For Whom the Draft Tolls?


January football fans can be split into two camps: Those that get to enjoy their teams in the present, and those that get to look forward to the future. Unfortunately, as the Raiders fell to the Chargers on Sunday, the Titans faithful got lumped into the latter category. Really, it’s no one’s fault but our own; had we not handed the Colts their first W of the year, we would be sitting pretty at 10-wins right now. So as it is, we wish all the playoff-bound teams the best of luck (except the Texans), and set our sights on something we can get excited about: The 2012 NFL Draft.

When it comes to Titans fans, we seem to split into three distinct groups: Those who feel we should draft a defensive end, those who believe we need an interior lineman above all, and the slightly smaller minority that feel we should go WR. While it may not be popular, I am firmly entrenched in the third and final grouping of those that feel we should draft WR in the first round. Allow me to explain.

All three of the aforementioned positions are positions of need. Ultimately, a high selection of any of those three positions works to our benefit. With that being said, it’s important to look at the draft process in its entirety, and not simply the first round.  It’s seems as though often times, people’s approach to the draft goes something like this:

“What’s our biggest position of need? Who’s the best player
at that position? Ok, that’s who we should draft in the first round.”

I understand this line of thinking, but find it to be a tad simplistic. The draft process is one of those things that tends to take on a life of its own. Often times, a run of selections at a certain position can make teams jump the gun, pushing unlikely selections up, and likely selections down  (The names Aaron Rodgers, Mark Ingram, Tyson Alualu, Donte Whitner, and Christian Ponder all come to mind). Year after year, WR seems to be one of those positions where players get pushed up between the season’s end and the start of the draft. The last three years have seen 11 Wide Receivers drafted in the first round, with names like Jonathan Baldwin and Darrius Heyward-Bey being drafted far higher than they initially graded out. Conversely, only 6 interior lineman were drafted within the same period*.  What this speaks to is the fact that there is more value to be found at the G/C position in later rounds than there is at the WR position.  Additionally, for whatever reason, it seems as though offensive lineman more often than other positions tend to be drafted later and spend a number of years working up to a starting position, as opposed to WR’s that are often thrown in the game from day one. I took a look at all 4 starting offensive lines from the AFC South as of Week 17, and given the round that each player was drafted, determined the average round drafted for starting o-lineman to be as follows:

Houston – 3.2

Indy – 5.8

Jacksonville – 3

Tennessee – 4.4

It is agreed upon by most fans and analysts that Houston has among the best offensive lines in the game. With an average draft position of having the player come out of the third round, it would seem to point to the caliber of player that is available at this position in the later rounds.

Additionally, most likely as a result of the inflation of draftees at the WR position, second-round receivers just don’t seem to work out. Last year saw Titus Young, who looks to be an exception, come out of the second, but we also saw Torrey Smith, Greg Little, and Randall Cobb get drafted, all fine players when utilized correctly, but it can’t be said that any of them change the complexion of their respective offense. Teams have even tried using two second-round picks in the same draft at the WR position, figuring that at least one of them would have to pan out.  Those teams, most recently, would be the Redskins in 2008 and the Browns in 2009. The Redskins drafted Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. The Browns selected Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. None of them panned out.

As to those who are of the mindset that we should get a defensive end right away, it is certainly an area we need to improve upon, but Derrick Morgan was essentially a rookie this season, and while he has not lived up to expectations by any means, it might be a season too early to write him off. We can certainly all agree that Casey and Klug look to be around for a very long time (Can we start using the term “Klugging up the middle”? Bit too much of a stretch?), and the Titans have historically developed lesser talents into overproducing for us on the d-line (Antwan Odom, anyone?), so it would seem as though we can get by for the year with what we have.

Ultimately, we can get the most value out of our draft by selecting a receiver in the first, and then going to the defensive end and interior line positions with the next few selections.

*Interesting side notes:  1 – Only two of the 6 interior lineman were drafted as true guards (Iupati, Watkins). 2 – No WR or G/C was drafted in the 1st Round of the 2008 draft. 3- The Titans are the only team in the AFC South to start a player at LT that was drafted outside of the 1st round (Michael Roos; 2nd Round)

Agree? Disagree? Make sure to sound off on our boards about it.  Share The Love & Spread The Hate.

You can find us on Twitter @Titan_Sized or on Facebook!