The Titans went for faster, more explosive players in the first round.
If your pre-draft prediction was that Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson would opt against trading away either of his two first round picks to gain more draft capital, you were certainly among the minority. You were also correct, as that’s exactly how things played out.
Thanks to last year’s blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Rams, the Titans held two picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft: #5 and #18. With the fifth pick, they selected wide receiver Corey Davis of Western Michigan. With the eighteenth pick, they selected cornerback Adoree’ Jackson of USC.
In selecting Davis and Jackson, the Titans filled three of their biggest team needs. Davis’ ability to stretch the field vertically will take a lot of pressure off of Rishard Matthews and Tajaé Sharpe, allowing them more space to work with on intermediate routes. Jackson will serve as a two-way player, playing the role of both a man coverage corner on the perimeter of Dick LeBeau’s defense and a punt returner on special teams.
The Titans saw tremendous improvement in Mike Mularkey’s first year as head coach. A previously boring and woefully uninspired team transformed into a physical powerhouse that consistently managed to impose its will on opponents. The transformation resulted in the team’s first winning record since 2011, though they fell just short of winning the AFC South.
However, one thing repeatedly became apparent in the midst of the improvement: the Titans lacked playmakers. The roster was full to the brim of tough and gritty players who were technically sound and made good decisions, but lacked players who had the ability to be explosive. In all three phases of the game, the Titans lacked players that have the ability to turn any play into a home run. They lacked playmakers.
It became clear through the selections of Davis and Jackson that the Titans wanted to address those problems on Day One of the draft. As Robinson iterated after the conclusion of Round One, “We wanted playmakers, and we got two really good playmakers.”
Robinson might not have had an A+ first round according to the media or traditional player value, but he undoubtedly got exactly what he wanted. If Davis is able to become a true #1 receiver that dictates coverage, he will take the Titans’ “exotic smashmouth” offense to new heights. If Jackson is able to consistently hold his own in man coverage, make plays on the football, and give the offense good field position through the return game, he will transform the defense.
It would have been nice for the Titans to select better “overall” prospects like tight end O.J. Howard or safety Jamal Adams, but they accomplished what they sought out to do. At the end of the day, that, not satisfying Matt Miller or Daniel Jeremiah, is the goal of the draft.