Tennessee Titans Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer
Not good enough for the playoffs. Not bad enough for a top-five pick.
Last year's 7-9 season earned head coach Mike Munchak the axe, with Ken Whisenhunt joining the team as his replacement.
That was hardly the only change in Nashville. There will be a new defensive scheme in 2014. After six seasons with the team, running back Chris Johnson was shown the door. So was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started nine games under center with the team last year.
After declining his 2015 team option, quarterback Jake Locker may not be far behind.
With more than a few holes to fill and not a lot of picks with which to fill them, the pressure's going to be on general manager Ruston Webster when the Titans go on the clock at 11th overall.
Here's a look at what the Titans will be looking to accomplish with their six picks this week.
List of 2014 Draft Picks
Unfortunately for the Titans, given all the changes they're undergoing in 2014, the team isn't exactly swimming in draft capital.
As part of the deal that helped the Titans move up to select wide receiver Justin Hunter, Tennessee's third-round pick this year resides with the San Francisco 49ers.
The swap appears to have been worth it after a promising rookie year from Hunter, but combined with the fact the Titans didn't receive any compensatory picks, the team is left with an even half-dozen selections in 2014.
Here's where those picks land.
Round 1, Pick 11 (11)
Round 2, Pick 10 (42)
Round 4, Pick 12 (112)
Round 5, Pick 11 (151)
Round 6, Pick 10 (186)
Round 7, Pick 13 (228)
Position-by-Position Big Board
- Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
- Derek Carr, Fresno State
- Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
- A.J. McCarron, Alabama
- Brett Smith, Wyoming
- Tre Mason, Auburn
- Jeremy Hill, LSU
- Devonta Freeman, Florida State
- Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
- Marion Grice, ASU
- J.C. Copeland, LSU
- Reggie Jordan, Missouri Western State
- Chad Abram, Florida State
- Devin Street, Pittsburgh
- Ryan Grant, Tulane
- Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina
- Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State
- Mike Davis, Texas
- Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
- Arthur Lynch, Georgia
- Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
- A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
- Alex Bayer, Bowling Green
- Taylor Lewan, Michigan
- Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
- Justin Britt, Missouri
- Seantrel Henderson, Miami
- Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State
- Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
- Brandon Thomas, Clemson
- Anthony Steen, Alabama
- Russell Bodine, North Carolina
- Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State
- Travis Swanson, Arkansas
- Corey Linsley, Ohio State
- Matt Armstrong, Grand Valley State
- Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
- Dominique Easley, Florida
- Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
- Shamar Stephen, Connecticut
- Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech
- DaQuan Jones, Penn State
- Zach Kerr, Delaware
- Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
- Preston Brown, Louisville
- Max Bullough, Michigan State
- Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
- James Morris, Iowa
- Spencer Shuey, Clemson
- Anthony Barr, UCLA
- Jeremiah Attoachu, Georgia Tech
- Carl Bradford, Arizona State
- Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
- Carlos Fields, Winston-Salem
- Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
- Jason Verrett, TCU
- Chris Davis, Auburn
- Deion Belue, Alabama
- Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
- Deone Bucannon, Washington State
- Ed Reynolds, Stanford
- Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin
- Christian Bryant, Ohio State
- Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky
- Chris Boswell, Rice
- Anthony Fera, Texas
- Cairo Santos, Tulane
As we get ready for the 2014 NFL draft, here's a look at a "Big Board" of sorts for the Titans.
Mind you, this isn't necessarily a ranking of players by position. These are players who should be available to the Titans at various points throughout the draft and, as such, are realistic targets.
Round 1, Pick 11 (11)
Team Needs: Quarterback, Cornerback, Outside Linebacker
With only six picks this season and multiple needs on both sides of the ball, it's incredibly important the Titans hit on their early picks, especially the 11th overall selection.
With Jake Locker apparently down to his last chance at quarterback for the team, buzz has grown that the Titans might draft his successor at No. 11. As a matter of fact, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports recently wrote that "many expect the Titans new coach to find a quarterback he can develop and compete for the starting job in the not-so-distant future."
However, Brugler also concedes that the Titans may wait a round before drafting a quarterback, instead looking to fill the void left by free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner's departure with Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert.
The Titans lost Alteraun Verner to free agency and despite feeling comfortable with some of the young cornerback talent on the roster, Gilbert's long, fast skill set might be too enticing with this pick.
