Reviewing past Tennessee Titans drafts: 2007

Each April, Football Outsiders reviews the draft that was six years ago, and I follow suit over here with a look at what the Titans did. There's a more complicated backstory involved than that (the first draft of the first draft review I did, for 1999, was written between the 2001 and 2002 seasons), but that's the way things work these days.

In 2007, the Titans were coming off an 8-8 season where they weren't really that close to 8-8-type good. Vince Young had done some nice things as a rookie, but clearly still had a long way to go to become a good NFL quarterback. Even with LenDale White and Chris Brown, the Titans were still clearly looking for at least more, if not an answer, at running back. Wide receiver was nowhere near a strength. The offensive line seemed set, but a right guard for 2008 was still a possible need. Defensively, cornerback seemed like a big need with Pacman Jones suspended even after the signing of Nick Harper. I also thought defensive tackle and end were both needs.

The Titans went into the 2007 draft with plenty of picks. They had all their original selections, beginning with #19 overall, plus an extra fourth round pick (#128) from the Ravens for Steve McNair, and two extra sixth round picks, #204 from the Chargers for Billy Volek and #206 from the Colts for their seventh-round pick in 2006. Unlike the previous couple seasons, though, they did not make any draft-day moves.

After the jump, the picks and my analysis.

 

#1-19 S Michael Griffin, Texas
Previous Pick: CB Leon Hall, Michigan (Bengals)
Next Pick: CB Aaron Ross, Texas (Giants)
Previous S: #1-6, Laron Landry, LSU (Redskins)
Next S: #1-21, Reggie Nelson, Florida (Jaguars)
 
It was a popular season to look for a safety early in the draft, as many years the 19th pick would have been the first one off the board. Griffin was a bit of a surprise pick for me, as Nelson, the Eraser for the national champions, was generally considered the best free safety in the draft. As frustrating as he's been, Griffin has arguably been the best safety drafted in the first round, though some would argue for Landry. Of course, the best safety in the draft went early in the second round, when the Chargers took Eric Weddle. At the time, I was hoping for the top cornerback, Ross or Chris Houston on my board, though I would have been happy with a receiver like Dwayne Bowe (who's been as good as or better than Griffin) or Robert Meachem (okay in New Orleans, but a bit of a disappointment in my eyes, and not good in San Diego). With the benefit of hindsight, it's clear the Titans had a much better feel than I did for the kind of impact a safety like Griffin could have on the defense, though Griffin since 2009 has been a much more complicated story.
 
#2-50 RB Chris Henry, Arizona
Previous Pick: RB Kenny Irons, Auburn (Bengals)
Next Pick: WR Steve Smith, USC (Giants)
Previous RB: Irons
Next RB: #2-52, Brian Leonard, Rutgers (Rams)
 
I wrote in 2007 "This is a dumb pick." Sadly, I was right. Henry was a guy who ran fast in a straight line in shorts and was not a good football player. He had 32 carries in a Titans uniform, precisely one of them good. I was not watching the draft live at this point, so there was not a specific player I was hoping the Titans would draft. About Henry's only saving grace is that Irons had even less of a career than he did, though that was 100% caused by a post-draft injury. On the other hand, maybe if Henry's not a bust the Titans don't use a #1 pick the next year on Chris Johnson. I guess that's a bit of a silver lining.
 
#3-80 WR Paul Williams, Fresno St.
Previous Pick: WR Mike Sims-Walker, Central Florida (Jaguars)
Next Pick: DT Jay Alford, Penn State (Giants)
Previous WR: Sims-Walker
Next WR: #3-99, Johnnie Lee Higgins, UTEP (Raiders)
 
Players I wrote in 2007 I wanted the Titans to draft instead of Williams: Tank Tyler, Brandon Mebane, and Charles Johnson, who are probably three of the four best defensive linemen in the class. Williams was the last player selected in a 9-pick run on wide receivers (including a tight end thrown in), which made him feel to me very much like a panic pick, that all these receivers are going so we have to grab the top guy on our board or we may not get any of the next ten. Williams never played in a regular season game with the team, and our draft efficiency measure VAE at Football Outsiders ranks him as the biggest bust at receiver in the class. Unlike with the Henry pick, there isn't even a silver lining to be a partial redeeming factor for missing so badly.
 
#4-115 OL Leroy Harris, North Carolina St.
Previous Pick: DB Marvin White, TCU (Bengals)
Next Pick: LB/LS Zak DeOssie, Brown (Giants)
Previous OL: #3-88, G Andy Alleman, Akron (Saints)
Next OL: #4-117, G Manuel Ramirez, Texas Tech (Lions)
 
My prediction that drafting Harris meant the departure of Eugene Amano was not as good as my affection for Mebane, Tyler, and Johnson. The broader discussion point is how damning the acquisition of Jake Scott the next offseason should be considered for Amano and Harris. After all, after spending four seasons developing Amano, one on Harris after taking him in the fourth round, and three on Daniel Loper, shouldn't the Titans have been able to find a good enough starting right guard without having to go buy one? Center is also a position that requires a big deal of trust in a player; aside from as an injury replacement for Kevin Mawae, I don't think the Titans had that trust in Harris. As I've noted before, he did not enter the starting lineup until his fourth season. While the same was true of Charles Johnson, he was an above-average player at a premium position. Harris was not. As far as fourth-round picks go, this is about an average one.
 
