Tennessee Titans: A Way-Too-Early Look at the 2014 Draft
With the 2013 draft finished only a few days ago, it's probably too early to start looking at the next draft, but why not?
If he doesn't, he'll be out of excuses.
The Titans ought to feature one of the best offensive lines in the NFL next season, and a new dynamic receiving threat will be there as well. The defense will be better too, with veteran safeties hopefully strengthening what was the weakest link on the defense last year.
With all that in mind, let's look at some prospects the Titans might be interested in early on next year.
1. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
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Jake Matthews was nearly as good a prospect as Luke Joeckel was this season, and he's still got a year left to play.
Matthews, son of Hall of Fame lineman and current Titans offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, had an outstanding year blocking for Johnny Manziel on the right side. He's a good pass-blocker, but he's an outstanding run-blocker.
With Joeckel gone, Matthews will presumably see time on the left side in 2013, so scouts will know what he can do against speedier edge-rushers.
The Titans will be in the market for a new right tackle in 2014 if they can't retain David Stewart, and if he's there, I would imagine the coaching staff would have no problem bringing in another Matthews to be the new right tackle and the left tackle of the future.
2. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
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The Titans are satisfied with the defensive end position for now, but by the 2014 season, Kamerion Wimbley will be 31 and in decline. They may look to add someone else.
Outside of Jadeveon Clowney, Scott Crichton is my favorite defensive end prospect in the class. In 2011, as a freshman, he had six sacks, six forced fumbles and 14.5 tackles for loss. In 2012, he went up to nine sacks, three deflected passes and 17.5 tackles for loss.
He isn't a pure pass-rusher, but he can defend against the run as well as he can attack the passer. By being productive in both years he's played, Crichton also shows that he's no flash in the pan.
I expect him to be even better in 2013 than he was in 2012 and end up one of the top picks at his position. The Titans won't be picking high enough to land Clowney, so Crichton could be the pick if they address defensive line.
3. A.J. Johnson, ILB, Tennessee
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If Colin McCarthy doesn't stay healthy this season, the Titans will almost certainly look to replace him. One of the top inside linebackers in next year's draft class just happens to be a local product.
A.J. Johnson was the best player on Tennessee's defense in 2012. He racked up an incredible 138 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, a sack and eight quarterback hurries. He also contributed to the offense, carrying the ball in the "beast formation," where he managed six touchdowns.
Everyone likes seeing in-state prospects go pro locally, so Johnson would be a pick the fanbase would like. And because of his natural leadership, he'd improve the defensive play of those around him.
A linebacker corps of Akeem Ayers, A.J. Johnson and Zach Brown would almost immediately be one of, if not the best in the NFL, and it could make up for weaknesses in either the passing or rushing defense.
4. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
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The safety class of 2014 doesn't look as impressive as 2013's impressive crop, but there are still a few blue chips out there. One is Stanford's Ed Reynolds.
Reynolds is a natural free safety, but he has the size (6'2" and 207 lbs) and power to play a hybrid-type safety (which the Titans seem to be moving towards) or even move to strong safety.
In 2012, Reynolds had six interceptions and five broken-up passes. But even more impressive than that, he ran three of those interceptions back for touchdowns. His total number of return yards, by the way, is 301, so he averaged half the length of the field per interception.
Reynolds is a playmaker, and if Michael Griffin doesn't improve, that's the kind of safety that the Titans will be looking for to replace him.
5. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
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The Titans are set at tight end right now, but that could change very quickly.
Delanie Walker mostly functioned as a No. 2 in San Francisco, and it remains to be seen how he'll transition to a more prominent role. Craig Stevens is just a blocker, and Taylor Thompson is still a project who may not pan out.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins looks like he could be the best tight end prospect to come around in a long time. If the Titans cut ties with either Walker or Thompson next season and want to bring in another player, Seferian-Jenkins would be at the top of their board.
Seferian-Jenkins can do it all. He's a great blocker and has top-flight speed; plus he caught 69 passes in 2012 for 852 yards and seven touchdowns.
He also comes with some character concerns, so if the Titans take him, it'll have to be later in the first round.
6. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
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If the Titans can't retain Alterraun Verner next season, or if neither Coty Sensabaugh nor Blidi Wreh-Wilson develops into the type of outside corner the Titans are looking for opposite Jason McCourty, they may look to spend a high pick on a corner.
Bradley Roby would have been a first-rounder if he'd come out in 2012, but he decided to stick around for his senior season.
In 2012, he was a playmaker, with two interceptions and a whopping 17 defended passes. He made plays in other ways too, with two tackles for loss, a sack and three touchdowns (one from a kick return, one from a fumble recovery and one from a returned interception).
Corners who excel in that many areas of the game are a rarity, so Roby will be a very high pick. If the Titans are looking for a corner, he'll be high on their list.
7. David Fales, QB, San Jose State
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If Jake Locker's play doesn't improve and the Titans don't make the playoffs, then a new regime will be coming in in 2014—and new regimes often mean new quarterbacks.
Unfortunately for the Titans, even if Jake Locker is terrible, they probably will win too many games to replace him with the likes of Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel. Their best bet will be David Fales.
As a prospect, I like Fales more than I like Manziel, but if Johnny Football has the same kind of season he had in 2012, he'll come off the board before the Titans pick, leaving Fales there.
In 2012, Fales passed for 4,193 yards, 33 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, all while leading his team to an 11-2 season. San Jose State's only losses were to Stanford by just three points and to Utah State.
He did all this behind a porous offensive line that surrendered a whopping 26 sacks.
He may be a small school prospect, but Fales has done a lot to warrant attention. If he can have a 2012 season that's nearly as impressive (and at least one game against a tough team), he'll be a top pick.