Titans draft surprise?
The Tennessee Titans are in a difficult, yet great place to be for this years NFL Draft. The Titans hold the 2nd pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and have a lot of options to consider. Those options include, trading the pick, trading up or down, or they can of course do the traditional thing and simply draft a young prospect.
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So the Titans are on the clock but this doesn’t quite feel like business as usual. It is widely believed that the number one pick in the draft, going to Tampa Bay, will indeed be Jameis Winston from Florida State. Nothing suggests that Tampa Bay will go in any other direction but Winston. They just haven’t come out and said such publicly to date. Going by this assumption, the door is wide open for Tennessee to make some noise and be the talk of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Let’s walk through some of these options at the door of the Titans. All of the following scenarios have been rumored either by the Titans organization or NFL analysts. While a couple of them may be long shots, they are possibilities. I am listing them in order from what I believe to be least to most likely.
- Trade up for Jameis Winston- While this is probably not the most likely scenario for the Titans, it is possible. There has been concerns by many in NFL circles about Winston’s off-the-field issues and trepidation about handing the reigns of the franchise over to this young man who has shown immaturity time and time again. The Titans would also most likely have to give up another valuable pick along with the 2nd pick, or throw in a valuable player, something the Titans cannot afford to lose at this time. They also went through a similar situation recently with Vince Young who hit the league by storm, but eventually had a meltdown and crashed and burned long before he should have. So while this option is worth noting…it is unlikely.
- Trade 2nd pick to San Diego for Philip Rivers- The thought of this must excite a lot of Titans fans…but this is not what their front office does. They do not have a history of making blockbuster player deals and this would be a complicated one. There is a tie to Tennessee for Rivers as the Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt served as OC for the Chargers in 2013, a season in which Rivers had his career high completion percentage of 69.5%. The Titans also have the cap room to take on Rivers $15.75 million dollar 2015 contract, however, Rivers will be a free agent in 2016 and there is no guarantee that he wouldn’t walk after next season. This seems like a risky, all-in for next season type of deal for the Titans. And again, given their history, this is not an extremely likely possibility.
- Select Marcus Mariota with the 2nd pick- This is a very likely option for the Titans as they try to solve their QB issues that have plagued them since the late great Steve McNair. Jake Locker was not winning popularity contests in Nashville and could not stay healthy. So just as it looks like Tennessee was about ready to turn the page, Locker decided to retire last month. The Titans now have the opportunity to draft last years Heisman winning QB Marcus Mariota with the 2nd pick. It is very unlikely that Tamp Bay will pass on Jameis Winston and Mariota is widely regarded as the second best QB prospect in the draft. Mariota also visited the Titans last week and from all accounts Tennessee was impressed with the young QB from Oregon. He has also moved up ESPN’s NFL analyst Mel Kiper’s mock draft board from 6th to 2nd recently, hinting that Tennessee is interested and seriously considering taking Mariota with the 2nd pick. There is also cries from the Nashville fan base to acquire a QB and solve these woes that have been discouraging fans for the last several years. Not selecting Mariota could cause another round of backlash from the fan base following the draft…something the Titans front office must be getting use to by now.
- Select Leonard Williams with the 2nd pick- Now this is what the Titans do. Draft the most secure, non-flashy pick available. The non-sexy thing that drives the fan base crazy. This was the most likely draft pick for the Titans according to most NFL analysts a couple of months ago. The 6-4 300 lb defensive end from USC is regarded as possibly the most talented player in the draft and the one to most likely make an immediate impact for whatever team drafts him. Drafting Williams would make Tennessee one of the more formidable defenses in the league after signing linebacker Brian Orakpo and adding Hall-of-Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to the staff in February. I list this as my most likely scenario because of two reasons: The Titans have a history of disappointing fans by doing the non-sexy thing, and there is a lot of talk coming from Nashville that the Titans are sold on Zach Mettenberger as the franchise signal caller. For every rumor circulating about Mariota going to Tennessee, I hear another one to support Mettenberger as the next big thing. After all, this is what the Titans do. They drafted Locker and gave him every opportunity to finally make good but it never came to fruition. I can see that scenario now playing out with Mettenberger. This scenario is the least risky option that would almost guarantee the Tennessee Titans would be significantly better this season.
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Whatever the Titans front office decides to do, the fans are anxious, impatient and watching. I myself have been very critical of the Titans draft choices and lack of free agent activity. I was disappointed last year when they didn’t take Johnny Football, only for the fact that it would have given the fans a sense of excitement, hope, and sold seats. I also didn’t agree with the choice of passing on running back Carlos Hyde in favor of Bishop Sankey. I think all Titans fans would agree that their off-season free agent activity has been lacking to say the least. They finished last year 2-14 with one of the most dismal offenses in the NFL. The Titans finished last year ranked 30th in points, 29th in yards, 22nd in passing and 26th in rushing. Those type of numbers will not be acceptable to fans or management next year so there is a lot of pressure on coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Ruston Webster to get this pick right.
I am actually going against the grain and reversing course on previous stances about the Titans draft strategy. This time, I want them to do the boring , safe thing. Draft Leonard Williams and develop Zach Mettenberger. I am rooting for this scenario for two reasons…Zach Mettenberger and Dick LeBeau. I think that Mettenberger is as much of a good prospect as Mariota, but has a year in the system under his belt. Plus, he would enter next year as the clear number one after the retirement of Jake Locker. Phillip Rivers is too much of a gamble not knowing if he would stay in Tennessee after the 2015 season. And lastly, by drafting Leonard Williams, you give Dick LeBeau a major piece in turning around the 27th ranked defense in the NFL last year. I trust that LeBeau will make a huge, immediate impact on the defense and in turn that will help Mettenberger develop under less pressure to put up big numbers. Whatever the Titans do decide, eager and somewhat impatient fans like myself are counting the hours until the 2nd pick in the 2015 NFL Draft is announced on April 30th.
Brandon covers the NFL & Tennessee Titans for MyFantasySportsTalk.com, follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
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