NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Instant Starters for Tennessee Titans
Most early picks in the NFL draft are expected to start right away. However, there are a lot of players, even some very early picks, who are designated as projects or developmental players.
Often you see this with pass-rushers, quarterbacks and offensive linemen. They may play as rookies, but they don't reach their full potential until later in their careers.
With Mike Munchak likely coaching for his job, I think he'll stay away from developmental guys this year and focus on guys who can start right away.
Here are eight players the Tennessee Titans could put on the field immediately.
1. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
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Johnthan Banks is my current favorite for the Titans' first overall pick. He's the consensus second-ranked corner in the class, and since DeMarcus Milliner isn't likely to fall to the 10th spot, he's the guy I think the Titans go with.
Banks is a playmaker, but with his great speed and length, he looks like the guy most likely to be a shutdown corner at the next level. He played through a large part of 2012 with an injury, but he still had several memorable performances.
His game against Tennessee was particularly impressive. Not only did he nearly shut down Justin Hunter, but he also forced a fumble late in the game when Tennessee was moving on what could have been a game-tying touchdown drive.
That combination of size, playmaking ability and clutch performance makes Banks the kind of player you can start on Day 1.
2. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
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Damontre Moore is exactly the kind of player the Titans should be looking for at defensive end. Moore was one of the top sack artists in the country this season, racking up 12.5 total sacks and 21 tackles for loss.
What makes Moore's numbers so great in comparison to the other pass-rushers in the country is that he was consistent. Whereas guys like Bjoern Werner piled up their sacks in bunches, Moore had a sack in nine games.
If Moore puts in a good combine performance, he'll be a top pick. Between him, Werner and Ezekiel Ansah, one of them will likely fall to the Titans.
Moore seems to be the most ready to start right away, so he'd be the best one for the Titans to land.
3. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
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I put Chance Warmack on the list for two reasons. One, something could come up between now and April that drastically alters his stock and makes the Titans able to draft him. Two, to talk about why there is no way the Titans draft Warmack with their first pick.
Warmack is a great guard prospect, and he may be the best player on the best collegiate offensive line in the country. He's a plug-and-play guy who is an outstanding run-blocker and a very solid pass-blocker too.
However, there is no chance the Titans draft him with the 10th overall pick. Last year, David DeCastro was lauded as the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson. He was being projected in the early teens even up until draft day.
On the day of the draft, he fell all the way to 24th. The same fall will happen with Warmack because, even though he's an elite prospect, he's not a significantly better prospect than DeCastro was.
Even if he was, the Titans have made it clear they don't believe that it makes sense to take an interior offensive lineman in the first round. They didn't do it in 2012 with the 20th pick, and they certainly won't do it in 2013 with the 10th.
4. Matt Elam, S, Florida
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Perhaps the weakest overall unit on the Titans is the safeties. However, in my opinion, there isn't a safety in this year's class worth taking 10th overall.
If the Titans decide that a safety is the biggest need, they could decide to trade down and take the top safety in the later parts of the first round. In that situation, the one I'd target is Matt Elam.
Elam is, in my opinion, the best safety prospect in this year's class. He was lights out for Florida in several key games, including what looked to be a key road test against Tennessee.
He also impressed me in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville. Where a large part of the Florida defense appeared to give up once Louisville took a commanding lead, Elam was still all over the field making plays.
Michael Griffin could still be salvaged, but he needs someone to play across from him. It'd be hard to find a better partner than Elam.
5. Dallas Thomas, OT/OG, Tennessee
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You may have heard me mention Dallas Thomas as a developmental project, which he is. He just happens to be that rare prospect who is both a ready starter and a project.
While Thomas is a plug-and-play left guard prospect, he's a project as a tackle. That makes him perfectly suited for the Titans.
With David Stewart ending his season with a serious injury, the Titans may need a new right tackle down the road, but they have a crippling need at both right and left guard right now.
Steve Hutchinson, the starting left guard, went down with an injury near the end of the season and is 35 years old. Leroy Harris, the starting right guard, is a free agent and had a disappointing season anyway.
The Titans need at least one guard who can start from Day 1. Thomas can do that. Whether or not he can be developed into a tackle is something to worry about later.
6. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
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If the Titans manage to re-sign Fernando Velasco, then they won't really be in the market for a center. Even if they do re-sign him, if Barrett Jones falls to the Titans in the second round, they'd be sorely tempted to take him.
Like Thomas, Jones can play multiple positions on the offensive line. However, like almost no other player in the draft, Jones could probably start at any offensive line spot from the very beginning and do fairly well.
Jones played guard for his first two years at Alabama, but injuries forced him to play left tackle in 2011, where he excelled. Then in 2012, he moved to center, which seems to be his natural position, where he also excelled.
Of course, Velasco has played guard as well, so between the two of them, the Titans will have two players who can be put anywhere in the interior line and do their job. That kind of versatility can be handy late in the season when injuries start to pile up.
7. Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
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If the Titans take a safety on the second day of the draft, one of the more intriguing prospects to emerge is Fresno State's Phillip Thomas. He put up absolutely stunning numbers over the regular season, with eight interceptions, five broken up passes, four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
However, playing in a weak division like the WAC makes players get overlooked, but you can only ignore a season like that for so long.
At the Senior Bowl, when placed alongside top competition, Thomas looked like the real deal. He's already climbing up draft boards and will likely be a second-day selection when all is said and done, possibly going as high as third among safeties.
If the Titans wait to address safety until the second or third round, Thomas is one of the players that they could acquire that late and still start from the get go.
Even though Thomas has a lot of learning left to do, he'd provide an immediate upgrade for what the Titans have at strong safety right now.
8. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
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Chris Johnson ended up having a decent overall season, but he's still clearly not the back he was in 2009. In my opinion, he never should have been a feature back and should always have split carries with a power back.
If the Titans decide to pick up a power back in this year's draft, one of the best they could land is Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell.
Bell rushed for nearly 1,800 yards as the only real offensive threat on his team. He's also just enormous for a running back, weighing in at 244 pounds.
With Javon Ringer entering free agency, the Titans will need some more depth at running back. If they like the idea of returning to the one-two punch running game of 2008, Bell would be about the best guy they could grab in the class.