Now we finally reach the teams with some real playoff aspirations and some even have a shot to make a run at the Super Bowl. One of those teams that have a shot at representing the AFC in the Super Bowl is the Tennessee Titans. I am one of those fans who think that they have made every right move since they brought in Mike Mularkey and Marcus Mariota. They have drafted very well and even have begun to make wise free agent pick ups. My only real hang up about this team is that they are still extremely young at many key positions. Plus, their secondary is still a work in progress to me that may be ultimately their undoing when they reach the playoffs and face a team like the Patriots or Steelers with powerful passing attacks. Overall, I think this team is on the cusp of being the next great young team to watch out for the next 5 years or so.
To start if I were a general manage with the reigns to build a team I would do it exactly how the Titans have done it. By heavily investing on the offensive line no matter what the outside media and pundits think. I love that they paired up Taylor Lewan a former first round pick with another top pick at right tackle in Jack Conklin. They got trashed for that selection since people have undervalued o-lines so greatly in this league, but they are the ones with the last laugh since they may have the best tackle tandem in the league. To pair that up with the quality interior trio of Quinton Spain, Ben Jones, and Josh Kline. Those three are not the best, but they are quality blockers and the depth behind them have a lot of upside. Overall, this line is a big part of why Marcus Mariota has gotten much better each year since being the number 2 in 2015. Also, trading for DeMarco Murray was a genius move especially, since they use him properly by just lining him up and running straight up the field unlike how Chip Kelly used him in Philly. My only real issue is their lack of a stand out number one receiver, but the 5th pick in the draft Corey Davis will be given every shot to be that guy. If not their crop of Eric Decker, Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews, and tight end Delanie Walker create a nice passing threat where defenses cannot key in on just one guy.
On the other side of the ball the Titans sport one of the most underrated defensive fronts in the game. The collection of Jurrell Casey, DaQuon Jones, Karl Klug, Austin Johnson, and Slyvester Williams creates a great defensive line with a ton of depth to rotate in throughout the game. Then moving over to their edge rushers with underrated veteran Brian Orakpo who continues to play well along with Derrick Morgan, Kevin Dodd, and Aaron Wallace are another deep position for the Titans. Then on the inside of the backer group is not as explosive, but it does sport a quality pair with Avery Williamson and Wesley Woodyard. Now the spot that I am really worried about with this defense is their secondary and if they can cover people better than they did last year. I mean they made Matt Barkley, and Blake Bortles down the stretch look like high end starting quarterbacks. They made a nice move bringing in Logan Ryan, but to me he is a high floor, low upside player who may have only been good playing in New England where Belichick schemes his players perfectly. I do love their second first round pick of Adoree' Jackson who I can see being a top corner in a year or two as he develops better technique to pair with his athleticism. The depth behind them is pretty weak however, so hopefully they can stay healthy for the Titans not to get exposed there. At safety they have Kevin Byard who played well as a rookie and is expected to take on a larger role this year. They also brought in Jonathan Cyprien who had an up and down career with Jacksonville. Hopefully both of those guys play better or else this back end will once again be the Achilles' heel of this team.
In the end, playing in an easy division where the Jags, Colts, and Texans all have question marks at quarterback and all, but one of those teams sport a pretty bad defense as well. I expect them to split wins with the Texans at least and have a strong chance to sweep both the Colts and Jags (of course barring Andrew Luck playing for the Colts). They do have a difficult schedule however, with a home match ups against the Raiders, and Seahawks. Then they go on the road to the Steelers and if they can win at least 2 of those games then I will take this team very seriously as one of the best in the league. They also face the Ravens, Browns, Bengals, Dolphins, 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals where they should be favored to win. I can see them going a solid 10-6, but if they end up sweeping the teams in their division I can see them doing better than that.
1 (5) - Corey Davis WR - If you have read any of my Season Prediction articles you will notice that I cannot stand first round receiver selections and the position in general where they are nothing without a quality surrounding cast. To me this is a very high risk and low reward pick to me since Davis is not a real generational talent at receiver to begin with. He does have a nice jack of all trades quality to him where he runs nice routes, has nice speed, and can be a quality red zone threat. However, to me he does not have one stand out amazing trait that has me think that he can be an A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Mike Davis, and Odell Beckham all of whom were taken lower than him in their respective drafts. I think they would have been better served to select a Jamal Adams, Marshon Lattimore, or trying to trade down.
