AFC South: Perfect Off-Season 2023
We're back! This time I'm covering the AFC South for you, and will go over what we believe is a perfect offseason for each of the Texans, Colts, Jaguars, and Titans. I'm excited to write my first article in this series! You can check out the first two articles in this series here for the AFC East and here for the AFC North.
This series is dependent on every other team, so you won't see the same player be signed to multiple teams.
However, as we are a fantasy based page, our focus is very heavily on offense. We will include defense as well, but no hardcore cap breakdowns or defensive analysis.
The AFC South is going through a lot of turmoil right now and probably won't be overly active in the free agent market as the teams are either rebuilding or stricken for cap space, but let's get into it.
Last Year's Record: 3-13-1
2023 Estimated Cap Space: $40,429,053
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (2), 2nd (1), 3rd (2), 4th (1), 5th (1), 6th (4)
Notable Free Agents; Rasheem Green (DE), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (OLB), Rex Burkhead (RB), Jeff Driskel (QB)
This is going to be a really big offseason in Houston. The rebuild that started 2 years ago will be heavily ramped up with the addition of a new coach - likely to stay for more than one year this time - and the number two overall pick. It'll be exciting to see what they head into the 2023 season with. Let's preview the optimal route here:
Coaching; I think an offensive mind here would've been the best route to go, especially considering their potential draft, which we'll get into a bit later. However, Houston has went with former SF DC DeMeco Ryans, who is a highly qualified coach in his own right.
Trades; The only trade I could see Houston making is either a trade up to number one (which isn't happening in this scenario,) or trading away Brandin Cooks, which I certainly think is on the table. They could probably receive mid-draft compensation for him.
+ Raheem Mostert (RB)
+ Kerry Hyder (DE)
+ Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (OLB)
- Rasheem Green (DE)
- Rex Burkhead (RB)
- Jeff Driskel (QB)
- Brandin Cooks (WR)
With DeMeco Ryans officially in now, I'd imagine he goes the pretty standard route of building up his depth with a bunch of former 49ers, bringing guys like Kerry Hyder over to deepen his defensive roster. We also see them upgrade massively in the RB2 department by going from Rex Burkhead to Raheem Mostert, another former Niner. Ogbo Okoronkwo had a solid year and feels like a guy that Ryans can work with and try to develop further on the edge. Look for that resigning as well.
NFL Draft; Based on our first mock draft, Houston will be taking QB CJ Stroud 2nd overall and WR Quentin Johnston 12th. This would automatically revamp their offense and make this a real football team again. While I could see Ryans opting to take Anderson or Carter to have a foundation piece on his defensive line, these are the picks we're going with here.
So altogether, here's what the Texans' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - C.J. Stroud
RB - Dameon Pierce
WR - Quentin Johnson
WR - Nico Collins
TE - Brevin Jordan
Some new faces in Houston!
Last Year's Record: 4-12-1
2023 Estimated Cap Space: $13,271,832
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (1), 3rd (1), 4th (1), 5th (1), 6th (1), 7th (2)
Notable Free Agents; Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Brandon Facyson (CB), Ashton Dulin (WR), Parris Campbell (WR), Bobby Okereke (LB)
Coaching; As of right now, the rumors say that the Colts are leaning towards offering Jeff Saturday the full-time job. I think this would be a mistake. They need to move on from this ugly season, and Saturday possesses no schematic upside as a head coach. My opinion is that they can go one of two ways: a culture rebuild with a stifling defensive coach, or what I think is more likable: pairing an offensive mind with a potentially highly drafted QB. The top name left to me Eagles' OC Shane Steichen, who is running a Super Bowl caliber offense and has overseen a lot of Jalen Hurts' development over these past few years.
Trades; The Colts have been notoriously generous when it comes to trading picks in recent years, shelling out early draft picks for guys like DeForest Buckner and Carson Wentz. That being said, with all of the uncertainnty and turnover, this doesn't feel like a great trade spot.
+ Andre Dillard (OT)
+ James Bradberry (CB)
+ Gardner Minshew (QB)
+ Yannick Ngakoue (DE)
- Brandon Facyson (CB)
- Ashton Dulin (WR)
- Bobby Okereke (LB)
Similar to what I did with Houston, if the Colts were to hire Steichen they'd likely bolster the back ends of their roster with former eagles who Steichen can plug in to his system comfortably off the bat. Guys like Andre Dillard and James Bradberry would be plug and play starters, while Gardner Minshew provides them with a backup QB already familiar with the playboook. Yannick Ngakoue didn't necessarily have a world-breaking year this year, but would be an important piece to bring back to have some seniority in this EDGE room. With the contract they are currently paying to Shaq Leonard, it wouldn't make sense to pay an admittedly solid backer in Bobby Okereke, so he leaves in this world.
