The Tennessee Titans entered the 2012 NFL Draft needing young talent on both sides of the ball, but which rookies are primed to make an immediate impact?
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor, 1st Round
Yes, this is the easiest one to predict, as he was the first round selection and also plays a position in need of support; however, Kendall Wright could be on the brink of one of the better rookie wide receiver seasons in the past few years.
Last year the 5’10” receiver shattered the Baylor record books, putting up 1,663 yards on 108 catches, with 14 TDs, all in 13 games mind you. That type of production in one season may lead some to believe that he’s a one-year wonder, but Wright has consistently improved throughout his collegiate career. His receptions increased each year (50, 66, 78, 108), as did his yards (649, 740, 952, 1,663).
A consistent route runner with explosive quickness, Wright is a hybrid receiver of sorts. He’s quick and smart enough to play the Wes Welker role, but also big and strong enough to challenge safeties and corners for jump balls. Not to mention what he and RGIII did best together last year at Baylor – take the top off the defense.
Prediction: Wright could very well catch 50-60 balls this season as he becomes more comfortable with Jake Locker, and obviously as Britt comes back from suspension and surgery. That many catches with a handful of touchdowns, let’s say 6, would definitely classify as a successful rookie season for a receiver, putting him in company with AJ Green (65 recs, 7 TD) and Julio Jones (54 recs, 8 TD).
Mike Martin, DT, Michigan, 3rd Round
While the Titans’ interior defensive line appears to be set with Karl Klug, Sen’Derrick Marks, and Jurrell Casey, Mike Martin will get his chance to shine.
The 6’1”, 306 lb senior captain played 49 games for the University of Michigan, tallying 172 tackles and 10 sacks in his 4-year career. Martin has incredible strength (36 reps at the combine) and a tenacious motor. He plays similar to Klug, using quick, strong bursts to control and shed blockers.
Don’t let Martin’s size and strength fool you though. This man is an athlete. He ran a swift 40-yard dash at 4.88 seconds and broad jumped 113” (only 3” less than the super-athletic rookie linebacker Zach Brown.)
Prediction: Martin may not pile up sacks, or even tackles for that matter, but he will consistently beat his man on the inside, forcing teams to shift extra protection his way. This will present opportunities for Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan on the outside.
Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson, 4th Round
The Titans have Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner on the outside, with Tommie Campbell filling in the nickel. This leaves Ryan Mouton and Coty Sensabaugh to fight it out for the 4th cornerback position.
Sensabaugh began his football career at Clemson as a special teams player and reserve cornerback, but by his senior year he became a top contributor, logging 993 snaps played in 2011, the most in one season in school history.
He has good size at 5’11” and possesses rare speed, clocking 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the fourth fastest time at the combine among all cornerbacks. More importantly, Sensabaugh is a student of the game. His coaches at Clemson praised his leadership and film study abilities.
Prediction: Sensabaugh will immediately contribute on special teams, but he may also see playing time in the Titans’ 4-cornerback set. The Titans have had good luck developing later round cornerbacks (Finnegan-7th, Verner-4th, and McCourty-6th), so let’s hope Sensabaugh can follow in their footsteps.
Each of these young Tennessee Titans has a chance to make an immediate impact, some more than others, but it’s always about what you do with the opportunities provided. Expect to hear these names called on Sundays this season, for the right reasons.