It’s draft week.
By this point, I think of it almost as an annual tradition. For the third year in a row, I will kick off draft week by looking at which positions I believe the Titans are likely to target in the upcoming NFL draft. Both years I have done this series, the positions the Titans have drafted have, with one exception each year, drafted a player at every position I thought there was a significant likelihood of drafting a player, while at the same time, with no or one exception, not drafted a player where I believed they were unlikely to draft a player.
In doing this exercise, I tried to match the cumulative total of my projections to the actual number of picks the Titans have. Last year, I stuck with a cumulative total just short of 8.0, while the Titans had nine picks. As we head into the draft, the Titans have six picks. That means my cumulative projection should be for the Titans to take about six players; I got to 5.5, and decided that was good enough. If my odds of drafting a particular position seem high to you, well, I probably agree with you in the abstract. When I first sat down to do this exercise, I came out near 4.0, which meant I had to adjust most positions upward to get a projection that more closely matched how many picks the Titans have. If my odds of drafting a particular position seem low to you, well, we just disagree.
This post will cover the offense, while I will cover the defense in the next post. Note this is a draft preview post with a brief overview of my thoughts about the particular position, not a comprehensive analysis of each position. Tempting though it may be, I am not going to dump 1,000-word digressions of what I think of every player at a position. That’s what the positional analysis series is for. “Players they might target” are ones the Titans have shown interest in, with a leavening of other players who may fit the mold I think the Titans are looking for, but not a comprehensive listing of every player at the position the Titans might draft. Player round estimates are my very, very rough guesses and should not be relied upon.
Need at position: Low to high
Analysis: In some sense, the $64,000 question that will decide the course of the Titans’ draft. I still believe what I wrote in the quarterback positional analysis back in early February: while the Titans could draft a quarterback in any round of the draft, I do not believe they are likely to select a single quarterback. I could be completely off on this.
Draft probability: 20%
Players they might target: Derek Carr (1st-2nd round), Jimmy Garoppolo (2nd-4th), Aaron Murray (4th-5th)
Need at position: High
Analysis: I didn’t find it necessary to belabor the point the same way I did last year with my right guard post, but the Titans have more or less flat out said they will be drafting a running back this year. That is not much of a surprise, as the backfield currently consists of Shonn Greene, who may be a stylistic fit for Ken Whisenhunt’s offense but had an unimpressive 2013 (and, for that matter, much of the rest of his career as well); Jackie Battle, stylistically similar to Greene but not as good; and Dexter McCluster, whom I consider a gadget player. It will not be in the first round, unless they have a significantly different opinion on the value of one of the running backs than everybody that has discussed their opinion in public, but it will happen between the second and fifth rounds.
Draft probability: 99%
Players they might target: Carlos Hyde (2nd), Charles Sims (4th), Terrance West (4th)
Need at position: Moderate
Analysis: I touched on this in a recent post, but the Titans have a top three they probably like, but major question marks after that. As I have noted before, Whisenhunt has shown a preference for bigger receivers, which Nate Washington (skinny) and Kendall Wright (short) are not. Brian Robiskie has good size, but as I said his signing does not really mean anything to. I don’t think it is a need worthy of their first-round pick, but I think they could and should address in the same second through fifth round region they will address running back.
Draft probability: 70%
Players they might target: Cody Latimer (2nd), Jordan Matthews (2nd), Martavis Bryant (4th), Brandon Coleman (4th-5th)
Need at position: Low to moderate
Analysis: Delanie Walker will be the lead receiving tight end. Craig Stevens’ restructure assures he will be around, and he could actually be used in the passing game. That both men will be 30 by the season begins is a long-term planning factor, but not an issue the Titans have to address this season. Taylor Thompson is a useful third guy. Whisenhunt’s Cardinals teams rarely featured a tight end. I can’t rule it out, but I don’t expect it either.
Draft probability: 20%
Players they might target: Eric Ebron (1st), maybe a later developmental receiving type like A.C. Leonard (5th-6th) or Joe Don Duncan (6th-7th)
Need at position: Moderate
Analysis: The starters are set, with Michael Roos and the signing of Michael Oher. The swing tackle is set, with Byron Stingily. Why then have I listed the need as “moderate”? First, Roos is entering into the final year of his contract. Turning 32 in October, he is young enough he could play successfully for several more years if they re-sign him. But, they have not yet done so. And they need a fourth player at the position anyway. Plus, Stingily is entering into the final year of his rookie deal. That means Oher is the only NFL tackle signed beyond 2014. It should not be a high priority, and I do not believe it will be, but there is a need here.
Draft probability: 60%
Players they might target: Cameron Fleming (4th-5th), a bunch of other Day 3 guys I’m not going to pretend I know anything worthwhile about
Need at position: Low to very low
Analysis: Three young (or at least fairly young) starters in place, between Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke, and Chance Warmack, each acquired last offseason. A veteran swing man who can play every spot as the extra interior lineman active on gameday in Chris Spencer. A couple options for the inactive interior lineman spot, between Tyler Horn and Eric Olsen. They could draft a player to compete with Horn and Olsen, but I doubt it.
Draft probability: 6%
Players they might target: Pick your favorite late round developmental prospect
Defense by position goes up tomorrow.