Re-Grading Tennessee Titans' Past 5 Drafts
Over the years, it has become commonplace for NFL draft pundits to post their immediate analysis and grades of NFL teams' selections both during and after each respective year's draft.
They question the value of the pick, whether the player was a reach or steal, if it fills a need and who else was on the board.
All are worthy queries to ask but always asked too soon. Most pundits explain their grades are speculative, because we have no idea how each player will perform in the NFL with their respective teams.
Over the course of a handful of slides, I will take us back to 2009 and evaluate how the last five drafts have panned out so far for the Tennessee Titans.
General manager Ruston Webster will be residing over his third draft in his current role after spending the previous two years as the team's vice president of player personnel.
This process will give us a bit of insight into Webster's first two NFL drafts and possibly hint at what's to come on May 8.
Picks will be evaluated on their value to the team in respect to their draft selection and to how much they help the Titans now. Whether a player became a starter will effect a draft's grade based on the round they were selected in.
For example a seventh-rounder who becomes a starter will be much more positively evaluated than a first-rounder.
*All stats and NFL draft historical information gathered from NFL.com
For the 2009 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans had a total of 11 draft picks—four compensatory picks. Here they are: Kenny Britt (Rd1, P30), Sen'Derrick Marks (Rd2, P62), Jared Cook (Rd3, P89), Ryan Mouton (Rd3, P94), Gerald McRath (Rd4, P130), Troy Kropog (Rd4, P138), Javon Ringer (Rd5, P173), Jason McCourty (Rd6, P203), Dominique Edison (Rd6, P206), Ryan Durand (Rd7, P239) and Nick Schommer (Rd7, P242).
Of the above listed players, only McCourty will still be on the roster at the start of the 2014 season. The sixth-round pick started nine games out of 27 appearances during his first two seasons before becoming the starter in 2011.
Britt showed a lot of promise during his first two seasons, totalling 84 catches, 1,476 yards and 12 touchdowns over 13 starts. He then started three games (17 rec., 289 yards, 3 TDs) before tearing his MCL. He was never the same.
Cook was a highly touted pick in the third round. The Titans had to trade their second-round pick in 2010 to the New England Patriots to jump back into the round. Cook never panned out as a consistent or reliable receiving option.
Overall, the majority of the players selected in 2009, failed to become productive players for the team. Britt showed promise but never produced, Marks struggled throughout his time with the team and Cook was a bust.
The rest of the players served primarily as depth or failed to ever make an impact. Of the remaining picks, only Kropog remains on an NFL team as a practice-squad talent.
There are far too many misses in this draft for it to be viewed as a success.
Derrick Morgan (Rd1, P16), Damian Williams (Rd3, P77), Rennie Curran (Rd3, P97), Alterraun Verner (Rd4, 104), Robert Johnson (Rd5, P148), Rusty Smith (Rd6, P176), Myron Rolle (Rd6, P207), Marc Mariani (Rd7, P222) and David Howard (Rd7, P241).
The 2010 draft class just saw three of its members leave the team—Williams, Verner and Smith—and Mariani is far from a lock to make the final roster.
The Titans found two starters, a quality receiver, a kick/punt returner and quarterback depth through this draft. Curran, Johnson, Rolle and Howard all failed to produce and are either free agents or out of the league.
Morgan was drafted to be an elite pass-rusher who teams have to game-plan for, but has instead developed into a very good defensive end who needs an elite pass-rusher to help free him up.
Williams was very good receiving depth for the team throughout his career and will be tough to replace. His ability to play every receiver position may have been underestimated.
Verner went to his first Pro Bowl this season and then signed elsewhere during the offseason. He proved to be a very capable starter once given the opportunity following the departure of Cortland Finnegan two seasons ago.
