Tennessee Titans: Justin Gilbert Trade-Up Speculation Defies Logic


Oct 26, 2013; Ames, IA, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert (4) returns an interception for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with comments that Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt made to NFL Media’s Randy Moss. These comments were published on NFL.com, Apr. 9.

"Even with the loss of Alterraun Verner, Whisenhunt warned Moss not to expect a first-round cornerback, either. The Titans think highly of young corners Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Coty Sensabaugh, Tommie Campbell and Khalid Wooten."

Don’t forget about Jason McCourty, one of the NFL’s most unappreciated cornerbacks who’s responsible for covering the opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver.

Cornerback isn’t a big need. Earlier today, I completed a draft needs assessment where a developmental cornerback came no higher than seventh on the team’s top draft needs (LINK).Rotational pass-catching / hybrid tight end, developmental left tackle, inside linebacker, pass-rushing outside linebacker, running back, and game-changer / playmaker all ranked ahead of a direct need at cornerback.

The Titans have six draft picks. Their 2014 third-rounder belongs to the San Francisco 49ers. This happened when the Titans traded up to take Justin Hunter during the 2013 NFL Draft. A new coaching staff with a lack of draft picks would require major enticing to sacrifice even more picks to move up for another player.

Is Justin Gilbert worth it? On Apr. 21, CBS Sports NFL Insider Pat Kirwan mentioned his top five teams who should consider trading up. Among them: the Titans:

"If the Titans (No. 11) are interested in a corner like Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, I think they better make a call to the Vikings and see if they are interested in moving down three spots."

The Vikings select No. 8. Along with the Detroit Lions (No. 10), both NFC North teams have major needs at cornerback. Both of them draft ahead of the Titans (No. 11). Gilbert is a fan favorite among expert mock-drafters to fall to the Lions or Titans. Kirwan logic implies that if the Titans really wanted Gilbert, they’d need to trade ahead of Detroit.

It’s a reasonable logic until one considers their draft-pick situation, Whisenhunt’s comments (although people may dismiss them as ‘smokescreen’) and draft trends. The Titans already have a slew of youthful cornerback prospects who’ll compete for the No. 2 job. Since 2006, their best cornerbacks include Cortland Finnegan (2006 seventh-rounder), McCourty (2009 sixth-rounder) and Verner (2010 fourth-rounder). Sensabaugh was a 2012 fourth-rounder. Wreh-Wilson was a 2013 third-rounder.

Maybe the Titans would draft Gilbert if he were “best player available” at No. 11. What they won’t do is sabotage what few draft choices they have in a presumably deep draft to assure they get him. Losing Verner doesn’t automatically make cornerback a top need or the position where management will overspend on the newest, shiniest toy. The Titans have young guys who they’ve developed over the last couple seasons. Sensabaugh has played well in situational packages. There’s no reason to panic at Verner’s loss, at least not yet.

Rest assured with 100-percent certainty that, even if Tennessee drafts a cornerback, it’s not happening any higher than No. 11.

NFL.com (Chris Wesseling)
NFL.com (Pat Kirwan)