Who Could the Tennessee Titans Pick in the Draft After Trade With St. Louis Rams?
St. Louis Los Angeles Rams are adding Carson Wentz to Todd Gurley’s offense. There are conflicting reports about whether they are going to take Wentz or Goff but the North Dakota State prospect seems like the more likely option. For the Rams this is a straight-forward move, they add a starting quarterback that they desperately need.
For the Tennessee Titans, the team who traded down with the Rams to give away the first overall pick, things are about to get a lot more interesting.
Staying at first overall in the draft would have given the Titans a choice between Laremy Tunsil or Jalen Ramsey. DeForest Buckner or Myles Jack could also have been options but Tunsil and Ramsey were widely considered the two primary options. By trading down to 15th overall in the first round, the Titans will no longer be in position to add any of the four.
Instead, general manager Jon Robinson now has a war chest to work with. The Titans will pick 15th, 33rd, 43rd, 45th, 64th, and 76th in this year’s draft with an extra first and third round pick in next year’s. The scope of the draft changes completely for them now.
Using Fanspeak’s Mock Draft Simulator, we can try to get an idea of what prospects will be available to the Titans.
A few players that the Titans would have wanted to take flew off the board just before they came on the clock. Mackenzie Alexander went ninth overall and Vernon Hargreaves followed at 11th overall. No other cornerback would be worth taking after both of those players went off the board. A defensive lineman run led up to the 15th overall pick with both Sheldon Rankins and Andrew Billings following A’Shawn Robinson off the board.
Billings is the big loss there but Rankins would have been a good value selection even if he wouldn’t be an ideal fit in Dick LeBeau’s defense. Robinson is the type of defensive end that LeBeau could be fond of but his value at this stage of the draft seems bloated.
The top five players remaining on the board are: Darron Lee, Laquan Treadwell, Noah Spence, Shaq Lawson and Taylor Decker. Of that group, Decker and Spence are the most appealing for the Titans specifically.
Decker would immediately become a starter at right tackle, keeping Taylor Lewan at left tackle. Decker could even supplant Lewan as the team’s left tackle moving forward. He is a versatile edge defender who can move big bodied defensive linemen in the run game while possessing the quickness and balance in his feet to repel pass rushers in one-on-one situations on the edge.
Spence probably isn’t as good of a prospect as Shaq Lawson, but the Titans don’t need a full-time edge defender. They have Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan as their outside linebackers. This would allow them to take a chance on Spence who is more suited to being a pass-rushing specialist off the edge whereas Lawson is the more well-rounded prospect. Spence could be developed into a full-time starter while playing in obvious pass situations as a rookie.
Another player who remains on the board at this point is Jack Conklin. Conklin is highly thought of in the NFL and fits Jon Robinson’s emphasis on physicality. Despite his availability, Taylor Decker is the best option as the 15th overall pick.
Noah Spence nearly fell to the Titans at the top of the second round. He was taken as the first pick in the second round by the Cleveland Browns, coming off the board after Vernon Butler, Jonathan Bullard and Connor Cook.
Leonard Floyd is the big faller. He is ranked 20th on this board but is still available when the Titans pick 33rd overall. He is joined by Emmanuel Ogbah, Ohio State’s Michael Thomas, William Jackson III and Germain Ifedi as the top ranked players remaining.
Floyd doesn’t feel like a good fit in LeBeau’s defense. He is best suited to fill a similar role to Anthony Barr, an off-ball linebacker in a 4-3 who can line up as an edge rusher on passing downs. Ogbah is a great athlete who hasn’t showed off that athleticism on the field, so the top defensive front seven pieces remaining aren’t all that enticing at this point.
Center Ryan Kelly and guard Cody Whitehair would have been valuable additions at this point, but both went in consecutive picks in the high 20s. Ifedi is viewed as a guard by some and could be an option to step into the Titans’ starting left guard spot inside of Lewan and across from Chance Warmack. Ifedi is raw but big and powerful.
The Titans aren’t necessarily in search of a wide receiver at this point. Their receiving corps was terrible last year but they will expect more from Dorial Green-Beckham in his second year and have already added Rishard Matthews. Thomas could be the team’s best receiver if they invested this pick in him. Both he and Josh Doctson are available at this point. Neither are likely going to be available in the actual draft though so we’ll try to keep this as close to reality as possible.
Of the top five remaining prospects on this board, that leaves Jackson as the most appealing option.
