After winning a combined five games in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the Titans went 9-7 this past year and suddenly look on the verge of contender status. In terms of the rebuilding process, they seem to be ahead of schedule and new GM Jon Robison has done a fantastic job acquiring extra picks: the team owns multiple picks in both the first and third round of the 2017 draft and eight picks overall. Unfortunately for the team, the Cleveland Browns own the right to Tennessee’s second round pick.
With a loaded 2017 draft class, it is critical for the Titans to take advantage of their picks, specifically in the first two days (the top three rounds). Although they have an abundance of cap space to use for free agency, the free agent market is rather weak. So expect the Titans to spend the majority of their time focusing on the draft rather than risk overpaying for a potential free agent. In order to take the next step towards being a contender, drafting well is a critical factor. With that being said, let’s dive into an ideal Tennessee Titans draft strategy.
Team Needs: Cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker
Luckily for the Titans, this draft class is flooded with top-50 talent at the cornerback position and it would be wise for Jon Robison to assure he snags one before the top 10-12 corners are off the board.
At wide receiver, Corey Davis and Mike Williams are the lone top-tier guys, but the class as a whole is deeper than given credit for. There’s potential for a solid value pick at WR in the middle rounds of the draft. In addition, the TE class is filled with top-level talent. O.J. Howard and David Njoku are expected to be first-round picks while multiple others are expected to get drafted on day two.
Inside linebacker is lacking in depth with this class. Rueben Foster is the lone top-tier guy and Jarrad Davis is expected to go in the second round. Beyond that, there’s not much to get excited about regarding the inside linebackers.
Strategies for the first round
Pick No. 5 – The Titans will have several options to discuss. From going with the best available player, to focusing on a specific need, to trading the pick for additional picks (potentially to obtain a pick in the second round). The way the board looks once they’re on the clock will inevitably affect their decision.
Players such as Foster, Davis, Williams, safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker and whichever cornerback the Titans view as the best of the class will all be in play at pick No. 5.
If Tennessee is set on a particular player and he gets taken before them or if a team calls and offers a ridiculous amount to acquire the pick, trading down is always an option. The Titans did it last year before ultimately moving back up to snag Jack Conklin. For instance, if a team calls and offer a deal similar to that of what the Falcons did to trade up with the Falcons to get Julio Jones, Robison could have a hard time turning that down. Atlanta swapped 2011 first-round picks (No. 27) in addition to a 2012 first-round pick, 2011 second-round pick and fourth-round picks in both years. The Titans could really use a second round pick given the depth of the class, but moving out of the top 5 in a class this strong is easier said than done.
At the end of the day, if Foster is still there, either him or the best corner on the Titans board (perhaps Marshon Lattimore) would be the ideal pick.
Pick No. 18 – Again, this will vary depending on what they do with the first pick, but let’s assume they draft Foster or a corner such as Lattimore. At pick No. 18, the Titans can either double down on the defensive side of the field or focus on finding a go-to target for Marcus Mariota. Another possibility is taking advantage of a player falling down the board and sticking with the “best player available” method. For the Titans, multiple players that fit a need should be available.
Of the four weapons worth a top-20 pick, one of Williams, Davis, Howard or Njoku should be available if that’s the route they choose to take. On the other hand, the depth at the cornerback position means there will surely be a handful still available that are worthy of such a high selection.
If Foster turns out to be the first pick, adding a potential top cornerback to go along with the Alabama linebacker would be a first round worth celebrating. Although, if the Tenessee elected to upgrade the secondary at five, taking a weapon for Mariota would be worth it. The Titans could even double down on cornerbacks with both picks in an attempt to lock down a shutdown corner duo for the foreseeable future. If the Titans take Davis or Williams at five, one would expect them to take the highest cornerback left on its board with their second pick. All of these options provide a combination of filling team needs while also acquiring potential blue-chip talent.
Strategies for the third round
Tennessee possesses two third-round picks, No. 69 and No. 82. It’s a bit harder to pinpoint a specific strategy at this point beyond relying on the scouting department to do their diligence on players at this point and beyond.
In Bleacher Report’s latest seven-round mock draft, Matt Miller had the Titans taking California wide receiver Chad Hansen at No. 69 and Florida State interior defensive lineman Demarcus Walker at No. 82. Hansen has the upside to be a second option at receiver and Walker could fill in immediately as a rotational defensive line player on passing situations — he registered 16 sacks in 2016.
Adding players capable of contributing as a rookie is important, especially when it comes to the first three rounds. Especially in a class this deep, that should be the ultimate goal for Robison’s first four selections.
Picking fifth in the third round, the Titans hold an early opportunity to draft a player expected to go in the first two rounds that fell for some weird reason (it happens every draft). If that’s not the case, there should be a handful of wide receivers and tight ends expected to go in the area around Tennessee’s third-round picks. In addition, there’s a good possibility that the team could opt to look for depth in the secondary or another pass rusher. With these two selections, the Titans need to ensure they take advantage of the depth of this draft class. Here are a few names worth watching for.:
California wide receiver Chad Hansen
Louisiana Tech wide receiver Carlos Henderson
Southern California wide receiver Ju-Ju Smith
South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett
Florida State defensive end Demarcus Walker
Alabama safety Eddie Jackson
Washington cornerback Kevin King
Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton
Florida safety Marcus Maye
Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie
Houston cornerback Howard Wilson
Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker
Day three strategy
Contributors Tajae Sharpe, Avery Williamson and Karl Klug were all once fifth-round selections by the Titans. Finding a gem in a late-round is uncommon, but the scouting department has done its homework well before. The Titans’ first pick on the third day is pick No. 122. Here are some potential day three prospects to keep an eye on:
Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Toledo tight end Michael Roberts
Miami cornerback Corn Elder
North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer
Florida State cornerback Marquez White
Edited by Quinn Pilkey
Featured image by Hector Alejandro, courtesy of CreativeCommons.org