Image via TitansOnline.com
The stage is set in Nashville for arguably the biggest event in the NFL until the preseason: the NFL draft (unless you are an elite fan of off-season programs). While the removal of the famous cherry trees in Nashville has been stealing the headlines recently, a larger storyline looms: what direction will the Titans go in round one of the draft? The most popular mock drafts typically have the Titans picking either a TE to replace Delanie Walker, a DT to help shore up the defensive line next to Jurrell Casey, or a WR to help compliment Corey Davis and the passing attack. But are any of these the direction the Titans should go?
For most analysts, it’s simple to suggest the Titans selecting a TE at pick number 19. Delanie Walker will be 35 when the season starts, much past what’s considered the prime of his career. And the offense is in dire need of play-makers regardless of position. But is it fair to assume that a year lost to injury will slow down Walker’s production? In his last full season, he had 74 receptions for 804 yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl. And while there are some very good first round TE prospects — Iowa’s Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson come to mind– the Titans could probably achieve more value by shopping for a TE in the mid-rounds, someone like Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger, to eventually replace Marcus Mariota’s favorite target.
On paper, the Titans have a glaring need for a disruptive presence on the defensive line next to Jurrell Casey. Austin Johnson simply isn’t a viable option; the 2016 second-round pick out of Penn State has only produced 2.5 sacks in what has been an underwhelming career thus far. Luckily for the Titans, this draft class is loaded with top tier defensive talent. Someone like Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence or Christian Wilkins could be available when the Titans are on the clock. The selection of one of these indisputable talents could work magic for the only weak spot in what is a loaded Tennessee defense. A space-eating D-lineman could free up Jurrell Casey from double teams and propel the pass rush from the inside-out. However, since this draft is so deep in D-line talent, the Titans could wait for someone like Miss State’s Jeffery Simmons, who tore his ACL during a workout in Florida, to drop down into a later round.
|THE TALK LONG SLEEVE||$19.00|
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine the Titans picking yet another WR in the first round. While Corey Davis, the 5th overall selection in the 2017 Draft, has developed quite nicely, the Titans receiving core is just one injury away from disaster. Jon Robinson made a very savvy move by signing veteran slot receiver Adam Humphries to a 4-year deal worth $36 million, but it’s still unclear who will start on the outside opposite Corey Davis. Taywan Taylor simply wasn’t good enough last season, and it may be time for the Titans to pull the trigger on a consistent deep threat to unlock the full potential of the offense. This will help the Titans finally see exactly what they have with Marcus Mariota in the last year of his deal. Although the offense is sure to be run through the punishing style of RB Derrick Henry, to leap into the true Super Bowl contender category, the Titans will have to diversify their attack.
While Ole Miss’ DK Metcalf was a workout warrior at the combine and is consistently mocked to the Titans, I’m not sure he’s a Jon-Robinson-Esque player. Metcalf is extremely athletic, but his route running ability needs serious work before he’s ready for the NFL level. Robinson prefers to draft players who are closer to a finished product over athletic specimens like Metcalf.
With such a complete roster, there seems to be only a few other positional holes the Titans could address. Firstly, Kevin Pamphile is slated in as the starting RG next to Ben Jones at Center. Jones has been fairly disappointing since signing a 4-year, $17.5 million contract with the Titans in 2016, and Pamphile has been a backup for most of his career. If N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury is available, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine the Titans selecting the center prospect who looks like a day one starter. This would allow them to shift Jones to RG and battle with Pamphile for the starting spot while shoring up the interior of the O-line following the departures of Quinton Spain and Josh Kline. And with the division rival Colts reminding the league of the value of interior O-linemen with their selection of Pro Bowler Quenton Nelson, the emphasis on strengthening the line could not be greater.
The notoriously tight-lipped Jon Robinson and Co. will have their pick of any of these positional needs when on the clock, and they may simply go with the best player available at any of these positions. An edge rusher could also be a sleeper pick if someone like FSU’s Brian Burns or Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell falls to 19, but with Cameron Wake signed to a 3-year, $23 million deal and the improved play of both Harold Landry and Kamalei Correa, they should be able to get by with the incumbent pass rushers. From OL, to DT, to TE, to WR, to even an EDGE defender, the Titans could go any direction in the first round of the draft, but any of these picks would be needed and welcomed in Nashville.
|THE TALK T-SHIRT||$18.00|
|TTSM T-SHIRT FIRE||$18.00|
|THE TALK LONG SLEEVE||$19.00|
|TTSM PLAIN LONG SLEEVE||$15.00|
|TTSM LONG SLEEVE||$22.00|
|TTSM LONG SLEEVE COLOR WAVE||$19.00|