For the most part, the Titans draft picks will not have any affect on the team's starting lineup, but it should improve the team's depth on both sides of the ball.
Draft grades will roll in soon enough but, ultimately, we have no clue how any of these prospects will turn out. Instead let's focus on how the Titans roster is shaping up for the 2014 season to provide a little perspective on who to expect to see on the field for opening day.
- Jake Locker
- Charlie Whitehurst
- Zach Mettenberger
- Tyler Wilson
They took their time, but after 177 prospects were chosen in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans finally made their choice.
The Titans swapped sixth-round picks with the Washington Redskins and surrendered their seventh-rounder to select Zach Mettenberger.
Charley Casserly of NFL Network had this to say about the selection:
Whether it's a medical issue or the diluted sample in Indianapolis, there's a reason why this guy with second-round talent is going in the sixth round. That's immaterial now. Jake Locker has been unsuccessful there. (New head coach) Ken Whisenhunt is inheriting him. He will have less patience with Locker if he struggles. Locker is on a one-year contract that might not be all 16 games. Mettenberger can make all the throws. He has a world of talent and has been in a pro system under Cam Cameron at LSU.
While Mettenberger develops, the quarterback depth chart should remain relatively unchanged. The starting job is Locker's to lose, Whitehurst is Whisenhunt's hand-selected backup quarterback and Wilson will likely end up on the practice squad.
- Bishop Sankey
- Shonn Greene
- Dexter McCluster
- Jackie Battle
- Leon Washington
The Titans were the first team to select a running back in this year's draft at 54th overall—the latest the first running of a draft has been taken in the common draft era.
Bishop Sankey brings the versatility the team desired with its running back choice and will lead the charge for the team's new committee approach to replace the departed Chris Johnson.
The Titans exchanged second-round picks, giving the Eagles their 42nd overall pick for Philadelphia's 54th pick, which they used to acquire Sankey. They also acquired Philadelphia's fourth-round pick (122nd overall) in the trade.
Free-agent addition McCluster will be a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield and Greene will be used to pick up the tough yardage.
Sankey provides an option that is a combination of both and a guy capable of playing all three downs. Here's what NFL networks' Charles Davis had to say:
What he gives the Titans is not a Chris Johnson clone. He runs inside and can get to the edges. He's a big-volume guy; he gets better with more touches.
The Titans also signed undrafted free agent Antonio Andrews to a contract following the draft, so the team's backfield is looking pretty crowded at the moment.
- Kendall Wright
- Nate Washington
- Justin Hunter
- Michael Preston
- Marc Mariani
The Titans haven't made a lot of changes since letting some of their free agents walk early in the offseason. The team signed journeyman Brian Robiskie to compete for a roster spot and has brought in four undrafted free agents following the draft.
The rookie receivers signed to compete for what is likely just the fifth receiver spot are Jaz Reynolds, Josh Stewart, Eric Ward and Derel Walker.
Mariani will have to prove himself as a receiver this offseason to hold off the competition the team has brought in. The team has quality returners in Dexter McCluster and Leon Washington currently on the roster.
Wright, Washington and Hunter are all but locked in to a starting three rotation.
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- Delanie Walker
- Craig Stevens
- Taylor Thompson
Once Eric Ebron was selected by the Detroit Lions one pick before the Titans in the first round, the thought of the Titans seriously considering using a pick on another tight end to compete with the Thompson and Stevens was unlikely.
David Wright was signed as an undrafted free agent, but is likely just a camp body. The picture at tight end should remain largely unchanged barring any late additions via free agency.
- Michael Roos (LT), Andy Levitre (LG), Brian Schwenke (C), Chance Warmack (RG), Michael Oher (RT)
- Taylor Lewan (LT/RT), Eric Olsen (G), Gabe Ikard (C), Chris Spencer (G/C), Byron Stingily (LT/RT)
The opinions on the Titans first-round selection of Taylor Lewan seem to be fairly split. Questions of why the team would spend its first draft choice on a player that isn't likely to contribute right away sprang up immediately.
However, Lewan was widely considered to be a top-10 prospect in the draft and the Titans have impending roster holes to fill. Roos is in the final year of his contract and the recently signed Oher is far from being a sure-fire solution for replacing David Stewart on the other side.
Having Lewan in the fold gives the team piece of mind in knowing that, at most, they will have position on its stalwart offensive line to find a replacement for.
Oher is the sole change to the team's starting unit, while the play of the interior of the unit is fully expected to improve in their second year together.
Gabe Ikard was signed as an unrestricted free agent, along with Justin McCaray, to compete for a depth role on the roster.
