It’s been almost two years since the Tennessee Titans began their team rebuild by drafting quarterback Marcus Mariota. The former Oregon Ducks signal caller improved his decision making and controlled the ball better than he did in his rookie year. His fourth quarter action was nearly perfect every week.
Mariota has almost everything he needs on offense with a spectacular running back duo, one of the three best offensive lines in the league, and a superstar tight end. All he needs is a true number one wide receiver to throw to. Leading up to the draft, the Titans should look to find that last offensive weapon and fill the secondary with new starters.
Tennessee Titans 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
The Tennessee Titans ran with one of the weakest wide receiver groups last season. Rishard Matthews, rookie Tajae Sharpe, and veteran Kendall Wright were Mariota’s best targets on the outside. There are three guys this year that are projected to go early. Wide receivers Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross have potential to be that number one option Mariota is missing.
Williams is the best wide receiver in this draft without any need for debate. At 6’3” and 218 pounds, he has excellent size and the speed to pair with it. He can run any route with success. His hands and awareness are top notch and his presence is always felt on the field. Drafting a game changer like Williams even as early as the fifth pick would set up a lot of matchup problems for opposing defenses.
At the same time, the Titans have a second first round pick at the 18th spot, and instead of taking Williams at five, waiting for one of the other two wouldn’t be a horrible decision.
Ross is unquestionably fast. He broke the 40-yard dash record for the NFL Combine. The concerns with Ross are his injury history and the fact he disappeared too much at Washington. Davis played in a mid-major conference and hasn’t been able to work out because of an ankle issue, but he could step up as Mariota’s number one target if given the chance.
Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson are the two starting inside linebackers for the Titans, and neither one can cover tight ends well. The Titans do not have the personnel to guard the pass consistently and that has to change in this draft. They added a couple new starters for the secondary in free agency, but they need someone to step up to defend tight ends in the middle of the field.
Jarrad Davis and Reuben Foster are traditional inside linebackers that guarded the pass well in college. Either one of those two would have a great chance at taking either Woodyard’s or Williamson’s starting spot. Either one could be available at the 18th pick.
The Titans could opt for a hybrid player as well. Jabrill Peppers from Michigan played linebacker and safety in college which is probably where he will see most of his NFL action. Peppers is a wild card though. As of right now, he’s viewed as a smart, athletic, positionless football player. His mystery and upside is intriguing, but the Titans shouldn’t look to him to solve their defensive problems. He could be an nice piece, but there are better players available.
This isn’t the weakest position anymore, but this group needs to be addressed no later than the second round. There are about 15 cornerbacks that could get their names called in the first two rounds, and all of them have starter talent. This is an extremely deep draft for teams that need upgrades defending outside.
Perrish Cox was probably the worst starting cornerback in the league last year, and Jason McCourty wasn’t far behind. Opposing quarterbacks had no fear throwing in the air against the Titans. The Titans set out to fix that by signing safety Johnathan Cyprien from the rival Jacksonville Jaguars and former New England Patriot cornerback Logan Ryan. Those are two massive upgrades, but the Titans would do well by drafting a safety and two more corners. That’s an ideal draft for Tennessee and there are plenty of options to make those selections. Marshon Lattimore is the prize cornerback of this draft, which is saying a lot with how many good cornerback prospects there are. Tre’Davious White and Kevin King are two vastly different corners but either one should be welcomed by the Titans.
Waiting to pick a cornerback until the second day of the draft wouldn’t be a bad option at all as long as the Titans are fixing their other issues with the fifth and 18th pick. Sidney Jones projected as a first round pick until he tore his Achilles during a pre-draft workout. There are major concerns about that but if the injury was a fluke and he’s back to business sooner than later, Jones would be a steal in the second round.
The Titans first three picks of the NFL draft are going to lay the foundation for the season. If they land an impact player on the outside for Marcus Mariota and two defensive players that can guard the pass, the Titans will be a better team, a division contender, and even more fun to watch.