Valuable tool for Titans fans interested in the draft
The Tennessee Titans have an average amount of draft capital this season thanks to some smart trades and the compensatory pick from Jack Conklin. Now the question is, how will they use it?
Over the last five drafts classes, we have learned a lot about Jon Robinson and his tendencies. For example, we know that he loves SEC players at nearly every position.
We also know that long-term production is another strong preference of his, especially in the top-100 picks.
There are a dozen other trends and dots that we could connect, but right now I want to talk about something more comprehensive than that. I want to talk about which positions Jon Robinson seems to find most replaceable in the draft.
How could you know that?
It all starts with finding out which positions the Titans have invested the most draft capital in during the Jon Robinson era. Now, it isn’t a perfect science, but PFF Brad used a chart that quantified the value of each draft pick and used those numbers to figure out how much each team had invested at each position.
The top tweet is what we want to focus on because of the time frame. As you can see, the Titans have spent the bulk of their draft capital on:
1. WR (17.2%)
2. CB (13.5%)
3. OT (13.2%)
4. DL (11.4%)
5. LB (11%)
Those five positions make up nearly two-thirds of the draft resources that the Titans have had during the Robinson era.
Funny enough, four of those positions are positions of need for the Titans again this season with EDGE and TE having strong cases to push out offensive tackle and linebacker.
But, I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think this is a clear philosophy that Jon Robinson brought over from New England. If I had to sum up this M.O. I would say:
Jon Robinson views the draft as a cost-effective resource to add talent at premium positions to the roster while he uses free agency to plug holes or to add/keep Pro Bowl-caliber players.
By viewing the draft like this, you theoretically add young talent to your roster at high-impact positions without being forced to break the bank for “upside players” that hit free agency. The cost is that you lose “good” players in the process to teams who are willing to bet that they become “great” players and who are willing to pay them like the players they may become.
That makes a lot of sense in a world where you get to use pre-negotiated rookie contracts to fight the salary cap. This is the method that allowed them to pay Derrick Henry, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, and now Denico Autry even though they aren’t the typical positions that you invest a lot of money in through free agency.
Now the Titans are going to rely on this value management strategy to justify the price tag of the big-ticket (but necessary) addition of Bud Dupree.
Let’s take it a step further and say that the Titans sign another veteran EDGE in free agency (Justin Houston, Ryan Kerrigan, Olivier Vernon, and Trent Murphy all make sense) and they stick to this strategy in the draft. Would you be satisfied with these starters in Week 1?
QB: Ryan Tannehill
RB: Derrick Henry
TE: Geoff Swaim
TE/WR: Anthony Firkser
WR: A.J. Brown, Elijah Moore (2nd round rookie)
OL: Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, Ty Sambrailo
EDGE: Harold Landry, Bud Dupree
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DL: Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, Tommy Togiai (3rd round rookie)
LB: Jayon Brown, (either Rashaan Evans or David Long Jr.)
CB: Kristian Fulton, Janoris Jenkins, Caleb Farley (1st round rookie)
S: Kevin Byard, Amani Hooker
That looks like a Titans’ offense that can recreate what we saw in 2020 and it looks like a defense with a much better chance to make Shane Bowen look good than what they had last season.
While not perfect, the strategy that Titans GM Jon Robinson is using makes sense when you look at the whole picture. The one argument against it is that it limits what you are able to do in terms of “BPA drafting”, but never forget that “BPA drafting” is a myth and that no team actually does it.
The key is finding the perfect blend of BPA, team need, and long-term value. The term trust the process gets overused, but in this case, I think it is warranted given the success that the Titans have had in the draft since Jon Robinson has been here.