2011 NFL Draft: 20 Prospects Who Should Be on the Titans' Radar
After a disappointing 6-10 season which saw a fallout between quarterback Vince Young and head coach Jeff Fisher, the Titans elected to retain Jeff Fisher for a 17th season.
Bud Adams recently said, "I am 88 years old now, and I can't wait around until I am 98 to get to another Super Bowl game. Jeff knows that. I can walk on my own now. But at 98, I might not be able to do that. Who knows how long I'll be able to do that? So we have to start winning some games. I'm not getting any younger, you know."
So what does that mean for Fisher? Well, with one year on his contract, he'd better turn the Titans around soon, and that means the Titans will need their strongest draft ever to save Fisher's job and bring the franchise to an elite level.
There are many problems with this team. Quarterback consistency, wide receiver production (with the exception of Kenny Britt), lack of a power back to compliment C.J. and quite a few holes at every level of the defense.
So how will the Titans fix these problems? Well they aren't traditionally a big-time player in free agency so the draft may be their best chance to turn things around. Here are some prospects that would be a huge help if they landed in Nashville.
That's not to say the Titans will land all these prospects, this is just who would be ideal for them, maybe they can get a few of these guys.
Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Fairley lays a licking on Oregon quarterback Darren Thomas in the BCS National Championship game
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Ideally, this is who the Titans would love to have. While the team definitely needs a new quarterback, I expect them to acquire one via trade or free agency. Fisher won't want to spend the last year of his contract trying to develop a QB.
Fairley fits perfectly because the Titans haven't truly been able to replace Albert Haynesworth. With a dominant force like Fairley, that problem is solved.
We've seen how Fairley can change a game (look no further than the BCS title game). Fairley was partly the reason why we never saw the explosive Oregon offense find a rhythm. While Fairley is projected to go No. 1 to Carolina by ESPN, the Titans might pull out all the stops to try and get him.
The alternative? Trade for Albert Haynesworth (which is a distinct possibility).
Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama
Marcell Dareus would fit the Titans scheme beautifully
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If (and most likely) Fairley is off the board when the Titans are on the clock at No. 8, landing Dareus is nothing to sneeze at. Dareus was an integral part of Alabama's defense. He's quick off the ball, very athletic for his size at 6' 4'', 305 pounds and is one of the most versatile defensive linemen there is.
It's very likely he falls to No. 8 right into the lap of the Titans.
While the Titans selected Derrick Morgan last year, the Titans need to shore up their D-line and Dareus with Morgan and Jason Babin could form a deadly pass-rush in 2011.
Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
If improving the secondary is the Titans top priority, they should be agressive to pursue Peterson
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Yes, I know it's very unlikely that Patrick Peterson falls all the way to No. 8, but for the sake of argument, let's say he does. If he's still on the board, then for a secondary that has been a mess the last couple of seasons, Peterson would solve that immediately.
He's a gifted athlete and can make a big play at any given time. He has just about everything you would want from a top corner.
While the Titans found a steal in the fourth round last year with Alterraun Verner, Cortland Finnegan struggled at times this year and Peterson just seems too good to pass up if he's on the board. His return skills can also compliment Marc Mariani.
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The next Nnamdi Asomugha?
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If Peterson is the top CB out there, Amukamara isn't far behind. A gifted technician at the position, he could very well be the next Nnamdi Asomugha.
In his senior season, you rarely saw anyone throwing at his side of the field. He has a great character as well and if the Titans decide it's time to rebuild their secondary, they could have a great leader in this corner.
With the departure of Keith Bulluck and Kyle Vanden Bosch last year, the Titans are still searching for leaders on their defense. What could be better than following a Prince?
DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bowers is a dominant force
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Yes, defense again, but that's because it was a huge problem for Tennessee this season. The Titans may be able to land the next "Freak," but that would likely require a trade for a higher pick to land Bowers. Hey, Titans fans can dream can't they?
Bowers had just one dominant season at Clemson, but he's developed into an elite pass-rusher, team leader and may give the Titans the best pass-rush in the league if he lands there. Perhaps the largest upside of him is his leadership skills. Anyone who watched Titans games in 2010 will say that the unit lacked a standout leader.
