Two weeks ago, I ranked the top ten players in the current AFC South. This article will rank the top ten players in the history of the teams in the AFC South. To be clear, the AFC South was concocted in 2002. However, this list will include players who played on these four teams before and after that merger.
Pretend all of the players (of the modern era) in the history of the Colts, Jaguars, Titans, and Texans were in their primes and thrown into a draft. This is how they would rank. Obviously opinions will greatly vary, given there are so many great players and potential Hall of Famers in this group.
The four-time Pro Bowl running back wrecked havoc on opposing defenses for eight seasons. A fiery competitor was a vocal leader for the Titans. He ended up rushing for just over 10,000 yards during his tenure with Tennessee.
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Kearse was a different breed of athlete. He was Jason Pierre-Paul before Jason Pierre-Paul. Fittingly nicknamed “The Freak,” Kearse was an absolute monster during his tenure with Tennessee. The three-time Pro Bowler started his career off with a bang by getting to the quarterback 14.5 times.
Smith spent two injury-plagued seasons with Dallas, and one with Philadelphia before being signed by the expansion Jaguars in 1995. As a Jaguar, Smith became a perennial Pro Bowler and the team’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. During his best season, Smith caught 119 passes for over 1600 yards.
Keith Bullock may very well be the best defensive player in the history of the division. The three time Pro Bowler amassed 19 interceptions and 18 sacks during his tenure with Tennessee, on top of being extremely durable and rarely missing a game.
You can make a case that Tony Boselli was the best left-tackle of the 1990’s. A true competitor with a nasty demeanor on the field, Boselli was the franchise’s first draft pick. A highlight of his career was when he stonewalled Bruce Smith during a Wild Card matchup in 1996.
Fred Taylor is one of the most underrated running back’s of all time. Taylor finished his career with 11,695 rushing yards, 66 touchdowns and only one Pro Bowl appearance. He made a splash as a rookie and did not look back. His 2007 season was truly special in that that was the first time the league really appreciated what the veteran was doing and was consequently voted into the Pro Bowl for the first time that year (albeit as an alternate). Taylor is the best player in the short history of the Jaguars.
Andre Johnson has been downright dominant during his time with the Texans and at one point in time was considered to be the best receiver in football. There have been times where Johnson literally carried the Texans, especially during all of those losing seasons. While his best days may be behind him, there is no denying Johnson is still a top 10 receiver and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Marvin Harrison may very well be the best receiver in the history of the AFC South. Granted, it helps to have Peyton Manning throwing you the ball, but there is no denying Harrison had some truly historic seasons, most notably his 2002 season where he caught a league-record 143 balls (nearly nine catches per game). During the five-year span of 1999-2003, Harrison amassed a whopping 563 catches. It is only a matter of time until his inevitable induction into the Hall of Fame.
Pro Bowler. Most Valuable Player. Leader. Legend.
These are the first words that come to my mind when thinking about Steve McNair. During his 10 seasons with Tennessee, McNair threw 156 touchdowns (36 rushing) and always seemed to perform at his best in clutch situations. On top of his statistics, he brought legitimate leadership to the Tennessee locker room. Though he did spend his last two seasons with Baltimore, people will always associate McNair with the Titans and he is without a doubt the best player in the history of that franchise.
Peyton Manning is hand-down the best player in the history of the AFC South. He is a 12-time Pro Bowler, six-time First-Team All Pro, four-time NFL MVP, and most importantly an NFL Champion. He is one of the all-time leaders in passing yards, held the record for touchdowns thrown in a single season (which has since been broken by Tom Brady) and is one more championship away from being in the “best to ever play quarterback” argument. On top of the talent and credentials, he was also a natural-born leader. Ranking him #1 on this list was the easiest decision in putting this article together.