With the NFL draft now just a few days away, Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson and new head coach Mike Vrabel are looking to finalize their game plan as they forge ahead with their new vision for the franchise.
As such, today we will take a look at the current roster and rank it by position.
Please note, this is not solely based on talent. In fact, questions surrounding the position as we head into the draft takes precedence in this ranking.
So let’s get started.
A unit that featured a Super Bowl champion (Logan Ryan), an All Pro safety (Kevin Byard), and a solid rookie first round pick (Adoree’ Jackson) only got better this offseason. Robinson snagged his second former Patriot corner in as many years when he signed Malcolm Butler to a lucrative free agent deal. The move gives Tennessee three viable starting corners in Butler, Ryan, and Jackson. The move also allows LeShaun Sims and Kalan Reed, two players that saw plenty of action due to injuries the last couple of seasons, to return to their natural complimentary roles. With Byard and Jonathan Cyprien shoring up the back-end, this group has the fewest question marks on the roster.
Marcus Mariota played in the final game of the season for the first time in his career in 2017, and will have the luxury of working on his game this offseason instead of recovering from an injury. After picking up his fifth-year option last week, the Titans have officially set the stage for a huge contract extension. Tennessee addressed their backup qb situation earlier this offseason when they signed veteran free agent Blake Gabbert. Not only is he younger and more talented than Matt Cassell, but Gabbert nearly kept Tennessee out of the playoffs last season with an upset victory over the Titans as Arizona’s qb. With Alex Tanney still on the roster, the team seems pretty set there as well.
3. Tight End
The Titans have their reigning three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker set to return this season, as well as his heir-apparent in second year backup Jonnu Smith. Philip Supernaw is a solid blocker a valued special teams contributor. Barring injury, this unit is set at the top. Walker will be 34 in August, however, so it may be worth a look to bring in young talent to compliment Smith sooner than later.
4. Defensive Line
Three-time Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey heads this unit. He is in his prime and at the top of his game. DaQuan Jones, a fierce run stopper, was re-signed this offseason. Antwaun Woods and Austin Johnson should continue to rotate at nose tackle, with David King and Bennie Logan providing depth. Set at the top of the position, the Titans could look to add depth and competition to an already stout run-stopping unit.
5. Running back
DeMarco Murray is gone, and so is the exotic smash mouth era of Thunder and Thunder. After waiting patiently his first two seasons, Derrick Henry is finally getting his chance at the leading role. Or is he? Not long after the announcement of Murray’s departure, the Titans announced the signing of free agent running back Dion Lewis. The contrast in styles between Henry and Lewis looks great on paper, but if either were to miss extended time then there’s not much behind them. David Fluellen and Khalfani Muhammad are the other backs on the roster, and neither proved to be ready for the big stage given their limited opportunities in 2017. Tennessee should seriously consider a late round back to compete for the third rb/ back up role.
Three starters return in 2018 (Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Wesley Woodyard). Jayon Brown (second year) and free agent acquisition Will Compton will battle it out in camp for the other middle linebacker spot vacated by Avery Williamson. While Woodyard led the team in tackles last year, and Orakpo and Morgan remain the team’s best edge rushers, they are all approaching the “long in the tooth” stage of their careers. The Titans desperately need some young and talented edge rushers to integrate into the rotation with the ability to step right in when Rak and Morgan eventually lose a step.
7. Offensive Line
The unit that regressed in 2017 enters this year’s draft with more questions than answers. How long will All Pro right tackle Jack Conklin be out after tearing his ACL in last year’s divisional round playoff game? Has center Ben Jones reached his ceiling? Will Quinton Spain, who was re-signed this offseason, bounce back from a sub par 2017 campaign? While last season could have been an anomaly, it would be wise to address this unit by providing some young depth and competition in this year’s draft.
8. Wide Receiver
With all of the resources dedicated to this position the last few years, the wide receivers still enter this year’s draft with the most questions. Last year’s rookie picks, Cory Davis (5th overall) and Taywan Taylor (3rd round) saw little action…albeit not of their own choice. Davis’ rookie season was sabotaged by a multitude of injuries that kept him from any sort of offseason training or conditioning. It clearly affected him when he returned. Taylor, on the other hand, could argue that last year’s coaching staff sabotaged his rookie campaign. After a stellar preseason, Taylor’s number was rarely called when the games counted. Rishard Matthews returns and is reliable, but in order for this group to emerge he cannot be the number one option. Until that happens, the Titans would be wise to continue to swing for the fence until it does, even if it’s not addressed in the early rounds this year.
Let the debate begin…..