Hello Again, This is my first official article as Editor so I figured I would start by setting a precedent to go all out. As the 2011 NFL Draft approaches the fan war rooms have once again become abuzz with the prospect of gaining fresh talent, and the promise of a championship season once again renews our passion for the game. One thing that is now upon us that hasn’t been in recent years, is the ever present lockout that could affect all 32 NFL teams for years to come, through the draft. I have reviewed several mock drafts and find that a majority of them are consistent with the exception of one rule, how will teams react if the lockout continues through the draft? Most mock drafts decline to show that teams will more likely draft by position need rather than the best player on the board to ensure that a position that they might have filled in free agency, is certainly filled via the draft.
The Titans have several issues that most certainly needed to be addressed before the draft, Head Coach Mike Munchak re-iterated this week that Vince Young is definitely not in future plans for the team and they still wish to waive or trade him. This not only give fans a clear view of future plans but also gives a quick step forward as the Munchak era begins. The Quarterback situation is obviously the most needed position to address. I personally have mixed feelings about Young, on one hand I see a talented athlete that the past couple seasons has steadily grown to produce better numbers (despite injuries). On the other hand I see a punk that throws adult temper tantrums (although he may have had a point) when he doesn’t get his way. If we keep Young we could potentially have a dominate season based off the league schedule released on the 19th. It would also allow us the ability to draft by best player rather than team need with Free Agency being on hold players such as Jason Babin and Bo Scaife (in my opinion Scaife will be let go with Vince). With Jared Cook finally emerging as the Tight End we all hoped he would be, the need for Scaife will have been diminished after a season plagued with dropped passes, missed blocking assignments and a few games in which Cook was named the starter due to better performance.
The draft situation is pretty much in the air, as far as where the Titans are going to go where position is concerned. We could most definitely go after a QB (I think Cam Newton is out of the picture, the scrambling Quarterback has worn its course in Tennessee for a while). So if we were to draft this position I would look for a more polished drop back passer such as Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert might be a reach for the first round but hey, everyone said C.J. was a reach too, who got the final laugh there? Gabbert shows tremendous memorization skills and has more than enough arm strength to get the ball downfield to help bring that Strong Side Safety out of the box and open up some running lanes for Johnson. Many people say that Mallet would be a better pick, for the Titans this is not the case, off the field issues and questions about maturity and work ethic are exactly what got us in this predicament to begin with. The situation being that we possibly have to draft a franchise Quarterback again in only 5 years. We could play the what if and the guessing game all day at this position, and who would be the better pick but history has shown that once an experiment fails with a troubled player, the next Titan’s draftees tend to pick the safest bets.
Defensive Line is the other way that we could possibly go with the number 8 overall pick. With the hiring of Auburn’s Defensive Line Coach many analysts believe that we will draft Auburn’s Nick Fairley. Questions about his work ethic and maturity again raise red flags, but with his former position coach possibly being his coach again, the Titans could very well choose to use that safety net and bring in what many believe to be a dominate force in the middle of the line, and bring back our run stuffing capabilities. Marcell Dareus is another prospect that could fall to us but many have him being picked before we get a shot. Even if he isn’t picked that could mean that Fairley was taken ahead of him and the pick could now switch back to the Quarterback position with the safety net scenario being a non-issue. For those that have never been a war room on draft day, the board is an entity of its own, almost a living being, constantly changing and evolving as plans are disrupted by a trade or surprise pick by a team. Last year everyone swore we would be able to grab Jason Pierre-Paul but when the Giants drafted him one pick ahead of us, it was a split decision process in which we had to grab the next best player on the board in Derrick Morgan.
The Smart Play….
Would be draft a Defensive Tackle in the first round. Whether it be Marcell Dareus or Nick Fairley, and take my chances of acquiring Jake Locker (even though he also wears number 10) or a Colin Kaepernick in the 2nd round. Tony Brown and Jason Jones are GREAT DTs for us but since we run a rotation D-Line the use for another DT is a must. We have a need at the position unless my buddy Rennie Curran is able to step his run stopping game up a bit during training camp (if there is one) and solidify himself into a rotational role. In the 3rd round I would jump all over Casey Matthews like a fat kid on a cupcake. The kid is just as hard a worker as his brother and just as talented. With a Matthews already being on the team (Kevin Matthews-cousin to Clay and Casey) and Bruce’s Ali-like return to the team, Casey would feel like he has to prove himself more to show everyone he wasn’t drafted due to bloodline. Drafting Casey will also sure up depth at the position in case (god forbid) an injury and allow us to bring a couple players along with Witherspoon being in the latter end of his career.
We can take this to the Offensive side of the ball where Kenny Britt could possibly miss game time this year for his joy ride in Jersey and Randy Moss quite certainly leaving the team. Draft a Receiver such as Julio Jones (much like Desean Jackson) or A.J. Green, to not only send a message to Kenny (check out Britt’s charges here), fill the void for his missed time, BUT, also have a go to receiver on the opposite side of the field for when Britt returns. You may be asking who is gonna get him the ball though? That is when you still stick with your offensive draft philosophy and draft a QB such as Locker or Kaepernick in the 2nd round. You can have one of them sit behind Collins for a year (after resigning him in free agency and again hopefully barring injury), pick up a veteran QB such as McNabb in a trade for Vince Young, or start him day one. Coaching is all about options and which set of options has the possibility of achieving the best results.
Personally, I would absolutely LOVE for us to draft Blaine Gabbert. Probably not for the reasons you think though, Granted, Gabbert has a lot to offer I am sure. For me it’s about putting Vince Young behind us and moving on, drafting Gabbert would certainly give fans a sense of security again and excitement at the prospect of a true franchise Quarterback that doesn’t come with issues. Last offseason I was the first person to defend Vince and enlighten those around me that he had grown and the reasons how he had done so. But, I too am human and can be wrong, I figured the death of his mentor Steve McNair had finally forced Vince to grow up and be a man. In actuality, all it did was give him a platform to “claim” that he had done so. Without going into another article I simply say that the drafting of Blaine Gabbert would not only help fans to see a plan for the future but also allow fans to realize that Vince’s days are truly done in Tennessee.
Even with the lockout, this year’s draft should be a most interesting one indeed. So ladies and gentlemen until Thursday, when those famous words “Welcome to the 2011 NFL Draft” come, we will all have to play analyst the best we can.