• Wed. Jul 15th, 2020

Draft Preview: Tennessee Titans

ByJoseph M

Apr 13, 2020

The Tennessee Titans had one of the best comeback seasons in 2019 and they were led by no other than the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Tannehill. The Titans got off to a rocky start as they would be 2-4 heading into week 7 and nobody had them making the playoffs simply because nobody made the playoffs starting with that record. Things would turn around as starting quarterback Marcus Mariota would be benched for backup Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill would go on to win the starting job after just a few weeks of play and led the team to a record of 7-3 as the team starter. A player who really stepped up his game was running back Derrick Henry who went off the second half of the season finishing with the most rushing yards in the league and overall became the focal point of the Titans offense.

Tennessee finished with a record of 9-7 just enough to get them in the AFC Wildcard spot where they would face the Patriots at Gillette Stadium where they were listed as the underdogs. Henry would go on to run all over the Patriots #1 ranked defense as he ran for 182 yards and 1 touchdown leading the Titans to a shocking 20-13 win over New England. The Titans would go on to face the Ravens who were the most explosive offense as they were led by MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson again Tennessee was listed as the underdog and many believed they had no answer to stopping Jackson. It turns out the Titans didn’t have the answer to stop Jackson from running as he would run for 143 yards but they did stop him from throwing the ball as they held him to 53% completion rate and 2 interceptions. The Ravens defense had no answer for stopping Henry as he would go on to run for 195 yards although Tannehill only threw the ball 14 times he did have a pair of touchdowns enough to shock the world with a 28-12 win over the Ravens.

The Titans were heading to the AFC Championship and people took them seriously this round as people began questioning if the Chiefs had enough to stop Henry from running all over their defense. In the end, Kansas City knew exactly how to stop Henry as they held him to only 69 rushing yards and 1 touchdown despite the impressive play from Tannehill the Titans would lose 35-24 to the Chiefs who would go on to win the Superbowl. With some holes to fill the Titans roster they could look to build up their team as they have a total of 6 draft picks this year. Here are some positions Tennessee could look to address in the draft.

Cornerback

 Wesley Hitt-Getty Images

Tennessee’s secondary gave up the most passing yards per game with 259.3 given up but did finish the season with an impressive 14 total interceptions for the season. The Titans had safety Kevin Byard in their secondary who finished 2nd for the most interceptions in 2019 with 6 interceptions, one shy of tying for 1st place. For the Titans cornerbacks, they had Logan Ryan who finished with 5 interceptions, an impressive 18 pass deflections, 3 forced fumbles, and 5 sacks. Ryan was the best player the Titans had in their secondary as he was all over the field for them doing anything he could to contribute to the team despite his allowed completion percentage of 70% but he was the most targeted corner in 2019 with 118 targets. Ryan was set to become a free agent after the 2019 season and after the impressive season he just had he was for sure going to look to a semi-big contract.

With Ryan currently a free agent it looks like he will not be going to the Titans for another year as it has been 3 weeks since free agency officially started. Tennessee is now left with Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson who aren’t a bad combo for their secondary but both have a chance to be without the team by 2021. Butler is due for an $11 million salary in 2020 and 2021 with him not performing at that level of pay the Titans may look to move on from him. Jackson is entering his 4th year in the league where he will play to prove his worth as the Titans have the option to pick up his 5th year or let him be a free agent and with speculations going around Tennessee may let him walk. The Titans should think of the future and add a corner to the team instead of bringing an older veteran to compete to be a starter but they can sign a vet to play as a mentor. A prospect to look out for is Trevon Diggs who is coming off a solid season for Alabama. Diggs recorded 3 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, and 37 tackles being a decent piece in their secondary Diggs was able to hold his own in man coverage. Diggs is not a natural defender as he played receiver his first year at Alabama so he does have rawness in his play that still needs work but he has been doing pretty decently for only playing corner for 2 years. Showing he can play corner as he had an impressive first year as a corner in 2018 with a little more development he can become an impressive defender.

Running back

Amal Saeed

The Titans had the 2019 Rushing leader and the rushing touchdown co-leader in Derrick Henry as he had an outstanding year. Henry rushed for 1,540 yards with an average of 5.1 yards per rush and 16 rushing touchdowns but he did also lead the leagues in most rushing attempts with 303 attempts. Tennessee relied on Henry a lot as he was an unstoppable force in their run to the playoffs and he was heavily relied on in the playoffs as he single-handedly won the Titans their matchup against the Patriots and Ravens. Tennessee is in no need of a starting running back as they already have their star running back in Henry. What they need is a backup for Henry so they can take some of the workload off Henry as he can’t do it all for them. Henry is a 6’3 247 lbs running machine whose body can only take so many hits and as a large target many players get away with hard contact on him.

The Titans 2019 backup Dion Lewis was a solid relief for Henry as he rushed for 209 yards on 54 touches but Lewis would go on to sign with the Giants in free agency leaving Tennessee with no solid backup. The current backups for the Titans are left with two rookies who had a not so impressive rookie years Khari Blasingame who had no stats recorded and Dalyn Dawkins who had 26 yards on 11 rushes. The Titans could definitely use a solid backup although Blasingame did not get to prove his worth with no chance given the Titans could definitely look for a running back in the draft. A prospect to look out for is J.K Dobbins who is coming off a 2,003 rushing yard season for Ohio last year where he was their top option. Dobbins also was valuable for Ohio in the receiving game as he caught 23 receptions for 247 receiving yards but shined in the run game as he averaged 6.7 yards per carry. Dobbins showed he has good balance as he would often keep his balance as he would bounce off hits and gain a lot of yards because of it. Dobbins could definitely handle the run game for Tennessee while Henry steps out of the game for a couple of snaps. Henry and Dobbins could be a top running back duo in the league next year with Henry being the main guy and Dobbins taking the back seat.

Defensive Tackle

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans Ranked 13th for the most sacks last year with 43 sacks, an improvement as they ranked 16th in 2018. Tennessee’s d-line has always kept consistency when it came to sacks as in 2018 they recorded 39 sacks, 2017 they had 43 sacks, and in 2016 they had 40 sacks. But things may change as they unexpectedly traded away starting defensive tackle Jurrell Casey who is coming off a season where he had 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits. Casey has been one of Tennessee’s most consistent defensive players and has played a key role in their d-line. It will be interesting how the d-line adapts to Casey no longer being there. The Titans d-line now consists of Jeffery Simmons, DaQuan Jones, and Isaiah Mack two out of those three players (Simmons and Mack) are coming off their rookie years where they underperformed. Mack recorded 1.5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery, Simmons recorded 2 sacks and 1 pass deflections, and Jones recorded 1 sack, and 3 pass deflections as you can see those numbers aren’t what you want from people who will be starters for 2020.

The Titans failed to sign a big-name free agent on defense but they did sign Vic Beasley Jr, who is coming off an 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles season for the Falcons last year. The Titans may look to target a defensive tackle in the draft to strengthen their young d-line who could have a bright future if they add just the right piece. A prospect to look out for is DaVon Hamilton who finally got to show his impressive play as he finally got the chance to start for Ohio State last year. Hamilton recorded 6 sacks as he shows he is a dangerous interior pass rushers who can definitely stuff the whole while being able to get at the quarterback. Hamilton had a big year from the previous year where he was stuck in the back as Ohio had top tier talent at their d-line never allowing Hamilton to get an opportunity to showcase his talent. Hamilton had 37.5% of his tackles end up in tackles for loss which is something the Titans could use with the loss of Casey.