Tennessee Titans 2013 NFL Draft: Top 5 Wide Receivers

 

The Tennessee Titans are a long shot to draft another wide receiver in the 1st round, but there could be troubling thoughts brewing in GM Ruston Webster’s head. As Britt enters his contract year and Washington pouts after being mentioned in trade rumors, the organization is faced with several questions at the receiver position. Kendall Wright certainly proved his value as a rookie, but neither Damian Williams nor Lavelle Hawkins is a starting-caliber option at this time.

Until the situation with Nate Washington is resolved, it’s difficult to fully assess the draft strategy. The recent signing of WR Kevin Walter may help to clarify the situation, providing a slot receiver with experience in the event Washington is released or traded. Regardless, they will be looking to add a promising rookie to the receiving core, providing depth and insurance. The 2013 draft class has several intriguing prospects at receiver, and the Titans will consider adding one of the following talented players:

     1. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

September 29, 2012; Athens, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs after a catch in the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs won 51-44. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

If I told you that a wide receiver, having only played one season at the FBS level, is being considered as a top-10 pick, would you call me crazy? In his one season at the University of Tennessee, Patterson scored ten touchdowns in four different ways: receiving, rushing, and both kick and punt returns. He averaged 16.9 yards per catch and 12.3 yards per rush, creating big gains from nothing. He has all the athletic talent to go with incredible field vision, effortlessly cutting and weaving through defenders. For proof please view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odURBHfLj0A

Patterson’s lofty draft status reflects his immense potential more than his limited production, and he is still an unpolished receiver in many respects. He often uses his body when catching, but that being said, he is truly a special talent. He has great instincts with the ball in his hands, gliding between tacklers with incredible ease for a man his size (6’2”, 216 lbs). Patterson can easily separate in man coverage, as well as find the soft spots in zone coverage. He is also very physical, never shying away from contact when fighting for extra yards.

Patterson has been linked with Buffalo (8th) in several mock drafts, and I’m sure the Bills would like to add a player like him opposite of Stevie Johnson. The Jets (9th) could also be possible suitors, realizing that Sanchez’s weapons are almost as terrible as him. However, it’s likely that Patterson will still be on the board when the Titans pick at 10th. That could possibly persuade another team to trade up and snag him before the run on wide receivers. In this scenario, the Titans could move back a few spots, acquire at least another pick, and still draft a player that they would have taken at 10th anyways.

     2. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

Keenan Allen is roughly the same size (6’2”, 206) as Patterson, but he has a much different game. Allen performed admirably for three seasons at Cal, amassing 17 TDs and more than 200 receptions. He is a polished route runner at all levels, and his long stride allows him to separate from defenders despite his lack of elite speed. He also attacks the ball at its highest point, displaying natural timing and strong hands in contested situations.

Many NFL teams have Allen rated above Patterson for his natural receiving ability. If Patterson is a poor man’s Julio Jones, then Allen is a poor man’s A.J. Green (no disrespect to either Patterson or Allen). He will likely be drafted somewhere in the middle of the 1st round, possibly to St. Louis at 16th. Unless the Titans trade back, I do not see a scenario where Allen becomes a Titan.

     3. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

Dec 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Tavon Austin (1) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange at the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Syracuse defeated West Virginia 38-14. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Wow! That’s the response you’ll have after watching just a sliver of Tavon Austin’s highlights at West Virginia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uon7_yw-fKU. His small stature (5’8”, 174 lbs) seems comparable to DeSean Jackson, but he plays more aggressively, similar to Percy Harvin. Austin proved his elite speed at the NFL combine, blazing a ridiculous 4.34. More importantly, he displayed his soft hands and savvy route running in the position drills.

Austin will undoubtedly be a 1st round pick, especially considering the value that teams are placing on versatile playmakers. Austin can and has scored from anywhere on the field, and his speed and vision will surprise defenders even at the NFL-level. The Dolphins could draft him as high as 12th overall, although it’s less likely seeing that they acquired Mike Wallace through free agency. The Titans already have a shifty receiver in Kendall Wright, but they could possibly be looking to replace Washington in the slot. However, this seems highly unlikely, and I imagine the Titans instead drafting a bigger receiver as an insurance policy for Britt.

     4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

The previous three receivers have all received a lot of attention heading into the 2013 draft, but Clemson standout DeAndre Hopkins has largely flown under the radar. That’s especially surprising considering his 2012 statistics: 82 receptions for 1405 yards and 18 TDs. Hopkins (6’1”, 214 lbs) has the size and length to be an outside receiver, and has adequate speed to create separation on deep routes. He is a solid route-runner with strong hands, favorably comparative to Roddy White.

