Titans’ draft preview by position: defense

I did the offense last week, and now it’s time for a preview of the Titans’ draft position by position focusing on the defensive side of the ball. As with the first edition, I’ll give a brief overview of where the Titans stand at the position after the important part of free agency and give a draft outlook. Keep in mind that the players I’m listing is a mix of players I think will be available and whom the Titans might be, but aren’t necessarily, interested in. I try to think like the front office, but I don’t think like the front office. As I wrote about yesterday, this goes double for the defensive side of the ball, so I’ll be mentioned players they worked out or visited.

Defensive end
Need at position: Medium to high
Analysis: I’m not going to replicate my post from yesterday looking at the defensive line, so I’ll just briefly state I think there’s a better chance than you think the Titans aren’t necessarily that interested in a defensive end. I think they’re likely to add a body at the position, but I wouldn’t count on it being a priority. Keep in mind I could be wrong in that, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they drafted one in the first round.
Draft probability: 70%
Players they might target: Nick Perry, Southern California (1st); Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (1st); Vinny Curry, Marshall (2nd); Tim Fugger, Vanderbilt (6th-7th); Ernest Owusu, Cal (6th-7th)

Defensive tackle
Need at position: Medium-high to very high
Analysis: Again, see yeterday’s post. The Titans could theoretically get by this year with their current rotation, but I’m not sure they’d think that’s a good solution for this season and it doesn’t solve their needs going forward. The more I think about the draft, the more I think they’ll draft a defensive tackle in the first three rounds.
Draft probability: 90%
Players they might target: Michael Brockers, LSU (1st); Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (1st-2nd); Devon Still, Penn State (1st-2nd); Brandon Thompson, Clemson (2nd); Josh Chapman, Alabama (3rd-4th); Mike Martin, Michigan (3rd-4th); DaJohn Harris, Southern Cal (4th-5th)

Linebacker
Need at position: Low to medium
Analysis: Mike Munchak indicated at today’s pre-draft press conference that the Titans were relatively satisfied with the numbers they had at linebacker, but were always interested in adding a playmaker. While I didn’t discuss Akeem Ayers in yesterday’s post, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Titans looked to use him more as a rush backer this year and otherwise not on the field so much in nickel sets. The priority here is finding a long-term replacement at WLB for Gerald McRath and Will Witherspoon. I’m not sure that’s a high priority for them, though.
Draft probability: 50%
Players they might target: Luke Kuechly, Boston College (1st); Mychal Kendricks, Cal (2nd); Bobby Wagner, Utah State (2nd); Lavonte David, Nebraska (2nd); Terrell Manning, North Carolina State (3rd-4th)

Cornerback
Need at position: medium
Analysis: My consistent mantra has been that the Titans don’t think they have to have another corner. It’s just not a high need position, notwithstanding the loss of Finnegan. The more important issue might be whether they’ve talked to Jason McCourty about an extension, and if they think they’re going to re-sign him. Like defensive end, I’m not counting on them drafting on a corner in the early rounds, but I think they will come out of the draft with one.
Draft probability: 80%
Players they might target: Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (1st); Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (1st); a zillion other guys after that I’m not going to pretend I can distinguish between, and don’t overrate their interest in Casey Heyward, Vanderbilt (3rd), his visit didn’t count because he’s local

Safety
Need at position: medium to high
Analysis: Michael Griffin’s on the franchise tag (unsigned as of now, but I don’t anticipate any issues there), but I’m not sure he’s viewed as a starter beyond this season. Jordan Babineaux is on a two-year deal, and even if they like him drafting a project for him isn’t out of the question. The only other “veteran” is Robert Johnson. Today’s pre-draft press conference confirmed they’ll add at least one more safety, either in the draft or from the remaining dregs of free agency. Bet on the draft.
Draft probability: 80%
Players they might target: Mark Barron, Alabama (1st); CB conversion Justin Bethel, Presbyterian (4th?); a zillion other guys after that I’m not going to pretend I can distinguish between, and don’t overrate their interest in Sean Richardson, Vanderbilt, his visit didn’t count either

With the draft two days away, I’m going to try to do two posts, one a breakdown of players the Titans have had visits or workouts with and another putting these two previews into an hypothetical ideal draft based on some consensus of rankings or mock draft out there.

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