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Some thoughts on the draft

Pardon the lack of new posts. With the draft pushed back two weeks, I’ve been using the extra time to watch draft prospects and take my own notes on them, notes which aren’t really worthy of being elevated into a scouting report in their own right. I’ll be cracking up the draft-related content over the next week-plus before the draft, though. In the interim, I have been thinking these draft-related thoughts.

1. Which running back the Titans draft (and when I do my chances the Titans draft certain positions post, the chance the Titans draft a running back will be equal to or greater than 99%) will tell us a lot about what sort of role the Titans envision for this player. To use the comparison I made on Twitter a couple days ago, Carlos Hyde and Charles Sims are both running backs who will be drafted this year, likely no later than the fourth round. Whether a team selects Hyde, a between-the-tackles runner capable of being a lead back who may fit Ruston Webster’s definition of the sort of complete back the Titans are looking for, or Sims, an experienced pass receiver but not a player I see as the same sort of between the tackles runner as Hyde, will depend on what role the player will be filling. Those two players (and I use them as examples of a general trend) are in some ways complements to each other, not substitutes. If the Titans draft Hyde, it would likely be as something of a substitute for Shonn Greene. If they select Sims, he would complement both Greene and Dexter McCluster (and, yes, I think the RB situation and potential division of roles could be such that they could draft Sims).

2. I tried for a couple days to come up with an interesting post about the possibility of the Titans drafting a cornerback with the 11th pick, without success. It could happen-Whisenhunt’s Cardinals, with Ray Horton coordinating the defense, selected Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall pick. Giving the Titans a cornerback is a popular exercise in mock drafts (both Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have the Titans selecting Darqueze Dennard in their latest mocks). Unlike safety last year, I do think cornerback could be a possibility with the 11th pick. My request is that if the Titans do draft a cornerback with the 11th pick, that it be a player with the potential to become one you can put on an island against the opposing team’s best receiver who will let you play 10-on-10 elsewhere. That was a role Peterson played for Horton at times, and I’m not sure Jason McCourty is the sort of corner Horton would feel comfortable moving around across the formation.

3. When I wrote the quarterbacks positional analysis back in early February, I said that while I could not rule out the possibility at any point in the draft I did not expect the Titans to draft a quarterback. Almost three months later, I still agree with what I wrote then; yes, I know the general expectation is that the Titans will draft a quarterback. I still believe my logic then holds true, that 2014 will be devoted to Jake Locker. If the Titans select a quarterback not in the first round, then I believe it should be in the second round or not at all. Any first round quarterback will, and probably should, be expected to compete with Locker for the starting job this offseason. The history of quarterbacks selected later in the draft is that they rarely become quality players. The Titans in 2015 will either be starting Jake Locker or searching for a new starting quarterback. Any quarterback selected in the fourth round or later will very likely not be ready to be a starter even in 2015. Charlie Whitehurst is no more than a stopgap at best. The Titans will be investing major resources in acquiring a new starting quarterback next offseason if Jake Locker is not that player (or they’ll be like the 2013 Jaguars and basically acknowledge they’re punting the season).

Further, the Titans are installing new schemes on both sides of the ball. What comes with new schemes is turnover, especially on the bottom half of the roster. Really good players, those with particularly important traits, coaches will fit into their scheme. The less notable players will likely be replaced by players of similar overall quality but whose traits fit those the coaches prefer. I think there could be a great deal of change there, and that means a greater opportunity for middle and later picks, and potentially even undrafted free agents. That makes taking a quarterback on day three even less sensible in my eyes.

N.B. Ruston Webster has shown that he doesn’t think like I do at all, so by writing this I’ve probably guaranteed the Titans will draft a quarterback in the fourth or fifth round.

4. Most underrated draft need for the Titans? I would say wide receiver. The Titans have three they can count on and should add one more to that list who could be an immediate contributor if necessary. Yes, I like Marc Mariani and Michael Preston, but they are who they are. I expect that between the second and fifth rounds, the Titans will draft a wide receiver. Given what Whisenunt’s receivers looked like in Arizona, I would that player to be bigger and taller. No to a Paul Richardson or Brandin Cooks, yes to a Cody Latimer or Allen Robinson or Brandon Coleman. I will likely have no particularly strong feels on which player I want this to be, aside from no to Jordan Matthews in the second round (sorry, Vandy fans, just what I’m seeing).