NFL Draft: A Look Back at the Tennessee Titans' Historic First-Round Draft Picks

Zach Law@zach_lawContributor IMarch 31, 2012

NFL Draft: A Look Back at the Tennessee Titans' Historic First-Round Draft Picks

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    The NFL Draft is a month away. In addition to projecting who the Tennessee Titans are going to take this year, it's a fun exercise to see who they've taken in past drafts.

    As a franchise, it's going to be hard for the Titans to beat the three consecutive first-round picks of Earl Campbell (1978), Mike Munchak (1982) and Bruce Matthews (1983).

    The Titans shed the name Oilers prior to the 1999 season, so I will review all first-round selections during the Titan era. In 13 years, the Titans have selected at their pick 11 times, traded for a player once and traded down once. 

    Here's the full list of first-round picks and an explanation for the two years in which the team did not have a first-round pick. 

    1999 - Jevon Kearse

    2000 - Keith Bulluck

    2001 - Traded to the St. Louis Rams for Kevin Carter. The Rams picked Ryan Pickett, DT from Ohio State

    2002 - Albert Haynesworth

    2003 - Andre Woolfolk

    2004 - Traded to the Houston Texans along with a fifth-rounder for the Texans' second, third, fourth, and fifth-round picks. The Texans selected Jason Babin, DE out of Western Michigan.

    2005 - Adam "Pacman" Jones

    2006 - Vince Young

    2007 - Michael Griffin

    2008 - Chris Johnson

    2009 - Kenny Britt

    2010 - Derrick Morgan

    2011 - Jake Locker

    Let's review the 11 players the Titans have selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

1999: Jevon Kearse

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    With the 16th selection in the 1999 draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Jevon Kearse, defensive end out of Florida.

    The first pick in Titans history was critical to what became a breathtaking playoff run in their first season in then-Adelphia Field.

    Kearse is the gold standard for what you want out of a first-round pick. He started immediately and won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with 14.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles. He was a Pro Bowl starter and famously redirected the game-winning touchdown pass by Kurt Warner  that Isaac Bruce took to the house.

    In his first three years Kearse was a defensive forced with at least 10 sacks every season. Injuries slowed him down in 2002 and 2003. Before the 2004 season, the Titans let him go to the Philadelphia Eagles" href="" target="_blank">Philadelphia Eagles in free agency. There was a reunion, as Kearse re-signed with the Titans in 2008 and played until the end of the 2009 season.

    Even though The Freak's career didn't continue on the high trajectory of his first three seasons, this was an amazing draft pick for the Titans.

2000: Keith Bulluck

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    With the 30th selection in the 2000 draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Keith Bulluck, linebacker out of Syracuse.

    While I saw lots of No. 90s in the stands during the early 2000s, I think there were more No. 53s. The Titans selected Bulluck knowing that he had time to grow into a starting position. Bulluck didn't start full-time at linebacker until 2002. He had 100+ tackles in four out of his first five years as a starter. Between 2002 and 2008, he didn't miss a game.

    He signed with the New York Giants" href="" target="_blank">New York Giants after the Titans decided not to keep him for the 2010 season. Bulluck started eight games and retired after getting no offers in 2011.

    Getting an eight-year starter and team leader close to the end of the first round is a steal.

2002: Albert Haynesworth

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    With the 15th pick of the 2002 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Albert Haynesworth, defensive tackle out of Tennessee.

    It took a while for Haynesworth to become a star. He was most famous for stomping Dallas Cowboys' center Andre Gurode in the head after a Cowboys touchdown. Haynesworth was suspended five games for the incident, an amount that would be much longer had it happened in today's environment.

    The former Volunteer was a Pro Bowler in 2007 and 2008. The 2008 defense was one of the best in Titan history. There was no chance that the Titans were going to sign Haynesworth to a long-term extension. The Washington Redskins made Haynesworth the highest paid defensive player in the league. That did not end well.

    Violent outbursts excluded, Haynesworth had a great seven-year run with the team. 

2003: Andre Woolfolk

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    With the 28th pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Andre Woolfolk, cornerback out of Oklahoma.

    The Titans were fortunate with their first three top picks in the Nashville era. In 2003, things started to fall apart. Woolfolk was a tall cornerback, and the team needed a cornerback. Woolfolk had not been a cornerback during his entire time at Oklahoma.

    The result? Three career interceptions combined with 11 career starts meant that Woolfolk was released following the 2006 season. He never played for another NFL team.

    This pick was a complete bust.

2005: Adam "Pacman" Jones

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    With the sixth pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Adam "Pacman" Jones, cornerback out of West Virginia.

    When it was apparent that Woolfolk couldn't play, the Titans had a decision to make. Antrel Rolle and Adam Jones were the top two cornerbacks coming out in the draft. The Titans went with Jones.

    Pacman had a difficult rookie year on and off the field. He didn't make an interception and had multiple run-ins with the cops. During his second season, he tied a team record with three punt return touchdowns and finished with four interceptions.

    Jones was suspended for the 2007 season after a shooting incident in a Las Vegas strip club. The Titans cut bait and traded him to the Cowboys before the 2008 season. He was suspended for part of the 2008 season, didn't play in 2009 and resurfaced with the Cincinnati Bengals" href="" target="_blank">Cincinnati Bengals in 2010.

