As I did last pre-draft season, I thought it would be useful to look at some broad-scale trends regarding the Titans and the draft.
By position, here is what the Titans have done the past five seasons:
|1st Rd||2nd Rd||3rd Rd||4th Rd||5th Rd||6th Rd||7th Rd|
Note for convenience sake I compressed quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end into a catch-all "skill position" category. Worth noting is you have six of these guys on the field at any one time, compared to five OL, four DL, two or three LB, and four or five DB. That the Titans have taken more "skill position" players than players at any other position is exactly what you would expect this chart to show.
For more perspective, here's how often the Titans have drafted which position compared to what the league as a whole has done the past five years:
From this chart, it's very clear that the Titans do not actually draft a particularly large number of "skill position" players. What they have not drafted, we already knew, is offensive linemen, especially early in the draft. As I noted last offseason, this does not mean the Titans have not invested in the offensive line. Rather, they've done so just with money instead of just with draft picks or with a combination of money and draft picks.
By not spending draft picks on the offensive line, the Titans have "extra" picks. Those extra picks have gone not to the "skill positions" but to all the defensive, particularly the defensive line. I should stress here that the numbers involved are modest in absolute terms. The Titans have had 43 draft picks. Applying the percentage differentials, the Titans have drafted 3.8 fewer offensive linemen than the hypothetical average team, 2.7 more defensive linemen, 0.6 more linebackers, and 1.3 more defensive backs. That's over a five year period, which means so the differences outside of the offensive line and the defensive line are pretty insubstantial.
Other thoughts, many of which were true last year:
1. 2013 is the second draft for which Ruston Webster is the general manager. Mike Reinfeldt was general manager for four of the past five drafts. To the best of my understanding and belief, Mike Reinfeldt and Ruston Webster are different people and do not always agree with each other. The 2012 draft fit with several of the Titans' draft trends, but there is no guarantee at all the trends will continue.
2. The Titans draft defensive backs later than most teams. Talented corners in particular go early in the draft. The Titans have not taken a first- or second-round corner since Pacman Jones, and Ryan Mouton is the only corner they've taken in the third round since 2005.
3. Teams draft individual players, not positions and rounds. Further, drafts are an exercise in roster construction applied to specific team needs. The Titans have taken one offensive lineman in the first three rounds in the past 15 years. This year, the Titans have a glaring need for an immediate starter at right guard. I'll hit this in more detail in a subsequent post, but Ruston Webster has indicated the Titans are highly likely to take a player who can play right guard in the first three rounds. I strongly believe the Titans will take a right guard in the first three rounds, and don't care their draft history says otherwise.
In regards to drafting corners late: if you look at the level of success the Titans have had in drafting corners, most success has come from late in the draft. Finnegan and McCourty were both very late picks, AV was a fourth rounder who I feel comfortable with outside and better with in the slot, and I'll have to see more from Sensabaugh to make a fair evaluation on his play. Additionally, Cary Williams could be included in this list, though they let him slip away to Baltimore. There were of course a handful of CBs from late in the drafts that didn't pan out, but compare those to some of these names: Pacman Jones (1st), Ryan Mouton (3rd -who has always underwhelmed me, and not just from his lost fumbles on special teams a few years back), and stretching back a bit further Calvin Lowry (4th), Rich Gardener (3rd), and let us never forget Andre Woolfolk (though forgetting that wasted 1st rounder would be soothing). I'll gladly take all the "wasted" 4-7 round picks that didn't work out for the chance that a few might turn into solid starters or even superb starters as did Finnegan and McCourty as opposed to having high hopes in early round CBs. Granted, Pacman had talent, though I think even at his best in the NFL he played more like a second rounder-third rounder. You have to go back to 1998 to find a 1st-3rd round corner that really worked out in Samari Rolle, and to a lesser extent even Andre Dyson in 2001.
I like what Ruston Webster has done since stepping into his GM role, so I'll be excited to see how this year turns out. I agree that Warmack or Cooper are available at 10, and I'm actually very excited about round 2 this year. We were fortunate to find Zach Brown on the board last year and I think this year there will be a lot of solid talent available into the third and fourth rounds. If Trufant is available in round 2, I'd love to see them grab him up despite my feelings on their drafting CBs early, but the DL should present some great talent as well so that will be a tough call for Mr. Webster.
I am hoping the Titans go OL in the first round, which is what I was hoping for last year. I was ecstatic that David Decastro was still on the board, but they passed on him. I am not sure why...I think everyone saw that the O-line was a serious problem in 2011...I am glad the guys making the calls finally figured it out after 2012.
Also, why are Eugene Amano and Lavelle Hawkins still on the roster and not cut? that would free up about 7 million in cap space...neither is worth their salaries...actually neither should probably be on an NFL roster at this point (I say probably because Amano could be a serviceable back-up).
@dragak1981 The Titans don't need the cap space and they're not paying them any money, so there's no real need to cut Hawkins or Amano. It doesn't cost them anything to carry them into training camp even as depth chart fodder. Plus, if they cut them in June or later automatically the signing bonus proration hits over the next two seasons.
If they don't go guard in the first round, it's very likely because they're getting a high impact player at a different position. I could live with that.