As we approach the NFL Draft, many teams around the league have been throwing smokescreens to confuse other decision makers, as well as draw attention from the media. Is Justin Blackmon really the best receiver in this year’s class, or is he a product of media? How torn are the Vikings on Claiborne and Kalil? Have the Jaguars really notified multiple teams they are interested in trading back?
I don’t read too much into the rumors, like most NFL decision makers, one must stick to their draft board and let the draft come to them. Hypothetically, as prospects get picked by teams before Tennessee, Ruston Webster will stay true to his board and pick his best available player. Jim Wyatt wrote that the Tennessee Titans have first round grades on approximately 25 players. So, here is my top 25 for the Tennessee Titans.
*Note: Recently, I read an article by David Boclair about Webster’s draft philosophies. Ruston Webster mentioned he would go into each round with a list of about six players that would have a legitimate chance of being available. So I will put an * next to the six players I deem “available” and “valuable”.
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
-He wreaks havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Scheme versatility and work ethic make Ingram my most coveted draft prospect.
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
-Lock down cornerback that would start immediately on the outside along with Jason McCourty and Alteraun Verner in the slot.
Mark Barron, S, Alabama*
-The best safety in a weak class, Mark Barron brings the intensity back to the Titans secondary. He has underrated coverage ability and a habit of laying out ball carriers.
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU*
-Brockers is my favorite defensive tackle in this years class. He is a hell of a run stuffer and has an extremely high ceiling.
Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
-Coples is a high risk high reward type prospect. He has the potential to be an all-pro defensive end, but his work ethic is a bit of a question mark.
Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina*
-Gilmore is a rising prospect that would fit very well in a zone scheme. He doesn’t quite have the hips and coverage abilities of Claiborne, or even Janoris Jenkins, but he is an excellent tackler and blitzer. Gilmore has more sacks in his career than Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Think Cortland Finnegan, but bigger and better.
Fletcher Cox, DT, Miss. State
-Fletcher Cox is a prospect that dominated college football with athleticism and strength. He has an incredible stat sheet and can really get after the ball, but a lot of his plays were busted assignments on the offense. I am not saying the kid can’t ball, but buyer beware. He is a guy that needs to go to the right environment, he needs a coach that can teach him the right way. A Jeff Fisher or Romeo Crennel could turn him into the next Warren Sapp, but in the wrong scheme Cox could be a bust.
David Decastro, OG, Stanford
-A phenomenal guard and by far one of the safest picks in this year’s draft.
Justin Blackmon, WR, OK. State
-Justin Blackmon is a receiver that will flourish with the right offensive mind. He can play at any receiving position in the NFL. Blackmon was moved around like a chess piece at Ok. State and I think he needs the same environment in the pros. He isn’t the most imposing receiver physically, but he has exceptional body control and route running. Justin Blackmon reminds me of Anquan Boldin and a young Hines Ward. He always wants the ball, but not in a “I’m the best receiver in the world, so kiss my feet” kind of way.
Nick Perry, DE, USC*
-The talking heads are trying to warn me. Its hard to fight it. Nick Perry is allegedly falling down draft boards. I don’t care. There is a new regime at USC and they are producing excellent front-7 players. Imagine the versatility of Wimbley, Ayers, Perry and Klug. Nick perry had an excellent combine, yes I know. That only made it an easier decision. Perry has the burst and quickness needed to succeed in the NFL. What I saw on tape was that he has a good repertoire of rush moves and is a solid tackler in open space. Perry can play both defensive end and outside linebacker, I like him better at defensive end.
Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse*
-With Perry falling, it seems as though Chandler Jones is rising. Fast. He has a frame that defensive line coaches drool over. At 6’5″, 265lbs, Chandler Jones is a monster of a man. He has long arms similar to Jason Pierre-Paul. Work ethic and freakish athleticism run in his family, his older brother John is the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champ. John “Bones” Jones is one of my favorite fighters not only because he F**** people up, but because his work ethic is second to none in the UFC. He certainly has things to improve on, as do all rookies., but Chandler Jones has all the tools to be great. The film I have watched shows he has a weakness of getting stood up straight by good left tackles, but that can be fixed with good NFL coaching. His quickness off the ball and long arms may be too good to pass up.
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
-Mercilus is a one year wonder that led the nation with 16 sacks and 9 forced fumbles. I saw a lot of great plays, usually with the outside edge rush, but I also saw a lot of busted assignments by the offense. Mercilus may be better suited as a 34 OLB because he gets dominated in run defense too easily to be a 3 down 43 DE. Mercilus is a guy that needs to be inserted slowly into the line up in order to keep him on track, much like San Fransisco’s Aldon Smith.
Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama
-I love watching Upshaw play. He is a man on a mission, but I am afraid of picking him because I fear he is either solely an OLB or MLB in a 34 defense. He is a great prospect and fantastic person, but he might end up as a bust DE due to his lack of burst.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
-Floyd is a wide receiver that can deliver the big play and can play underneath. He has some injury concerns, but who doesn’t. Michael Floyd will be a good receiver for a good quarterback, but he might suffer if he gets picked by a team like Jacksonville or Cleveland. He has excellent hands, but he isn’t all that quick in his routes.
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama*
-Dre Kirkpatrick is a once in a decade cornerback physically. His 6’3″ frame is as long as any DB in the league and he has good tackling and coverage ability. He won’t stick to a #1 receiver like glue, but he will be a force on the outside and has the skill set to cover fast tight ends. Dre will be best suited in a scheme where he is a hybrid safety/ cornerback.
Cordy Glenn, OG, Georgia
-Glenn is a big dude. His 350 pounds is plenty for an offensive lineman, but his athleticism is even better.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
-This guy is a tackling machine. He will be a force as a 43 linebacker, with the ability to play middle or outside Kuechly has to be an intriguing prospect. He has the instincts and intelligence to be the captain of a defense.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
-Physically, Stephen Hill is the most impressive receiver in the 2012 draft. He comes from the land of Megatron, yellow jackets, and the option-read offense. Hill has the speed, leaping ability, height, and blocking ability to be a force in the NFL. Now he just needs to work on his routes and hands. A 2nd round steal.
Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
-Wright may have been the best receiver in college football last year on tape. His combine however, showed that he does not have the speed necessary when sporting a 5’10” frame. Wright will be a luxury first round pick for a team that should already have a true #1 receiver. If he falls into the laps of Peyton manning or Tom Brady, lookout.
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
-This selection is only based on how incredible of a prospect Hightower is. If he is available I would expect the Tennessee Titans to try and trade back, but I wanted you all to know Hightower is for real. He is a 34 MLB that will have a long and successful career.
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
-Another prospect I don’t feel comfortable taking at #20 is Peter Konz. He is the top of a weak class at center.
Devon Still, DT, Penn. State
-Devon Still is another high risk high reward player. He can really get after the quarterback, but he has taken plays off and may be a lazy NFL player. I like his film, 50% of the time.
Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
-Branch has the tools to be successful, but I can’t get over how he disappears every game.
Jerel Worthy, DT, Mich. State
-Jerel Worthy is a good defensive tackle with a bit of a weight issue. If he can stay in shape he will be a solid pro.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
-All combine, no tape. Pass.
If the selections get narrowed down to Stephen Hill and the players below him I would expect the Tennessee Titans to trade back a few spots and pick up an extra 3rd round pick. Other teams may covet these guys more than the Titans and it would benefit our team tremendously.
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