Oct 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at EverBank Field. Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2017 NFL draft could end up being the one that vaults the Tennessee Titans into AFC relevance for the first time since 2008.
Already their roster seems on the upswing led by Marcus Mariota and the offense. Now they have six picks coming their way in the first three rounds next April. That is an opportunity few teams ever encounter to infuse their roster with premier talent. Can the Titans pull it off. Here is an early mock to see how it might play out.
The offense is off and running for the Titans but they still need a lot of work on defense before they can be called a contender. They rank a distant 24th against the pass, and that is no way to compete in a conference loaded with quarterbacks. Adding a quality cornerback like Teez Tabor isn’t a bad thing at all. He’s a fluid athlete with size and enough deep speed to hang with receivers down the field. Teams learn not to test him too often or they end up paying for it.
Delanie Walker has been a highly dependable go-to guy for Marcus Mariota the past two years. He’s emerged as a very good tight end. Unfortunately he’s 32-years old. The Titans aren’t going to have him much longer. Adding a quality young tight end gives them depth and a succession plan. O.J. Howard is another of those en vogue tight ends who can size, height, strong hands and decent speed. He’s an instant threat in the passing game teams won’t be able to ignore. Especially with the threat of that ground attack.
Nov 12, 2016; Greenville, NC, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs wide receiver Courtland Sutton (16) makes a third quarter catch against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Continuing to arm Mariota with ever more weapons is not a crime. Besides, the Titans aren’t exactly set at wide receiver. Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews and Kendall Wright are a decent trio but it’s a group that could use some improvement. Particularly in the size department. Courtland Sutton bring that and more. At 6’3″ he offers a big catch radius, shows good sudden movement skills for route running and though not a blazer he can stretch the field deep. Need somebody who can provided big plays? This is him.
The secondary makeover continues. Historically, Dick LeBeau has done his best work as a defensive coordinator when he has a playmaking safety on the back end. At present there is no such type in Tennessee. Thankfully this 2017 class seems quite rich in them. Kai Nacua could be a big one, literally and figuratively. He’s got excellent size at 6’2″ and demonstrates a keen eye for the football. He already has five interceptions in 2016. Presuming he cleans up his tackling and it could be a steal.
Oct 3, 2015; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker T.J. Watt (42) during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Iowa won 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Having to see J.J. twice a year, it might be a good hint to the Titans that other members of the Watt family might be able to play football too. His brother T.J. is proving no slouch. He’s become quite a solid pass rusher at Wisconsin. Though not as big as his older brother, he’s got that same relentless motor along with the good quickness and violent hands. Tennessee could really use another pass rusher on the edge, preferably a young option who can learn from veterans like Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan.
Prior to an unfortunate injury, Jalen Reeves-Maybin was considered among the most dynamic linebackers in the 2017 class. A top athlete with versatility who could play in space as an inside linebacker but also showed plenty of chops as a pass rusher. Tennessee isn’t hurting at inside linebacker too much but Wesley Woodyard is getting up in age. Reeves-Maybin would bring them more versatility to the group in addition to an eventual replacement.