Tennessee Titans: Jon Robinson’s best and worst draft decisions

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 31: Safety Kevin Byard
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 31: Safety Kevin Byard /
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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JANUARY 11: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against Rashaan Evans #54 of the Tennessee Titans during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JANUARY 11: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against Rashaan Evans #54 of the Tennessee Titans during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 11, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) /

Game-changing top picks

It’s not a secret that championship teams are often built through the draft. In order to set the foundation for your team for years to come, you must be spot on with your draft picks, especially in the earlier rounds where the likelihood of finding a game-changing talent is a lot higher than the later rounds.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson has been fantastic at selecting early on in the draft, and in particular over the last two years when he has gotten not only four starters, but four game-changing talents as well.

Since 2018, the Titans have selected linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, as well as defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and wide receiver A.J. Brown with their last four picks in the first two rounds of the draft.

The Titans traded up to select both Evans and Landry back in 2018 and the fact that Tennessee found a way to get both was mind boggling to Robinson and Titans fans everywhere.

There were multiple rumors that the Titans were going to select Landry with their original first-round pick. Instead, they decided to be aggressive and go and get the guy they really coveted in Evans. The Titans knew this meant they likely let their chance at Landry slip away but they were content with the decision anyways.

However, as the draft played itself out, Landry kept sliding and once he got to the No. 41 pick, Robinson decided to pounce and get the guy he truly coveted once again. Both players have been fantastic for the Titans thus far and both took a giant leap from year one to year two.

Evans is a madman who goes sideline to sideline and wreaked havoc during the team’s latest playoff run. Evans finished the 2019 season with 129 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery, and one defensive touchdown.

Meanwhile, Landry has a ‘Gumby’ like bend that often allows him to get around even the best offensive tackles in the league. Landry continues to develop counter moves and is likely going to continue getting better with experience.

Landry led the team in 2019 in sacks and reached double digits for the first time in his career (including playoffs). The talented pass-rusher finished with 75 tackles, 10 sacks, one interception, and 13 tackles for loss.

What the Titans have gotten from Evans and Landry is clearly the type of production you’d hope to get from your top-two picks.

The very next year Robinson once again landed two game-changing talents with the top-two selections in the 2019 NFL draft.

In fact, a very strong argument can be made that last years top-two selections were even better than 2018’s top two, and that’s saying something.

With The Titans’ top-two picks in 2019, they selected Simmons and Brown. Prior to a pre-draft knee injury, Simmons was graded as the second-best overall player in the draft, according to NFL.com.

The former Mississippi State star was considered by many as a slam dunk pick, but many failed to take the chance on him due to the risk of him possibly being red shirted his rookie year.

Robinson felt that the reward far outweighed the risk, therefore he decided to select Simmons with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2019 draft. The rookie defensive tackle missed the entire offseason training program due to his rehab, but it wasn’t exactly a secret that he was way ahead of schedule.

Then, Christmas came in October when Simmons was finally ready to hit the field for the team’s Week 7 game against the Chargers.

In his debut, the monstrous defensive lineman recorded four tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback sack in the team’s 23-20 win over the Chargers. He also made plenty of plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet, which is something that was consistent the rest of the year.

Simmons was a force on defense, as he often used his massive size and brute strength to plug opposing running lanes. The more productive he was, the more he took on double teams, which may have limited his stat line; however his mere presence alone would often allow his teammates to excel on defense.

Although it’s early in his career, Simmons has displayed the potential to possibly develop into one of the game’s more dominant defensive lineman. The thought of how good Simmons can be with a full offseason of actually preparing and practicing with his teammates as opposed to rehabbing should have Titans fans counting down the days until the start of the season.

The Titans’ first-round pick finished his strong rookie year with 35 total tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss, and one fumble recovery.

And then there’s the team’s second-round selection (No. 51 overall): Brown.

Brown was phenomenal during his rookie campaign in Tennessee. From his very first game he let the league know that he belonged. Brown reached the 100-yard threshold five times on the year and averaged an explosive 20.2 yards per reception.

What makes Brown so special is he has the heart and determination to be great to combine with his God-given talents. He never settles and always wants to get better at something.

Titans fans have no reason to doubt that with that type of mindset combined with the natural talent he already possesses, he can be one of the best receivers in the league one day. He’s already one of the best receivers at creating separation at the line of scrimmage at such a young age. The sky seemingly is the limit for the Titans’ rookie receiver.

Brown eventually became everything the team hoped their former No. 5 overall pick would be. The Titans rookie was the unquestioned No.1 receiver by the end of the year and ended the season on a tear by going over 110 receiving yards in four of the team’s final six games, and he had six total touchdowns in as many games .

The former Ole Miss star receiver finished his rookie year with 52 catches for 1,051 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns on the year, numbers that have earned Brown a potential nod for Offensive Rookie of the Year later this week at the ‘NFL Honors’ show.