8 NFL Draft Prospects Rising Up Tennessee Titans' Big Board
The Titans came out like gangbusters when free agency opened last week, filling several holes on the roster with overpriced players. The team paid a hefty sum of money to fill holes on the offensive line, running back, secondary, defensive line and linebacker.
But when your team fields the league's worst scoring defense, there are still going to be things to correct. And with the offense being run by a new offensive coordinator, things are sure to change a bit play-calling- and personnel-wise.
With the Titans likely done making waves in the free-agent pool, the team's biggest needs are: defensive end, wide receiver, guard, safety and corner. Let's take a look at the some of the guys that may be on general manager Ruston Webster's radar when the NFL draft rolls around.
Kyle Long, OG/OT, Oregon
Two of the Titans' signings of late, Andy Levitre and Rob Turner, reveal a few things about the Titans' plan for April. There is more than $30 million already invested in the team's offensive line. Investing a first-round pick in yet another offensive lineman seems like overkill.
Turner is capable of being a stopgap option at right guard in a worst-case scenario, Levitre will obviously step in on the left side. Fernando Velasco is expected to return as the starting center after a quality performance last season.
So with the team likely passing on Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper in the first round, the team's focus could shift to Kyle Long who was brought in for a visit back in February. NFL.com's Mike Mayock has Long ranked as the fourth-best guard prospect and is projected to be taken in the second round by NFL Draft Scout.
Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Larry Warford is highly regarded as the draft's third-best guard prospect, and the only player, other than Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, capable of starting right away at the NFL level.
The biggest issue with Warford may be his weight. Otherwise, he has all the physical tools to contribute right away and is versatile enough to play center if necessary. He's adept at moving defenders off the ball and possesses good overall strength and agility for his size.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Entering the final year of his deal, Kenny Britt's lack of dependability makes it difficult to envision him remaining in a Titans uniform past this season, barring him finally reaching for his potential.
Kendall Wright showed a lot in his rookie season, and Nate Washington has been a steady No. 2 option, but beyond them, there's not much there at the position. Wright's potential is still unknown, but Britt is the only guy that is a known game changer when he's healthy.
All three of those guys excel at playing slot receiver. The team's sudden interest in shiftier options at WR hints that Wright will be making a move to the outside in his sophomore year.
Austin fits the mold of an explosive slot receiver. He has elite play-making ability and has reliable hands as well. The Titans could decide to go receiver in back-to-back drafts if they decide the offense needs more big-play ability.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Staying on the same track of thought, Cordarrelle Patterson is widely considered the draft's top receiver prospect and is a more realistic pick at 10. Patterson is still a fairly raw talent and struggles to run solid routes and concentrate when making catches.
However, when he's on, Patterson has shown himself to be an explosive playmaker capable of providing the impact plays that Titans fans have been waiting for from Kenny Britt for years.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Derrick Morgan finally managed to flash all the talent that he was touted for during the second half of last season and has given the Titans stability on one side of the defensive line. At the other end, Kamerion Wimbley failed to provide the level of play the team had hoped for.
Wimbley was too hot and cold throughout the season, leaving the pass rush with plenty of room to improve if a young difference maker is thrown into the rotation. Ezekiel Ansah fits the bill as an extremely raw talent that would fit in nicely as a rotational player.
Ansah has been flying up draft boards since the NFL combine. He stood out at the Senior Bowl, often winning battles with sheer effort, hustle and amazing athletic talent.
Ansah will take some time to develop, but with the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul as perhaps the league's premier pass rusher, Ansah is worth the risk.
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Another option at defensive end who has actually been brought in for a visit is LSU's Barkevious Mingo. Not to pile on Kamerion Wimbley, but the guy is going to be 30 next season, which means he's on the downside of his career and is trying to get used to a new position.
While this may not spell immediate or absolute doom for Wimbley's career, he will be on his way out of the starting lineup soon enough. The Titans have placed an emphasis on finding bigger and longer body types, this offseason and Mingo fits that mold.
At 6'4", Mingo provides the team with a long and lean edge rusher with the athletic ability to play 3-4 outside linebacker. His freakish athleticism should appeal to the Titans in their desire to find more difference-making players.
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
No position was mismanaged worse than safety, starting with the re-signing of Michael Griffin. Jordan Babineaux was benched multiple times throughout the year, Al Afalava is a great physical presence in the run game but is a liability in coverage.
The erratic play of Griffin, coupled with his puzzling contract extension, leaves very little that the team can do. George Wilson was already signed before free agency opened up, but at 32 years old, he only has so much gas left in the tank.
Jonathan Cyprien is fast moving up draft boards as a physical hitter and an emotional leader. Cyprien proved his value against better competition at the Senior Bowl and could bring some of the leadership that the current Titans roster is lacking.
B.W. Webb, CB, William & Mary
The Titans were a bit unsettled throughout the season at nickel corner. Alterraun Verner is the team's best option to cover the slot, but there is a lack of talent capable of filling in for him on the outside.
Tommie Campbell, Coty Sensabaugh and Ryan Mouton were all tried at the position, with Sensabaugh ultimately coming out on top due to age and Mouton's expiring contract. Sensabaugh is not an ideal fit for the role either, as he lacks the quick-twitch ability and the physicality to be a quality nickel back.
B.W. Webb possesses the short-area quickness and closing burst to help improve Tennessee's coverage. He has loose hips that allow him to flip and mirror receivers in tight space and has terrific ball skills to boot.
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