The Tennessee Titans have a four-man draft class in 2018, the smallest class in franchise history. And that should be an encouraging sign for fans of the organization.
That means that general manager Jon Robinson has done a remarkable job in a short span of time.
When Robinson was hired in January 2016, he inherited a mess. The team had won just five of their last 32 games and the roster had more holes than a golf course.
So much so that Robinson mortgaged the number one overall pick of the 2016 draft in exchange for multiple picks. A gutsy move for a first-time gm.
Robinson acquired his coveted additional picks in 2016, and still drafted two First-team All Pros in right tackle Jack Conklin (1st round) and safety Kevin Byard (third round).
In exchange for the number one overall pick the Titans acquired Derrick Henry and Corey Davis, two future starters. They also acquired role players in Austin Johnson (DE), LeShaun Sims (CB), Kalan Reed (CB), and Jonnu Smith (TE).
In addition to the acquired picks from the trade, Robinson also drafted starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and late-round pick Jayon Brown…who played admirably when given opportunities at back-up linebacker.
While Robinson executed a masterful draft strategy in 2016 and 2017, his free agent acquisitions were equally valuable.
Center Ben Jones has started the last two seasons after signing his free agent deal in 2016. So has wide receiver Rishard Matthews. DeMarco Murray also signed as a free agent in 2016 and led the AFC in rushing that season.
Cornerback Logan Ryan signed as a fee agent in 2017 and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. As was safety Johnathan Cyprien.
In fact, out of the 11 offensive starters in last year’s divisional playoff game, 7 were brought in by Robinson. Two others were holdover first round picks in Taylor Lewan and Marcus Mariota. In total, 12 of Robinson’s acquisitions started that game.
Everyone but Murray returns this season, and in addition, cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis were brought in via free agency this offseason to be impact players and heavy contributors.
With a playoff-caliber roster, it makes sense that Robinson would choose quality over quantity in this year’s draft.
Entering with just six picks, Robinson still managed to move up on three separate occasions to grab Rashaan Evans in the first round, Harold Landry in the second, and Dane Cruikshank in the fifth. Three defensive players specifically targeted to address specific needs, and Evans is the only one slated to be a day one starter.
You will only do this if you’re confident in your roster.
Robinson’s draft approach this season is all the proof you need that he has done a remarkable job of flipping this roster in three short years. And with a young core to continue to build upon, brighter days are ahead for Robinson and the boys in two-tone blue.