    Jones had a few moments but was a bust for the Titans.

2006: Vince Young

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    With the third pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Vince Young, QB out of Texas.

    Steve McNair's career in Nashville was about to come to a close. The team needed to replace the Alcorn State great, a #3 overall pick himself, with another quarterback. The choices were local boy Jay Cutler, Heisman winner Matt Leinart and 2005 national champ Young. Owner Bud Adams kept his Texas roots and lobbied for Young, who was the pick.

    His career couldn't have started better. He won Rookie of the Year and helped the team to an 8-8 finish after starting 0-5. He guided the Titans back for their largest fourth-quarter comeback (21 points) against the Giants. In his first start against the hometown Texans, he ran for a 39-yard touchdown in overtime for the win.

    Young had the Madden cover the following year. While he started 15 games and the team made the playoffs, he backslid statistically. Vince Young and Jeff Fisher never meshed. After Kerry Collins ably led the team on their 13-3 division-winning season in 2008, it took an 0-6 start in 2009 for Fisher to reluctantly give Young another chance. The team finished 8-2 that year, and there was hope that Young had turned things around. He tore a tendon in his thumb during the 2010 season and never started a game for the team again. He was a backup in Philadelphia last year.

    The Titans needed a franchise QB from the 2006 draft, and Vince Young did not deliver.

2007: Michael Griffin

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    With the 19th pick of the 2007 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Michael Griffin, safety out of Texas.

    Griffin made it two Longhorn first-rounders in a row. The team considered playing him at cornerback when the mighty Pacman Jones was suspended for the 2007 season. Griffin stayed at free safety.

    In five seasons with the team, he started 73 out of 80 games. His career high in interceptions was 7 in 2008 but his 2010 season was better overall as he had 86 tackles and made his first Pro Bowl.

    The franchise must expect that Griffin's an even-year player as they gave him the franchise tag for 2012. He's been a starter but not a star for the Titans, a little bit less than you'd want out of a first-round pick.

2008: Chris Johnson

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    With the 24th pick of the 2008 draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Chris Johnson, RB out of East Carolina.

    Jeff Fisher spent high draft picks searching for the next Eddie George for years. In 2006 it was USC bruiser LenDale White. In 2007 it was Arizona speedster Chris Henry, who was laughed at almost immediately.

    Chris Johnson was a wideout and a running back at East Carolina. His 4.24 40-yard-dash time set an NFL Combine record. The Titans didn't have the Oakland Raiders" href="">Oakland Raiders' history of drafting purely based on speed. The pick was questioned until Johnson had a long touchdown run in a preseason game against the Rams.

    In 2008 Chris Johnson split carries with White and led the team in rushing. In 2009 he set a franchise record with 2006 rushing yards and an all-time yards from scrimmage mark with 2509. 38 touchdowns in his first three years was pretty stout.

    Johnson held out during the 2011 training camp and earned a $50 million-plus contract extension. He had his worst year as a pro. Even if he continues to fade, CJ was a great first-round selection.

2009: Kenny Britt

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    With the 30th pick of the 2009 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Kenny Britt, WR out of Rutgers.

    Kenny Britt is 23 and that's after three years of NFL experience. The Titans hoped that he would develop as a receiver and he has.

    If you just look at his career numbers, you see 16 games started, 101 catches, 1765 total yards and 15 touches. Britt's three-year stats combine for one All-Pro season. He couldn't consistently crack the starting lineup as a rookie. He did have the game-winning TD catch against the Arizona Cardinals in the classic 99-yard drive to end the game.

    He pulled a hamstring in 2010 and that derailed a breakout season. He had a seven-catch, 225-yard and three-touchdown effort against the Philadelphia Eagles. He tore his ACL and MCL in the third game of  the season after a promising start.

    Britt's been very good. The team's looking for him to put it all together this season.

2010: Derrick Morgan

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    With the 16th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Derrick Morgan, defensive end out of Georgia Tech.

    Morgan has a lot to prove. The Titans hoped for a Jevon Kearse-like rookie campaign out of Morgan. Derrick tore his ACL four games into the 2010 season. In 2011 he played in 15 games, started 10 and had 2.5 sacks.

    Like Britt, Morgan came out as a junior and will be 23 when the season starts. If he can get back to his pre-injury form, he could become an impact player. This draft grade is incomplete.

2011: Jake Locker

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    With the 8th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker, QB out of Washington.

    The Titans didn't hide the fact that they needed a quarterback heading into 2011. Vince Young was gone, and Kerry Collins was going to retire. Only Rusty Smith remained on the roster.

    Locker was a bit of a surprise at 8. The team fell in love with Locker, but to hedge their bets, they signed veteran Matt Hasselbeck to start in 2011.

    The 2011 season was an interesting trial for Locker. Many Titan fans duct-taped Locker to cover the Young on the back of their jerseys since both wore number 10. After taking the final snaps in a 31-13 win over the Browns, Locker entered three games in which Hasselbeck left due to injury and the team was behind. He put up mixed stats, completing slightly more than 50% of his passes and throwing four touchdowns to no interceptions.

    Locker's going to battle Hasselbeck to start the 2012 season. His running ability makes him an intriguing QB selection and a possible next-generation version of Steve McNair who won fans' hearts during his long and successful career. This is another incomplete but intriguing first-round pick.


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