Going with the most talented player over positions of need is a strategy that everyone preaches, but Robinson has done that for the most part over the last three draft classes. Jeffery Simmons was a home run and Isaiah Wilson was a huge miss, but those are really two extremes.
Caleb Farley is the latest first-round pick and like Simmons, people agree that he is a top-ten talent in the 2021 NFL Draft class when he is healthy. However, does that mean he needs to come out and be the Titans’ best cornerback in year one to be a good pick?
Can a Caleb Farley come in without completely dominating in year one and still be considered a success?
What Caleb Farley needs to do to have a successful start with the Tennessee Titans
Two things are going to be crucial in Farley’s rookie evaluation. First is obviously his health and whether the concerns about his back were warranted or whether they were more of a media creation than actual substance.
Second, he needs to pass the eye test and that is a lot harder to explain. With the Tennessee Titans’ defense now designed to attack opposing offenses instead of just preventing big plays, one of the first things fans will notice is how he looks when the Titans ask him to play man coverage during blitzes.
Other things like how he deals with top receivers, his tackling ability, how well he can play the ball in phase, position versatility, and disposition on the field will contribute as well.
All of that is pretty abstract, so what about focusing on something cut and dry like the box score?
Historically speaking, it actually wouldn’t take a lot for Farley to have a successful rookie season from a statistical perspective.
Mike Clay explained that in an article where he tried to predict the rookie leaders in every major category:
"These are going to seem ridiculously low at first glance. So low, in fact, that I included decimals. But that’s intentional. Rookies combined for only 38 interceptions last season (41.9 average over the past decade), and first-round rookies combined for six interceptions in each of the past two seasons (10.6 average over the past decade).Only 14 rookies have reached three INTs over the past decade, with Marcus Peters’ eight very much an outlier. Over the past two seasons, Devin Bush (two) and Darnell Savage Jr. (two) are the only first-round picks with more than one interception as a rookie."
So judging solely on interceptions, it is pretty cut and dry:
One interception equals a solid season, and that’s nothing spectacular. Two interceptions would mean that he’s had a nice season, one that’s above average. Three interceptions or more equate to an outstanding season and likely the designation of being the best rookie cornerback of the class.
Everything Farley does is going to be scrutinized, but it is important to remember that no one should expect him to be a Pro Bowler out of the gate and put up fantastic numbers. In the end, the most important number will likely be the number of starts he makes.