NASHVILLE, Tenn. â The Titans went largely defensive on the final day of the NFL draft, that is until a final pick that brought the most attention.
Three of their four picks today came for a defense moving to a 3-4 basic set under new coach Ken Whisenhunt. Each defender was drafted to fill position needs targeted before the three-day talent gathering began Thursday in New York City.
The Titans got the day started by taking Penn State defensive tackle DaQuan Jones with their first pick in the fourth round and 112th overall, following that 10 picks later by taking Wyoming defensive back Marqueston Huff. Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson was drafted in the fifth round (151 overall).
But then with their last pick, the Titans took LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Taken in the sixth round, he is expected to challenge former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson for the No. 3 quarterback spot behind starter Jake Locker and backup Charlie Whitehurst.
To get into position to draft Mettenberger, the Titans moved up eight spots in the sixth round by trading the 186th overall pick for Washington’s No. 176 pick, plus also giving up their seventh-round pick (228 overall).
"We had to make the move to get him," Whisenhunt said of drafting Mettenberger, the 10th quarterback taken in the draft. "We’d heard that there were other teams that were trying to move up to get him. At that point, we felt like it was a low-risk, high-reward type of situation."
Mettenberger raised a red flag at the NFL Combine in February when his urine sample was designated as being diluted, which is considered a failed test under the NFL’s drug policy. Mettenberger’s trainer said the quarterback had been drinking at least a gallon of water per day to fight dehydration to cause the failed test
It wasn’t the first mark against Mettenberger. The Watkinsville, Georgia, native started his collegiate career at Georgia, but was kicked off the team in 2010 after pleading guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery following an incident at a bar in Valdosta, Georgia. Underage drinking and possession of fake ID charges were dropped.
"That’s something I can’t worry about," Mettenberger said about off-the field issues possibly causing him to be drafted so late. "I have no control over those things and what it did. All I know is I have an opportunity to be a part of a great franchise, and I am going to make the most of it."
Whisenhunt declined to discuss Mettenberger’s failed drug test at the Combine.
"That’s part of the NFL policy and not really something that we can comment on," Whisenhunt said. "It’s not my area. I feel good about where he is as a player, and we are excited to get him in here and see where he is physically and what he can do."
Last season at LSU, Mettenberger passed for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns while working under Tigers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator. In the regular-season finale in late November, Mettenberger suffered an ACL injury that required surgery in January.
That prevented him from working out at the NFL Combine, but Titans quarterback coach John McNulty recently traveled to Baton Rouge, La., to view Mettenberger in a private workout. At 6-foot-5, 242 pounds, the strong-armed Mettenberger is considered a prototypical drop-back quarterback.
"I think mentally is my best strength as a quarterback," said Mettenberger, who led Butler County (Kan.) Community College to the junior college national championship in 2011 before spending the last two seasons at LSU. "Working with coach Cameron, the quarterback had a lot of responsibilities at the line of scrimmage last year.
" â¦ This is something you have to do in the NFL, and I am ready to showcase it. I had an advantage in college and ready to continue my progress as a quarterback."
In drafting Jones, the Titans got a lineman who can play all three interior spots along the line of a 3-4 defensive set. At Penn State, he had 92 career tackles (48 solo) and 4 Â½ sacks, including 56 tackles last season.
"He’s an explosive player," Whisenhunt said of the 6-foot-3, 322-pound Jones, a Johnson City, New York, native. "He’s played a number of spots on (Penn State’s) line. The thing that was attractive to us, he played. He’s a physical player, has a little bit of pass-rush ability. … He’s a good inside physical force."
Jones will attempt to join a deep Titans interior line rotation led fourth-year standout Jurrell Casey. Also returning up front are veterans Sammie Hill, Antonio Johnson, Mike Martin and Ropati Pitoitua. The Titans also signed former Steelers standout Al Woods through free agency.
"I’m going to come in there and bring some toughness," Jones said. "I am physical at the point of attack and can help stop the run. I just want to come in there and compete and have fun with the guys and try to bring the team closer to a championship."
The epitome of versatility on the collegiate level was Huff, who played cornerback his first three seasons at Wyoming before moving to free safety last season and leading the team in tackles (74). He also tied for the team lead in pass breakups (six), interceptions (two) and fumble recoveries (two).
But it was Huff’s work at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., in late January that caught the attention of the Titans the most.
"I think it’s very important for a guy from Wyoming play against good competition," Titans director of college scouting Blake Beddingfield said, "but the big thing for him was day-in, day-out, the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. He was able to compete with some of the better senior wide receivers in the draft."
The Titans are set at right cornerback with veteran Jason McCourty, but the competition to replace Alterraun Verner, the Pro Bowl left cornerback who signed a free agent deal with the Bucs, is wide open between veterans Coty Sensabaugh, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Tommie Campbell.
Initially, Huff, a Texarkana, Texas native, could see most action in nickel cornerback situations. But he also could be groomed to eventually play free safety behind veteran Michael Griffin.
"My flexibility and versatility enable me to kind of juggle between all of the (secondary) positions," the 6-foot, 195-pound Huff said of what position he might play for the Titans. "Just my knowledge of the game of football, I really understand and pick up on defenses really quickly.
"(I) think that will help me on the next level."
New Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton inherited veteran middle linebackers Colin McCarty and Moise Fokou, who may or may not eventually fit into the new 3-4 requirements. The position was tabbed as a position of need, although the Titans signed former Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard and are talking about moving Zach Brown from his outside linebacking slot.
Thus, the drafting of Williamson, the former Kentucky standout who prepped at Milan (Tenn.) High School, some two hours west of Nashville. He had 296 career tackles, including a career-high 135 as a junior to rank second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally.
"I was always a Titans fan when I was growing up," said the 6-foot, 246-pound Williamson. "I was a Titans fan and I love (former Titans) Steve McNair, Eddie George and Jevon Kearse, so I was always watching the Titans when I was growing up.
"It’s amazing to think that I am going to be playing for them. It’s surreal."
The Titans opened the draft on Thursday by selecting Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan in the first round with the No. 11 overall pick. In Friday’s second round, the Titans made Washington’s Bishop Sankey the first running back taken in the draft with the 54th overall pick, the latest ever for a running back.