Well, you all saw it. After trading back with the Green Bay Packers, the Tennessee Titans selected a linebacker out of Georgia with the 92nd pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. His name is Monty Rice. Let’s dig into this selection.
Rice played four years for the UGA Bulldogs, collecting 49 tackles, including four for a loss, with one sack during his senior season in 2020. He was a leader for the Dawgs’ defense, ending up as one of five finalists for the Butkus Award in 2020.
Rice then went on to have an impressive performance at the UGA Pro Day earlier this offseason, showcasing his athleticism with a 4.57-second 40-yard dash time and a 75-inch wingspan. Rice stands at six feet tall flat, so he could perhaps be a tad undersized for an inside backer position, but Jayon Brown is also on the smaller side, and he has still paid dividends for the Titans.
What role could he play in the Tennessee Titans defense?
Rice was projected as a third or fourth-round pick, mostly because of his lack of size and his struggles in pass coverage. He failed to collect an interception during his college career, but he showcased sufficient run-stuffing ability and even flashed pass-rushing ability down the middle.
Don’t expect Rice to jump into a starting role immediately, but he could contribute in certain packages and sets. Some evaluators feel that he’s best suited to be an above-average special teams contributor. However, a third-round selection is a decent amount of capital to invest into a player, and it’s doubtful that Tennessee landed him with the idea that he’d be strictly a special teams guy.
It’s easy to love Jayon Brown as a comparison here. No, these guys aren’t the same player as Brown has shown flashes in his career of being solid in coverage. Still, both were mid-round picks who are under-sized middle linebackers. Rice could learn behind the likes of Brown and Rashaan Evans for a year and possibly step into a larger role in his sophomore season.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Mike Vrabel loves situational players who can contribute on special teams, and if Rice ends up contributing to the pass rush, the Titans may have found a mid-round gem once again.