One of the reasons put forth the Titans should take a cornerback, and specifically Boise State CB Kyle Wilson, with the #16 overall pick in next month's NFL draft is Wilson's experience as a return man provides added value at another area where the Titans ranked among the league's worst.
This makes a certain kind of sense. After all, the last first round cornerback the Titans selected was both a quality cornerback and an excellent return man before all his off the field stuff ended his time with the Titans. There are, I believe, two major problems with this argument. First, while Wilson does have return experience, it has been as a punt returner, and he only returned a couple kickoffs at Boise State. As Jeff Fisher would gladly tell you, returning punts is the more difficult challenge, but we learned last season that being bad at returning kickoffs also can cost you a game. Second, well, I present to you the following chart:
As Drexel noted a couple days ago, the Titans had visits from a couple veteran defensive backs, seemingly looking to bolster their depth at the position. Today, they did just that, signing one of the visitors, Tye Hill. Per Adam Schefter, it's a one year deal.
Hill was a first round draft pick of the Rams out of Clemson in 2006, and spent the first three years of his career with the Rams before being traded to the Falcons at the start of the 2009 season for a late round draft pick. He played in 8 games for Atlanta, starting three, and had his fifth career interception. One downside of Hill is an extensive injury history, as he spent 20 games on the shelf between 2007 and 2008. As I mentioned in the comments, the reviews I heard of Hill's play last year from Falcons fans were not positive, but will note in his defense that the Falcons' pass defense last year looked a lot like the Titans' did, with minimal pressure and poor safety support.
The worst case scenario is Hill ends up like DeMarcus Faggins did last year and doesn't make the roster. It's not a signing I'll get too excited about, but another veteran cornerback was something the Titans needed last year and didn't really address until the Rod Hood signing after the year already began. Even if Hill is merely veteran depth, going through OTAs and training camp will make him a better fit if called upon to play.
With draft-day rapidly approaching, it's pretty obvious where the Tennessee Titans' most pressing needs lie: Cornerback and Defensive End.
Tom's most recent article is centered upon the belief that the defensive end position is the direction the Titans should venture towards with their first round selection. Without a doubt, there's no question that addressing DE with pick #16 is a more than plausible suggestion.
Since Tom took the DE side of the debate, I'll play the vaunted role of devil's advocate by making a case for the Titans to go the CB route with their first-round pick in next month's draft.
What's the Titans' biggest remaining need? I had to judge that issue recently in writing this column on that question, and quickly identified the two obvious holes as defensive end and cornerback. Not much of a surprise for any Titans fan, really, as DE, OLB, and CB were the three positions where the Titans are down a starter, and Will Witherspoon filled a hole at outside linebacker. The question, then, was which of the two to pick. And, while I have quite limited confidence in any of Rod Hood, Ryan Mouton, and/or Jason McCourty to play at a reasonably high level opposite Cortland Finnegan this season, I went with defensive end.
For an explanation as to why, I'll go back to my cornerbacks preview post from before the 2008 season, in which I noted the surprising point that in terms of measuring players by how often and how successfully they were thrown at, Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper came out with virtually identical metrics. And, that wasn't just a fluke: in 2008, Harper had better numbers than did Finnegan. I don't second the comment in that article that Harper was as good or better than Finnegan in 2008, but they still put up roughly similar levels of performance.
Within the last week, the Tennessee Titans have auditioned several defensive backs at Baptist Sports Park. Veterans such as Ken Lucas, Tye Hill, Aaron Rouse and Tra Battle have made visits over the last few days in their hopes of continuing their NFL playing days in the city of Nashville.
As for the Titans, it's pretty obvious that the team has learned their lesson when it comes to having adequate depth in the secondary after horrendously dropping the ball in that category in 2009.