Akeem Ayers, OLB, LSU
Ayers has some flaws, but can be coached into fixing them
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Ayers may not be slated to go No. 8, but the Titans need help at outside linebacker. You would cringe if you saw the amount of tight ends that lit up the Titans in 2010. Witherspoon and McGrath were disappointments and Ayers could fix some problems.
He could fix the strongside for the Titans and help out the pass-rush. He has a good variety of moves and is a tremendous athlete. Most importantly, he'd fit the Titans 4-3 scheme better than say a Von Miller or Robert Quinn.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
While not the Titans' biggest need, adding a receiver like Green could give them their best WR tandem in recent memory
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If you've watched a lot of Titans games, you would notice that when Kenny Britt went down with his hamstring injury this season, the offense fell apart. Throughout the last decade, the Titans have yet to form a deadly wide receiver duo and A.J. Green would provide that. He has just about everything you want in a wide receiver.
He's the best wideout in the draft, and while it's unlikely he falls to No. 8, if he does, the Titans should grab him. They'll want to make life as easy as possible for their new quarterback and Green and Britt can make a QB very happy.
Mike Pouncey, C, Florida
The Titans need an anchor on their line to make way for CJ
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The offensive line had a tough year in 2010. Part of the reason why Chris Johnson didn't reach 2,000 yards again was due to the lack of running lanes to take off. The big plays were fewer and far between. The Titans were hoping that Eugene Amano would make a good replacement for Kevin Mawae, but it didn't work out as planned.
The Titans could use Pouncey's leadership. He has good speed and strength and can get to the outside. Sounds perfect with Chris Johnson in the backfield. I could see the Titans taking him in the second round if he's still on the board.
Stefen Wisniewski, C/G, Penn State
Wisniewski could be the Wiz of the offensive line (yes I know cheap pun)
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Pouncey's the top center in the draft, but Wisniewski is right behind him. He seals off his man well and opens up holes in the running game. In the Titans' system, if there's one thing they've always loved to do, it's run the ball.
Wisniewski can give the Titans a new dimension in the running game. They had trouble this year on third downs and Wisniewski would lead the way on short-yardage plays.
DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson
McDaniel could be a good replacement for Chris Hope
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It wouldn't be a bad idea for the Titans to start looking for Chris Hope's replacement. Hope has lost a lot of steam and made many mistakes, including untimely penalties. Perhaps the Titans will want to get younger at the strong safety position.
McDaniel would be worth taking if he falls to the third round. He can start right away and could provide the boost the Titans back end needs. Partly the reason why the Titans' pass defense has been mediocre the last couple of seasons is that there hasn't been consistency at safety to help the corners and provide a boost in stopping the run. McDaniel can help.
Tyler Sash, SS, Iowa
Sash is a great leader and has played in a pro-style defense
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Sash had a great junior season for the Hawkeyes. He finished with with 79 tackles, three-and-a-half tackles for loss and two interceptions. He has shown he can be the leader on defense and can become one for the Titans in the midst of their "youth movement."
Sash has great speed and he's a sound tackler. The Titans were ranked 20th against the run this past season. That's got to drive Jeff Fisher nuts.
Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
Ponder doesn't have the best arm, but his wits could give the Titans a respectable passing game
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The Titans will at some point draft a quarterback in 2011, but it won't be in the first round; enter Christian Ponder. Ponder has good accuracy on short throws and has great footwork, something Vince Young was lacking in his stint with the Titans.
Ponder can possibly start right away, or the Titans can sit him for a year to learn from a veteran. I don't know if they'd take him in the second round, which is likely where he'll land. He's definitely worth a look.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, MIA
Hankerson could be a solid possession receiver to compliment Kenny Britt
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The Titans shouldn't just go after any wide receiver, but go with one that suits their needs. Hankerson is coming off a tremendous season at Miami in which he broke the school record with 13 touchdown receptions in his senior year. He also added 72 receptions for 1,156 yards.
Hankerson may be a little under the radar, but at his size, 6'3'', 205 pounds, he would make a solid No. 2 opposite of Kenny Britt. With Hankerson, Britt, Nate Washington and Jared Cook at tight end, suddenly the Titans' receiving corps becomes a concern for defenses.
Hankerson could fall to the second round and, if he does, the Titans should consider him.