- Ropati Pitoitua (DE), Al Woods (NT), Jurrell Casey (DE)
- Antonio Johnson (DE), Sammie Lee Hill (NT), Mike Martin (DE)
- Karl Klug (DE), DaQuan Jones (NT)
The picture along the team's defensive line is hazy at this stage in the offseason. The transition to a hybrid odd-front defense has left several players with unsettled positional tags. Casey, Hill, Woods, Martin and Johnson have all been slapped with the ambiguous "DL" tag on the team's website.
Fourth-round pick Jones has the ability to push for immediate playing time and surge up the depth chart, and Casey and Pitoitua seem to be locks to be in the starting rotation.
We'll have to play the waiting game for the picture along the defensive line to become a little less clouded.
- Derrick Morgan (OLB/DE), Zach Brown (ILB), Wesley Woodyard (ILB), Akeem Ayers (OLB)
- Kamerion Wimbley (OLB/DE), Zaviar Gooden (ILB), Colin McCarthy (ILB), Shaun Phillips (OLB)
- James Gayle (OLB), Moises Fokou (ILB), Avery Williamson (ILB), Jamal Merrell (OLB)
There are a lot of questions to be answered about the linebacker corps this offseason, like who will start at either outside linebacker position.
The team failed to add anyone of significance via the draft to serve as a rush linebacker. The team signed Gayle and Merrell to help provide some extra bodies at the position, but neither is likely to play a big role in the upcoming season.
Wimbley, Ayers and Phillips all appear versatile enough to play either side of the position group, while Morgan seems like a lock to play the "Leo" position.
The position is a bit of a 'tweener of linebacker and defensive end that can both contain and rush the passer. Lavar Edwards is also a candidate to provide depth at the position.
At "Sam," the ability to stop the run and perform well in coverage become more important. Ayers already has experience doing both and seems to be a good fit to start there.
On the inside the duties are very similar, however, the team seems to be loaded with linebackers who are mostly suited for "Will" rather than "Mike" linebacker.
Woodyard, Brown and Gooden are all prototypical "Will" linebackers. Despite appearances, the team seems to believe Woodyard can play "Mike" with Brown playing the other side.
Williamson should compete for a role as a "Mike" as well. Director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield had a lot to say about the team's fifth-round pick:
“He’s got great intangibles. He’s a leadership-type player, he’s been a special teams player, he’s an inside backer,” Beddingfield said. “Like Coach said, he can probably play multiple positions as well as special teams. This is a kid that’s been productive on a high level of football versus very good competition. (He) played injured a little bit this year and played through it and was very tough. This is a kid that’s got a lot going for him.”
Shaun Phillips should be able to rotate in at outside linebacker if he does not win a starting job over the offseason. The team is banking on his addition and the scheme change to improve its pass rush.
- Jason McCourty
- Coty Sensabaugh
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson
- Tommie Campbell
- Khalid Wooten
- Marqueston Huff
The decision to draft Huff in the fourth round was a bit puzzling to me, as it seemed the team was happy with its current crop of corners and did not need to add another developmental talent to the fold.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah talked a bit about the versatility Huff has that may explain the team's decision to draft him:
The versatility he has saves a team a roster spot. This is a safety who can play corner and also contribute on special teams.
Huff played three seasons as a corner before switching to free safety his senior year at Wyoming. He is unlikely to push for any real playing time, barring injury, but should contribute on special teams.
Jason McCourty will remain the team's No. 1 corner while Sensabaugh, Wreh-Wilson and Campbell will compete for the other starting role.
The development of the latter three prospects to replace the vacated starting role left open by Alterraun Verner's exit is key to the success of the defense.
The team passed on first-round options like Darqueze Dennard and Kyle Fuller under the belief that the players on roster are ready to start and perform well.
The team also added undrafted prospect Rishard Anderson to help with roster depth, but he is very raw.
- Bernard Pollard (SS), Michael Griffin (FS)
- Daimion Stafford (SS), George Wilson (FS)
- Hakeem Smith (SS), Marqueston Huff (FS)
Pollard and Griffin are set to start another season together at safety after an excellent first season paired together. Wilson is likely to serve as the backup for both and is sure to pick up a few snaps for certain sub-packages.
Smith was signed after the draft to inject some youth into the position group. Stafford had a redshirt rookie campaign and will have the opportunity to contribute if he can remain healthy this season.
The Titans have a strong duo at the position for the next two seasons, but will need to find some young talent, capable of starting, to bring aboard in the very near future.
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Travis Coons was signed following the draft to compete with Maikon Bonani for the team's vacant kicking position. The team jettisoned Rob Bironas in the offseason due to his hefty price tag.
The team has some robust talent at returner with Leon Washington, Dexter McCluster and Marc Mariani on the roster. Brett Kern remains the team's starting punter, though another punter is likely to be brought in to keep his leg fresh before the regular season.