Every year fans fall into the trap of thinking that this year their team found an UDFA who is actually going to be the next super star. Whether fans are turning Pannel Egboh into Justin Smith, or if it is Michael Preston becoming Plaxico Burress, Tennessee Titans fans are just the same.
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However, this year, there is a chance that the Tennessee Titans found a player that may actually find a way to compete and contribute in this offense. That player is Connor Neighbors, former LSU fullback.
Now I know what everyone will say to this: “Don’t we already have a fullback in Jalston Fowler?”
The answer to that is yes. I really like the way Fowler plays and I think he is one of the rare fullbacks that actually fits into the modern day NFL. He is a good pass catcher and a good blocker in both the running and passing game. That combined with the ability to be a good short area running back make him a good commodity.
However, with Taylor Thompson’s special teams slot now available and Neighbors being one of the best run blockers in college football, that seems like an immediate fit.
I don’t expect the Tennessee Titans to just keep him for his ability on special teams. Look no further than the Tennessee Titans issues in short distance running and in the redzone to see why this team needs him. Having David Cobb and Jalston Fowler running up the middle is good, but imagine having Fowler at the tight end position sealing the edge or going out for a pass, and having Connor Neighbors paving a path up the middle for David Cobb.
I won’t ask you to take my word for how effective he was in the running game, just look at PFF’s take on him from their article on which UDFAs they thought would make teams this year:
“He posted the second-highest run blocking grade of all draft-eligible fullbacks on only 327 snaps in 2014.”
This team needs to pound the ball up the middle so that teams can’t pin back their ears and send their pass rushers at Marcus Mariota. Until that day comes, they can’t really make the most of Mariota’s ability with his legs. Just look at the teams with running quarterbacks and what they get from their running games. The Seattle Seahawks pound the ball with Marshawn Lynch. The San Francisco 49ers used to have Frank Gore carry the offense before he got to old. The Carolina Panthers use a two-headed attack to get the pressure off of Cam Newton.
All of that shows you that if you want a young, mobile quarterback to be successful the blue print is obvious: give him a strong running game.