Tennessee Titans must be patient with Caleb Farley’s development

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

The 2020 and 2021 draft results for the Tennessee Titans have been much maligned and for good reason.

The only good player to come out of the 2020 draft was Kristian Fulton, and picking Dez Fitzpatrick over Amon-Ra St. Brown is only one of the decisions that has come back to haunt Jon Robinson and company.

Both first-round picks from the two years have produced absolutely nothing, and let’s not even start with the disaster that was Isaiah Wilson. That being said, it is too early to give up on 2021’s selection — Caleb Farley.

When the Titans picked him, they knew the risk they were taking, and it was justified for a guy who was head and shoulders above the other cornerbacks in athleticism and potential. The results so far have been less than encouraging, but his story is far from over.

Tennessee Titans always knew they had to develop Farley

The general expectation for first-round picks in the NFL is that they are immediate contributors, but that was never going to be the case with Farley. The main thing that everyone was always worried about with him has continued to set him back further and further — injuries.

They were the reason he slid as far as he did in the 2021 draft, otherwise he was going to be potentially a top ten pick and in the same class as Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain. And when he tore his ACL during the 2021 season, it meant that he was essentially going to be a rookie in 2022.

Even without the injuries, his development was still going to be a process. Farley moved from receiver to cornerback as he entered college and with an injury one season and COVID concerns in another, he really only had two years to make that transition.

Put everything together, and it is understandable why Farley is still where he is in his career. What is not understandable is why he is sitting on the sideline in favor of a guy like Terrance Mitchell.

No, Farley did not have a good outing against the Buffalo Bills in the slightest, but keep in mind how little football he has played since 2019. With his history, do you expect him to just go out there and just dominate against one of the NFL’s best receivers?

Most importantly, the guy needs the reps. Cornerback is like quarterback, in that it is one of the positions with the steepest learning curve from college to the pros. There are going to be ups and downs, but you have to let a guy figure that out on the field or he will never develop.

For a very young and inexperienced guy with the potential to learn and still get better, it is almost impossible to believe that he would not have been a better option against the Las Vegas Raiders than Mitchell.

Mike Vrabel spoke on Farley’s lack of playing time, and his words and actions indicate that he might be trying to light a fire under him to get even better. The bottom line is, he needs to see the field in at least some capacity during games or he will not get better at all.

During the offseason, Vrabel and Robinson spoke about how much they liked Farley and his work ethic. One of the main things that stood out was that he was changing his body and had gotten noticeably bigger.

Many took that to mean that he was about ready to see the field and that he was going to have a sophomore season reminiscent of Fulton’s. And it was not outlandish to think that could have happened, but him still needing time to develop is completely alright.

Once again, he is still very raw at a position that is one of the hardest to come in and be an immediate contributor. It is not just going to take a few months of hard work during rehab to turn into a polished professional, it might even take a full year and another offseason of being completely healthy, so it is tough to blame Farley himself for the position he is in.

From the Tennessee Titans’ perspective, it is a tougher situation than people will say, because teams are often advised to just draft the best players on the board, and Farley absolutely was that guy at the time.

Once again, they knew the potential consequences of taking a guy like him, but knowing how hard he works and his desire, there is still a chance he becomes the player we expected him to be.

Elite cornerbacks are really hard to find in the NFL and you can never have too many great players in your secondary. While the Tennessee Titans have the luxury of playing in the AFC South, the rest of the AFC is filled with top-end quarterbacks that they are going to have to play at some point.

Farley’s actual talent shows that he has the potential to become elite at his position, so now is not the time for the Tennessee Titans to give up on him. If the Tennessee Titans coaching staff can’t realize this (or if they can’t develop him) then fans should ask what they even bring to the table and why are they allowed to collect a paycheck from the franchise.