The Tennessee Titans have quite a streak going, and they are looking to extend their good fortunes at the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
The Titans have hit on each of their first round picks since 2014, and the players listed below became the foundation for the remarkable turnaround from worst in the league in 2014 to a team that advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs in 2017.
2014: Taylor Lewan – LTEmbed from Getty Images
Tennessee selected left tackle Taylor Lewan (Michigan) with the 11th overall pick of the 2014 draft, a move that seemed like a mistake after a rocky rookie season. The brash, physical, and emotional Wolverine drew more headlines for bonehead plays that cost the team than his skill set. He returned in 2015 focused, determined, and disciplined while keeping his “play through the whistle” edge. Today Lewan is a two-time Pro Bowler and widely regarded as one of the best young left tackles in all of football. He is also in line for a huge contract extension this season.
2015: Marcus Mariota – QBEmbed from Getty Images
After several failed attempts at replacing the late great Steve McNair, Tennessee finally nabbed their face of the franchise when they selected Marcus Mariota (Oregon) with the second overall pick of the 2015 draft. Having to deal with a multitude of injuries and coaching changes in a short span, coupled with one of the worst rosters in the league upon his arrival, Mariota still managed to lead Tennessee to an increase in wins in each of his three seasons under center. He also led the Titans to their first playoff victory in over a decade last season. Now seen as one of the best players in the league under the age of 25, Tennessee is confident they have their qb for the present and future.
2016: Jack Conklin – RTEmbed from Getty Images
Tennessee took a gamble by moving up in the 2016 draft to grab the Michigan State right tackle with the 8th overall pick. Conklin made the Titans look like geniuses when he was voted a First Team All Pro after his rookie campaign. With the addition of Conklin, the Titans’ offensive line went from one of the worst run and pass protect units in 2015 to one of the best. Paired with Lewan, the Titans have arguably the best young bookend tackle duo in the league….and for years to come.
2017: Corey Davis – WR Adoree’ Jackson – CBEmbed from Getty Images
Even if we exclude Davis (Western Michigan), who was taken 5th overall in last year’s draft and missed most of the season with injuries, the Titans can still hang their hat on rookie cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (18th overall – USC) and his solid rookie campaign. Jackson’s speed, athleticism, and versatility made him a key piece to the Titans’ improvement in 2017. He established himself as one of the best rookie corners in the league, and showed flashes that he can be just as dangerous on offense as well as the return game.Embed from Getty Images
The last time we saw Davis on the field he hauled in two athletic touchdown passes in the divisional round of the playoffs, showing glimpses of what he can do when fully healthy.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Titans are picking at the bottom of the first round (25th) this season. With so many teams ahead of them looking to possibly trade up or down, it’s hard to definitively state who they will pick. But I will say this, if Tennessee’s streak continues into 2018, then a return playoff appearance seems more likely than not.