Grading the Tennessee Titans Rookies at Midseason
We're nearly halfway through the season and the Tennessee Titans are 4-3. Unfortunately, three of those wins are against weak teams and the Titans are looking like an 8-8 squad.
Still, the rookie class is showing a lot of promise already and the class is looking pretty good overall.
I've graded all nine draft picks by the Titans in 2011 according to how well they've done this season. Read on to see my grades.
Tommie Campbell, CB (Pick No. 251)
Tommie Campbell was drafted to be a special-teamer, and he's done that very well.
Despite limited playing time, he's accumulated seven tackles and forced two fumbles so far. That is all the more impressive when he's pretty much only playing special teams and is competing with higher picks on those plays.
In the most recent game against the Colts, he had three tackles, a couple of which were responsible for limiting the Colts to a 4.3-yard average for punt returns.
In the preseason, he had three passes deflected, two quarterback hits and a return touchdown as well.
I don't think he'll ever turn into Cortland Finnegan, but he will continue to be an outstanding special teams player and might get into the cornerback rotation as well. Not bad for a guy that was three picks away from Mr. Irrelevant.
Zach Clayton, DT (Pick No. 212)
Zach Clayton showed a lot of promise in the preseason, but so far, he hasn't done much on defense in the regular season, only gathering up five tackles this season.
In the preseason, he managed to tally up two tackles, both for a loss, along with a sack and a pass deflection. Not that impressive, but considering he got very little time in as a player (along with the fact that he was a seventh-round pick), that's pretty good.
Clayton may never start, but he could develop into a decent backup defensive tackle.
Byron Stingily, OT (Pick No. 175)
Stingily has yet to take the field in the regular season.
His play in the preseason was pretty unimpressive, but that's the kind of thing you expect from a sixth-round pick.
Karl Klug, DT (Pick No. 142)
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Karl Klug leads the team in sacks. I'll repeat that: He leads the team in sacks.
If Klug was a couple of inches taller and about 25 lbs heavier, he'd be the answer at defensive tackle, but he's unfortunately a little undersized to play defensive tackle every down.
However, as a rotational player, you couldn't ask for much more. Klug has 12 tackles (11 of them solo), two forced fumbles, two passes deflected and three sacks this season. That's the same number of tackles as veteran Gerald McRath, Derrick Morgan and Jason Jones.
Klug has been a standout, and if he can add a little bit more bulk without losing quickness, then he could be a standout player for years to come. He is without a doubt the best value pick of the Titans' draft.
Jamie Harper, RB (Pick No. 130)
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The Titans rushing attack has been the worst in the league this season, but you can't blame Jamie Harper.
He has been a non-factor this regular season, but I expect that to change now that the Titans have finally (seemingly) benched Chris Johnson for Javon Ringer.
Jamie Harper has seven carries for 16 yards, which averages out to about what Chris Johnson is getting. However, Jamie Harper was not drafted to get 25-yard runs. He was drafted to be Tennessee's running back on 3rd-and-short situations and on goal-line offenses.
When he got more carries in the preseason, he looked phenomenal. He had a total of 38 carries for 168 yards. His breakout game was against St. Louis, where he carried the ball 11 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
He hasn't done much in the season, but he hasn't been given much chance either. Once he does, he'll be Tennessee's power back for years to come.
Colin McCarthy, LB (Pick No. 109)
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Colin McCarthy is likely the future at either middle or weak-side linebacker.
He is developing, but he doesn't see enough playing time in the regular rotation for us to know whether his skill set is better for one or the other.
He has five tackles right now, mostly on special teams, but with the way that Barrett Ruud has been playing, I wouldn't be surprised if Colin McCarthy starts to see some time at middle linebacker in the regular rotation.
In the preseason, McCarthy led the team in tackles with 20 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and a pass deflection. That's impressive enough for me to conclude he'll be a starter next season at one position or the other.
Jurrell Casey, DT (Pick No. 77)
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The first of a trio of defensive tackles picked by the Titans this year, Jurrell Casey looks the most like an every-down starter. He's got the right size at 6'1" and 300 lbs, and he's done a good job in the season so far, stealing a starting spot from Sen'Derrick Marks.
For the season he has 23 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. Where Karl Klug gets into the backfield, Jurrell Casey stuffs the gaps and prevents the run, which fits the mold for what the Titans are looking for in a tackle.
He's going to be a starter for years, and although I was skeptical of the pick at first, I now agree that it was a good one.
Akeem Ayers, OLB (Pick No. 39)
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Akeem Ayers was, by a pretty wide margin, the pick I was the most excited about right after the draft.
So far, he hasn't disappointed. He has decent numbers: 25 tackles (14 solo), two quarterback hits and a sack. However, he's been a constant presence in offensive backfields and puts lots of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Ayers is already the best linebacker on the team, and when Tennessee cleans house by replacing Barrett Ruud and the aging Will Witherspoon, his stats will start to catch up with his ability.
Jake Locker, QB (Pick No. 8)
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Jake Locker was the Titans' first pick in the draft, and Mike Munchak's career will likely be tied to the success of Locker.
The only quarterback drafted before Locker was Cam Newton, and with the relative success that Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder have had already, Titans fans have to hope that Locker was the right choice.
This season, Locker has only thrown one completion in two attempts for 12 yards, so his abilities are still a question mark.
In the preseason, he looked very good in three of his four appearances. In total, he completed 32-of-49 passes for 416 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But again, that's the preseason. It's hardly an indicator of how well he'll do as a full-time starter.
He's shown promise, so hopefully when he's ready, he'll deliver on that promise, but for now, he's still an unknown.