Contrary to the beliefs of many draft experts, a widely panned motley crew of rookies proved their worth after all.
Lambasted on the days following the draft for reaching too many times in the small-school cookie jar, the Tennessee Titans were able to find a few gems with their selections last April.
Let's take a look at how the most recent class of Titan draftees fared in their rookie seasons.
For a little offseason comic relief, here are a few post-draft day grades/opinions regarding the Tennessee Titans' 2008 picks:
USA Today: D+
"If they plan on running the wishbone, boost the grade. RB Chris Johnson ran the fastest times in the 40-yard dash at the combine and then ran right into the first round with a team that keeps drafting at this position (LenDale White, Chris Henry) and pays too little attention to its WRs and the holes along the d-line."
"I should call this the Matt Millen Memorial Wide Receiver Stat of the Week, in honor of the Detroit executive who picked wide receivers in the top 10 of the draft in three consecutive years: The Tennessee Titans have taken a running back in the top 50 picks of the draft three years in a row -- Chris Johnson in 2008 (24th overall), Chris Henry in 2007 (50th), and LenDale White in 2006 (45th). I'm not really interested in hearing an explanation on that. It's just wrong."
Bzzzz! Wrong answers, guys.
Ok, enough laughs. Let's focus on the task at hand, shall we?
Chris Johnson RB
What more can you say about Mr. Dash? He was better than advertised while providing the Titans with a legitimate home run threat on offense.
I'm looking forward to bigger and better things to come for CJ in 2009.
Now if only he was able to stay healthy in the second half of the Ravens' game...
Jason Jones DT/DE
The versatile rookie stepped up with 31 tackles, 5 sacks and 3 FF's in 13 games. Of course, most of his production came via his Herculean performance against the Steelers.
The well-documented Albert Haynesworth decision will play a huge part in determining Jason's role in 2009. However, I'm expecting continued improvement from Jones with or without Big Al (hopefully with).
Craig Stevens TE
With veterans Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife manning the fort at TE, the bulk of Craig's playing time in his rookie season came on special teams. He did register his first and only NFL catch in a cameo appearance on offense in the final
scrimmage game against Indy.
Referred to as one of the best blocking tight ends in the 2008 Draft, here's to hoping Craig can exhibit his skills on a more consistent basis on offense next year.
William Hayes DE
After initially struggling in his transition from the MEAC to the NFL, Hayes started to show some promise towards the end of the season. Similar to fellow rookie DL Jason Jones, Hayes also had a coming out party of sorts against the Steelers, registering his first career sack while also forcing a fumble.
As expected, DL Coach Jim Washburn has done a great job of developing Hayes. I'm very intrigued by William's physical abilities and in a few years, I wouldn't be shocked to see "Big Play" Hayes develop into a pretty solid defensive lineman.
Take that, Mel Kiper!
Lavelle Hawkins WR
After teasing us with his ability on a long touchdown reception during the preseason, a high ankle injury prevented the Hawk from soaring at the start of the year. Once healthy, Hawkins chipped in with 7 catches for 68 yards on offense, while also averaging 18.6 yards per return on special teams.
Other than Justin Gage, there's no such thing as a sure bet for the Titans at the WR position in 2009. Brandon Jones is a free agent and despite finally living up to his potential, he could easily be wearing another uniform next season.
Depending on what happens with BJ and whether or not the team adds another receiver via free agency and/or the draft, Hawkins may play a bigger role in the passing game in 09.
Stanford Keglar LB
Playing behind veteran stalwarts Keith Bulluck and David Thornton, barring injury, there was no way that Keglar was going to see much playing time outside of special teams as a rookie.
For Keglar, next year should usher in another season of studying behind the two veteran Titan outside linebackers.
Cary Williams DB
Unlike past Titan 7th round CB's, Cary was unable to contribute during his rookie year. Thanks to injuries, 2008 was mostly a learning year for the Washburn University alum.
A whopping 5 of the Titans' 14 unrestricted free agents are defensive backs, (Fuller, Carr, King, Poole and Hill), so the decisions regarding those players will greatly impact the ability of Williams to get on the field next year.
What are your thoughts on the 2008 Titan draft class?