Positions: WR, CB, DE, LB
In recent years, Tennessee Titans fans have clamored for a top-flight wide receiver. In 2007, the team selected safety Michael Griffin from the University of Texas. In 2008, they “reached” for the speedy running back Chris Johnson out of ECU. Fortunately, those picks have paid huge dividends thus far, as both have become Pro Bowlers in their first and second seasons, respectively. With all of that said, is this finally the year that the Titans draft an impact wideout? History says no, but if a WR is the highest player they have left on their draft board, then Titans fans will likely be welcoming a new one to the team.
WR: Tennessee has drafted eight wide receivers since 2005. Since you asked, those eight have been: Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams, Jonathan Orr, Paul Williams, Chris Davis, Joel Filani and Lavelle Hawkins. A few of those guys still have time to pan out, but none of them are currently in danger of being recognized on the street. And that doesn’t include the 1st round selection of Kevin Dyson in 1998, the 2nd round pick of Tyrone Calico in 2000, or the 2nd round choice of Ben Troupe in 2004 (yes, he was a TE, but he was also the team’s first pick in the draft that year). None of them are now Titans. Needless to say, that some of those choices may have affected future draft picks at this position. But if the Titans learned anything with the selection of “Twitch” in last year’s draft, it’s that having playmakers at skill positions is indispensable. If a WR like Percy Harvin or Hakeem Nicks are still hanging around, then Titans must strongly consider taking the leap they weren’t willing to last year when all of the top WR’s were still on the board.
CB: The Titans secondary was by far the most pleasant surprise of the 2008 season. Going back just two years to 2006, the Titans finished with the 27th ranked passing defense in the league. But since drafting CB Cortland Finnegan in 2006 (6th round), S Michael Griffin in 2007 and bringing in free agents S Chris Hope in 2006 and CB Nick Harper in 2007, the Titans have turned in top ten defensive units. Finnegan and Griffin will be cornerstones in the secondary for years to come, but Hope and Harper aren’t getting any younger, and Harper will become a free agent after next season. Look for the Titans to find his replacement in this year’s draft.
DE: Last year’s loss of 2004 second round picks Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy coupled with the age and injury histories of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jevon Kearse leaves defensive end as a position where Tennessee needs to get deeper and younger. Rookie Jason Jones played incredibly well this season, and while he’s listed as a DE, the majority of his playing time was at the tackle position. Jones adds to the depth of the interior line (which becomes especially important if Albert Haynesworth leaves via free agency), so expect Tennessee to look to bolster the DE position (and/or tackle depending on Haynesworth), possibly even finding a starter in the first few rounds.
LB: Keith Bulluck has unquestionably been the leader of the Tennessee Titans defense since being their 1st round selection in the 2000 draft. He has quite possibly been one of the most underrated players at his position since he came into the league (only one Pro Bowl in 2003). Unfortunately, Bulluck is on the north side of 30. Same goes for his linebacking bookend, David Thornton. The youngster, Stephen Tulloch looks to have a place in this corps for the future, as he has shown tons of promise, but he still lacks the consistency that is needed to lead this unit. Throw in the fact that there is very little depth here (unless you’re crazy about Stanford Keglar’s “upside”) and you almost have to think that the Titans will try and find another future starting linebacker in this draft.
If last year proved anything, it’s that Tennessee (like most disciplined teams) isn’t going to draft solely for need in the first round. The Titans might seem pretty stacked at offensive tackle, for instance, but if the top guy on their board when they pick at #30 is an OT, we’re probably looking at a new offensive lineman. This is not a bad thing. The Titans roster is littered with second day gems, and Tennessee has the luxury of having a season or two to groom this year’s draft picks before their impact is essential.
Topics: Albert Haynesworth, Antwan Odom, Ben Troupe, Brandon Jones, Chris Davis, Chris Hope, Chris Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Courtney Roby, David Thornton, East Carolina University, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Jones, Jevon Kearse, Joel Filani, Jonathan Orr, Keith Bulluck, Kevin Dyson, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lavelle Hawkins, Michael Griffin, Nick Harper, Paul Williams, Percy Harvin, Pro Bowl, Roydell Williams, Stanford Keglar, Stephen Tulloch, Tennessee Titans, Travis LaBoy, Tyrone Calico, University Of Texas