In 2012, the Tennessee Titans traded up in the fifth round of the NFL draft to select a defensive end out of SMU by the name of Taylor Thompson. While considered good enough on defense to be drafted, the Mike Munchak regime had other plans, as it was revealed that the Titans planned on using Thompson as a tight end.
Titans fans rejoiced, as they thought for sure Thompson was going to be Nashville’s answer to the emerging style of tight end in the mold of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. But, after two seasons, the jury is still out on, and a new coach has taken over the offense.
To begin with, do position changes regularly work in the NFL? Do they even regularly take place? No. There’s not enough time to be that patient! In professional football, you have to contribute quickly, or teams move on.
So, what inspired this trade? Was it an impulse move geared towards finding the next elite tight end? Or, was Thompson’s athletic prowess so impressive that the Titans couldn’t afford NOT to try him at tight end?
I don’t know that I’ll ever understand the logic behind the move, but shockingly, they didn’t ask me before they drafted Thompson. Nonetheless, it’s not his fault that he’s in this difficult position.
After two seasons, Thompson has 9 catches, 59 yards, and 1 touchdown to show for his efforts. In addition to that, the Titans signed Delanie Walker to start at tight end.
To sum this up, Taylor Thompson has seen minimal opportunity to make an impact on offense. So, why’s he still here?
Well – we’re back to the reason he was drafted in the first place: his potential.
A lot of fans – myself included – were maddened by the idea that the Titans would give away a draft pick for a prospect, and then drastically change that player’s position. However, when you realize that Thompson only played defensive end at SMU because June Jones didn’t use a tight end, that he wanted to play close to home, and that he was encouraged to change positions in the NFL prior to the draft, it starts to make sense.
In fact, Thompson played wide receiver in high school and was recruited to Vanderbilt to play tight end, before ultimately choosing SMU. He actually has a fair wealth of experience on offense. Still, the learning curve has been immense, and one has to wonder when the clock will run out on this opportunity. After all, he’s not running routes against high school talent.
With Delanie Walker starting, and Craig Stephens being brought in for his blocking ability, when will Thompson get a chance to break out?
One thing he has working in his favor is the expertise of his head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, and tight ends coach, Mike Mularkey. The new offensive system is very kind to tight ends, who are seen as vital to the unit’s success.
Rumors are that Thompson is improving regularly and learning from his mistakes. With a regular role on special teams, his roster spot should be safe.
Still – you never know. He’s been a project for the Munchak regime. The new staff may not be as patient. They may not share the vision Munchak’s staff had of Taylor Thompson.
With all of the “make or break” talk surrounding Jake Locker, fans and media seem to have forgotten that this may be an even more firm “make or break” year for Taylor Thompson, who was once being groomed to be an elite offensive weapon.
The project hasn’t been a success to this point, but I’m not quite ready to call it a bust either. I’m reserving that judgment for January of 2015.