Tennessee Titans: Post-draft hot seat
By P. L. Colter
The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting times of the year for fans and franchises. A time where optimism is at an all time high, especially for teams that struggled the prior year.
The excitement is magnified for the Tennessee Titans’ ten draft picks, as they know they are coming into a situation where most, if not all of them will be given a fair opportunity to compete for playing time right away.
Ah yes…the gift of landing on a team devoid of top flight talent at most positions.
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But not everyone at Baptist Sports Park is excited today, because the arrival of the newbies could spell doom for them.
Today we discuss the players who are firmly planted on the hot seat after last weekend’s results.
Bishop Sankey – RB
If you ask the die-hard football fan who was the first running back taken in the 2014 draft, few outside of Tennessee would know that it was Bishop Sankey. In a dismal rookie campaign, Sankey was responsible for just as many lost fumbles as touchdowns (2). He averaged less than four yards a carry, and drew the ire of then-head coach Ken Whisenhunt on several occasions. Last season Sankey was practically handed the job with the removal of Shonn Greene, and early injury problems to rookie 5th round pick David Cobb. Sankey responded by digressing, as hard is that is to imagine. By season’s end, he was returning kickoffs, and failed miserably at that as well. With DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry on the roster, the Titans have way more bodies than they need. To make matters worse, rookie 3rd round safety Kevin Byard told the Midday 180 show in Nashville that a representative from the Titans advised him that his college jersey number (20) was available. Um…that’s Sankey’s number right now.
Jalston Fowler – FB
Many people (including myself) scratched their head when Tennessee selected a fullback in the 4th round of last year’s draft. It’s an antiquated position in today’s NFL. Fowler offered little return for such a lofty investment, carrying the ball a mere seven times for a paltry 13 yards. Two other components could spell doom for Fowler. 1. The arrival of Derrick Henry, who will presumably gobble up those seven short yardage / goal line carries this season. 2. The people who believed in him enough to draft him that high (former general manager Ruston Webster and coach Whiz) are no longer with the organization.
Justin Hunter – WR
Nothing is more frustrating to a coaching staff and fan base than a player that teases you with terrific training camps, only to lay egg after egg when given opportunities when it actually counts. Enter Justin Hunter. In three seasons, Hunter has amassed just 68 catches, and his touchdown production has decreased each year (4,3,1). He finished 2015 on IR, missing the last several games due to injury. With Tennessee now moving to a run based offensive attack, Hunter’s chances of reinventing himself becomes even tougher. Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, and recently acquired free agent Rishard Matthews are locks. Oh, and some tight end named Delanie Walker should see his share of targets as well. Hunter will be fighting for a roster spot, let alone playing time.
Next: Preseason should be very fun for the Titans
Jeremiah Poutasi – OL
The selection of Poutasi in the third round of last year’s draft also had local and national pundits scratching their head, and by season’s end, the coaching staff and fan base joined the fray. Poutasi struggled mightily at right tackle last year, getting pulled from games because he was simply outmatched. Tennessee then moved Poutasi inside in an attempt to hide him, and the quarterbacks paid the price for the Titans’ leap of faith. He was a healthy scratch at the end of the year, and that’s saying something given how thin Tennessee was at that position. The addition of 1st round pick Jack Conklin, and re-signing of Byron Bell (who replaced him at tackle last season) all but ends any chance of Poutasi playing tackle in Tennessee this year. If Sebastian Tretola, the mammoth and feisty rookie offensive lineman out of Arkansas has a good camp, then Poutasi could remain on the healthy scratch list for the foreseeable future.