1 (18) - Adoree' Jackson CB - Now this pick I love and would have been fine even if they picked him with their 5th pick, that's how much I like Jackson. He has all the raw ability you need to create a great corner with his speed, and ball skills. He may be a bit undersized at 5'10" and 186 lbs, but to me he can be an ultimate chess piece to blanket opposing teams best speed threats. Even playing in a pass happy Pac-12 with his limited technique due to playing both sides of the ball he was able to negate his opposing receivers. As I mentioned above I think he can become one of the best corners in the league once he figures out how to pair his skills to better technique.
3 (8) - Taywan Taylor WR - This receiver pick to me is already better just because it was taken in the 3rd round. Over the years we have seen many lower drafted receivers break out in the league from Antonio Brown to Doug Baldwin to Golden Tate to Randall Cobb all come in and play at a solid to elite level. To me that is a great gamble finding a great receiver late in the draft and if they bust like many receivers do in the NFL then it will not be as bad in the 3rd round or later. Taylor to me will be a quality deep threat or a bubble screen guy with good quickness to get down field in a hurry. He probably will never be a true number one, but he will be a nice slot receiver from day one.
3 (36) - Jonnu Smith TE- I really liked this pick for a few reasons. For one Delanie Walker is getting up there in age and needs an understudy to wait in the wings behind him. Also, the Titans love running two tight end sets to compliment their power run scheme better. Smith is a good blocking tight end who is also a quality pass catcher. He does everything very well with ability to move around and display great athleticism where ever he is put. To me this will be a nice late round find before it's all said and done.
5 (11) - Jayon Brown LB - The Titans have a bunch of linebackers heading to free agency this upcoming off season with Avery Williamson, Sean Spence, and Wesley Woodyard. So, taking a linebacker is not surprising and it can be even better if Brown can prove to be more athletic than the current starters who are just solid starters. Brown is a hybrid safety/linebackers who can be used on passing downs and can be a nice player on special teams at the very least.
6 (34) - Corey Levin OL - Like I said the Titans sport a great tackle tandem and a solid interior grouping, but they could stand to get better on the inside. Plus, quality depth is always useful in a league where everyone gets hurt and when linemen go down it can be very hard to replace. Levin has some versatility, but his best usage will be on the inside for the Titans. At worst he will be a nice depth option with some starting appeal if he develops.
7 (9) - Josh Carraway OLB - A nice gamble here with a player who can be a pass rushing specialist. He also comes with a little bit of off field baggage that had him slide down to here. He is also a little too finesse to keep on the field on every down where teams will just swallow him up in the run game. At the worst he will be a nice special teamer with his speed.
7 (18) - Brad Seaton OT - I actually thought Seaton deserved to go higher in the draft so this is not a bad selection at all for the Titans. He has some size and strength to him to mold into at the very least a quality swing tackle behind Conklin and Lewan.
7 (23) - Khalfani Muhammad RB - A nice return option here even though they already drafted Jackson and Taylor who can both handle those duties very well. However, with Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray in the back field adding a smaller and better pass catching back can really round out their stable. I doubt he makes the team however, due to his size limitations and a numbers crunch at the end of camp.
2018 Off Season:
To be honest I see this team making the playoffs as either a divisional winner or even winning one of the first round byes if they play at their best ability. However, I can see this team being bounced out in their first game whether it is in the Wild Card round or in the Divisional match ups. That is not to say I do not think they are good or anything, but I think their youth and inexperience in the playoffs may overwhelm them in their first foray into the playoffs. I think their biggest key going into this off season is to continue to bolster their offensive line and would love to see them go against the grain in the first round again by picking a guard. If not finding another corner or safety to add depth or starting caliber players can help out this secondary immensely. Maybe adding a pass rusher as well can help with Orakpo aging and Derrick Morgan never really fulfilling his upside as a former first rounder. In a year or two this team will be much better equipped for a Super Bowl run with more experience alone.
My 2018 Mock Draft:
1 (30) - Tyquan Lewis DE/OLB Ohio St
2 (30) - Josey Jewell LB Iowa