There’s no such thing as draft certainty, but this year’s event appears to have heightened levels of unpredictability.
While mock drafts are a necessity for wading through the slog that is the offseason, it’s generally accepted that draft analysts are essentially just throwing picks against a wall to see if they stick. It’s extremely hard to predict a team’s priorities, not to mention how they have graded individual players. However, as a Tennessee Titans fan, this draft appears to be even more unpredictable than in past years.
Will the Titans Prioritize Position(s) or Talent?
There is no foolproof way to predict exact picks, but you usually can guess what positions a team will prioritize. The Titans appeared to be leaning towards an OT last year when they drafted Jack Conklin, and by draft time in 2015 the general consensus was that the Titans would take whichever QB was left between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. But this year is different. I personally have seen the Titans picking CB, WR, TE, DT, OLB, FS, and SS with the 5th overall pick in various mock drafts. And that’s just one of two first round picks!
The Titans biggest needs are arguably WR and CB, but considering the fact that GM Jon Robinson preaches “adding talent”, you could infer he intends to draft the best player available and not based on positional need. Will he draft the top guy on his board both at 5 and 18 and use the middle rounds to address roster holes? Or draft a combination like Marshon Lattimore/Mike Williams to try and patch holes in the roster?
What Will Other Teams Do?
You have to go all the way back to the 1996 draft to find a first overall pick that isn’t a QB, OT, or pass rusher. These are the premier positions that teams prioritize due to impact and value. And while that trend should continue this year, the options at those positions past Myles Garrett aren’t great. The QBs aren’t very compelling, there aren’t many top-tier OT, and there aren’t many dominant pass rushers like in years past.
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The Titans may have certain players they love, but whether or not they will still be on the board is another question. This is why it will be interesting to see what the teams picking before the Titans will do with a lack of premier impact players. Will the San Francisco 49ers or Chicago Bears actually pick a strong safety (Jamal Adams) with one of the top 3 picks in the draft? Could the Jacksonville Jaguars pick an RB (Leonard Fournette), a position that has been undervalued in past years? Could teams get desperate and reach for an OL early in the draft? The Titans could fall victim to one of their guys being taken, or, in the case of a run on OTs, they could be benefactors with top-tier players falling to them.
The Jon Robinson Factor
This isn’t Jon Robinson’s first draft, but this first round is arguably harder to predict than his rookie draft. With a glaring hole at RT and multiple quality OT options early in the first round, it was assumed he would go in that direction. He then proceeded to draft a bunch of physical, team first players (as he said he would). So, sure, we know he likes tough, selfless players. But how many potential draftees does that actually disqualify? This draft isn’t chock full of selfish weenies or anything. Does he have other steadfast rules we don’t yet know about? For example: does his history with the New England Patriots mean that he doesn’t like using high picks on WRs? Or does he align more closely with his mentor in Tampa, Jason Licht, who took Mike Evans with the 7th overall pick? There are many of these types of questions that are still unanswered.
It’s tempting to use Robinson’s last draft as a guide, but even that provides limited insight. First of all, it’s an incredibly small sample size. There are so many variables on draft day that we can’t safely use one year as a standard for future drafts. Second of all, the mindset of the team is different as compared with 2016. Last year, Tennessee was coming off a last place finish. This time, the Titans are targeting both the playoffs and AFC South title. Robinson may have been playing it safe last year to get solid building blocks like Conklin. Would he be more willing to take chances on talented players with red flags this year? Unfortunately, about the only thing we can safely assume is that he is going to try to trade one of his first round picks to get back into the second round.
We don’t know what in the heck the Titans will do in this draft. And I didn’t even delve into trade possibilities, which can make things even messier. But, to be fair, uncertainty is a staple of draft weekend, yet the 2017 draft appears to have many more questions than certainties. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; uncertainty can be fun! But Titans fans should make sure to strap in and prepare for all the twists and turns of the 2017 draft weekend, because it’s sure to be a wild one.