DEFENSIVE TACKLE Austin Johnson (2nd Round, 43rd Overall)
Positives: With their second of three second round picks, the Titans selected defensive tackle Austin Johnson. An incredibly intriguing prospect, scouts and analysts pegged Johnson as a versatile interior lineman who has the ability to play 3-technique defensive tackle, 5-technique defensive end, and nose tackle in a 5-technique.
Johnson’s rookie year with the Titans was defined by consistent improvement. Over the course of the season, he went from a healthy scratch to consistently being on the field and making the occasional disruptive play. He still has plenty of unreached potential left in the tank, and should improve greatly in year two.
Negatives: When you take a player in the second round, you do so expecting them to be a starter on your football team. They don’t have to be a world beater or game wrecker, but you need someone who produces. In his rookie year, Johnson didn’t really accomplish either of those things.
Johnson did not make a single start during his rookie season, and it’s worth wondering whether his sophomore season faces the same fate. The two defensive ends ahead of Johnson on the Titans’ depth chart last season, DaQuan Jones and Karl Klug, are still on the roster, and free agent Sylvester Williams was signed to a three year contract, presumably to be the starting nose tackle.
It’s fair to wonder how much confidence the Titans’ coaching staff has in Johnson considering his situation on the depth chart. The preseason should be a good indicator.