Tennessee Titans: Which Players Will They Be Targeting in the 2013 Draft?
While some people will point out that the draft was only a month ago, I have a different view: it's only 11 months until the next draft.
There are already a lot of prospects worth getting excited about, and I'm sure the Titans are already looking at one or two in preparation for the college season to come.
Now, of course, everything will change by the time that the actual draft rolls around, but as of right now, here are six players the Titans might look at picking up in the early rounds of the 2013 draft.
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The Titans will likely be looking for a defensive end by next season. Derrick Morgan has yet to look like a first rounder and Kamerion Wimbley has been a good, but not great player for a while. Luckily, next year's crop of pass rushers is special.
The more I look at Barkevious Mingo, the more I like him. I can't say definitively whether Mingo or teammate Sam Montgomery is more talented, but I know that Mingo is probably a better fit for a 4-3 defensive scheme.
Mingo is fast, tall (listed as 6'5"), and has a reputation as an athletic freak. At 240 lbs, he's a little light right now, but he's got a long enough frame to easily add 20 lbs or more.
Mingo spent a lot of time in opposing backfields last season. He had 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 11 quarterback hurries, along with two broken up passes and a forced fumble.
With his ridiculously high ceiling (think Jevon Kearse), Mingo should go very high in next year's draft.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
I don't expect the Titans to use their first pick on a corner next season, but it's a definite possibility. Jason McCourty will be a free agent starting next year, and Alterraun Verner may not be a good enough full time starting corner.
If either Verner disappoints or McCourty heads out, then the Titans will grab a corner early. One of the best in the class is Xavier Rhodes.
Rhodes didn't produce fantastic numbers last season, only coming away with an interception and four broken up passes, but he looked great on the field. Before he left the game near halftime, when Rhodes was matched up against Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Floyd only had three catches.
As a potential shutdown corner, he'll be high on everyone's wish list. The Titans run a zone coverage scheme, but Jerry Gray may change that now that he has a full offseason. Either way, Rhodes will be a guy that the Titans will look hard at.
Bacarri Rambo, SS, Georgia
I think that Markelle Martin, after he's sat for a year learning better technique, is a realistic replacement for Michael Griffin at free safety. However, the Titans will still be looking for an upgrade at strong safety.
By the time of the 2013 season, Jordan Babineaux will be 31 years old, so he'll need replacing.
Some have him listed as a free safety, but Bacarri Rambo is, in my opinion, the best strong safety in next year's class. He's very big at 6' tall, 218 lbs, and he doesn't shy away from contact. In 2011, Rambo had 55 total tackles, including one for loss and a quarterback hurry.
The year before, he had five tackles for loss and three forced fumbles, so he can contribute to the running game more than his 2011 numbers would indicate.
He's great in the passing game as well. He had eight interceptions and eight broken up passes in 2011. I think his conversion to strong safety would be flawless, but his ability to play either spot could make him even more valuable.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC
If Eugene Amano keeps struggling in 2012 and no one steps up to replace him, then the Titans will have to take a center early next season. One of the guys they could look to early is USC's Khaled Holmes.
Holmes has done a great job protecting Matt Barkley over the years, and USC has produced a number of quality offensive linemen recently. The 6'4" center was a second team All Pac 12 last season and is already a polished technician.
The Titans won't use a first round pick on a center, but Holmes could be around in the early to middle second round, where the Titans will probably be selecting. If he's available at their second pick, they have to take him.
Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin
Maybe the only school that's been putting out a better group of offensive linemen than USC in the last few years is Wisconsin, and what a coincidence, they have another player that fits what the Titans will need next season.
Steve Hutchinson was a great signing, but he has very little time left in his career, and even so, the Titans could use an upgrade on the right side. Travis Frederick could be that upgrade.
Frederick combined with Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler last season to form the best interior line in the country, clearing out defensive linemen and allowing Montee Ball to run for a lot of touchdowns.
He's a better run blocker than a pass blocker, but if there's one thing that the Titans staff has been able to do, it's coach up pass blocking. Frederick has prototypical size and power, so he could excel with the Titans.
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
This one is a little bit of a long shot, but hear me out.
By the time of the draft, Chris Johnson will be three years removed from his 2,000 yard season. In running back years, that's a long time. Furthermore, 2011 was a terrible year for Chris Johnson, and the Titans were 31st in the league in rushing.
Finally, he'll be owed $9 million in 2013. If he doesn't have a great year in 2012, there's no way he's seeing that money. Middle of the road starting quarterbacks get that kind of paycheck, not middle of the road running backs.
If the Titans cut Chris Johnson, they may take a running back early on in the draft, and one of the ones I think they'd be interested in is North Carolina's Giovanni Bernard.
Bernard burst onto the scene in 2011 with 1,253 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 362 receiving yards and another touchdown. He's a player that is very similar to Chris Johnson in that he's small and fast, but can also catch and break tackles.
Furthermore, the Titans could get him in the second or third round as of right now, so he'd be a great value if a running back was needed.