If Hopkins was 2” taller, he would be considered a definitive 1st round pick. Teams can obsess over measurables, sometimes losing sight of a player’s true potential. Back in the 2005 Draft, there were four receivers taken before Roddy White: Braylon Edwards (3rd), Troy Williamson (7th), Mike Williams (10th), and Mark Clayton (22nd). Scouts saw White as a slightly undersized receiver from a small school (UAB), but he has exceeded all expectations in his illustrious Falcons career. Hopkins could be drafted late in the 1st round by a team like the Texans, and I think the Titans would consider him early in the 2nd round if possible.

     5. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

Sep 22, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Justin Hunter (11) during warm ups prior to the game against the Akron Zips at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee defeated Akron 47-26. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Although Cordarrelle Patterson received most of the recognition last season at Tennessee, Justin Hunter was actually QB Tyler Bray’s preferred option. Hunter (6’4”, 196 lbs) has the ideal frame for an NFL wideout, with long arms and big hands. He also possesses excellent striding speed and explosive leaping ability, recording a 40” vertical and 136” broad jump at the combine. His size, speed, and athleticism will intrigue many NFL teams on draft day.

Hunter missed most of 2011 with a torn ACL, so he still has limited production at the collegiate level. He’s certainly not a polished route runner yet, but he has soft hands and immense potential. The Titans are concerned about Kenny Britt’s health and troubles, and rightfully so. Hunter could provide a similar big-bodied receiver in case things don’t work out with Britt after 2013. Unfortunately, many teams will be considering him as early as the 1st round, so he may not be available when the Titans pick in the 2nd.

     Honorable Mention: Robert Woods, WR, USC

Sep 1, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Robert Woods (2) is defended by Hawaii Warriors cornerback Mike Edwards (1) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Woods put up gaudy statistics for three seasons at USC, catching 32 TDs for nearly 3,000 yards. He was clearly QB Matt Barkley’s first option due to his savvy route-running and trusty hands. While Woods excels in short to intermediate patterns, he also has the speed to get behind defenders. Scouts love his production at USC, but they question his size and overall athleticism. His stature (6’0”, 201 lbs) and polished game make him comparable to Reggie Wayne, who was drafted late in the 1st round in 2001.

Woods could potentially fall into the 3rd round, unless there’s a big run on wide receivers in the 2nd. Other prospects with more “upside” will entice teams hoping to hit the jackpot. If Woods continues to fall into the 3rd round, the Titans would be wise to consider him. He may not be the most exciting prospect, but his polished game will translate to success in the NFL.

Conclusion: Heading into the 2013 offseason, the Titans have been adamant about adding weapons around young QB Jake Locker. They have vastly improved the offensive line with Levitre, and will continue to do so in the draft. With help also needed on the defense, the front office may not value receiver as an immediate need.

But questions surrounding Washington and Britt continue to persist. Is Washington going to be traded, or if need be, released? Also, will the Titans be willing to sign Britt to a long-term deal? His track record doesn’t inspire confidence, and the organization has been timid in resigning troubled players in the past. More than likely, the Titans will be aiming to add depth to the position in the middle rounds. However, if there’s a player they really love in the 2nd, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull the trigger.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @dfleming22

David Fleming

 

Topics: AFC South, NFL Draft, Tennessee Titans

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  • http://twitter.com/pullmyFANGer Austin Burton

    Awesome article, David. I would also throw the local guy Patton in there. He could be a real possibility if he is on the board when the Titans pick in the 2nd round, I believe.

  • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

    Patterson *Cue drooling

  • @ModernHippieKK

    I say Tavon Austin first round, Second round Tyrann Mathieu if available and trade up to get Warford.

    • @ModernHippieKK

      Perhaps Nate Washington & a 4th or 5th round pick.

    • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

      Mathieu should be available later than the second round. And as for me, I’d rather see a big receiver, one who could replace Kenny Britt if they don’t re-sign him next year/he goes down with an injury this year.

      • @ModernHippieKK

        Talk about a steal if he falls in the 3rd or 4th round. & there’s no rush to draft a replacement just yet. Kenny Britt can play at an elite level, I’ve seen it. I know it can happen again. The ACL is what’s held him back the past two years. I honestly think he can shine next season. With a balanced offense, and a decent corp of receivers means less of a chance for Britt to get hurt.

        • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

          Meh. Britt has always had leg issues. His ACL isn’t the only problem. I know he has the talent, but his durability and off the field stuff is a big negative. It’d certainly be nice to see him turn things around though.

    • josh gunnels

      you like the little dudes huh? sounds like desean jackson and finnegan lite for the titans if you were GM.

  • David Fleming

    Patton is really good, I had him and Woods neck and neck. Consider this scenario: The Browns don’t have a 2nd round pick and may want to recoup some value. If Milliner falls to them, the Titans could move up with probably just the 1st and 3rd/4th, then still get Warford in the 2nd. The only problem is they don’t get the DE early, but they could find someone in later rounds.

    • http://twitter.com/pullmyFANGer Austin Burton

      I am one of the few people willing to scream from the rooftops to draft Patterson. Being a Vol fan, I was able to see him a lot and I really believe he will live up to the hype. With that being said, I don’t see the Titans taking him. That is the exact reason why I believe they will get Patton in the 2nd but I wouldn’t be opposed to your scenario even though I don’t believe they are in dire need for another CB.

      • David Fleming

        I’ll admit, I really like Patterson as well, but only if we can trade back and still land him. Regarding CB, I have no confidence in Mouton at all. T Campbell is very inconsistent, and Sensabaugh hasn’t proven anything. If we don’t resign or franchise Verner after the season, then we will be desperate for a CB next year. Best to be proactive and think ahead.

        • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

          Mouton is a free agent.

          • David Fleming

            Interesting, think they’ll resign him?

          • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

            I would hope not. Special teams player at best. Still get angry thinking about him muffing returns…

        • @ModernHippieKK

          Draft the Honeybadger, I don’t care if its likely he’ll fall to the 3rd or 4th. I would draft him second before anyone else snatched him up. He’s worth a first round so honestly nobody can say he’s a reach. But I believe the off field issues are past him.

          • David Fleming

            Belichek is gonna draft him somewhere in the 2nd, that weasel.

        • http://twitter.com/pullmyFANGer Austin Burton

          Forgot we haven’t locked up ATV yet. Good point. Now you got me worried about that position as well!!!

      • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

        Gunnels always berates me for my Patterson love. I’d take Hunter too. Either way, I’m just looking for a big guy to fill Britt’s shoes when he’s gone. I really don’t see him getting a new contract here in 2014.

        • josh gunnels

          No faith in Michael Preston?

          • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

            Not that much. Coaches don’t let me see him in action enough to have that kind of faith in him.

          • josh gunnels

            Just kidding. It would just be a bonus if he came on strong in camp this year.

            Kiper has Titans taking K. Allen in the second in his latest mock. I would be all over that. I actually like him the most as a guy that can contribute right away and be reliable.

          • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

            I could dig it.

          • David Fleming

            K Allen is a stud, and getting him in the 2nd would be an absolute steal.

        • http://twitter.com/pullmyFANGer Austin Burton

          Agreed. As much as I am pulling for Kenny, I don’t see it working out for us.

      • josh gunnels

        I am one of the few people willing to call the cops on you people screaming from the rooftops about Patterson. Incredibly raw talent that will need a lot of work to learn how to get open in the NFL. He won’t be the “go-to” guy for Locker that he was for Bray in his rookie year.
        Not to mention back to back WR in the first round makes me cringe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.raike.5 Daniel Raike

    I don’t think WR is a good direction to go in for the first 2 rounds. We targeted Wright last year and have some talent already on the roster. We just need a consistent year on and off the field with Britt. Also, ole Nate W should be our number 1 priority for next year. If all goes well then the draft should pan out something like this for the first 3 rounds. 1st: Dion Jordan (or Barkevious Mingo) 2nd: Larry Warford 3rd: Stedman Bailey 3rd(compensatory): Tyrann Mathieu.

    • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

      What position does Stedman play? I’m not familiar with him. Other than that, those sound like agreeable picks to me.

      • ayeallen

        Stedman Bailey? He’s a receiver.

    • josh gunnels

      agreed. but if keenan allen fell into the second that would be hard to pass up.

    • David Fleming

      My god, if we get Jordan (1st), Warford (2nd), Mathieu (3rd), that’d be our best draft ever. Personally, I love Mathieu as an NFL player, and I think his past transgressions will have him on a short leash anywhere he goes. He’s a game-changer, and that’s a rare ability at the NFL level.

      • http://www.titansized.com/ Justin Stewart

        We could certainly use some game changers.