The Titans have Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan as their starting edge rushers, but the former will turn 32 in July. He'll also be a free agent next March. Tennessee needs to look toward the future, and that would mean acquiring a long-term edge rusher who can hound Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck.
*** OTHER 2018 NFL DRAFT POSSIBILITIES: ***
1. Leighton Vander Esch/Rashaan Evans, LBs - If Vander Esch slips a bit, the Titans could scoop him up as a replacement for Avery Williamson. Evans also makes sense.
2. Harold Landry, DE/OLB - Here's another edge-rushing option.
Rd. 2, Pk. 25
Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
The Titans are looking for linebackers of all sorts - edge rushers, interior guys - and this is them addressing the latter, which they need to do after losing Avery Williamson.
Rd. 3, Pk. 25
Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Eric Decker was a failed signing, so the Titans could use a mid-round selection on a replacement for him.
Rd. 4, Pk. 25
Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
John Cyprien was a major disappointment last year. The Titans will give him another chance, but it wouldn't hurt to bring in an insurance policy.
Rd. 5, Pk. 25
Dane Cruikshank, CB, Arizona
The Titans haven't added any depth to their secondary yet, which is something that should be addressed in the middle rounds.
Rd. 6, Pk. 25
Jullian Taylor, DT, Temple
The Titans are looking to add some talent to their defensive line at some point, and they could do so earlier than this.
This is the Rams' pick that Tennessee received in the trade back from No. 1 to No. 15 in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Titans need a No. 1 wide receiver for Marcus Mariota, and Williams is a great fit. General manager Jon Robinson was with Tampa Bay in 2014 when they took Mike Evans with the seventh pick. Williams is remarkably similar to Evans. In that same draft, Robinson and the Bucs took Austin Seferian-Jenkins in Round 2. This is a deep tight end class, so I think Robinson would lean toward Williams. O.J. Howard is in the running for this pick though.
In 2016, Williams hauled in 98 receptions for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was an impressive return to college football after missing most of 2015 due to injury. In that season's opener, Williams fractured his neck when he ran into the goalpost while catching a touchdown. That ended his year.
With Sammy Watkins in the NFL, Williams took over as Clemson's lead receiver in 2014 and caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns. In his freshman season, he had 20 catches for 316 yards and three scores.
Williams is a dynamic big receiver who is tremendous at using his size and leaping ability to make catches over defensive backs. He is a phenomenal red-zone weapon and is superb on back-shoulder sideline throws. While Williams made a lot of excellent leaping grabs, he does need to cut down on some dropped passes. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder has a real combination of size and leaping ability.
Rd. 1, Pk. 1
Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
I believe that minus a trade, Tennessee's plan is to draft a weapon for Marcus Mariota at No. 5 and find a potential No. 1 corner with the 18th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. I think Marlon Humphrey is the Titans' first choice. If he is off the board, I think they would take Jackson.
Jackson notched 55 tackles with 11 passes broken up and five interceptions in 2016. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, returned two punts for touchdowns, and made a 52-yard touchdown catch. Jackson had an awesome game against Alabama as he shut down star wide receiver Calvin Ridley. He held Ridley to only two receptions for nine yards on the night. Jackson has given the NFL proof that he is a serious cover corner prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Jackson played on offense and defense in 2015. He had 35 tackles with eight passes broken up and one interception at corner. As a wide receiver, Jackson had 27 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore also returned punts and kicks.
Jackson became a starter in 2014 and was a sensation who also contributed as a wide receiver and returner/coverage defender on special teams. Defensively, the freshman had 49 tackles with 10 passes deflected. He also caught 10 receptions for 138 yards with three touchdowns on offense. On special teams, Jackson returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 30 yards per kick return. For the NFL, the 5-foot-10, 186-pounder fits best as a cover cornerback. He is a fast corner to prevent separation, but can struggle with size and defenders making receptions over him.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
The Titans could use multiple receiver upgrades.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Kupp was massively productive during his collegiate career. He combines quickness, toughness, excellent route-running and great hands. The senior totaled 91 receptions for 1,297 yards with 12 touchdowns on the year. He had huge seasons as a junior (114-1,642-19), sophomore (104-1,431-16) and freshman (93-1,691-21). Kupp is a natural football player.
Rd. 3, Pk. 3
Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
The Titans could use a receiving tight end to pair with Delanie Walker.
Leggett is a solid tight end who can contribute as a receiver and a runner. The senior notched 46 catches for 736 yards with seven scores in 2016. As a junior, he totaled 40 receptions for 525 yards with eight touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 258-pounder has the size and athleticism to warrant consideration as a three-down starter.
Rd. 4, Pk. 4
Garrett Sickels, DE/3-4OLB, Penn State
Here's an understudy for veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.
Sickels (6-3, 261) decided to skip his senior season at Penn State and enter the 2017 NFL Draft. The junior recorded 47 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks in 2016. The previous season, he had 35 tackles with five tackles for a loss and three sacks playing on the other side from Carl Nassib. Sickels would probably fit best in the NFL as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Rd. 5, Pk. 5
Corn Elder, CB, Miami
The Titans grab more cornerback competition and have shown interest in Elder.
Rd. 6, Pk. 6
Dylan Donahue, OLB/DE, West Georgia
Tennessee could use some young edge-rushing depth behind Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.
Rd. 7, Pk. 7
Stacy Coley, WR, Miami
The Titans go best player available and take another receiver competitor.