NFL Draft; In our mock draft, the Colts make a big boy move and trade up to number one for Alabama's Bryce Young. Pairing Young with Steichen would bring stability and legitimacy to this team immediately. They'll finally have their starting QB, and would be able to compete with Jacksonville in a weak AFC South.
So altogether, here's what the Colts' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Bryce Young
RB - Jonathan Taylor
WR - Michael Pittman
WR - Alec Pierce
TE - Jelani Woods
Not too much change, but coaching will speak volumes!
Last Year's Record: 9-8
2023 Estimated Cap Space: -$13,967,686
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (1), 3rd (1), 4th (2), 5th (1), 6th (2)
Notable Free Agents; Evan Engram (TE), Marvin Jones (WR), Dawuane Smoot (DE), Arden Key (DE), Jawaan Taylor (RT), Dan Arnold (TE)
Coaching; Obviously, this coaching staff will need no changes, barring any position coaches being hired for bigger positions elsewhere.
Trades; They'd need to figure out this cap situation before making any trades, and after committing some picks to Calvin Ridley, the Jags are probably happy with where they are.
+ Evan Engram (TE)
+ Jawaan Taylor (RT)
+ Arden Key (DE)
+ Rock Ya-Sin (CB)
- Marvin Jones (WR)
- Dawuane Smoot (DE)
With the lack of funds here, Jacksonville will focus on bringing back their guys, with Evan Engram and Jawaan Taylor each earning themselves short extensions after solid seasons. They'll let Marvin Jones walk with his age as they look forward to life with Calvin Ridley as well. On the defense, they'll add Rock Ya-Sin who is at worst a good fourth corner, and will compete with a certain rookie for reps...
NFL Draft; We have the Jags selecting Illinois corner Devon Witherspoon, who would be an extremely solid pick at number 25. This will bring a whole new type of upside to a secondary that had some holes in it last year, and immediately give the Jags a dangerous young CB duo in Witherspoon and Tyson Campbell, who burst onto the scene last year.
So altogether, here's what the Jaguars' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Trevor Lawrence
RB - Travis Etienne
WR - Calvin Ridley
WR - Christian Kirk
WR - Zay Jones
TE - Evan Engram
With this team, can the Jaguars make it back to the playoffs?
Last Year's Record: 7-10
2023 Estimated Cap Space: -$23,423,634
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (1), 2nd (1), 3rd (1), 5th (1), 6th (1), 7th (1)
Notable Free Agents; Austin Hooper (TE), Dontrelle Hilliard (RB), Terrance Mitchell (CB), Mario Edwards (DE), Nate Davis (G), Teair Tart (DT), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (WR)
Coaching; The Titans need an offensive coordinator, but it's very likely they'll promote from within (as they always do.) I think Klint Kubiak knows this scheme well from his time in Minnesota and would make a good OC here.
Trades; This team will need to get out of salary cap trouble before making any trades. Free Agency;
+ Dontrelle Hilliard (RB)
+ Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (WR)
+ Teair Tart (DT)
+ Billy Turner (OT)
+ Case Keenum (QB)
- Nate Davis (G)
- Mario Edwards (DE)
- Austin Hooper (TE)
- Terrance Mitchell (CB)
Again, this is a team lacking money, and they'll lose a lot of their veterans who they simply won't be able to bring back. They will, however, bring back guys like Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Teair Tart who will be cheap enough to sign to short term deals and keep this team together and deep. If Kubiak was to become OC, he'd likely bring in a backup that he knows well as all coaches do (Case Keenum in this case.)
NFL Draft; With the 11th overall pick, we have the Titans selecting OT Peter Skoronski. This will bolster the bookends of the offensive line which were really really weak last year, and hopefully provide a stable presence, especially considering Taylor Lewan's injury issues of the past few years.
So altogether, here's what the Titans' starting offense would look like in 2023...
QB - Ryan Tannehill
RB - Derrick Henry
WR - Treylon Burks
WR - Robert Woods
WR - Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
TE - Chigoziem Okonkwo
No changes, but working towards a better 2024!