Making some Tennessee Titans changes to Dane Brugler’s impressive article.
Dane Brugler is one of (if not the) most intelligent draft analysts and Tennessee Titans fans should take a minute right now to go follow him on Twitter.
Done? Great, now let’s talk about his most recent article where he did something that I can’t recall ever seeing before.
Brugler’s thesis was that in a world where everyone preaches “draft and develop” then you should be able to find standouts from Days 1, 2 and 3 of the NFL Draft.
Whether or not some guys to more time to develop than others, the point should be that by the end of the contract some of your later round picks should be recognizable names and the earlier picks should be your stars.
His rules for selection were as follows:
-No players from 2019 allowed since they haven’t played a snap in the NFL yet.
-This player MUST be someone that your team drafted. His example was that the Oakland Raiders can’t claim Antonio Brown.
-There are three categories: Day 1 (round 1), Day 2 (rounds 2 and 3) and Day 3 (rounds 4, 5, 6, and 7). No undrafted players and even if a player was technically selected on Day 2 when the format was different, they would be judged by today’s format.
Without going into too much detail, these were the players that Dane Brugler selected:
"Day 1: LT Taylor Lewan (No. 11 overall, 2014)Day 2: DT Jurrell Casey (No. 77 overall, 2011)Day 3: DL DaQuan Jones (No. 112 overall, 2014)"
Day 1 debate
You could make the argument that Marcus Mariota is “worth” more based on the contract he could get, but that isn’t what this list is about. While all of the other players on this list are above average or better (when healthy) none of them are as good at their position as Taylor Lewan is.
Day 2 debate
Day 2 gets a little bit trickier, but not too bad. Jurrell Casey has been a star for the Titans and even if he doesn’t make every single play he seems to constantly show up when it matters most.
Derrick Henry had a historic December, but unless he can follow that up with two more years at that pace he just doesn’t have the consistency to put him name on this list. Harold Landry has shown flashes, but with just one year of film you can easily dismiss him for now.
The big and obvious competition for this is Kevin Byard. If the last 8 years have seen the Titans defense led/anchored by Jurrell Casey, I could easily see the next 8 being led/anchored but Kevin Byard.
Byard already has history under his belt with the most interceptions in NFL history in back to back games, but it isn’t just a fluke thing. As a ball hawk he has been amazing, tallying more interceptions over the last two years than any other player in the league.
As a run stuffer, he isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the fan and he will do the dirty work so that someone else can make a play. He is unselfish while also showing the confidence and ego of a leader, something the Titans could use more of going forward.
Having said that, I still give the nod to Casey only because he has been so valuable for so long that even if Byard may be making more of an impact today, this is an honor I would judge by total body of work.
Day 3 debate
This is the one that I just truly don’t understand. DaQuan Jones got the award here and I guess that is coming from the fact that he got re-signed? This is what Brugler said about it:
"“Although the production doesn’t jump off the screen, Jones has been a valuable member of the Titans’ defensive front, starting 60 games the last four seasons.”"
I guess this is true, and the position shouldn’t be defined by stats alone but I just think there were better choices you could have selected.
Tajae Sharpe hasn’t been perfect, but when he has been on the field he has had sure hands and converted key plays. If you think of him less as Steve Smith the long time Panther and Raven, and think of him as Steve Smith the underrated New York Giants chain mover, you can get an idea of what he has been like.
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Sharpe has converted receptions for 1st downs on 49 of 67 (73%) of his plays and he has proven himself worthy of being on an NFL gameday roster whether that is with the Titans this year or somewhere else.
It is early in his career, but Dane Cruikshank should also get a mention here. As a special teams player he looks like a long term starter, rushing downfield to make contact with punt returners and catching fake punt passes for TDs. It is too early, but he has done everything right so far.
LeShaun Sims made two huge plays in the Titans game vs Kansas City Chiefs in his rookie year to give them a chance to win late and in 2017 he came in and picked off the Houston Texans prompting one of the funniest moments in NFL history and a Titans win.
But the answer is none of the above, because how can this be anyone other than Jayon Brown? There is an argument to be made that the two best linebackers drafted in the NFL since the 2012 NFL Draft are Leighton Vander Esch and Jayon Brown.
Brown is the prototype for the NFL today and if not for an unexpected logjam of talent at ILB, Brown would have played nearly 1,000 snaps last year and he would be recognized for his talent.
Still, those who have watched him know how dominant he is and the best is still ahead for Brown. I think this is obviously an oversight by Brugler and there is no doubt he is one of the best players in the AFC South regardless of what round he was drafted in.