Tennessee Titans: Could a LB be the pick at 25?
With ILB Avery Williamson’s likely departure, the Tennessee Titans could use the 25th overall pick on his replacement.
Free agency is on the horizon. Many roster moves–both expected and unexpected–are going to happen for the Tennessee Titans. A guy that could find himself on another team’s payroll is ILB Avery Williamson.
Williamson, who is known primarily as a run stuffer, has been a liability in coverage. His inability to cover RBs and TEs effectively influenced the team’s decision to bring in ILB Jayon Brown last offseason.
The linebacker position will be addressed in this year’s draft, but in what round?
GM Jon Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel must do their due diligence in evaluating the talent that could be available when the Titans are on the clock. Assuming standout LBs like Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds may be off the board, who could be a realistic option at the position?
If the Titans do elect to take a linebacker in the first round, here are three guys that could be available at 25.
The 6’3″, 234 pound member of the Crimson Tide has 42 games under his belt. He accrued 84 solo tackles (35 last season) and 66 assisted tackles (39 last season).
Evans plays with instinct and has a natural gravitation towards the ball. His athletic ability and ability to diagnose plays allows him to thump and thump hard.
Six of his 15 sacks took place last season. Evans was a leader and emerged as one of the top defensive players on the team during Alabama’s championship run last year. He exudes grit and his playmaking ability radiates and influences those around him.
Evans will be a stud and develop into a cornerstone member of an NFL defense. Might he find a home in the Music City? Hard to imagine Robinson and Vrabel passing on a player like Evans.
Leighton Vander Esch
Again, there is a chance LB Leighton Vander Esch could already be plucked off the board by pick 25. If not, he’s a guy that would fit nicely and has a chance to make an immediate impact.
Vander Esch is 6’4″, 240 pounds, and hee only has 28 games to his credit, as he became a full-time starter last season.
Vander Esch’s numbers drastically improved with him positioned in the starting role. He registered 128 solo tackles (91 last season), 60 assisted tackles (50 last season), five sacks (four last season), and four interceptions (three last season).
As evidenced by the numbers, he thrived as a starter for Boise State.
Robinson values production, and Vander Esch is a producer. He is supremely athletic, which helps in instances of an over-pursuit happening. Having excelled in both football and basketball in high school, there is a natural feel and fluidity to his lateral movement.
Vander Esch is a true every-down linebacker and would be solid in defending the run while avoiding coming off the field in passing situations due to not being a liability in coverage.
Under the tutelage of Vrabel and DC Dean Pees, Vander Esch possesses the physical tools and mental traits to be a solid addition to the Titans defense.
Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson may be the only player listed here that lasts until 25. He’s another player who could tremendously benefit from the guidance of Vrabel and Pees.
Jefferson is a tackling-machine and an A-gap assassin. He tallied 160 solo tackles (79 last season) and 71 assisted tackles (31 last season).
Jefferson is a heat-seeking missile that has the prototypical build at 6’3″, 240 pounds. He was the nation’s top linebacker coming out of high school and proved to be a solid defender for the Longhorns over the past three seasons.
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Jefferson can be effective against the run and does well in pass coverage. He can do just enough in coverage to avoid being a major liability. His instincts can lead to big plays and he does his best work when given the go-ahead to blitz up the gut.
His draft stock could climb following a solid outing at the NFL Combine. His athleticism at the position is among the top. The Titans have a history in selecting Texas alums. Could Jefferson be the next Longhorn to join the new look Titans?
These three linebackers could all be in play. If a pass rusher is available but the Titans brass prefers to address another team need, one of these three could be considered.
Other names at the linebacker position to consider in the later rounds are Josey Jewell (Iowa), Tegray Scales (Indiana) and Darrius Leonard (South Carolina St.), among others.