The Titans' biggest need is quarterback, but with Blaine Gabbert off the board, there's not a quarterback I feel comfortable taking. The next biggest positional need is probably linebacker, but there's not a linebacker who's worth it. The next best option is somebody to rush the passer. The Titans have a decent grouping of defensive tackles, but could use an upgrade at end, especially if they don't re-sign Jason Babin.
The choice then comes down to which defensive end. I considered Quinn and Da'Quan Bowers from Clemson. If this is the choice the Titans make on draft day, I expect them to choose Bowers if his knee checks out. Personally, though, I think they need a defensive end with a better burst off the edge to complement last year's first round pick Derrick Morgan. In that case, Quinn fits the bill.
More on how I made my decision after the jump.
Like I say in my writeup, if this is the choice the Titans have, then I think Da'Quan Bowers will indeed be the pick. His knee surgery didn't sway my pick at all; I'm just not in love with his pass-rushing ability. He doesn't have great burst off the snap, and while he had good production, a very large part of it came against tight ends and right tackles who'll be camp fodder or guards in the NFL. If the Titans had another exceptionally quick end, I'd be more forgiving of Bowers for that, but that was also my biggest problem with the Morgan pick. I don't think you can have two ends, neither of whom has great quickness, and be a great pass-rushing team.
Quinn didn't play in 2010, since he was suspended for being caught up in the North Carolina agent mess. Does this concern me? Yes, absolutely. I would feel much more comfortable picking him if he'd had another year of great production. Of course, if he did put up great production, he probably wouldn't be available at #8. Are there other concerns from the year off? His combine performance seems to indicate he's kept himself in great shape, so that doesn't appear to be an issue. From everything I've read about what happened, he just happened to get caught up in a situation where he ran afoul of the NCAA. NFL teams (and by extension me) tend to be forgiving of running afoul of the NCAA, so long as it doesn't reflect some other character flaw, and Marvin Austin seems to be the UNC guy with the issues. Quinn gets dinged the way A.J. Green does for his NCAA suspension-very little if any.
I don't think defensive tackle is an area of major need for the Titans. I think they could use a bigger guy to add to the rotation (a guy like Kevin Vickerson), but what would really help the group is a healthy Tony Brown. If they take Fairley at #8, I won't be upset, but I think there are bigger areas of need.
I think the scheme change also elevates defensive end as a priority. The Titans have been running Washburn's wide-9 setup for ends for a number of years, and they've added guys with that in mind. Hayes and Ford were both Washburn products identified as guys who fit the scheme. Well, now they're not playing that scheme, and the only guy who really fits what they're looking for is Morgan. I think they'll still find uses for Ford and Hayes, but neither is anything special. I also think Babin re-signing is pretty unlikely, and he wouldn't be as valuable with the new scheme. That means they need bodies, and Quinn is a guy who fits.
Quarterback is absolutely a need, but the only guy I like enough to take at #8 is Gabbert. I'm not up for drafting Cam Newton, and I think the other guys are all second-rounders or worse. Just to give you an idea of my heuristic for slotting QBs:
- 1st rounder: Can develop into an above-average NFL quarterback;
- 2nd-3rd rounder: Has one flaw that is unlikely to be corrected for him to develop into an above-average NFL quarterback;
- 4th rounder or later: Has several flaws that are unlikely to be corrected or has physical limitations that make it very unlikely he can develop into an above-average NFL quarterback.
Julio Jones was a popular nominee in the comments, and I've seen sympathy for him elsewhere. I went another direction for a couple reasons. First, I don't think wide receiver is a big area of need. Kenny Britt fits the bill for a #1 wideout, and so adding Jones isn't the sort of force multiplier adding Britt was or the Rams drafting Jones would be. Second, I don't think wide receiver is an area of particular weakness. I'm still not in love with Nate Washington, but I think Damian Williams showed some promise and by the time the Titans find an answer at QB, the receiving corps could be as good as it was in 2003-a standout #1 and a collection of complementary players. That's good enough to win.
I didn't really think seriously about drafting Prince Amukamara. Like receiver, I think the Titans have enough they can win at corner, and the only reason to upgrade is if there's a clearly superior player at the position. I think Peterson is that player, but Prince is not.
I didn't think seriously about drafting an OT like Tyron Smith or one of the other defensive linemen like Cam Jordan or J.J. Watt. Even though they weren't great last year, offensive tackle is about the last thing the Titans need, and Jordan and Watt aren't, in my view, great fits.
If this is how the actual draft works out, I'd think very seriously about trading back up to 3 spots. I'd prefer to stay ahead of the Vikings at #12, and the Redskins and Texans could be good trade partners if they're targeting a 3-4 player that they're afraid the Cowboys may take at #9.
Anyway, that's my take on things. Have at it, and tell me why I'm wrong, wrong, wrong.