Editor’s Note: This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
Feb 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Tre Mason runs drills during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Tennessee Titans have officially moved on from star running back Chris Johnson, releasing him this past Monday. The team could be set at running back with Shonn Greene manning the early down work, as well as short-yardage and goal-line work. Newly added back Dexter McCluster could also end up being a huge factor, as new head coach Ken Whisenhunt appears to envision McCluster as his own Danny Woodhead, who he coached in San Diego with the Chargers last season.
Greene is a plodding back with little explosiveness, average speed and not much versatility, however. He’s not the ideal starting back for any team, although he did do a decent job in spot-duty for the Titans last season and has had experience in the past as a lead back with the New York Jets. However, he’s never been a dominant or consistent force, and can and should easily be upgraded upon.
As for McCluster, he absolutely has the versatility and hands to come in and be Wiz’s own version of Woodhead, but he does not have the size or experience to be a full-time running back. His role will be one that hangs it’s hat more on versatility, while he will be used in special packages and situations, more than on early downs or obvious running situations.
That means the Titans need to draft a running back. In fact, general manager Ruston Webster has admitted as much, saying the team will be on the lookout for a more “all-around” running back that can be more of a combination of what Greene and McCluster are. Separately they are both good at certain things, but neither is a complete running back like Johnson was (or at least used to be).
With that, the Titans will surely be searching for a new running back in the 2014 NFL Draft. It remains to be determined if they’ll plan to start that back from day one, but he should at least be someone they plan on developing to be the long-term franchise back for the future. Let’s take a look at five solid all-around options that the Titans could or should consider drafting at some point in May 8th’s draft:
Carlos Hyde (Ohio State)
Hyde is arguably the best, most complete back in this year’s draft, and quite possibly the top overall back. Naturally, he should be on Tennessee’s radar, although they’ll almost certainly need to spend a second-round pick to land him. Hyde was a masher at Ohio State, possessing the size, bulk and toughness to pile through tackles and even has an underrated burst to create separation in the open field. No one will confuse Hyde with the departed Johnson, however, as his long speed is average and he doesn’t have elite explosiveness. However, the Titans want a complete back that they can lean on going forward. Hyde gives them that. He even has reliable hands out of the backfield, which makes him a candidate for every down duties at the next level.
Tre Mason (Auburn)
Mason doesn’t have ideal size (a little shorter than you’d like a feature back to be), but a compact frame and a powerful lower body could nip those concerns in the bud. Outside of minor size concerns, Mason also isn’t an elite burner. However, he does have very good long speed and is a terrific one-cut back who uses solid vision and follows his blocks, making him a very decisive back who wastes little time with the ball in his hands. Out of all the prospects in this draft, he might be the closest to Chris Johnson, as he has very good speed, is a smaller back and also provides solid versatility. There is the slight concern that Mason benefited from Auburn’s system and is a bit of a one-year wonder, but his physical tools are too good to ignore. Like Hyde, Mason is probably the type of rushing talent the Titans will have to spend a second-rounder to get.
Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona)
A supremely talented and well-built back, Carey largely comes third in line here due to a beneficial system and off-field concerns dealing with his character. Beyond those two red flags, there’s little not to love about Carey. He offers a very enticing blend of speed, toughness and natural running ability. He could be a little bigger and faster, but is otherwise the complete package and a truly exciting running talent. Carey is a great finisher and uses his legs well to drive forward in runs, while also possessing soft hands to turn into a very solid receiver at the next level. Unlike the top two options ahead of him in this list, Carey could easily be available in Round 3. If the Titans want a guy who can be a complete back for them and isn’t just a run of the mill talent, they could wait it out until the fourth round and cross their fingers that Carey is still on the board.
Jeremy Hill (LSU)
Hill isn’t an overly explosive back and he’s mostly operated out of a committee in college, but if the Titans are looking for a complete back in the middle rounds, Hill could easily be their guy. A downhill and decisive runner, Hill is adept at driving through defenders and breaking arm tackles, while he also displays soft hands to be an effective receiver out of the backfield. Hill does have some off-field issues and could potentially have ball security problems, but has the size and build to be an every down back.
Charles Sims (West Virginia)
Scouts aren’t high on Sims’ body type due to a long torso, as it can cause him to run a bit too tall, which can cause ball security issues. Sims is otherwise a very interesting talent, as he has a good combo of size, speed and receiving ability. If the Titans aren’t thrown off by his body type and running style, they might fall in love with his balance.