On the eve of the new season and the night before the Titan Sized writers put their credibility on the line in our Fantasy Draft, I thought it would be worth looking at how the Titans draft picks have fared in pre-season and what can be expected of them in the season ahead.
JAKE LOCKER – 1st Round – Quarterback
There was widespread surprise when Locker was the second quarterback selected in the 2011 draft. It was pretty clear that with the departure of Vince Young, and the age of Kerry Collins, that the Titans would choose a quarterback, but that was not expected to be Locker. It was certain that Cam Newton would be heading to Carolina. However Sports Illustrated had Blaine Gabbert slated to be chosen before Locker, and suggested the Titans would go for Andy Dalton of TCU.
However it is thought that an outstanding workout for the Titans and Lockers general demeanour and enthusiasm won the Titans coaching staff over, and he was duly selected as the future of the franchise.
Whilst he was never going to be the starter in Week One, the lockout accentuated the need for an experienced quarterback to take on the offense and to mentor Locker for the future. In Matt Hasselbeck the Titans have a solid veteran and an ideal teacher for Locker.
The worries over Locker were his accuracy, but in pre-season this has not materialised. He has thrown just one pick, and in the final pre-season game in New Orleans Locker showed his maturity, with clever scrambles, and an ability to move around and out of the pocket. His bullet touchdown pass to Lavelle Hawkins will be part of his highlight reel.
He won’t start and might not play a great deal this year, but the experience he gains this season may be vital to the future of the franchise.
AKEEM AYERS – 2nd Round – Linebacker
Ayers drafted with the intention for him to compete for a start on Week One and his performances pre-season have seen him pencilled in to start against Jacksonville on Sunday.
Whilst other defenders have seen more game time to fight for a place on the roster, Ayers has been part of the first string defence. He will be expected to help stop the run, but has the ability to disrupt the passing game. With the QB situation in Jax, it can be expected that it will be his run stopping ability that will be under the microscope first, with him likely to see a whole lot of Maurice Jones Drew on Sunday.
JURELL CASEY – 3rd Round – Defensive Tackle
This was an area of the side that looked weak before the season started, so the Titans have looked to bring in some experience also. The introduction of Shaun Smith to the roster has made Casey’s task of making the starting line up more difficult, but he has done enough in pre-season to cement a place as a back-up.