The 2013 NFL Draft is fast approaching and the picture is starting to get clearer as it nears. The Titans' huge free-agent haul still makes it difficult to know who the team will target when April 25 rolls around, but we do have a pretty good idea of the positions that may be targeted early.
We've seen who has been mocked to the Titans over the past several weeks, but what follows is a better picture and explanation of how each prospect fits into the current roster and could be used in the future.
Here are the Tennessee Titans' most likely draft selections at 10th overall:
CB Xavier Rhodes
The Titans have done well to find Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner late in in the 2009 and 2010 drafts, but the team lacks talent at the cornerback position.
The ineptitude of the team's safeties during the last two seasons cannot fully account for the unit's shortcomings in the last few seasons. General manager Ruston Webster has plugged one hole in the secondary with some temporary fixes in the form of Bernard Pollard and George Wilson.
However, while Alterraun Verner has proved to be a quality second corner, he is best when played in the slot. What the Titans need is another corner who is capable of playing on the outside without creating a major weakness in the defense.
At 6'1" and 210 lbs, Xavier Rhodes brings an unusual level that most corners do not possess. Rhodes' knack for being able to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage could prove to quite valuable in Gregg Williams' more aggressive defense.
The Titans will need to field a corner capable of playing in man coverage, rather than the team's preferred zone. If the Titans' select him, Rhodes can spend his rookie season playing on the outside in nickel situations and take over starting duties the following season if the team fails to re-sign Verner.
G Jonathan Cooper
If the Titans decide to take the safe route with their first-round selection, guard is the way to go, and UNC's Jonathan Cooper should be the pick for offensive Dowell Loggains' zone-blocking scheme.
Cooper could slide into the Titans' starting right guard spot from day one and immediately make the team's offensive line better. There are a few signs that point to this pick being more about a change in identity than being safe.
GM Ruston Webster has an awful lot of money invested in the team's running back position and offensive line. Jake Locker did very little to impress as the season wore on in 2012, and the team could decide to go with a run-heavy approach to help take some of the offensive load off Locker's shoulders.
Selecting Cooper would give the team the talent along the offensive line that it's been lacking since the departure of Kevin Mawae.
DE Barkevious Mingo
It feels a little bit early, but it doesn't look like the Kamerion Wimbley signing is going to work out the way it was hoped. Wimbley will turn 30 in October, and the Titans will need to think about finding someone to bring the type of production they are looking for from a right end.
Barkevious Mingo has an elite first step and great speed for his size that should translate into a quality pass-rusher in the NFL. Despite his lean build, he shows no fear of physicality and there is still room to add weight on his 6'5" frame.
In his rookie season with the team, Mingo would provide some much needed depth at a somewhat thin position for the Titans and would come in as a pass rush specialist. It's a role that would allow him to experience the beating of the NFL without feeling the full wear and tear.
Mingo will definitely need the time to add size, but his explosive first step and elite combination of speed and suddenness will be too much for the team to ignore. The Titans need more game-changing talent on its roster, and Mingo is someone who has the potential to offer that.
DT Star Lotulelei
After discovering a heart condition at the NFL Scouting Combine, Star Lotulelei's draft stock nosedived. However, after further review, things are looking okay health-wise for the gem of a talent, and he appears to be a safe pick.
Yes, the Titans signed DT Sammie Lee Hill to help solve the team's issue of finding someone to play along side Jurrell Casey, but the signing seems more like another case of the Titans signing another team's reserve and making them an adequate starter.
Lotulelei has the talent to collapse the pocket and provide the team's defensive ends with more opportunities to rack up sacks. His short-area burst gives opposing guards fits, but his true talent lies in stuffing the run game.
The Titans have not fared well in run defense over the past few years, finishing no higher than 20th in each of the last three seasons. Lotulelei would also be great at keeping guards from making it to the second level to possibly hurt the valuable Colin McCarthy.
Star's wide body is tough to move off the line of scrimmage with his great agility and strength—the Titans would finally have a true standout on the defensive line again. Something that was once a hallmark of Titans football.
The Titans will obviously do their due diligence to make sure they make the right choice when draft day is here. Whether they go by best player available or by need is what makes projecting the team's choice so difficult.
Webster truly does have the option of going in any direction with this pick, and he lacks the history to give us any real clue into his intentions. As you can see, the Titans still need tp lean more toward the defense, despite the number of free-agent additions the team has already made to the unit, but the options all remain.
After flipping through the players the Titans appear most likely to draft later this month, who do you think the team should target with the 10th overall pick in the draft?
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