Top Marks for Titans
In the lead up to the 2019 NFL Draft I commented that the Titans did not own much in the way of draft capital. They held one pick per round across the first six rounds. They were going to have to sit their and let the draft come to them. Their primary needs were around creating a more potent offense, more sting in their pass rush and shoring up the offensive line. It could not have worked out much better.
Without the ability to trade up into the top 10 the Titans will have watched as a number of the top defensive talent was taken one by one. This continued with the Dolphins (Christian Wilkins) and the Giants (Dexter Lawrence) taking Defensive Tackles (DT). Either or both of these will have been high on the Titans board. With Tennessee on the clock there was one more top rated DT waiting for them, so the card went in for Jeffrey Simmons (Mississippi). His talent on the field is undeniable and based on that alone he was rated as a top-10 draft prospect. He will have fallen down other sides draft boards due to two major issues. First his arrest in 2016 for an assault on a woman, and the subsequent release of a video of the incident. Second his torn ACL from February this year whilst training for the NFL Combine.
As a result Simmons may well miss some or all of the 2019 season. The Titans clearly see the talent in Simmons and are willing to trust that the 2016 incident was out of character and that they are happy to wait until possibly 2020 for Simmons to take the field.
On the second day the Titans turned their focus to the offense. At pick no.51 the selection was wide receiver A.J. Brown (Ole Miss). This was a much needed move and Brown was a high volume receiver in College. A big, strong, physical receiver who is able to line up in various positions Brown is an excellent precision route runner. He is not a high speed deep threat but he will be a reliable target for Mariota to find on short to intermediate routes.
In round three (pick 82) Offensive Guard Nate Davis (Charlotte) was taken. Several high profile offensive lineman (both at tackle and guard) had already been taken at this point. Therefore the selection of Davis may not be a day 1 starter but his skills in assisting the run game will have caught the eye of the Tennessee offensive coaches. The Titans used free agency to bring in Rodger Saffold at the same position so there is less pressure on Davis to be lining up straight away.
For the final day of the draft the Titans did spice things up a bit. In round 4 they traded up five places (to 116) in order to pick up Safety Amani Hooker (Iowa). A number of safeties had flown off the board at this point and Hooker was probably the best value pick left. In trading up five spots the Titans clearly did not want to miss out on him. Hooker had a particularly productive final season at Iowa and was able to play across a number of different positions including on occasion at linebacker. This versatility will assist in getting him on the field sooner rather than later in 2019.
The cost of trading up in the 4th round was to trade down eleven spots in the 5th and at pick 168 the Titans selected D’Andre Walker (Georgia). Walker is an athletic rusher, very adept at rushing the passer. In a similar vein to the previous selection Walker had a very impressive final season. However, the Titans will need to work out his best position in the pro-game as he had limited use in coverage situations.
The Titans doubled-down on the linebacker spot in the 6th round with the selection of David Long (West Virginia). The Titans front office and coaching staff were obviously keen on recent production as Long was another recruit coming off an excellent final campaign in College. Plus points reported here are his football IQ and team leadership qualities. He is a smaller linebacker (5’11’ 230lbs) but what he lacks in size he makes up for in aggression and intelligence on the field. Similar to Walker he needs to develop skills in coverage but he will add depth to the linebacker corps.
Considering the draft capital they went in with the Titans were able to find good value picks throughout the rounds. Yes they will need to wait on their 1st rounder Simmons and the later round picks are developmental prospects. However, through free agency and now their subsequent draft choices the Titans have quietly gone about building a roster which will be highly competitive in next year’s race for the AFC South title.
(Image: Jeffery Simmons USA Today)