Jackson is a big cornerback who should be able to play physical coverage against NFL athletes. He and Jason McCourty would make for an intimidating tandem of outside cornerbacks for LeBeau to rely on. McCourty is a very good player who missed much of last season through injury. Selecting Jackson would also allow the Titans to let Perrish Cox and Brice McCain compete for the third spot on the depth chart.
William Jackson III is the best option as the 33rd overall pick.
The previous pick didn’t mention the safety position, but there’s a strong possibility that a safety could/should be the choice at the top of the second round. In this scenario, there were three highly-regarded safeties remaining and only nine picks until the Titans were on the clock again. There was some element of risk because only one of those safeties was an ideal fit for the short-term.
Fortunately, Karl Joseph’s injury helped him fall as far as the 43rd pick. Joseph is coming off a torn ACL but is an extremely talented free safety who could be a long-term staple of the secondary while complementing Da’Norris Searcy/Rashad Johnson perfectly in the short term. The Titans let Michael Griffin go in the offseason but it had been a long time since they could really rely on him.
He should prove to be an immediate upgrade over Griffin even as he comes back from such a serious knee injury. Karl Joseph is the best option at 43rd overall.
Wide receivers continued to fall in this draft, which isn’t ideal for the Titans. Quarterbacks going in the first round offset it somewhat though, so the 45th pick still had a lot of directions for the franchise to go in. It would be extremely tempting to pair Joseph with one of the other trio of safeties who was still on the board, Darian Thompson.
Thompson would be the in-the-box safety who likely wouldn’t be needed much as a rookie. Rashad Johnson is only signed to a one-year deal and Da’Norris Searcy isn’t a spectacular option as a starter though so adding a strong safety would make sense. Thompson is a reliable, versatile safety but he doesn’t offer the athletic upside that LeBeau could prefer as he prioritizes the long term over the short term.
Focusing on the defensive side of the ball makes sense for the Titans unless there is a prospect available who could come in and immediately start at left guard or center. The Titans have already added to their offense enough at this point, most of the improvement made will hinge on key players staying healthy and young players developing on that side of the ball. Defensively, the Titans need versatile pieces who LeBeau can mold. They don’t need to be perfect scheme fits from day one or refined talents, but they do need to have a lot of upside.
When LeBeau was the Steelers defensive coordinator, he drafted a USC safety who could be used in a variety of ways. He could do something similar with Su’a Cravens in this draft.
Comparing Cravens’ skill set to Polamalu’s is unfair, but he has that ability to be a disruptive force while also functioning in space. The Titans could rely on him as a nickel package player during the early stages of his career, letting LeBeau develop him as a linebacker/safety. LeBeau previously took this approach with Polamalu but also Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley. He understands the benefits of patience and development off the field.
Su’a Cravens is the pick at 45th overall.
At this point of the draft, Robert Nkemdiche becomes extremely enticing. Nkemdiche should and probably will be gone by this point in the actual draft but he remains on the board in this simulation. There is a possibility that Nkemdiche falls this far because of concerns over his character. He wouldn’t be an ideal scheme fit for LeBeau, but would offer the team a nickel rusher to pair inside with Jurrell Casey.
Nkemdiche is one of a few appealing options. Christian Westerman has fallen to this spot in the third round, as has Derrick Henry. Henry isn’t the only talented running back on the board with Paul Perkins in waiting also. Hunter Henry would be Delanie Walker’s long-term replacement, with Braxton Miller, Tyler Boyd and Charone Peake also available as receiving options.
As enticing as Nkemdiche is, he doesn’t make as much sense as Westerman. The athletic offensive lineman could immediately start at left guard or even become the starting center ahead of Ben Jones. The Titans should continue to use a lot of zone-blocking, which suits Westerman’s athletic profile and comfort moving laterally. Christian Westerman is the pick at 64th overall.
Of the players considered for the previous pick, only Hunter Henry went off the board before the 76th overall selection. Henry is tempting as an heir to DeMarco Murray, so is Perkins but both backs wouldn’t project to have any real short-term impact unless injuries hit Murray, David Cobb and Dexter McCluster. The running back talent is greater than the receiver talent at this point, though Braxton Miller could be developed into a big play machine, so the debate is between Nkemdiche and one of Henry or Perkins.
Even though he doesn’t fit and has off-field concerns, the Ole Miss defender’s talent is too much to pass on at this point of the draft. Robert Nkemdiche is the 76th overall pick.
So for this second simulation we’re going to change the draft board to create a completely new scenario. The first draft used the ‘Composite’ board whereas this one will use the most recently updated board, NFL.com’s.
