Alabama's C.J. Mosley
There's a new chapter of football being written in Tennessee, and so far we've made it through the prologue. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt has finished filling out his coaching staff and is now spending his time getting acclimated with the roster and the surroundings.
The top team needs for the Titans, as we head toward free agency, are: inside linebacker, edge rusher, offensive tackle, safety, cornerback, running back and quarterback. Looking over that list, it's clear that their are more needs on the defensive side of the ball.
The 2014 NFL draft is loaded with quality talent and depth. The players are there for the Titans, but how the latter positions are prioritized, along with free-agent signings, will decide the flow of things. Let's take an early look at who the Titans may be targeting in each round of the draft.
*All stats gathered from Sports-reference.com.
Khalil Mack, Buffalo
Possible First-Round Targets: ILB C.J. Mosley, OLB Khalil Mack, DE Stephon Tuitt, S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, OT Taylor Lewan
The Titans are a team with some clear holes on its roster, but this draft has the talent and depth to fill many of the team's needs. With the defense in a state of flux, linebacker and defensive line are two areas that were already in need of some additional talent before the incorporation of the 3-4.
It's been evident since the midway point of the season that the Titans were in need of an upgrade at middle linebacker. With the team expected to incorporate more 3-4 fronts into the defensive package, the need for talent in the middle may have doubled. C.J. Mosley would be a perfect fit for the team.
Staying along those lines, Khalil Mack and Stephon Tuitt are both versatile players capable of performing well in a hybrid defense.
At 6'2", 244 pounds, Mack is best suited to play 3-4 outside linebacker and could come in and give the team some immediate help in pressuring the quarterback. Despite facing constant double-teams, Khalil Mack was among the NCAA leaders in sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (19) and forced fumbles (five).
Stephon Tuitt is an athletic freak at 6'6" and 322 pounds. Combine his rare size with the ability to push the pocket, and the comparisons to Richard Seymour begin to fly. Tuitt could be a huge piece for a team planning to build a defense capable of playing any front imaginable.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix' and Taylor Lewan's selection is predicated on whether the team is able to re-sign Bernard Pollard or bring in another free agent at the safety position and if David Stewart is cut. Clinton-Dix would provide a talent capable of stepping in right away and starting for the Titans.
The Titans need to finish retooling its offensive line, starting with the weakest link at right tackle. Taylor Lewan has the ability to play on the right side for a year, and learn the game, before moving to the left after the expiration of Michael Roos' contract in 2015.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Possible Second-Round Targets: DE/OLB Kony Ealy, DE/ OLB Trent Murphy, RB Ka'Deem Carey, OT Antonio Richardson, DE/OLB Trevor Reilly
The need for more talent at linebacker is evident again in the above talent. Kony Ealy has the size and athleticism (6'5", 275 lbs) to play standing up in the 3-4, or putting his hand down in a 4-3. He represents everything the scouts will be looking for on the defensive side of the ball with his adaptability.
It may be a stretch that Ealy will be there for the Titans in the second round, however. Trent Murphy (6'6", 261 lbs) is a guy with very similar traits that the team could look at if Ealy is already taken. Murphy led the nation with 15 sacks and finished second in tackles for loss at 23.5.
Trevor Reilly is another talent that fits the mold of the latter two. He is a bit smaller than them (6'5", 255 lbs), but he can rush the passer, reads the ball well in the running game, and shows comfort dropping into coverage.
If the Titans end up releasing Chris Johnson from his contract, they will need to find another back capable of complementing Shonn Greene in the backfield. Ka'Deem Carey is one of the top-rated backs in the draft, but slips to the second round due to the devaluation of the position.
Antonio Richardson is another guy capable of playing either left or right tackle and can be groomed on the right side in 2014.
The Titans currently do not own a draft selection in the third round of the draft, having traded it along with their 2013 seventh-round pick and 2013 second-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for the 2013 34th overall pick, who the Titan's used to select wide receiver Justin Hunter.
Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
Possible Fourth-Round Targets: DL Kelcy Quarles, ILB Yawin Smallwood, RB Jeremy Hill, DE/OLB Adrian Hubbard, OT Seantrel Henderson, Dl DeAndre Coleman
While the Titans made it a point of emphasis to add some size along the defensive line last offseason, they will need even more to play in a 3-4. Ropati Pitoitua and Antonio Johnson are two guys with 3-4 experience, but they will become free agents on March 11.
