As exciting and promising as the Draft is, for NFL teams and front offices this time of the year is exhausting. Evaluating players, negotiation, leveraging position, and analyzing hundreds of prospects is the process in building a team. Now that the Draft is over, let’s evaluate how the Titans did.
In his first year at the helm, General manager Jon Robinson was thrown in the fire holding the No.1 pick the Draft. Robinson did a tremendous job in evaluating the value for the pick verse the player they would use the pick on. With the Los Angeles Rams needing to make splash, Robinson made a deal for the future of his organization, collecting sixth picks in total including an extra first-rounder in 2017 and two second-rounders in 2016.
Round 1: The Titans decided to make the trade back down many rumored they would. Swapping from No.15 to No.8 with the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee selected offensive tackle Jack Conklin.
Conklin was not rated as high athletically as tackles Ronnie Stanley or Laremy Tunsil, although the Titans loved his attitude and work ethic that mimic the culture Mike Mularkey wants to implement. The question is if Conklin can become a perennial pro bowl player rather than a consistent starter. A pick in the top 10 needs to be a star.
Rounds 2-3: The Titans added three talented players in rounds two and three, that do totally different things. DE Kevin Dodd from Clemson is a nightmare for quarterbacks, using his great hand technique and slide step to get around lineman. If Dodd excels in camp he could slide in as a starter come week one.
With their third pick, the Titans drafted Austin Johnson. Johnson may not be the sexiest selection in Round 2, though his presence improves the run game immediately. Johnson broke up plays in the backfield constantly at Penn State, using his effort and explosive first step. Defensive coordinator Dick Lebau and defeinve lineman coach Nick Eason can work with Johnson is not over pursuing, as NFL runners are much more elusive.
At number 45 in the second round, the Titans took Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry. The Alabama product felt he was a first-round player, and his numbers showed no different. Starter DeMarco Murray comes of a tumultuous year in Philadelphia while the rest of the Tennessee backfield has not proved more than mediocrity at the best. The selection of Henry brings youth to the backfield, and is a perfect runner is the power scheme behind Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, and Jack Conklin.
After three selections in the second round, the the Titans had one pick in the third round which they used on safety Kevin Byard. A hometown boy from Middle Tennessee State, Byard should be a popular player among the fans. Every team needs a turnover machine, and Byard could be it. Over his career at MTSU, Byard had an unbelievable 19 interceptions.
Rounds 5-7: At pick 140, the Titans began their search for the diamonds in the rough. Notably, cornerback LeShaun Sims out of Southern Utah is a big, physical corner that has potential. In the modern age of the NFL, possessing big corners that can contend with receivers such as Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, and A.J. Green is worth the gamble.
Overall grade: A-
Tennessee accomplished two major goals by adding assets in picks for next year as well as drafting at least five players who will battle for starting positions.
Areas of Improvement: Pass rush, Run defense, Running Back, Turnover Margin.
Remaining Needs: The Titans still lack youth in the line-backing core and in the secondary.