The Titans front office has done a good enough job in free agency that they’ve left the door open to all possibilities in the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft. Currently everyone is debating which way the Titans should go with their first few picks, and generally base their arguments on the remaining level of need at certain positions. The current consensus needs at this point are G, DE, CB, LB depth, WR, etc. (feel free to argue this order).
Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty have turned out to be 2 very good starting corners for the Titans. The emergence of Verner was what allowed the Titans to let Finnegan walk and in turn extend McCourty. The Titans did however overestimate the abilities of Tommie Campbell heading into 2012. Verner and McCourty were fine on the outside, but the drop off in play once put into 3-wide situations was huge. Teams constantly took advantage of the Titans lack of depth at corner and began to expose it in earnest. Mouton was a complete liability and the rookie Sensabaugh wasn’t quite ready. Campbell’s inability to focus on the plays meant the Titans couldn’t move Verner inside and let Campbell take the outsides in nickel coverage.
While I feel another CB to play the outside in nickel packages is probably the Titans second highest remaining need, I’m no longer so sure they need to draft one high in the draft.
While doing a bit of research on the Titans past drafts I came to a realization about their cornerbacks. It seems that their best starting corners did not come from high in the draft. In fact, it seems that the opposite is true. Let’s take a look at the Titans starting corners in relation to their draft position over the last 10 years:
- Samari Rolle – 2nd round, 1998 – awesome.
- Andre Dyson – 2nd round, 2001 – very good starter for 4 years.
- Adam Jones – 1st round, 2005 – amazing talent on the field with amazing issues off the field.
- Reynaldo Hill – 7th round, 2005 – started for 2 years but couldn’t stick
- Nick Harper, Undrafted via CFL, – started for 3 years towards end of career before becoming a liability, previous starter for Colts
- Cortland Finnegan – 7th round, 2006 – 5 year starter and excellent corner, received big contract and starts for Rams now.
- Alterraun Verner – 4th round, 2010 – very good corner on the outside, excellent in nickel. starting for third year.
- Jason McCourty – 6th round, 2009 – Excellent starting outside corner, took 2 years of development though.
Now that we’ve seen where the starters came from, let’s take a look at all the draft picks the Titans have used on a corner in general. This way we can see the total picture and include those that didn’t pan out.
- Andre Woolfolk – 1st round, 2003 – never could crack the starting line up except at nickel, continued disappointment.
- Michael Waddell – 4th round, 2004 – didn’t pan out, special teams player.
- Ryan Smith – 6th round, 2007 – who?
- Cary Williams – 7th round, 2008 – waive by the Titans in his 2nd year, the Ravens made him a starter and now he has a ring, recently signed with Eagles.
- Ryan Mouton – 3rd round, 2009 – let’s just say not good and leave it at that.
- Tommie Campbell – 7th round, 2011 – all the talent and tangibles you could want, still waiting for his head to get in the game.
- Coty Sensabaugh - 4th round, 2012 – played better and better throughout rookie campaign, not yet starter material but only had 1 year.
Obviously the coaches are all different as are the people making personnel decisions. But it doesn’t seem like there is much evidence that using a high pick at corner is a good way to go. The only problem with the late round route at this position, is that while the Titans have shown they can develop these players over time, time is not something they have right now. None of the Titans starters were ready year one out of the gate, which is something that you can hopefully do with a top round pick.
The corner pool is deep this year with only a handful of players considered top prospects separating themselves. Assuming Milliner, Trufant, and Rhodes are gone in the second, how long should the Titans wait before taking a shot at that position? History indicates they should/could wait awhile.
You can find me on Twitter @gunnelsj