The same thing happened in this simulation that happened in the previous. There was a run on defensive linemen and both of the top cornerbacks went during the five picks that led up to the Titans’ selection. Reggie Ragland and Leonard Floyd are the top two players available, with A’Shawn Robinson as the only interior lineman projected to go in this area of the draft.
Jack Conklin is the top ranked offensive tackle on the board, but Conklin isn’t as talented an individual player as Cody Whitehair. Whitehair is powerful, mobile and plays with great control. He has been compared to Zack Martin as a tackle-turned-guard who should come in and immediately lock up the left guard position for the Titans.
The Titans had major issues with the interior of their line last year and Marcus Mariota is talented enough to mitigate edge pressure. Cody Whitehair is the 15th overall pick.
In the first simulation, the first pick in the second round was difficult because of all the options available that fit well with what the Titans need. In this simulation, the first pick in the second round is difficult because of how few options are available. The top two players, Leonard Floyd and Jaylon Smith, aren’t good fits at this point, Smith because of injury.
Hunter Henry is ranked as the 20th best player on this board, that wouldn’t be good value for the Titans regardless. Emmanuel Ogbah and Chris Jones round out the remainder of the top five remaining prospects.
Of that group, Jones is the most intriguing. Jones is considered a versatile and talented defensive lineman who could fit a variety of roles in the NFL. He needs to be taught how to play with lower pad level and develop consistency, but his physical talent is that of a first-round pick. At this stage of the draft, Jones would be viewed as tough to pass on even if the Titans feel comfortable with the available talent they have on their defensive line.
Paul Kuharsky of ESPN recently wrote about how the Titans could value defensive linemen more than anticipated. Chris Jones is the pick at 33rd overall.
More than a few first-round talents fell into the second round on this board. As such, the Titans draft isn’t going to go in the way that many expect it to. Having taken Whitehair in the first round, the Titans will add a second starting lineman to their offense in the second round. It’s not a tackle though. Instead it’s Alabama center Ryan Kelly.
Even though the Titans would still have a question mark starting at right tackle in this situation, they could quickly develop one of the best interior offensive lines in the league. Like Whitehair, Kelly is an extremely impressive athlete who shows control and power whether working laterally or advancing onto the second level. The combination would immediately upgrade the running game while providing Marcus Mariota with clean pockets that he hasn’t seen since his time at Oregon.
Ryan Kelly is the 43rd pick in the draft.
Jason Spriggs is still on the board, so the Titans could further concentrate their investment so that the offensive line adds another immediate starter. That’s not the direction we’re going to go in though. Instead, the defense needs to continue to add talent. Karl Joseph is available again at the 45th pick and that just makes too much sense to pass on.
Karl Joseph is the 45th pick in the draft.
This draft wasn’t generous for cornerbacks falling. Kendall Fuller and Will Redmond are the best options remaining so the Titans would instead be moving forward with Jason McCourty, Perrish Cox and Brice McCain as their top three cornerbacks in this scenario. Adding a second safety would again be an appealing option but Darian Thompson is projected to fall much further on this board than on the previous one so the Titans could wait.
Instead of focusing on the defense, the Titans could instead prioritize the talent available at the offensive skill positions.
Two running backs at this point of the draft would be very appealing, Paul Perkins of UCLA and C.J. Prosise of Notre Dame. Prosise could come in and immediately assume Dexter McCluster’s role. Prosise is a former receiver who showed off natural ability and outstanding explosiveness in space after moving to running back. He would be a developmental back who would complement DeMarco Murray perfectly during the early stages of his career.
Perkins should be the better runner than Prosise at the beginning of his career. He is less versatile as a receiver and has some pass protection issues that would limit his role early on though. It must be noted that the Titans new coaching staff didn’t acquire any of the backs on the roster behind Murray. They thought so little of the backs that they inherited that they traded for the veteran.
He may not be the top ranked back on the board, but C.J. Prosise makes the most sense as the 64th pick in the draft.
When you’re a rebuilding team with a plethora of picks over the coming years, your approach can change. Instead of finding players who are likely to become quality starters, you can take greater risks in the hopes of developing rarer skill sets. Having taken Prosise, a running back who hasn’t been a running back for very long, the Titans could look to further diversify their offense with a receiver who hasn’t played receiver for very long.
Braxton Miller is a fascinating prospect because he has obvious warts in his route running but also natural ball skills and the explosiveness to create big plays from any position on the field.
Furthermore, adding Miller to an offense that already has Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray with an expert moving piece blocker in Delanie Walker would add layers to the unpredictability of the offense. If Prosise and Miller could develop along the paths the Titans would hope, the speed and dynamism the Titans could put on the field with Mariota would be overwhelming for opposing defenses.