Brugler's colleagues at CBS agree that defense will be the focus of the Titans' first pick.
However, the other draftniks at CBS are of the opinion that Tennessee will look to ease the team's move to a 3-4 front by adding an edge rusher in Anthony Barr of UCLA.
Will Brinson called the 6'5", 255-pound Barr a "perfect fit for Ray Horton's 3-4 defense," writing that, "it's tough to project much of a different pick than this for Tennessee."
Round 2, Pick 10 (42)
Team Needs: Cornerback, Quarterback, Running Back
If the folks at CBS are correct, and the Titans do go defense with their first pick, then it's not exactly a huge leap to imagine the team targeting a quarterback with their first pick on Day 2.
After all, even before the Titans decided to pass on Locker's team option, Tennessee hosted a number of quarterbacks for team visits, including Fresno State's Derek Carr, Jimmy Garappolo of Eastern Illinois and LSU's Zach Mettenberger.
Brugler, for one, thinks the 6'2" Garoppolo, who topped 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns in 2013, could be a fit:
Garoppolo is a very efficient and a smart passer with lightning quickness between the time he takes the snap, makes a decision and gets the ball out of his hand. He lacks elite arm strength, but is more than adequate in this area and isn't afraid to test small windows. Garoppolo is appealing as a next level quarterback because of his eye use, timing and overall intellectual process as a passer, making him a possible fit in Tennessee.
Were the Titans to select a quarterback in the first round, it's a very real possibility Tennessee might "flip" these picks, adding a cornerback from a deep class here or an edge rusher such as the rising Jeremiah Attaochu of Georgia Tech.
Or, as Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports predicts, the Titans may look to fill the void left by Chris Johnson's release by being one of the first teams in this year's draft to choose a running back.
For Edholm, it's Tre Mason of Auburn. "A one-cut runner," Edholm said, "who could take the place ofas the go-go back to Shonn Greene’s power."
Regardless of which direction the Titans go here, one thing's for sure—the Titans only have two picks in the draft's first two days.
They need to get them right.
Round 4, Pick 12 (112)
Team Needs: Cornerback, Offensive Tackle, Outside Linebacker
The Titans have a long wait between their second and third picks, with 70 picks passing before Tennessee goes back on the clock at pick No. 112.
Depending on how the team's first two picks play out, there are a few areas the Titans may highlight in the fourth round.
Tennessee was a mediocre 21st in the NFL in sacks last year, which makes upgrading the pass rush a priority, especially with many players looking at new roles in the 3-4 front Ray Horton is installing in Nashville.
The same applies at cornerback, where Alterraun Verner's departure and Jason McCourty's struggles last year leave big questions.
If the Titans haven't hit those spots by this point in the draft, then players such as Auburn cornerback Chris Davis and and Alabama outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard could be very much in the conversation.
However, Daniel Barnes of Bleacher Report thinks that with Michael Roos set to hit free agency next year, the Titans may look to the offensive line and Tennessee tackle Antonio Richardson.
Of the 336-pound Richardson, who may have been a first-round prospect were it not for a season-ending knee injury, Barnes wrote: "If he can come back from his injury without hangups, the Titans could have themselves a starting-caliber tackle from the middle rounds, which would be a pretty great find."
Round 5, Pick 11 (151)
Team Needs: Outside Linebacker, Defensive Back, Offensive Line
We're getting to that point in the draft where teams are much more likely to find depth than a potential starter, but given all the change in Nashville in 2014, that isn't necessarily a terrible thing.
Charlie Campbell of Walter Football feels the fifth round represents an opportunity to add some depth to the pass rush with a player such as Alabama's Adrian Hubbard:
Hubbard was solid, but unspectacular, for Alabama in 2013. The junior had 33 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and two passes broken up for the year. He was better in the previous season. Hubbard totaled 41 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a pass batted as a sophomore. He has some length and edge-rush ability, but will be a developmental project.
Campbell's colleague Walter Cherepinsky, on the other hand, thinks the team could bolster their secondary with a cornerback such as Deion Belue of Alabama.
The move to a three-man front has also created some questions at inside linebacker, where a pick like Michigan's State's Max Bullough could offer the team the physical run-stuffer they appear to be lacking.
