Breakfast: The rise of the AFC South

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Over the past year and some change, no division in football experienced a renaissance quite like the AFC South. For years, the division was not highly thought of by analysts and the league at large as the Colts and Texans took home division titles from 2010 through 2016. That though, will change, and should do so for the foreseeable future. Three AFC South teams are ranked in the top 13 in Elliot Harrison's NFL Power rankings (Jaguars at 4, Texans at 12 and Titans at 13).

Why?

Well, players, really. Thirty players from the NFL's Top 100 have been revealed and five of them have come from the AFC South. J.J. Watt came in at No. 84, while Jacksonville edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue is just the first of six Jaguars that made the list. The Titans have had three players from 71-100: TE Delanie Walker, OT Taylor Lewan and S Kevin Byard. The Texans should place four more on the list (in my opinion), while the Titans should have two more (QB Marcus Mariota and DT Jurrell Casey). If my math is correct…

Texans:
J.J. Watt
Tyrann Mathieu
Deshaun Watson
DeAndre Hopkins
Jadeveon Clowney

Titans:
Kevin Byard
Taylor Lewan
Delanie Walker
Marcus Mariota
Jurrell Casey

Jaguars:
Yannick Ngakoue
Calais Campbell
Leonard Fournette
Jalen Ramsey
Telvin Smith
A.J. Bouye

Colts:
T.Y. Hilton

That would be 17 of the 100 accounted for in this division, which is a pretty salty number for a division that only had 11 on the list in 2017 and just nine in 2016.

Furthermore, it's young talent that has arrived in this division. Take for instance The Big Lead's top 25 under the age of 25. Leading the way, not unexpectedly, is Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Third on the list is Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey is fourth. Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars bellcow power back, is 17th. Titans Jack Conklin is 23rd, while Ngakoue was inexplicably in the "others receiving votes" section, as was Byard. Five of 25 (20 percent) of the list comes from the AFC South. Texans Jadeveon Clowney was eliminated from consideration because he is 25. The NFC South accounted for five as well, which tied the AFC South for most in the division.

I've been envious of the rivalries and big time division games that teams throughout the NFL have on an annual basis. If the projections are on point, there are about to be some gargantuan matchups in the AFC South in 2018 and, more than likely, beyond.

The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 6/14/2021)

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