The Tennessee Titans have been known for their creative draft strategies over the years. This year, several experts say they had one of the worst drafts of all teams. For example, they thought Tennessee missed out when they passed up talents like Devin Thomas and DeSean Jackson in the first round, when all the receivers were on the board.
Turns out Chris Johnson is better than any of them.
So, exactly which picks have been the best the Titans have made over the last couple of years? Starting in 2005, I will count them down.
10. Calvin Lowry, 2006, 4th Round, 102nd, Penn State
Calvin Lowry played safety for Tennessee over the course of the 2006 and 2007 seasons, before being traded to the Denver Broncos.
Lowry was limited his rookie year, only recording 12 tackles. However, he had two tackles for losses, only worse than Chris Hope among members of the secondary. He also had a pass deflection.
However, in 2007, Lowry stepped it up and got to compete with rookie Michael Griffin for minutes. Lowry wound up doing better than Griffin, recording 57 tackles, 10 pass deflections, and two interceptions. His two picks was tied for third on the team, only being beat by starters Keith Bulluck and Nick Harper. His 10 pass deflections was third on the team as well, being beat by Harper and Cortland Finnegan. He was sixth in tackles.
Overall, Lowry had a good career with the Titans for a few years, but was given to the Broncos in favor of the rookie Griffin. With Denver, Lowry has already recorded 13 tackles in his time, earning 12 of them against the New England Patriots.
9. Vincent Fuller, 2005, 4th Round, 108th, Virginia Tech
Vincent Fuller has played safety for Tennessee since 2005.
Fuller saw limited action as a rookie, having to battle the likes of Lamont Thompson, Tank Williams, and Andre Woolfolk for playing time. Fuller recorded no stats.
In 2006, Fuller's first season that involved playing time, he had mild success, recording 19 tackles and a pass deflection. He also forced a fumble.
In 2007, Fuller recorded his first sack, as well as a career high 30 tackles. He also managed to pick off two passes, both of which he brought back for touchdowns. Fuller's speed allowed him to make plays. Fuller also became a return specialist, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns.
This season, Fuller has recorded 34 tackles, good for seventh on the squad, and first among players who don't start. Fuller has also deflected two passes and forced a fumble. If Fuller were playing elsewhere, he probably could start. But he has no shame in being behind Chris Hope and Michael Griffin, who are his opponents for playing time.
8. Vince Young, 2006, 1st Round, 3rd, Texas
Vince Young has played quarterback for the Titans since his rookie season in 2006.
Young was a hard player to place on this list. Some might say he is two or three places higher, but yet some might think he shouldn't even be included on this list at all. I chose to be in the middle; Young has played well, but not at a starting level just yet.
In his rookie year, he didn't earn the starting job until veteran Kerry Collins practically handed the keys to him. Young couldn't be much worse, so Jeff Fisher chose to try him out. Young did very well running the football, taking it himself 83 times for 552 yards and seven scores. He looked like Michael Vick (minus the off field troubles) when he ran the football.
Passing, Young didn't perform badly. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns, but he was a rookie so he caught a break. He tossed 12 scores and 13 interceptions and completed 51 percent of his passes. His yardage was 2,199 yards, but was abused by the defense, getting sacked 25 times, several of which were his own fault.
Ultimately, Young performed well enough to get rookie of the year honors.
The next season, Young took a step back in some ways, yet a step forward in others. His interceptions went up (17) and touchdowns went down (nine), yet his completion percentage had one of the largest jumps ever, from 51 percent to 62 percent. He also passed for 2,546 yards. He took 25 more sacks.
On the ground, Young didn't perform too well. He rushed 93 times, but only came away with 395 yards and three touchdowns.
Young was benched after the first game of the 2008 season. He was injured, and Kerry Collins began playing better than Young.
However, Young's most important stat; when he has started football games for the Tennessee Titans, he is 18-10, and has played with a sub-par Tennessee offense the whole way.
7. Bo Scaife, 2005, 6th Round, 179th, Texas
Bo Scaife has played tight end for Tennessee since 2005.
Scaife has to be up there with LenDale White and Ryan Fowler as far as best players not being the No. 1 choice at each position. In his rookie season, Scaife played phenomenally well, especially considering he had great pass catching tight ends like Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe playing before him. He caught 37 passes for two touchdowns. He only received for 273 yards, so his yardage total needed help, but otherwise, Scaife had looked very good as a rookie.
Scaife improved on his yardage (370) the next season, but caught fewer passes (29). Scaife caught two more scores and fumbled away one pass. Scaife lead tight ends in all statistical categories that season when Kinney left the team.
In 2007, Scaife found his balance; he caught 46 passes for 421 yards, career highs in each category. He caught just one score, and fumbled twice. Scaife had beat out Ben Troupe and Ben Hartsock for top tight end.
And then came Alge Crumpler.
However, Scaife is leading Crumpler in every statistic this season. As a matter of fact, he leads the team in receptions (32) and yardage (344), on pace to shatter his careers highs. He has also caught one of just four passing touchdowns thrown this season. Scaife is coming along nicely, and seventh on this list probably doesn't do him justice.
6. Michael Roos, 2005, 2nd Round, 41st, Eastern Washington
Michael Roos began play for the Titans in 2005.