Jake Locker (Rd1, P8), Akeem Ayers (Rd2, P39), Jurrell Casey (Rd3, P77), Colin McCarthy (Rd4, P109), Jamie Harper (Rd4, P130), Karl Klug (Rd5, P142), Byron Stingily (Rd6, P175), Zach Clayton (Rd7, P212) and Tommie Campbell (Rd7, P251).
There's a lot of talent still on the Titans roster as they head toward their fourth season in the NFL. Harper and Clayton are the only two players who are no longer on the roster.
Locker, Ayers and Casey have become starters with varying degrees of success. Locker and Ayers are entering make-or-break seasons, while Casey proved himself to be a major threat during a breakout season in 2013.
McCarthy has been a starter, but injuries and inconsistent play have hurt his stock. He could still reappear as a starter in the upcoming season.
Campbell has been given two opportunities to become a starter over Verner but failed to capitalize both times. With Verner's departure, Campbell will be in a competition for the starting role yet again.
Stingily remains with the team as its lone swing offensive tackle providing solid play should one of the team's starting tackles go down with an injury. Klug has been a valuable rotational defensive lineman capable of playing end or tackle and providing a good pass rush.
Finding three, maybe four, starters with the first four picks of the draft is a rarity and should definitely be recognized. These players have three years of experience and remain with the team that drafted them in prominent roles.
Now we're getting into murkier waters. There's two years of NFL experience on all these guys, and the full picture of how well this draft has panned out is likely a season or two away.
From what I've seen so far, the bottom of the draft appears to be clinging to their roster spots, while the top of the draft appears split between an array of starters and quality depth.
Here's the picks: Kendall Wright (Rd1, P20), Zach Brown (Rd2, P52), Mike Martin (Rd3, P82), Coty Sensabaugh (Rd4, P115), Taylor Thompson (Rd5, P145), Markelle Martin (Rd6, P190) and Scott Solomon (Rd7, P211).
Wright had a fantastic 2013, pulling down 94 catches for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns. Obviously, there's work to be done to get him more involved in the red zone, but new coach Ken Whisenhunt should help.
Brown started the last two seasons but could find himself in a position battle this offseason. A defensive scheme change and free-agent signings have muddled the picture in the Titans linebacker corps making things difficult to project.
Mike Martin has been a solid rotational player who should do well in the team's new defense. Sensabaugh produced at a high level as the team's nickel corner last season and will compete for the vacated starting role in the offseason.
Beyond the latter talent, the talent drops off immensely and no real promise of making a contribution to the team appear likely to come to fruition.
Chance Warmack (Rd1, P10), Justin Hunter (Rd2, P34), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Rd3, P70), Zaviar Gooden (Rd3, P97), Brian Schwenke (Rd4, P107), Lavar Edwards (Rd5, P142), Khalid Wooten (Rd6, P202) and Daimion Stafford (Rd7, P248).
It's far too early to tell how this draft will develop for the Titans, but many players in the draft class are expected to have expanded roles in 2014.
Warmack struggled a bit in his first year but still provided solid play. He should make a leap in his second season as the team's starting right guard.
Justin Hunter took a while to figure things out before contributing offensively. He is expected to become a regular fixture in his sophomore campaign but will likely concede the starting receiver roles to Wright and Nate Washington.
Wreh-Wilson appears to be the favorite to win the positional battle to become the Titans new starting cornerback showing well in a very limited capacity during his rookie season.
Gooden managed to steal a few starts from Brown during his rookie campaign, but is ultimately a poor man's version of the man he is trying to beat out. He still provides the team with quality depth at the position and contributes on special teams.
Schwenke is locked in as the team's starting center. Only injuries seemed to mar his rookie season. His progress, along with Warmack's, will go along way toward the success of the offense in 2014.
Not much has been seen of Edwards, Wooten and Stafford, but they will all have a year under their collective belt and should be ready to compete for a larger chunk of playing time.
Overall, the team has two definite starters with the capacity for it to be four. The rest of the draft class will vie for depth positions on the roster. However, with just a year of experience, I am hesitant to give too high of a grade to this group.
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