Tennessee Titans Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer
Two draft days and two picks have left the Tennessee Titans in good shape on the offensive line and at running back.
Some people may have been baffled by the first-round pick of Taylor Lewan, but it makes sense when you think about where the Titans could end up being at this time next year. Covering your bases is for the future is never a bad idea.
The absence of a third-round pick didn't turn out to hurt the Titans too bad. They got their running back with Bishop Sankey, and not a single quarterback fell off the board in the third round.
Now, the Titans really have to get busy on the final day of the draft, where they're scheduled to have five more picks. A quarterback is still on the list of needs, and there's still plenty of promising choices to choose from.
Day 2 Recap and Analysis
The Titans didn't shock too many people by choosing to go with a running back in the second round. But it was a shocker that they traded back in the second round to gain an extra pick in the fourth round.
Give the Titans credit for creativity there. They also still managed to get the first running back of the draft in Sankey. He was clearly the team's top choice, and anytime you can draft your top choice on your draft board at a certain position, you did something right.
Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com sees Sankey as the leading candidate for touches in the Titans backfield.
Quality over quantity may be the key here for the Titans. They've only had two total draft picks over two days, but they've been effective. It looks like Tennessee is building a strong foundation in the trenches for years to come.
The Titans now have five picks on the last day of the draft to really focus on depth. Oh yeah, and also to focus on that position they call quarterback.
Updated Needs for Day 3
There's no secrets here. The Titans still need a quarterback, but they seem to be playing their draft strategy pretty effectively as of now. That's no easy task considering they entered the draft with just six total picks, though they gained a fourth-round pick by trading back in the second round.
The Titans have to focus on getting a quarterback with their 12th pick of the fourth round. They'll also have the 22nd pick of the fourth round, which comes from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The team has to address quarterback first and foremost. It has a great chance at one of the three SEC quarterbacks. Take your pick on which one fits the Titans the best, but you're probably splitting hairs. They all have concerns, but Aaron Murray might be the safest choice with the highest ceiling.
Murray has experience in a pro-style offense, has a moderate arm and doesn't come with all of the red flags that have recently come up with Zach Mettenberger.
Depth at cornerback is still a concern. The Titans don't necessarily need to be in search of their starter for 2014, but they have to get a guy that they feel confident enough in to emerge as a starter eventually.
They need insurance at this position if an injury occurs or if one of the cornerbacks already on the roster isn't as good as expected.
3. Defensive End
This is another area that just needs a little depth. It's uncertain how current defensive ends Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley and Ropati Pitoitua are going to adjust to the new defensive system being installed by Ray Horton.
There are plenty of diamonds in the rough to be found late in the draft. Look for this position to be addressed at some point on the final day. Edge-rushers are still a need for this team.
4. Tight End
An athletic tight end would really help Jake Locker out heading into his make-or break season. He needs another option at tight end to go along with Delanie Walker.
The Titans could also choose to go a different route here and draft another wide receiver, but another tight end is a more pressing need. You can live with the current group of receivers the Titans have.
Yes, the Titans might still decide to draft a kicker to round out the draft. They haven't been in search of a kicker in several years, but they need to make sure they have a reliable one with an offense that will probably stall in opponent territory a lot.
The Titans are shaky with what they have right now at kicker, so you can't discount this as a need. The addition of an extra fourth-round pick give the team flexibility to get a replacement for Rob Bironas.
Top Day 3 Targets
The draft board hasn't gotten much smaller for the Titans after three rounds. Here's the top targets the Titans should have heading into the final day of the draft.
1. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
It appears that the team will have a strong shot at getting one of the SEC quarterbacks in this draft class. Tom Savage and a handful of other quarterbacks are also minor possibilities.
Murray makes sense here, and he could eventually end up being a major steal in the fourth round. Bringing him in would be the perfect scenario for the Titans. There's no pressure to start him right away, giving him time to develop. The pick also gives Jake Locker one more chance to prove himself.
2. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
If Murray isn't there, then the Titans should take their second-best option at quarterback. That guy should be Mettenberger. Even with the minor concerns leading up to the draft, you still can't dismiss the rocket of an arm he has.
Much like the case of drafting Murray, Mettenberger could sit behind Locker for at least a year. He'd get some time to develop under the direction of Ken Whisenhunt.
3. Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State
The Titans never addressed outside linebacker after Anthony Barr unexpectedly went before the team picked at No. 11.
Christian Jones is a guy who should be targeted in the fourth round. He would be an instant contributor on special teams and would also provide key depth.
4. Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
Cornerback can't be forgotten here. The team needs to add depth behind Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
I've been high on Rashaad Reynolds for a while now as a mid-round pick for the Titans. He plays a physical style and is well-rounded.
5. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
Yes, the Titans have three players on their current draft board that are SEC quarterbacks. That's just how the chips have fallen.
Out of the three, AJ McCarron looks like the biggest project and risk. He has great knowledge and leadership qualities, but his arm strength is concerning. He's not an ideal choice, and the Titans would almost be better off trying their luck with Tyler Wilson at third-string.
6. James Gayle, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech
Another position that could use some attention is defensive end. The Titans need one more guy to come in as a rotational type of player, someone who can simply come in and put pressure on the quarterback.
James Gayle has the versatility to start in a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive front, according to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com. Just what the Titans need to find in the middle rounds.
7. Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
This is another defensive lineman who can be plugged in for depth. The Titans need as much depth as they can manage to get lining up on the edge.
Adding a big rusher like Stinson to the defense would be productive.
8. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Perhaps the last-ditch effort for a quarterback this year might end up being Logan Thomas. He has the physical makeup and mobility for the position, but he would definitely be a project in every sense of the word.
This pick would certainly make Locker's seat a little bit cooler heading into training camp. However, it would still do the deed of giving the Titans some options at the position when training camp rolls around.
9. A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
I had A.C. Leonard originally mocked to go to the Titans, and he should still have a spot on the Titans' draft board. He's an athletic tight end and has potential to develop into a nice pass-catching tight end.
10. Chris Boswell, K, Rice
The Titans wouldn't be crazy to draft a kicker once they feel their other major needs are addressed. Boswell has a strong leg that makes him a top choice to maybe replace Bironas.
11. Ken Bishop, DT, Northern Illinois
Here's another guy that I had previously mocked for Tennessee in the seventh round. I could still see him slipping that far and the Titans taking him. They need more big bodies to help in stopping the run.
12. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Teams can afford to take more risks on guys with character concerns later in the draft. Colt Lyerla fits into this scenario of having plenty of red flags, but his athleticism is off the charts. He might be worth the gamble if he falls far enough down.
Sixth round or later and the Titans should pull the trigger on Lyerla. The possible reward is too hard to resist.
What Are the Experts Saying?
DraftTek.com: James Gayle, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech in Fourth Round
The Titans have two fourth-round picks now, so this wouldn't be a bad pick as long as they address quarterback first. Gayle would bring depth at outside linebacker and could even be featured in certain defensive packages right out of the gate as a rookie.
WalterFootball.com: Deion Belue, CB, Alabama in Fifth Round
"The Titans addressed a bunch of areas on their roster this offseason, but one position of need that they didn't get to fix was cornerback. They lost Alterraun Verner to the Buccaneers. "
I could see this position being addressed in the fifth round. Belue has already fallen this far because he lacks ideal size for the position, though he makes up for it in toughness.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report: A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State in Seventh Round
This would be a productive way to close out the draft for the Titans if they could manage to get an athletic tight end this late. They need all the help they can get for Jake Locker, and Walker isn't enough at tight end.
I could see Leonard making a moderate impact his rookie season under Whisenhunt's direction leading this offense.
Predictions for Day 3
Titans Will Take a Quarterback At Some Point
This prediction may not be going out on a limb, but it's worth stating again. The Titans have to nab a quarterback in this draft as a backup plan for 2015.
Forget about 2014 being anything special if Locker fails to deliver. That's why the team has to cover its bases and start developing a quarterback from this uniquely deep draft class.
One of the remaining SEC quarterbacks is highly probable, but don't forget about Tom Savage out of Pittsburgh.
Defense Will Be the Primary Focus
There have only been two picks for the Titans so far, and both addressed the offensive side of the ball. It doesn't take too much thought to realize that they will need to focus on defense on the final day of the draft.
Look for some depth additions at outside linebacker, cornerback and defensive line. The Titans getting an extra fourth-round pick from the Eagles will help out with this cause.
Titans Will Have a Generally Positive Draft Grade
A lot can happen over the final four rounds of the draft, but it's playing out nicely for the Titans as of now. They got their top choice at running back while also adding an extra pick. It will allow them flexibility to add depth to a defense that isn't sorely desperate anywhere.
Unless the Titans have an epic collapse and decide to draft a fullback and a punter, this draft will end on a positive note. It's hard to pick the wrong player late in the draft when virtually all of them have question marks. That's why they've fallen as far as they have in the first place.
Updated Mock Draft
The focus has been narrowed down somewhat for the Titans, but it's still pretty much wide open heading into a busy final day. The Titans have five picks remaining on the last day of the draft.
Round 4, 112th Overall: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Murray makes total sense as the quarterback to be taken after the Titans decided to go with running back with their lone second round pick.
They pick 12th in the fourth round, so it's not a foregone conclusion that Murray falls to them. However, his injury history and other quarterbacks on the board should leave Murray around just long enough for him to become a member of the Titans.
Round 4, 122nd Overall: James Gayle, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech
The Titans use their extra pick acquired from the Eagles to get their edge-rusher in Gayle. He's no Barr, but he will bring quality depth behind Shaun Phillips, Akeem Ayers and the defensive ends.
He'll also be insurance if the transition doesn't go smoothly for Derrick Morgan moving into a possible role at outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Round 5, 151st Overall: Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Depth is added at cornerback in the form of Ross Cockrell out of Duke. He's a guy who can be plugged in and contribute immediately, according to Nolan Nawrocki's scouting report on NFL.com.
The fact that Cockrell is still around shows how deep this draft is at so many different positions. This would be a nice value pick for the Titans.
Round 6, 186th Overall: A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
This pick hasn't changed throughout the draft. The Titans need someone to replace the fading Craig Stevens, and they need to replace him by getting an athletic pass-catcher. I like Leonard to come in as a possible major steal of the draft. He'll need a little time to develop to his maximum potential.
Round 7, 228th Overall: Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
High-risk, high-reward kind of prospect here with Lynch. He has a ton of potential with his size and strength. The good thing is that the risk isn't all that high compared to the possible benefits. The Titans could use one more guy to rotate into this defensive line on the outside.