Though the 2015 NFL Draft netted the Tennessee Titans their franchise quarterback, it was overall a rousing failure.
The age-old football maxim that you should build your team through the draft as opposed to free agency is 100% true.
Teams that spend a ton of money on veteran players often find that the players they signed aren’t as valuable as they initially thought. This results in gobs of dead cap and an endless cycle of “sign, cut, sign someone else”.
Even when the idea seemingly works, it’s bound to fail eventually. The 2016 New York Giants were legitimate Super Bowl contenders based on the strength of free agent signees like Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon, and Janoris Jenkins. Less than a year later, the team has fallen apart, cleaned house with their staff, and will give their new general manager a very bad salary cap situation.
Teams who succeed consistently–such as the Packers, Patriots, and Cowboys–do so based on the strength of their drafted talent. All three have franchise quarterbacks, make it a priority to re-sign their drafted talent when their rookie contracts expire, and make smart decisions with the future in mind.
In the eight years since the Titans last made the playoffs, they have not drafted well. Occasional gems here and there, like Pro Bowl DT Jurrell Casey in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft, water down the results, but, at the end of the day, it was consistently bad.
Poor drafting is ultimately what cost former Titans general manager Ruston Webster his job. It’s also the reason that, from 2014-2015, the team won just five games. The team had no identity, very little talent, and a massive hole at the quarterback position.
The pinnacle of Webster’s draft day ineptitude came in 2015, when he selected possibly the worst draft class in Titans franchise history. A Houston Oilers expert might correct me, but it was at least the worst class in modern Titans history.
How, you might ask, can a draft class that yields a franchise quarterback (Marcus Mariota) be the worst in a team’s history? It’s quite simple. Though Webster hit a home run on Day One of the draft, his selections over the next few days were really bad.
Nobody, save perhaps FB Jalston Fowler, that the Titans selected on Days 2-3 of that year’s draft had any sort of positive impact on the team. Following the release of Fowler last Saturday, none of them remain with the organization.
Only two (DT Angelo Blackson and LB Deiontrez Mount) are currently on an NFL roster. Two others (WR Tre McBride and OL Jeremiah Poutasi) are currently on practice squads.
Titans fans love to poke fun at Poutasi’s inability to block an intersection with his car, Fowler’s uselessness in the run game, David Cobb’s inability to surpass Bishop Sankey on the depth chart, and Tre McBride’s inability to make the active roster after three offseasons with the organization.
But the crown jewel of ineptitude in the Tennessee Titans’ 2015 draft class was none other than WR Dorial Green-Beckham.
After running a 4.49 forty at the Combine in addition to showing off his other physical attributes, DGB was pegged as a late first round to early second round pick. The only reason he wasn’t a top 10 selection was the character concerns he carried along with him. He had been kicked off the team at Missouri for a domestic violence incident.
Though Green-Beckham was able to keep his hands to himself during his short stint with the Titans, his poor character manifested in other ways. Coaches repeatedly expressed frustration with his work ethic, and he never fully understood the playbook. As a result, Green-Beckham only started games when injuries occurred to other receivers. He caught only 32 passes as a Titan.
Things got even worse, and probably much more embarrassing for DGB, when he was traded in the middle of the ensuing preseason to the Philadelphia Eagles. The compensation: a backup offensive lineman (Dennis Kelly). Just over a year later, it has become clear that the Titans got the much better end of that deal.
Kelly often plays in base sets for the Titans as a sixth offensive lineman to help in the running game and with pass protection. Green-Beckham was waived by the Eagles prior to the start of 2017 Training Camp.
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As if DGB’s poor decision making, bad play, and support of a fake charity called “The Yeezy Foundation” is not enough to make Titans fans regret that pick, the Titans could have selected an All-Pro defender instead.
At the start of the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Titans held the first pick. They traded that pick to the New York Giants, in exchange for the picks that yielded them Green-Beckham and Jalston Fowler. The Giants selected safety Landon Collins.
In his second season, Collins made the Pro Bowl, was named a member of the AP’s All-Pro Team, and was named by another committee as the NFC Defensive Player of the Year.
Moral of the story for Titans fans: appreciate Jon Robinson. If nothing else, he’s better than Ruston Webster at drafting.