Assigning Odds to Every Potential Tennessee Titans 1st-Round Pick
Going back to the beginning of this process, the odds-on favorite was inside linebacker C.J. Mosley—a talent that has become no more than an afterthought for the Titans.
From there Anthony Barr has taken the reins as the top projected target of the team, but as each day passes new names become tied to the Titans.
Adding smoke to an already clouded picture are the pre-draft visits of the following top-tier prospects: Justin Gilbert, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater (pictured).
The players named above span six different positions, four of whom play on the defensive side of the ball. Despite fielding an offense that finished the year ranked 22nd in the NFL, the Titans are fairly set on that side of the ball.
A restructuring defense has brought in a boatload of new talent, yet the need for more prospects remains. As far as speculation goes, odds are the Titans will pick a defensive player in the first round, but let's go ahead and put down some numbers for the team's top targets.
For the sake of brevity, I will limit the piece to prospects I feel have a legitimate shot of going to the Titans and are likely to still be on the board.
Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle
Michael Roos is in the final year of his contract and on the downside of his career in the NFL, while recent-signee Michael Oher has left a lot to be desired over the past few seasons in Baltimore.
In one season, it's not outside the realm of possibility that the Titans find themselves with no one to play left tackle and average, at best, talent on the right side. Taking Taylor Lewan with the 11th overall selection would give the team a new elite player on the offensive line.
If not for his off-field issues—including battery charges—Lewan may have been a lock as a top-10 selection. He has the size, strength and quickness desired of a top-end tackle and plays with the type of nastiness the now-departed David Stewart once had.
However, the odds of the Titans spending a first-round pick on an offensive lineman in back-to-back drafts appears to be thin, despite the latter reasoning.
Eric Ebron, Tight End
The warp-speed rise and fall of the New England Patriots' two-tight end formation brought to light an underutilized way to attack opposing defenses.
While two-tight end formations haven't quite taken hold, the Titans can jump in headfirst by bringing in a truly rare talent in Eric Ebron.
Although the team has to like what it saw from Delanie Walker in his first season as a Titan, Ebron is a game-breaking talent. At 6'4", 250 pounds, Ebron was still able to clock a 4.60 for his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine.
The Titans wouldn't need to hand Ebron the starting job with Walker on the roster. Walker is a very well-rounded player who performs well in run/pass-blocking situations and has solid hands as a receiver.
If Ebron is brought in, he will be afforded the time to develop his skills as a blocker and add some more bulk to his frame.
Working against this pick is the restructuring of current No. 2 tight end Craig Stevens' contract.
Anthony Barr, Outside Linebacker
At this point, we all know what Anthony Barr brings to the table and his connections to new linebacker coach Lou Spanos.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 defense may give new life to Akeem Ayers and Kamerion Wimbley, both of whom are better suited to play 3-4 outside linebacker.
The addition of Shaun Phillips to the roster adds another strong talent to the rotation, but the Titans are looking for a long-term answer as a pass-rusher.
The lack of a pass-rusher that opposing offenses have to gameplan for has hindered the Titans' defense in the past. A talent like Barr, who has exhibited real potential but is still raw, is very enticing for the Titans.
If Khalil Mack miraculously falls to No. 11, however, the Titans will pick their jaws off the floor and sprint to hand in their selection card.
Louis Nix III, Nose Tackle
A lot of attention has gone toward Aaron Donald among defensive tackle prospects, but I simply cannot see the Titans selecting him for their defense given his limitations in terms of scheme versatility.
General Manager Ruston Webster has done a fine job infusing experienced talent into the linebacker corps, but the defensive line remains a work in progress.
The Titans' defense does not possess the players needed to run Horton's defense the way he would like it to, and one of the biggest points of concern is at nose tackle.
The 11th pick of the draft may be a bit high to select him, but Louis Nix III is the type of big-bodied talent and run-stuffer that Horton appreciates.
Having a massive nose tackle in the middle of the defense keeps offensive linemen occupied for longer, freeing up the linebackers to better perform their duties.
The need for a nose tackle could possibly be addressed in the later rounds, but Nix II is big-time talent capable of dominating the line of scrimmage. It's a talent that is not easy to find.
Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback
Justin Gilbert is the corner Tennessee already had in for a pre-draft visit, but Darqueze Dennard is the guy I feel is a better fit for what the Titans want to do defensively.
Dennard would bring a physical brand of football to Tennessee and wreak havoc on opposing offenses as a press corner.
He has tremendous strength for jamming and rerouting receivers, excels when given the opportunity to blitz and is a sure-tackler in the open field and in run support.
Horton stated, per the AP's Teresa M. Walker, that he intends to have the Titans playing less cover 2 in the upcoming season, as opposed to what they played under former defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.
The biggest hit to Dennard or Gilbert being the Titans' first-round choice is that the team appears to like what it has in Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team won't draft a corner with its first pick, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.
However, it is smokescreen season. There's no telling what to expect with this new regime.
Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback
This could very well be the last hurrah for Jake Locker, who, despite entering his fourth season, is still yet to start and complete more than a season-and-a-half worth of games.
He has shown improvement from year-to-year, but the biggest hindrance to his career success has been his inability to stay healthy.
Fair or not, you can have the skill of Tom Brady but if you're not able to play every Sunday, you're no good to a team.
Enter Teddy Bridgewater—or maybe even Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel.
If one of the top quarterback prospects slides to the 11th pick of the draft, the Titans are the last reasonable place for them to land before a major free fall.
Bridgewater brings excellent decision-making skills, the ability to read progressions at the NFL level and extreme accuracy.
He finished his career at Louisville with a completion percentage of 68.4 and threw 72 touchdowns to just 24 interceptions.
The Titans have visited with Bridgewater, Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Zach Mettenberger so far, so the prospect of taking a quarterback at some point in the draft is very real.
With all the question marks swirling around Locker and Whisenhunt's prior quarterback struggles in Arizona, the opportunity to take a possible franchise quarterback has to be considered.
*All stats and player height/weight measurements provided by NFL.com.
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