Tennessee Titans: Dark Horse First Round Draft Candidates

Highlighting some players that the Tennessee Titans might be looking at who are not being discussed for the team in mock drafts.

We know the usual picks that have been getting mocked to the Tennessee Titans as of late. Mike Williams, Jamal Adams, Corey Davis, and Marshon Lattimore are a few of the most common first round picks for the Titans. But who are some less-popular (by mock draft standards) players that could theoretically be options for the Titans? Let’s take a look.

Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Cunningham made himself a lot of money throughout the course of his final collegiate season. Not many knew of him before, but they do now. His measurables (6’4″, 230 lbs.) are perfect for an inside linebacker, and his play matched up with his athleticism as he earned First Team All-American honors and was a Butkus Award finalist as a redshirt junior. In fact, he was the first unanimous All-American in Vanderbilt football history.

It may not seem like inside linebacker is a need for the Titans, with both Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard proving to be capable starters. But how many more years of tight ends and running backs burning our linebackers in coverage can this team accept without making some changes? A long, rangy linebacker like Cunningham would fit in perfectly into Dick LeBeau’s scheme and provide relief for our other defensive pieces.

Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford

Edge defender isn’t high on the Titans list of draft priorities. In LeBeau’s 3-4 scheme, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan occupy those roles. The Titans also drafted Kevin Dodd in the second round last year to back those two up and eventually take over for one or the other. Dodd struggled with injuries in his first year, and the lack of depth was apparent as Orakpo and Morgan’s production tailed off towards the end of the season. Dodd should be healthy going into next year, but a team can never have too many pass rushers. And Thomas can be that and more.

Thomas has shot up draft boards this offseason, with plenty of people watching his college tape and seeing how good he really is. He has the functional strength and positional versatility to play anywhere on a defensive line. His production and his disruption is impossible to deny, and he stands out whenever you watch a Stanford game. LeBeau could move him around and play him at either outside linebacker or defensive end. Wherever he lines up, he wins his one-on-one matchups. Every team needs that type of pass rusher.

Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Marshon Lattimore and Quincy Wilson have been the two most popular cornerback picks for the Titans. While both are exciting draft prospects, Jones may be the best playmaker in a stacked draft class for the position. Taking over as Marcus Peters’ successor for the Washington Huskies, Jones picked off nine passes in three years, all while not getting thrown at often because of his lock-down coverage abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, Bucky Brooks considered him to be the best ballhawk in college football prior to this last season. That distinction has only been strengthened after an impressive junior season. With the Titans needing help at the cornerback position after a dismal showing by the secondary in 2016, Jones is a sneaky option to be a Titan in 2017.

John Ross, WR, Washington

During a breakout junior campaign, Ross took the college football scene by storm by way of his explosive, field-stretching long receptions. Ross’ speed was apparent in every game he played, and he burned even the best of college football’s cornerbacks, like USC’s Adoree’ Jackson. Ross isn’t a perfect wide receiver prospect by any means. He’s small and isn’t great at the catch point, but his game-breaking speed can change an entire offense. In a recent article, I talked briefly about why the Titans offense needs that type of speed, and how Kendall Wright provided that from time to time. Ross would bring that quickness every single game, and make everything easier for every other offensive player.