Even if the team is able to re-sign both of them, there is a need for depth along the defensive line. Quarles fits in nicely as a big body (6'4", 298 lbs), capable of adding even more size, that can play the nose in a 3-4 or 4-3 front.
DeAndre Coleman (6'5", 315 lbs) is another big-bodied talent capable of giving the Titans defense some of the size and physicality it will need to dominate the trenches in a 3-4.
The Titans could decide they don't like what they have at all at inside linebacker, and part ways with both Moises Fokou and Colin McCarthy. The position is in definite need of quality help. Yawin Smallwood could prove to be a solid addition as depth if the team dips into the free-agent market.
Jeremy Hill is another option at running back if the Titans part ways with Chris Johnson. Hill is a big back at 6'2", 235 pounds. The may opt to go with two power backs, a la Jerome Bettis and Rashard Mendenhall in Pittsburgh, wearing opponents down with their size.
Seantrel Henderson is a raw talent, but the Titans could draft him to play right tackle and find themselves very happy with the results. While he is a bit clumsy in pass protection, he excels in run blocking.
Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Possible Fifth-Round Targets: CB Keith McGill, DL DaQuan Jones, RB Charlie Sims, OT Morgan Moses, WR Martavis Bryant
With the possible departure of Alterraun Verner, the Titans may opt to add more talent to its defensive backfield. Keith McGill is a big, physical corner with great ball skills. The Titans wanted to get bigger at corner with a new emphasis on playing man coverage. Whether that desire remains, McGill is a quality talent that could be developed.
DaQuan Jones is a continuation of the team's need to get bigger on the defensive side of the ball. He would be a perfect fit as a defensive end in Horton's 3-4 fronts.
Damian Williams is set to be a free agent this offseason and may look to find a team willing to give him a larger role in the offense. If that is the case, the Titans could look to restock it's depth with a big, red-zone threat in Martavis Bryant (6'5").
Charlie Sims and Morgan Moses are two more talents that are possible selections in the event of a couple likely roster cuts.
C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
Possible Sixth-Round Targets: ILB Max Bullough, S Sean Parker, DL Ryan Carrethers, WR Kevin Norwood, S C.J. Barnett
At this point in the draft teams are looking to find quality depth and developmental talent with some upside.
Max Bullough is an impassioned player and leader looking to shake off any negative from being suspended this season. The Titans are in need of more vocal guys on the roster, especially if Bernard Pollard isn't re-signed.
Sean Parker and C.J. Barnett are guys that could develop behind George Wilson if Pollard signs elsewhere. The Titans have struggled to draft safety talent in the past, but they have to keep trying.
Ryan Carrethers is a guy the Titans can look to to play nose tackle in 3-4 fronts and help with stopping the run in 4-3 fronts. The team needs to have a stout tackle on the roster if Sammie Lee Hill is unable to play the nose.
Kevin Norwood is a guy that is more capable of playing any position at receiver, similar to Damian Williams. The top three spots at the position appear locked up for the Titans, but there could be a hole here next year.
Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
Possible Seventh-Round Targets: OLB Prince Shembo, RB James Wilder Jr., CB Ricardo Allen, WR Solomon Patton, DL Beau Allen
The seventh round of the draft produces some quality talent every year. The Titans have had the most luck at finding talent this late at the cornerback position. Ricardo Allen seems like another one of the team's late fliers they seem to take every draft.
Prince Shembo (6'1", 250 lbs) presents an opportunity to add more talent capable of playing in a 3-4 defense. The need to add talent at linebacker and the defensive line cannot be underestimated.
Beau Allen is another guy with rare size that should be selected for the sheer rarity of his size. Allen (6'3", 333 lbs) is a hulk of a man, who can be used to occupy two linemen whenever he is on the field.
With Jackie Battle also set to hit the free-agent market, the need for depth at running back is prevalent. Talent at running back is a dime a dozen. The Titans could draft James Wilder Jr. in hopes of finding a viable third-stringer.
At wideout, Solomon Patton could provide depth and kick/punt return ability. The team lacked talent in the return game last season. Drafting someone to fill the role while filling a need for depth makes sense here.