The Tennessee Titans are a really difficult team to pin what exactly they will do heading into the draft on Thursday. The team brought in veterans Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, and Bennie Logan via free agency. The Titans roster is now flush with former Patriot players (probably not a good thing since New England are probably the best talent evaluators in the league). They are going to need as much talent as they can gather in a division with the Jags defense and quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson. The Titans are in a good place to just select the highest player on their board and hope something good falls into their laps. A couple names that Tennessee will probably be debating between are offensive guard Isaiah Wynn, linebacker Rashaan Evans, interior lineman James Daniels, and maybe safety Ronnie Harrison.
In this mock, new head coach Mike Vrabel decides to bolster his pass rusher with the purest 3-4 edge rusher in the draft in Harold Landry. General manager Jon Robinson is one of the best in the business and on the cutting edge of the new wave of NFL gms. He is a solid talent evaluator and he likes his skill positions fast and his lineman BIG.
Landry's has good athleticism, running 4.64 40 yard dash, a 1.59 10 yard split, and a 36 inch vertical. Landry came on the scene in a big way in 2016 by posting, 22 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles for Boston College. His 2017 season was marred with an ankle injury, but he still managed to record 8.5 tackles for los and 5 sacks in 9 games. The addition of Landry to the duo of Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo should help the pass defense overall and ease the pain of the Kevin Dodd misstep from the 2016 draft.
Avery Williamson left the Titans in free agency and hasn't been replaced. With Mike Vrabel and Dean Peas as new Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator respectively, you would expect a similar version of the Patriots defense to be installed in Tennessee which places high priority on the Mike LB position. Enter Evans, the next in what has become a long line of stud Alabama linebackers. Evans has the ideal size you want in a MLB at 6'3 234 lbs with athleticism to make every play on the field. He's relatively quick to diagnose, doesn't often get baited out of position, and plays tough downhill which will be key traits for Vrabel and his staff.
In speaking to a reliable source, they believe the Titans are targeting outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and defensive line - in that order - for this pick. They felt that Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry, and Sam Hubbard could be the finalists for this pick. This source told me to lock in Marcus Mariota many months before the 2015 NFL Draft. They told me the organization loved Jack Conklin in 2016, and last year, they said to mock a receiver at No. 5 and Adoree' Jackson at No. 18. <br> <br>
Therefore, I'm going to listen to this source even though some other teams have told me they have Hubbard and Landry graded as second-rounders. I think Titans general manager Jon Robinson also would value an inside linebacker later in the draft, as he was part of Tampa Bay landing Kwon Alexander in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are aging while nearing the end of their contracts, plus Hubbard or Landry are a good fits for Mike Vrabel's scheme as well. Hubbard is bigger and a better run defender than Landry. Thus, I think he's the safer pick, and that is also the direction Robinson leans. <br> <br>
Hubbard totaled 43 tackles, seven sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in 2017. In 2016, he collected 46 tackles with eight for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes batted. While rotating into the game as a sophomore, Hubbard showed his potential with 6.5 sacks. He also had 28 tackles with an interception that season. <br> <br>
The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has a great skill set, but never produced up to it. Hubbard possesses a serious combination of size, speed, and athletic ability that should help him to rise during the pre-draft workouts, however. Some team sources feel that Hubbard was an underachiever and should have turned in a lot more production over his collegiate career.
The Titans are another team that needs pass rush help. And this is perhaps the worst draft in recent memory for 3-4 teams who need pass rushers, if not pass rushers in general. In most other drafts, the undersize and unachieving Key would be a 3rd or 4th round pick. Key came into the combine under 240 pounds and then decided not to run the 40 or perform most of the athletic drills. Pretty shady. Key has also had problems getting FAT at points in his career This has risk written all over it.
I hate this pick actually. But the Titans need some kind of pass rush, and it is hard to deny what you saw on film with Key at times in his career: an explosive pass rusher who can run past any offensive tackle you put in front of him. The Titans are desperate enough to take a chance on him.
Reports have it that the Tennessee Titans cancelled having Leighton Vander Esch visit them because they felt he would be off the board by the time they were on the clock. That could end up being the case, but there are some teams that have flunked him medically, so it could be possible yet he makes it to 25. If he does, I believe the Titans would pounce. The Boise State product has excellent size and athleticism. He has the skill set to be a force on all three downs.
Show/Hide Other Mocks with Leighton Vander Esch Going to Titans
Rd. 1, Pk. 22
Rashaan Evans, ILB
The Titans lost Avery Williamson in free agency, so they had to replace him. With Leighton Vander Esch being taken off the board, there was just one first-round inside linebacker remaining, so I like the Titans taking the initiative and moving up three spots to secure him. Tennessee also needed an edge rusher, but those will be available in Round 2. A player like Evans would not be.
Rd. 2, Pk. 9
Harold Landry, DE/3-4OLB/OLB
Many believe this is a huge steal for the Titans. It's definitely a nice bargain, as Harold "Arnold" Landry (thanks, Vince Young) could've been chosen in the 20s, but he wasn't this excellent, top-20 prospect some people touted him to be. Some teams we spoke to had a second-round grade on him, and they turned out to be right. However, I like this selection, as Landry is one of the top players available who fills a big need on the edge.
Rd. 5, Pk. 15
Dane Cruikshank, CB
Dane Cruikshank is a very athletic safety who might be able to play cornerback. His natural position might be safety, however, and the Titans needed to find someone to challenge the disappointing John Cyprien. Cruikshank could've gone a bit earlier than this.
Rd. 6, Pk. 25
Luke Falk, QB
I wasn't a fan of Luke Falk going in the middle rounds. He has all the bad traits someone like Drew Bledsoe used to have without the good ones. He takes forever to release the ball in the pocket, and he has no mobility at all. Still, I like the value here, and the fit makes sense because the Titans needed a solid backup.