans in 2009 and 2011.

Robert Mathis, Indianapolis Colts

I shouldn’t even have to explain why on this one. Mathis led the NFL in sacks last year with a total of 19.5 sacks. Even though Mathis will miss the first four games this year due to suspension, it would not be a shock if Mathis is among the league leaders in sacks again this season.

Middle Linebacker

Paul_Posluszny_2014_Pro_BowlPaul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars

Posluszny had a combined 162 tackles last season for the Jaguars and has shown that he can fly to where the football is at. When he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, I personally thought he was going to be a bust, but he has proved me wrong in Jacksonville becoming a top tier linebacker in this game.

Cornerbacks

Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts

Davis may not have the most amazing stats at cornerback, but he is still growing and I do believe he will take that next step this season in becoming an elite cornerback in the game. While there are some areas he could improve on, Davis has great coverage skills when it comes to playing man-to-man defense.

Johnathan Joseph, Houston Texans

Joseph is the glue that holds the Texans secondary together. When Joseph is on the field, the secondary plays a lot better knowing they have a man who can cover an opposing team’s best receiver one-on-one.

Free Safety

Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans

Being a two-time Pro Bowl selection, Griffin has proved that he has a great range and playmaking ability in the secondary that has earned him the spot as the top free safety in the AFC South.

Strong Safety

LaRon Landry, Indianapolis Colts

Landry is one of the most physical safeties in the game. I mean have you seen his arms? Not only is Landry physical, but he displays a tremendous range of speed that is hard to find in safeties that are physical as well.

Special teams

Kicker

Adam Vinateri, Indianapolis Colts

This was close between Vinateri and Jacksonville Jaguars’ kicker Josh Scobee, but I give the edge to Vinateri. Vinateri has played a lot longer and been more efficient than Schobee has.

Punter

Shane Lechler, Houston Texans

Lechler will be asked to punt more this season and with Houston being in a rebuilding mode and with Lechler having as many Pro Bowls on his resume as he does, putting him here was a no brainer.

Return Specialist

Keshawn Martin

Martin had the most productive year in the return game this past season amongst the teams in the division. Martin was the only player to return a kick of any sorts last year in the division as his lone return for a touchdown came on a punt return.

The Best Players in the NFL by Division

 

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