Grading Jon Robinson’s draft class

Jon Robinson. The man. The myth. The legend. Well, maybe not yet but all indications are pointing to him being a great GM for the Tennessee Titans.

It is so fun to see what he has done with this team, but the fact is that he has completely overhauled the roster. So much so that while I was writing the preliminary notes on this grading piece I had to split his moves into two sections: Draft and free agency.

So, as the title suggests this piece is about Robinson’s draft class.

The Elites (A’s)

Jack Conklin RT, Michigan State

You know how some picks make you scratch your head at the time of the draft, but then you look back and you are like, “How in the world did X fall so far?” Well, in two years people will be saying that about Jack Conklin.

However, at the time people laughed at Jack Conklin going over fellow classmate Laremy Tunsil. Well fast forward to 10 weeks into the season and not only is Jack Conklin ranked as a top-10 OT by PFF, he is THE TOP right tackle in the NFL.

Meanwhile, his classmates are struggling and the aforementioned Tunsil is only grading out as a middle of the road guard.

Kevin Byard S, MTSU

I was a little bit skeptical of this pick at first. Sure, Byard looked like a playmaker on the back end, but he played at MTSU and really didn’t scream top end safety to me.

Plus, I admit I thought this was sort of Jon Robinson wanting to win over the local media by taking a local guy that loved the Titans. I was wrong.

Byard is already the Titans best man cover defender and he is absolutely not afraid to stick his nose in and make a tackle.

Not only is he a safe player, be he has been effective on blitzes getting several TFLs and even a sack on Sunday.

Byard may end up being one of the best defensive backs to come out of this class, and the Titans got him in the third round.

The above average rookies (B’s)

Derrick Henry RB, Alabama

Henry is going to be a good player once the Titans stop using him as a fullback. Give him space and let him run up the middle a few times then bounce one outside. He has great balance and long speed once he gets a head of steam going, so running him on that garbage FB-counter play isn’t helping him at all.

Tajae Sharpe WR, UMASS

Everything seems to be in fast forward for Sharpe. He hit his stride in the preseason, then hit his rookie wall in Week 2, and now seems to be playing like a second year player.

Sharpe has been a reliable target for Marcus Mariota and looks like he could play slot of on the outside going forward. Among rookie WRs, he has the 4th most receiving yards and the 5th most per game.

The role players (C’s)

Austin Johnson DL, Penn State

Johnson is a fit for the future and Robinson said as much when he drafted him. Having said that, instead of earning a different grade, he gets a C because he has shown some flashes as a penetrating DL in his short time in the NFL.

Kevin Dodd EDGE, Clemson

Dodd is transitioning to this EDGE role from a pure 4-3 DE role in college. He has done some nice things but a lingering foot injury and playing behind Derrick Morgan limit his options.

The wait and sees (INC)

LeShaun Sims CB, Southern Utah

A prototype CB who has done some stuff on special teams, but needs some reps to develop.

Sebastian Tretola G, Arkansas

Probably the heir apparent to Quinton Spain at left guard.

Aaron Wallace LB, UCLA

Maybe a rotational nickel guy that takes over for Sean Spence in the future. Wallace has played some special teams and has that ability long term if he commits.

Kalan Reed CB, Southern Miss

A faster CB, Reed is on the practice squad. Tre McBride managed to make his way up to the Titans main roster thanks in part to his time on the practice squad and his ability on special teams, could Reed take a similar path?

So there you have it…the Titans end up with 6 players who are contributors immediately including the best right tackle in football, a RB with a very high floor, and one of the better safeties in the class.

If this team adds some speed and playmaking ability on defense, watch out.

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