#4-128 WR Chris Davis, Florida St.
Previous Pick: DT Kareem Brown, Miami-FL (Giants)
Next Pick: TE Scott Chandler, Iowa (Chargers)
Previous WR: #4-118, Ryne Robinson, Miami-OH (Panthers)
Next WR: #5-142, Steve Breaston, Michigan (Cardinals)
 
Chris Davis finished his NFL career with 7 catches, though he did return punts as a rookie. Is that enough to justify a fourth-round draft choice? Not in my book. I liked Robinson a lot more, but he ended up with basically the same NFL career. Breaston would've been awesome.
 
#5-152 DT Antonio Johnson, Mississippi St.
Previous Pick: QB Jeff Rowe, Nevada (Bengals)
Next Pick: TE Kevin Boss, Western Oregon (Giants)
Previous DT: #4-135, Joe Cohen, Florida (49ers)
Next DT: #5-154, Clifton Ryan, Michigan St. (Rams)
 
Johnson ended up one of the better late-round defensive linemen in the draft, but of course that was after the Titans cut him and the Colts picked him up. Fifth round picks are supposed to make your team. This was the first pick the Titans made I didn't hate when I first heard about it, though only because I didn't know anything about Johnson.
 
#6-189 WR Joel Filani, Texas Tech
Previous Pick: DT Matt Toeaina, Oregon (Bengals)
Next Pick: OT Adam Koets, Oregon St. (Giants)
Previous WR: #5-172, Legedu Naanee, Boise St. (Chargers)
Next WR: #6-197, Courtney Taylor, Auburn (Seahawks)
 
As I wrote in 2007 "What the hell? Seriously, what the hell?" A nice college player who pretty clearly was never going to be an NFL player. A slot receiver type, and they just took one of those two rounds earlier in Chris Davis and had one on the roster already in Bobby Wade. Filani didn't make it out of training camp and never played in the NFL, surprising approximately nobody.
 
#6-204 DE Jacob Ford, Central Arkansas
Previous Pick: DB Daren Stone, Miami-FL (Falcons)
Next Pick: QB Jordan Palmer, UTEP (Redskins)
Previous DE: #6-200, Melila Purcell, Hawaii (Browns)
Next DE: #7-213, Chase Pittman, LSU (Browns)
 
Another player I freely admitted to knowing approximately nothing about when the Titans drafted him, and I watched a lot more college football in 2006 than I do these days. Ford was a very useful situational edge rusher for a couple seasons; despite the hopes of some, he was never more than that. As far as sixth round picks go, though, he was a very good one.
 
#6-206 CB Ryan Smith, Florida
Previous Pick: QB Jordan Palmer, UTEP (Redskins)
Next Pick: LB Prescott Burgess, Michigan (Ravens)
Previous CB: #6-203, Daren Stone, Miami-FL (Falcons)
Next CB: #7-212, Courtney Brown, Cal Poly-SLO (Cowboys)
 
The first pick I liked. Smith was a nice college player who was a questionable NFL athlete; like Filani, the Titans deemed him not good enough to make it out of training camp and everybody else passed on him as well. Over a third of the sixth round never did anything at all in the NFL, so the Titans were not entirely alone in completely whiffing on two of their three picks.
 
#7-223 OT Mike Otto, Purdue
Previous Pick: TE Derek Schouman, Boise St. (Bills)
Next Pick: DB Michael Johnson, Arizona (Giants)
Previous OT: #7-214, Chris Denman, Fresno St. (Buccaneers)
Next OT: #7-252, Andrew Carnahan, Arizona St. (Jaguars)
 
How you look at the Otto pick depends on your perspective. If you think that he's a seventh round pick who's on the team seven years later, even as a swing tackle you hope never takes a snap, that's a pretty good pick. On the other hand, he did not make the team out of training camp and spent 2007 on the practice squad, which meant they could have lost him to any team. That's not so great a pick. On the other other hand, there's not much difference between the seventh round and undrafted free agency. Like they later did with defensive tackle David Howard, the Titans may have drafted Otto simply because they wanted him and thought they were better off getting him in the draft and filling other needs with priority undrafted free agents. It's about impossible for a seventh-round pick to be a true bust, unless they do something especially nefarious that brings shame to the franchise as a whole, so Otto is somewhere roughly average to below for a seventh rounder. After hitting (at least relatively so) on Reynaldo Hill and Cortland Finnegan the past two seasons, I wanted the Titans go corner here or, if they wanted an offensive lineman, a developmental guard instead of a left tackle.
 
And that's how the Titans drafted in 2007. Add them up, and you get a couple decent picks in Griffin, Harris, and Ford, but they are outweighed by the number of complete or almost complete washouts like Henry, Williams, and Davis. This was not as bad as the legendarily awful 2003 draft, but it's remarkable how good the Titans were in 2007 and 2008 considering just how many players they missed on in this draft.
 
For more on the 2007 draft, check out my contemporaneous recaps of what the Titans did on the first and second days of the draft. I also wrote about the state of the Titans before the draft on offense and defense. I recently recapped that draft as a whole at Football Outsiders. If you want to look at all the players drafted in 2007, look here. This is the ninth season for which I've done a draft retrospective piece; see also 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
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