After signing 22 UDFAs, the Tennessee Titans are hoping that they can find a diamond in the rough. These players are early favorites to stick in 2018.
Although the Tennessee Titans roster has very few holes and solid depth that would typically preclude the efforts of an UDFA to make the team, the Titans managed to attract several high priority free agents. Combine this with the small incoming rookie class of only four players, which opens up more possible roster spots, and UDFAs will have more opportunities to show off their skills over the next few weeks and supplant older veteran players who have likely shown their ceiling and limitations already.
Fellow Titan Sized writer Will Lomas has already predicted that two of these players will make the final roster here, but I anticipate one other free agent really pushing to make the final roster. The following players make sense for the Titans because they can provide upgrades over current depth players at positions of need and are extremely affordable due to their status as undrafted free agents.
A lot of attention has been paid to Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry, Dane Cruikshank, and Luke Falk, which is only natural. But for a team with a number of former UDFAs like Josh Kline, Malcolm Butler, and Will Compton, all of who should make a major impact in 2018, Mike Vrabel and staff should know better than to underestimate the potential of players who did not get drafted. The following three players could be considered early favorites to play a role for the Titans in 2018.
RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Akrum Wadley looked like a surefire Day 3 pick coming out of Iowa as a solid complementary back who could be dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield and creative in making running room when there is seemingly nothing there. However, after all was said and done, Wadley ended up with the opportunity to find his own home as a free agent. He chose the Titans, which could end up being a savvy move on his part.
Even though the Titans paid Dion Lewis a hefty sum to pair with Derrick Henry, they could still use a third running back who is adept at catching passes, since Matt LaFleur relied heavily on his running backs to catch passes in L.A. last season. Lewis will obviously handle the lion’s share of targets, but with pass-catching not necessarily being David Fluellen or Derrick Henry’s forte, Wadley may be able to carve out a niche as a rotational backfield piece.
WR Deontay Burnett, USC
Another offensive playmaker tabbed by Lomas to make the final roster, Deontay Burnett is another skill position player that many expected to be drafted on the third day of the draft. Burnett may not possess top tier speed or size for the wide receiver position, but he put up big numbers with QB Sam Darnold as USC’s WR1 in 2017. Burnett routinely won with athleticism and quickness, with a penchant for making tough catches in traffic.
On a Titans team with few proven players at the position outside of Rishard Matthews, a talented possession receiver like Burnett may be something that Tennessee wants to keep around. Until some of the young talent on the roster proves that they can produce, the best approach for the Titans should be to continue adding young competition like Burnett.
S Damon Webb, Ohio State
The one player not predicted by Lomas to make the final roster, I expect Damon Webb to push for a roster spot or a spot on the practice squad in 2018. Outside of Kevin Byard, Cruikshank, and Johnathan Cyprien, the Titans do not have a ton of depth at the safety position since Brynden Trawick makes most of his impact on special teams. Webb faded into the background as a two-year starter in a vaunted Ohio State secondary that has put several players into the NFL over the last few seasons.
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According to Lance Zierlein, Webb doesn’t possess top-tier athleticism for the position, but was a sound tackler and opportunistic in coverage with five interceptions last year. Webb also has a connection with his former coach Kerry Coombs, who is now the Titans’ secondary coach, which will be in his favor during training camp. Expect Webb’s high floor to appeal to a coaching staff in search of depth in the secondary, which could pave a way to a spot on the practice squad or final 53-man roster.
After reaching deals with 22 undrafted free agents, Tennessee obviously wants to add competition in training camp and a few of these free agents will inevitably shock the world and unseat an established veteran. Although it is always difficult to predict which UDFAs will manage to stick on a roster, these three players seem to have a leg up on the competition as rookie camp starts up for the Titans.