Allen Bradford, RB, USC
Bradford has a power running style that would compliment Chris Johnson perfectly
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Allen Bradford not only could compliment Chris Johnson well with his size and running style, but he's from Jeff Fisher's Alma mater. He could be a good late-round pick and could shine in the Titans' system. At 5'11', 235 pounds he just seems like a perfect fit.
By the way, the Titans did have LeGarrette Blount, but for some strange reason, they waived him and he was picked up by the Bucs. Maybe Jeff Fisher will want to make up for that.
Jeremy Beal, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
Beal is capable of playing in the 4-3 system
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The Titans have a history of stocking up on their defensive line and with a lot of injuries this year plaguing that unit, the Titans may be looking for depth. Beal has a great ability to get to the passer. While he may be a little small to be a defensive end in Tennessee's 4-3 scheme, he could bulk up.
More importantly he has a good character and he plays from whistle to whistle. One of the things the Titans should try to accomplish this offseason is to get better character guys. The Titans were penalized over 100 times last year and Beal seems like he won't be a problem for the coaching staff.
Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Casey's stock has dropped but could shine in the Titans' system
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Jurrell Casey was named MVP of the Trojans' season, leading them in sacks and tackles for a loss. Last year, Casey was projected to go as high as sixth overall by ESPN. His stock could rise back up at the Combine, but if his stock falls, the Titans should look at him mid-round.
Casey has good size at 6'1, 305 pounds, and the Titans have said that one of their offseason priorities is to get bigger up front.
Orlando Franklin, G, Miami
Franklin could be drafted for depth
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Orlando Franklin was moved to guard because he lacks the quick speed to be a tackle in the NFL, but he's very capable of playing guard. The Titans have to get back to power football and Franklin can help them reach that level again.
Franklin has great size at 6'7'' 310 pounds so he could really help Tennessee fend off the more powerful defenses of the NFL. Chris Johnson may feel safe with Franklin in front of him.
Lee Ziemba, OT, Auburn
Ziemba has some things to fix, but has all the natural ability
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Ziemba probably does not have the right tools to fit as a left tackle, but he could very well play the right side. O-line is not the Titans' primary concern, but I believe that games are won on the line. The Titans wouldn't hurt themselves by adding some depth in a late round.
Lee Ziemba can get movement in the running game, which may be the most important thing to do for a Tennessee offensive lineman. Ziemba has incredible size at 6'8'' and 319 pounds. His size alone may make coaches drool. He's definitely a possibility in a later round for the Titans.
Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho
Enderle has a good size and could be a project
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Nathan Enderle could be one of those journeymen quarterbacks that finds his way in the NFL. He took over a miserable Idaho team in 2007 and made them respectable. Enderle helped Idaho improve in each season that he was the starter. They went from 1-11 to 2-10 to 7-5 back down to 6-7 in 2010.
Enderle has a good size, 6'5'' and 233 pounds. That could help at the NFL level, but he'd really have to be guided. If anything, the Titans could draft him in the sixth or seventh round for depth at the quarterback position.
Colby Whitlock, DT, Texas Tech
Whitlock could be a force if he improves on his strength
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Colby Whitlock has a good size for a defensive tackle at 6'3'', 294 pounds. He's not going to blow you away with his performance or dominate a game but he can perform the basics. He could help the Titans disrupt the opposing backfield.
The Titans have been able to make unknown defensive linemen into stars before. That's not to say the Whitlock would be a star for the Titans, but he may be able to play within their system. Maybe the Titans can pick him up in the last round or as a rookie free agent afterward.
Fisher needs to hit a homerun in the 2011 NFL draft
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Ultimately, this draft may help determine whether Jeff Fisher will remain in Nashville beyond 2011. While Fisher is not the official GM of the Titans, he does have a big say in personnel. We don't expect Bud Adams to make him pick another star QB out of Texas, so Fisher has the draft to prove he can bring in elite talent.
Again, these prospects won't necessarily fall to the Titans. These are players who the Titans should target, and if they're still on the board at the right time, the Titans should give these players a good look.
These prospects were mainly defensive players because that's what the Titans need to address. Fisher is a defensive-minded coach, so if he wants to prove that his way works, he'll need the best defensive players possible to prove his point.
One thing's for sure, the Titans will undergo many changes this offseason and they'll have to make their biggest splash in April when the draft arrives. If not, the Jeff Fisher era in Nashville WILL be over and the organization may be in for a future of instability and uncertainty. Here is where things must be turned around.