Let’s get right to it. The 2012 draft is in the books, and the Tennessee Titans have added, what they think, are a number of players that will be competing for playing time in the upcoming season. I’m going to run through a few positions where the competition looks to be especially heated based on the player drafted and the player currently occupying that specific position.
Kendall Wright vs. Damien Williams/Lavelle Hawkins
You don’t draft a wide receiver in the first round and expect him to be the 4th or 5th receiver. Wright was drafted to make an immediate impact, and I believe he will start the season as the number 3 receiver behind Kenny Britt and Nate Washington. (Of course, this is dependent on Britt’s health. Conceivably, Wright could be the number 2 at the start of the season.) What does this mean for the rest of the receivers? Simple: They are all on notice. Williams, Hawkins, and Marc Mariani all need to step up their games or they will be riding the bench or worse – looking for work. Williams and Hawkins are safe for this season, but Mariani needs to be sure he can contribute in more ways than just on special teams. (In a somewhat related bit, no one should have been surprised that the Titans drafted Wright in the first round. History teaches us many things, but most importantly, it teaches us that the Titans like to draft wide receivers in the first round if their first name starts with the letter K. Kevin Dyson, Kenny Britt, and now Kendall Wright. I don’t know how we all missed that.)
Zach Brown vs. Will Witherspoon
I don’t think this choice is going to come down to who is the best player right now. I think this position will come down to which player gives Jerry Gray the most options and flexibility. That player is Brown. His speed and coverage skills will allow Gray to use Ayers in a more pass-rushing role, something we saw very little of last year. Witherspoon will be a valuable role player, filling in whenever and wherever he is needed. Having quality depth at the linebacker position is important in the NFL and the Titans appear to have plenty of it.
Mike Martin vs. Sen’Derrick Marks/Shaun
Smith Smith was a huge disappointment last year, but he has said all the right things this off-season about getting in better shape and coming back in 2012 with a monster year. Let’s hope he backs that up on the field. Marks has been ok in his time as a Titan, but I think even he would admit he hasn’t lived up to his 2nd round draft status. Martin is coming in being touted as a run stuffer. Will he be good enough to claim the starting role right off the bat? I doubt it, but this is a good problem for the team to have. Martin will get his opportunity to show the team that he can be this year’s Jurrell Casey.