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Reviewing past Tennessee Titans drafts: 2006

Well, it’s time for the latest installment of an annual tradition. At the end of this month, you’ll see plenty of people giving out grades for how teams did in the just-completed NFL draft. Personally, I prefer to wait until players actually play in the NFL before grading a draft. Thus, a six year wait, which means it’s now time to write about the 2006 draft. While I wrote about the 2005 draft at the time, 2006 was really the first year (a) I wrote about the draft soon after it happened and (b) I’d actually been watching college football the previous season, so I knew who the players the Titans drafted were.

In 2006, the Titans were emerging from a couple seasons of cap hell. Unlike 2005, they’d had the opportunity to meet a number of needs in free agency, and taken advantage of that by signing OLB David Thornton, SS Chris Hope, C Kevin Mawae, and WR David Givens. Entering the draft, though, the Titans had yet to address their most glaring need, namely a quarterback of the future and possibly the present as well. It was more or less universally acknowledged that Steve McNair was on his way out as a starter in Nashville sooner rather than later. Beyond the need for a quarterback, the Titans had a need for talent and depth pretty much all over the roster. They were, alas, without their third round pick, 72nd overall, which had been sent to Buffalo for Travis Henry. During the draft, they moved back in the second round, picking up an extra fourth round pick when the Eagles moved up to draft Winston Justice.

As for the players they chose, well, after the jump:

#1-3 QB Vince Young, Texas
Previous Pick: RB Reggie Bush, USC (Saints)
Next Pick: OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (Jets)
Previous QB: None
Next QB: #1-10, Matt Leinart, USC (Cardinals)
After the Texans decided to pay David Carr and the Saints signed Drew Brees in free agency, the Titans were left with their choice of quarterbacks. Young and Leinart were almost everybody’s top two, though a few people liked Jay Cutler best. Bud Adams dictated the VY pick, and the Titans and VY spent the next five seasons on somewhat of an emotional roller-coaster.

Doing justice to that emotional roller-coaster is beyond the scope of what I’m trying to do here, so I’ll just note a couple things. First, as I wrote in my draft recap back in 2006 and as I argued in the comments sections, mostly, here pre-draft (gone somewhere to the aether thanks to MVN), VY was who I wanted the Titans to pick. Second, there’s a reasonable argument that Young was probably the third-best quarterback in the draft class, and is probably the fifth-best quarterback in franchise history. His tenure was incredibly annoying at times, and the Titans were right to move on from him, but he wasn’t a Ryan Leaf or Akili Smith. Heck, he wasn’t even Matt Leinart.

In an ideal world, the Titans are quicker to part ways with Steve McNair and sign Drew Brees in free agency. What the Titans do here is then a bigger question; assuming both Bush and Mario Williams are off the board, the Titans probably look to move back. Otherwise, do they draft OLB A.J. Hawk? Ferguson even though they drafted Michael Roos the year before and have Dave Stewart waiting in the wings?

#2-45 RB LenDale White, USC
Previous Pick: WR Sinorice Moss, Miami-FL (Giants)
Next Pick: TE Joe Klopfenstein, Colorado (Rams)
Previous RB: #1-30, Joseph Addai, LSU (Colts)
Next RB: #2-60, Maurice Jones-Drew, UCLA (Jaguars)
As with the VY selection, there were recriminations associated with this pick. Floyd Reese claimed after the draft he was ready to use this pick on Devin Hester, who would go 57th overall, but they made a last-minute switch to White.

I’ve never tried to hide my lack of affection for White. I didn’t want the Titans to draft him. I thought as a rookie he should have been cut because he was fat and out of shape and horribly indecisive as a runner, trying to bounce everything outside even though he wasn’t anything close to fast. I was genuinely angry when the Titans cut D.J. Ware in the 2007 offseason and didn’t cut White, because I liked Ware a lot more than White.

White eventually improved to what I’d describe as replacement-level, but he never grew on me. The Titans obviously would have been much better off drafting MJD with this pick, and that might have prevented them from wasting a second-round pick on Chris Henry the next year. At the time, my eyes were on cornerback Richard Marshall, who wasn’t exactly a great player but is at least still in the NFL. The Packers also took Greg Jennings seven picks later.

#4-102 DB Calvin Lowry, Penn State
Previous Pick: S Darnell Bing, USC (Raiders)
Next Pick: QB/WR Brad Smith, Missouri (Jets)
Previous DB: Bing
Next DB: #4-105, FS Ko Simpson, South Carolina (Bills)
I thought Lowry would be a decent depth player, and was generally regarded as more NFL-ready than Simpson, who was the top safety on most boards. I didn’t think Lowry was a great NFL athlete, though, and the Titans cut him after two seasons.

#4-116 LB Stephen Tulloch, North Carolina State
Previous Pick: CB Will Blackmon, Boston College (Packers)
Next Pick: RB Leon Washington, Jets (Giants)
Previous LB: #4-110 Leon Williams, Mami-FL (Browns)
Next LB: #4-120 Jamar Williams, Arizona State (Bears)
I cursed the Packers for taking Blackmon, but he’s ended up bouncing around the league. Still around, but has never developed into a regular starter and hasn’t been a regular returner either. Even though I have a keen eye for his faults, Tulloch has clearly had the much better career. He quickly made the Titans look foolish for signing Ryan Fowler to a big contract as an RFA and has been a decent but not great starter and a good scheme fit. This pick was the one the Titans got in the trade down, and he’s been a better player than Justice or White.

