The Tennessee Titans should look to fill other holes on the roster with their early picks in the draft instead of at tight end.
Last Thursday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his first mock draft for 2019. The longtime draft expert has the Tennessee Titans taking Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson in the first round; a 6-5, all-around TE who had 49 receptions for 760 yards and six TDs for Iowa in 2018. He has the attributes to be a playmaker and strong blocker, but the issue is the fact that TE just isn’t a dire need for the Titans going into the draft.
The team still has veteran TE Delanie Walker and 2017 3rd round pick Jonnu Smith. Walker is 34 years old and coming off of a leg injury that kept him out for the entire 2018 season, and with his age nothing is a guarantee after dealing with such an injury. Smith is not a big name, but the young TE seemed to be more involved and grew as a player in the absence of Walker. Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt proved to be solid depth options, as well. The best bet for the Titans this year is to roll with who they’ve already got at that position. I’m going to look at some other areas the Titans should focus on rather than TE, at least for the earlier rounds.
One area of major concern for the Titans is their pass rush. It’s not that the Titans’ pass rush was a total disaster in 2018; it’s more of the fact that a lot of it came from blitzing safeties or linebackers rather than the defensive line. Titans star DE Jurrell Casey did manage 7.0 sacks and led the team, but after being injured in Week 16, his absence was greatly felt in the Week 17 loss to the Colts. DE DaQuan Jones failed to register a single sack this season, and ILB Jayon Brown finished with 6.0 sacks, which was the second-most behind Casey. It is fine to have the linebackers and safeties blitz every so often, but they need to find good edge rushers to provide pressure more frequently so that they are not forced to blitz frequently and can focus on the secondary and pass protection. While top prospects such as Quinnen Williams and Nick Bosa likely will not be on the board when the Titans pick at 19, they could have a chance at guys like Rashan Gary or Ed Oliver.
This is a position that cannot be stressed enough as far the the Titans’ needs. After allowing 47 sacks in 2018, the Titans need to shore up the offensive line and protect QB Marcus Mariota, who was riddled with injuries during the season. Many teams have shown that a strong offensive line holds the key to success, as the Colts made the playoffs after allowing the fewest sacks in the league and the Patriots march to their third straight Super Bowl while allowing no sacks in the postseason so far. As for 1st round talent, there aren’t a lot of guys worth going for at this position; and if all of them are off the board, the Titans would be better suited to use this pick elsewhere. In my opinion, options include Jawaan Taylor, Cody Ford, or Greg Little. Outside of these guys, the Titans would be better off filling another hole in the 1st round.
Some people don’t see this as a glaring need for the Titans with the emergence of Corey Davis and a group of young WRs surrounding him. However, Davis is the only one who has really proved anything, and the Titans may want to add depth to the corps so that they have multiple options and force teams to look at other guys besides Davis. Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown looks to be the most promising prospect in the draft, but could be gone by the time the Titans pick. I don’t expect them to take a WR in this round to begin with, but Brown or Ohio State’s Parris Campbell could be options if they decided to.
This is absolutely not a first round need for the Titans and it probably wouldn’t come until later in the draft, but I felt it was important to mention it. Blaine Gabbert proved to me that he cannot be a solid backup quarterback this year and I think it is important for the team to find someone who can back up Mariota confidently and give the fans a sense of calm when he can’t go. This pick would likely come in later rounds, and they could take a look at guys like Jarrett Stidham or Kyle Shurmur.
The Titans are a team with some needs, but none feel more glaring than the ones listed above. They are a solid team that has been in or on the verge of playoff berths each of the last three seasons, and 2019 is the time to take that next step. They need to use picks wisely and fill other needs in free agency while the team is in its prime and has a window to win.