Round 6, Pick 10 (186)
Team Needs: Defensive Tackle, Kicker, Running Back
At the risk of sounding melodramatic, even this late in the draft, every pick for the Titans is still very important.
Take, for instance, the fact that the Titans don't really have a nose tackle per se on the roster.
That could spur the Titans to take a late look at a big body like Zach Kerr of Delaware, who Dane Brugler of CBS Sports said "can two-gap and is scheme versatile and will likely attract the most attention from 3-4 defenses looking for depth at nose tackle."
Like the Titans.
Or the fact that the Titans don't have a placekicker on the roster at the moment, which could lead to a late round investment like Rice's Chris Boswell or Tulane's Cairo Santos.
For Campbell though, the sixth round presents the Titans an opportunity to shore up the depth chart behind Shonn Greene at running back with a small-school star who shined at the combine:
(Georgia Southern's) Jerick McKinnon played quarterback in college, but will move to running back in the NFL. He ran for 1,050 yards as a senior with 12 touchdowns in 2013. McKinnon had 125 yards on nine attempts against Florida to help lead Georgia Southern to a legendary upset.
McKinnon was tremendous at the Combine. He led the running backs in the bench press with 32 reps while also flying in the Combine. McKinnon was second among the running backs to only Kent State's Dri Archer in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.41 seconds. He tied Archer for the fastest 10-yard split at 1.46 seconds.
Round 7, Pick 13 (228)
Team Needs: Defensive Line, Defensive Back, Kicker
Admittedly, at this point in the NFL draft, the Titans' best shot at finding an immediate contributor probably lies with selecting that kicker mentioned in the prior slide.
However, even if that area has already been addressed (or the Titans just sign a kicker off the street), there are a couple areas that make a lot of sense for Tennessee.
NFL teams are always looking for depth in the secondary, and that's where a players such as San Jose State cornerback Bene Benwikere could help.
The 5'11", 195-pounder may not be a threat to start, but at the very least the youngster could be of value as depth and on special teams.
The defensive front is another area where quantity may well help the Titans as much as quality, making a player like Shamar Stephen of Connecticut.
Of the 6'5", 310-pounder, Rob Rang of CBS Sports wrote: "Stephens offers size and power as a run stuffer in the middle, capable of lining up as a nose guard in either alignment. With better use of hands, he could offer something against the pass, as well."
Latest Draft Buzz
As the Titans prepare for the No. 11 pick in the first round on May 8, here's a look at some of the latest rumors regarding Tennessee's draft-day plans.
- The Titans' decision not to pick up Locker's option for 2015 has ramped up speculation that Tennessee plans to draft a quarterback early in 2014. Second-year guard Chance Warmack thinks his former Alabama teammate would make a fine addition in Tennessee.
As Bryan Fischer of NFL.com reports, Warmack was recently talking up A.J. McCarron during an appearnce on the NFL Network's "Path to the Draft."
"He's a winner. He's a great guy to be around and he'll help the locker room. He's not selfish as a quarterback and he's going to make the right plays on the field."
- Titans general manager Ruston Webster spoke with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean on May 2, but Webster was vague about whether the team has plans to draft Locker's potential replacement.
"It's hard to say," Webster said. "I think really, talking it through, you should probably always look at that position and keep somebody in the hopper. But it is going to have to fall right and it's going to really have to be somebody that fits what we want to do offensively. I guess I would never rule it out, but it is not a slam dunk either."
- Webster wasn't much clearer about the Titans' plans at other spots.
"Because of free agency, we don't really have a lot of huge, glaring needs," Webster said. "We do have needs, though—I'm not saying we don't. But we'll have the opportunity to go a lot of different directions, and it gives us a wide range of players to look at. That is hard in some ways, but helpful in others."
- Peter King of Sports Illustrated passed along this nugget on May 5 regarding the Titans' early-draft plans.
"Hadn’t heard quarterback and the Titans in Round 1 until Sunday. Now I hear: corner one, quarterback two."
- With Chris Johnson now in New York, the Titans have a hole at running back, one that Webster concedes the team will have to address in this year's draft.
Webster told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, "I think running back-wise, I have been pretty open at saying that is something we have to look at taking at some point. I would probably go there."
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.