#5-137 LB Terna Nande, Miami-OH
Previous Pick: OT Ryan O’Callaghan, Cal (Patriots)
Next Pick: FS Pat Watkins, Florida State (Dallas)
Previous LB: #4-120 Jamar Williams, Miami-FL (Bears)
Next LB: #5-142 Brandon Johnson, Lousiville (Cardinals)
Once again, I wanted the player that went the pick before, but Nande was the second pick in the draft after VY that I really liked. Unfortunately, he never did anything with the Titans, for reasons that I never heard explained well. S Dawan Landry went nine picks later and has had a nice career.

#5-169 DT Jesse Mahelona, Tennessee
Previous Pick: Omar Gaither, LB, Tennessee (Eagles)
Next Pick: RB Wali Lundy, Virginia (Texans)
Previous DT: #5-134, Kyle Williams, LSU (Bills)
Next DT:#6-177, Jonathan Lewis, Virginia Tech (Cardinals)
This was a pick I didn’t understand at the time, as the Titans already had decent but not great DT depth and I thought they needed an end more. Mahelona played ten games as a rookie, picking up one start, but was cut mid-season in 2007. You don’t expect a fifth-round pick to necessarily have a long career, but Mahelona didn’t even those expectations. Williams of course had a great 2010 and strong early 2011 before getting hurt. Lewis had even less of a career than Mahelona did.

#6-172 WR Jonathan Orr, Wisconsin
Previous Pick: WR Mike Hass, Oregon State (Saints)
Next Pick: DB Reed Doughty, Northern Colorado (Redskins)
Previous WR: Hass
Next WR: #6-184, Adam Jennings, Fresno State (Falcons)
Like Nande, I’m not quite sure what to say about Orr. Even with the Givens signing, WR was still a need as last year’s picks Courtney Roby and Brandon Jones had ended their rookie seasons on IR and Givens and Drew Bennett did not exactly constitute a fearsome receiving corps. Orr spent his entire rookie season on the roster as a healthy inactive, then got cut in training camp 2007. OUT-standing use of a roster spot, that was. No wideout drafted in the sixth round ever did anything, though the seventh round had David Anderson, Devin Aromashodu, Ben Obomanu, and Marques Colston.

#7-215 DB Cortland Finnegan, Samford
Previous Pick: C Chris Morris, Michigan State (Raiders)
Next Pick: OT Terrance Pennington, New Mexico (Bills)
Previous DB: #7-209, Ethan Kilmer, Penn State (Bengals)
Next DB: #7-222, Justin Hamilton, Virginia Tech (Browns)
Home run. There were some decent players in the seventh round, most notably Colston, but, yeah, home run. Played nickel as a rookie, then started his second season. Collegiate safety who was a safety more or less because that way opposing teams had to account for him on every play and he wasn’t just a corner. The best pick they made this year.

#7-245 LB Spencer Toone, Utah
Previous Pick: TE Tim Massaquoi, Michigan (Buccaneers)
Next Pick: RB Quinton Ganther, Utah (Titans)
Previous LB: #7-221 Tim McGarigle, Northwestern (Rams)
Next LB: #7-247, Anthony Cannon, Tulane (Lions)
Blah, seventh-round linebacker to play special teams. Played in three games as a rookie, not seen in a real NFL game after that. Picks taken after this include Colston, Obomanu, Anderson, and DE Dave Tollefson, who this evening picked the Raiders over the Titans and Packers as his free agency destination. Tollefson hasn’t been a great player, either, but he’s been better than Toone.

#7-246 RB Quinton Ganther, Utah
Previous Pick: Toone
Next Pick: LB Anthony Cannon, Tulane (Lions)
Previous RB: #6-195 FB J.D. Runnels, Oklahoma (Bears)
Next RB: None
The Titans’ second straight pick, their second compensatory selection in the seventh round, and another Utah Ute. Ganther had a pretty decent career for a seventh-rounder, especially in comparison to Toone. Runnels was a player I wanted the Titans to select earlier, as I was beyond done with Troy Fleming. They’d eventually bring in Ahmard Hall after he went undrafted in the supplemental draft to supplant Fleming.

And that’s how the Titans drafted in 2006. Depending on how much you want to value VY, the top three rounds at least in the longer-term were definitely a clear washout. The players from what was then the second day of the draft, especially Tulloch and Finnegan, were more valuable, but with Finnegan leaving in free agency this offseason, they’ve been denuded of players from that draft. Still, that doesn’t make finding Finny any less of a hit in my mind.

For more on the draft, check out my contemporaneous recap of the Titans’ draft. I also recently recapped the 2006 draft as a whole over at Football Outsiders. This is the eighth year I’ve done a retrospective of the Titans’ draft; see also 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005.