Roos was drafted to play the highly esteemed left tackle position. The Estonian was up for the challenge, and to date has played at a high level.
Roos is the second heaviest linemen on the line, but does one of the best jobs blocking defensive ends. Whether they are finesse or run-you-over, Roos has the footwork to be able to deal with it. Jeff Fisher definitely made a great decision in picking a player from Eastern Washington, a pick that raised some eyebrows. However, Roos had played so well in college that he was definitely up to the challenge of playing in the pros.
5. Michael Griffin, 2007, 1st Round, 19th, Texas
Michael Griffin started playing free safety for Tennessee last season, and has since played all 24 games.
Griffin started in 2007 with some tough faces to beat out for starting job in the secondary. Lamont Thompson had played very well the last few seasons, and Vincent Fuller was emerging, so it looked like Griffin might see just limited action. Instead, the rookie started seeing action immediately, and recorded 54 tackles in his rookie season. He also picked off three passes and deflected six.
However, Griffin started picking up his defensive play this season. He has started all eight games, and recorded 41 tackles, good for fifth on the team. Griffin has also intercepted four passes, tying Cortland Finnegan for lead on the team. Griffin also got his first sack this season. Only Chris Hope, the other safety, has been able to record a sack out of the secondary.
Griffin plays with passion and strength, despite being a free safety, and not strong safety. He was definitely the piece the team needed to complete the secondary.
4. David Stewart, 2005, 4th Round, 113th, Mississippi State
David Stewart started playing offensive tackle for the Titans in 2005, and hasn't switched teams.
Stewart started getting lots of playing time in 2007, when the offensive line relied on him and Michael Roos to hold their own at the much-coveted offensive tackle position. Stewart, the right tackle, is the largest in height and weight of the linemen in Tennessee's offense.
If you noticed anything about Chris Johnson this season, its that he loves running to the right, and can do it effectively. That's because Stewart does such a good job blocking for him. At right tackle, Stewart was chosen after Roos, but has been just, if not more, productive on the line.
3. LenDale White, 2006, 2nd Round, 45th, USC
LenDale White started playing halfback in 2006 for the Tennessee Titans.
White's draft stock fell with most teams after he had failed to do well at the combine. White had always done well in college with Reggie Bush, but never got as much respect or love as Bush. White left his junior year, and fell to the second round. Not intimidated by White's weight management issues, Jeff Fisher rolled the dice and took him as a back-up to Chris Brown and Travis Henry.
Behind these two productive backs, it didn't look like White would see any action. He did, however, take 61 carries for 244 yards and 13 first downs. White looked good in his limited action, and when Henry left the team after 2007 and Brown went down with injuries, White took the rushing chores.
In his sophomore effort, White received 303 carries and rushed for 1,110 yards with them and seven touchdowns. White had become very productive with Tennessee. He beat out former teammate Bush in every rushing statistic.
In 2008, White has so far recorded season highs in touchdowns, yards per carry, and longest rushing gain. His 80-yard sprint to the endzone has to date been the longest rush this season, even longer than anything the speedy teammate Johnson could rip off. How's that for overweight!
2. Chris Johnson, 2008, 1st Round, 24th, East Carolina
Chris Johnson has played halfback for the Tennessee Titans and started all eight games so far.
Johnson, a combine standout, was drafted to the Titans squad in April to add some depth at halfback. LenDale White had been becoming more and more of a power runner as the season progressed and less and less of a flashy runner, so they needed a compliment. And Johnson was certainly the man for the job.
He had blinding speed: a 4.24 40-yard dash time is one of the most impressive at the NFL combine ever, and his speed is giving linebacker corps fits. Johnson has scored five rushing touchdowns, run for 715 yards (tops in the AFC) on 146 carries, a 4.9 yards per carry average.
Johnson's skills aren't just limited to running the football. He has caught 24 passes, just fewer than tight end Bo Scaife, and 164 yards with a touchdown. He is a threat from either point of view, making him the team's best offensive weapon.
And the strange thing is, he is still only a rookie.
1. Cortland Finnegan, 2006, 7th Round, 225th, Samford
The only recent draft pick better than Chris Johnson is Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan is already a great player, but a huge reason I chose Finnegan was because of his value. SEVENTH ROUNDER? No one has heard of a team's best cornerback coming from the seventh round of the draft. And even more perplexing is his college. Samford.
Not Stanford. SAMford.
Finnegan is the standout player in a talented secondary containing Michael Griffin, Chris Hope, and Nick Harper. The four have combined for the team's only 13 interceptions. Finnegan has four. He also is second in the secondary in tackles with 43, third on the team.
He also finds ways to get into the backfield, since he has three tackles for losses, beaten only by David Thornton, Albert Haynesworth, and Tony Brown. This puts him first in the secondary in that statistic.
Finnegan also leads the team in pass deflections with 12. He also has the only defensive touchdown of the year, a 99-yard interception returned for a touchdown.
If you watch Finnegan play football, you will be amazed. He never takes stupid gambles. He always plays great coverage, holding the likes of Greg Jennings to just three catches in the Green Bay game. T.J. Houshmandzadeh of the Cincinnati Bengals was held to season-lows in receptions and yardage against him. Indeed, the future is very bright for the likes of Cortland Finnegan.
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