Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Tennessee Titans' Top 3 Picks
Ruston Webster and Ken Whisenhunt have done a pretty good job of putting a smokescreen up around the Titans' NFL Draft day intentions.
Many of the team's biggest holes on the roster have been filled to some extent via the free-agent market.
The Tennessee Titans' biggest need now is one of their own creation—the expulsion of Chris Johnson from the team.
However, the importance of a singular running back has diminished over the years with the emergence of tandem and/or committee running back situations.
Other areas have been dealt with, but the draft can improve the position for more long-term effects.
With that said, let's take a look at how things would need to go for the Titans to find themselves in the most ideal and unfavorable scenarios of the upcoming NFL Draft.
Round 1, Pick 11: Worst Case
The Titans have set themselves up to be able to take the best player available should the pass-rusher they desire not be there or warrant the pick. After edge-rusher, the Titans have needs in several areas, but non of them are truly pressing matters.
To me, the worst situation the Titans could find themselves in is one where a Top 10-worthy pick is no longer on the board, and their other desired prospects would be reaches.
Combine that with an inability to trade down and things might get ugly.
Ultimately, there are several scenarios where the Titans may end up taking a cornerback like Justin Gilbert. While there is an open starting position for him to compete for, the Titans have done a great job of finding talent at that position during the latter stages of the draft.
There's nothing wrong with Gilbert as a prospect, I just simply believe that the Titans have proven themselves capable of finding talent at the position late in the draft and therefore the pick should be used elsewhere.
Round 1, Pick 11: Best Case
- HOU - Jadaveon Clowney
- STL - Sammy Watkins
- JAX - Blake Bortles
- CLE - Johnny Manziel
- OAK - Greg Robinson
- ATL - Jake Matthews
- T.B. - Mike Evans
- MIN - Teddy Bridgewater
- BUF - Eric Ebron
- DET - Justin Gilbert
The most urgent area of need for the Titans is, arguably, a premier pass-rusher. The switch to a more 3-4 hybrid defense appears likely to improve the play of linebackers Zach Brown and Kamerion Wimbley.
Akeem Ayers has been miscast as a 4-3 outside linebacker so far in his career, and the switch should help take him to the next level.
Wimbley was a quality 3-4 outside linebacker early in his career, before coming to Tennessee to play end. Allowing him to play at a position he has excelled at at this level of competition should be a boon.
Also in the mix is free-agent signee Shaun Phillips, who has made a living off getting to the quarterback—racking up 79.5 sacks in 10 seasons.
However, Phillips will be turning 33 in May and Wimbley is 30 going on 31 midway through the season. This draft appears to have just two clear-cut gems that can the rush the passer as 3-4 outside linebackers: Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr.
As the draft draws nearer, Barr has slipped down draft boards while Mack appears to be a lock to be taken in the top eight picks. Mack is the most coveted pass-rusher after Jadaveon Clowney.
In order for him to fall into the Titans laps, it would take a lot. Three quarterbacks and three offensive tackles would definitely need to be selected before the Titans pick.
The four remaining selections would have to fall under the "need" category rather than "want."
Here's one conceivable scenario:
Mack would be a perfect fit for Ray Horton's high-pressure, disguised blitzes defensive scheme. He is capable of playing any of the linebacker positions and has the size to put his hand down in a 4-3 front.
Round 2, Pick 42: Worst Case
As I stated before, the Titans have set themselves up to take the best player—at a position of need—available during the draft.
Their offseason free-agent signings and re-signings have plugged the team's most glaring holes and created competition at several positions.
It's been a popular pick to have the Titans go after Tre Mason with their second-round pick, but to me that's a reach.
Especially given the amount of depth at the position in the draft that could be around deep into the fifth round, running back is not a position that warrants the attention of the second round.
Round 2, Pick 42: Best Case
Perhaps this is just me, but if the Titans are able to take Stephon Tuitt with the second-round selection they'll have got themselves a steal.
The Titans have done a great job of shoring up their offensive line, so now they must do the same on the defensive side of the ball.
Winning the battle of the trenches is integral to a team's success, especially in a 3-4. While the formation does put more athletes on the field, the three defensive linemen in front of the linebackers and corners go a long way toward determining a play's outcome.
Tuitt has a rare combination of size and speed that would make for a quality player in Horton's defense. The Titans don't have a lot of good fits as starting quality 3-4 linemen currently on the roster, but Tuitt could be a great bookend for years to come.
Round 4, Pick 112: Worst Case
The worst scenario for the Titans four rounds into the draft is if they haven't selected players at a position that will allow them to contribute right away.
There is still value to be found at this stage in the draft in prospects that could become major contributors.
Off the top of my head, David Stewart, Alterraun Verner and Brian Schwenke are some fairly recent fourth-rounders the Titans have found.
The only way to blow this selection would be to take a guard when the team has already invested so heavily at the position with draft picks.
The value of veteran depth cannot be underestimated and developing another player along the offensive line would hinder the unit's development.
Round 4, Pick 112: Best Case
Charles Sims is a guy that fits the mold of what coach Whisenhunt wants from a running back.
He has a proven track record of being a dual-threat option out of the backfield—racking up 2,108 yards receiving in four years at West Virginia to go along with 3,465 yards rushing, per ESPN stats.
The Titans have a clear receiving threat in Dexter McCluster and a hard-nosed in-line rusher in Shonn Greene. The need for a dual threat would help make the Titans a bit less predictable to opposing defenses.