It is a time of uncertainty in Nashville. With a new coaching staff in town and Jake Locker clearly down to his last chance to prove himself, this is a key draft for the Titans. The loss of Chris Johnson and Pro Bowl corner Alterraun Verner created gaping holes, and no one would have been stunned if the Titans selected a QB in the likely event that this is Locker's last season in Music City. Now for an analysis of the picks:
- 1st round selection: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan Grade: B-
The Titans clearly adhered to the "best player available" philosophy here. The grade for this choice is not due to Lewan's ability, but because of the foolishness in a non playoff contender using their 1st round pick on a player who may not even start. Tennessee already has Michael Roos & Michael Oher manning each starting tackle spot, so the earliest Lewan will see the field is in 2015. He will certainly help the Titans, but considering the many holes they had besides the offensive line, and adding in the fact that they spent their first round pick last season on Chance Warmack and handed a massive contract to Andy Levitre, this is a misuse of resources.
- 2nd round selection: Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington Grade: A
For a team that sorely needed a bell cow back and only had Shonn Greene on hand, this was a great choice. Sankey was the first RB off the board and was a consistent performer in college. He scored a rushing TD in every game he played in 2013, averaging 143.8 yards per contest. Sankey also tacked on over 300 yards receiving last season and played in a pro style offense at Washington. A high volume back who's adept at reading blocks, Sankey should be a Day 1 starter for the Titans. He's been compared to a young Chris Johnson, for his speed and ability to turn the corner for chunk yardage. If he improves his blocking skills, he may go down as the best RB from this draft.
- 4th round selection: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State Grade: A Jones was a projected 2nd or 3rd round choice, making this a great get for Tennessee. At 6'4 and 322 pounds, he is a load in the trenches. Jones has a strong upper body, gets off the line quickly, and can produce in different schemes. He showed flashes of domination at Penn State, and if the coaching staff can fix his tendency to take plays off, he will be a long term starter. Jones is a strong bull rusher who collapses the pocket, making plays for his fellow linemen. While his edge rushing needs work, Jones is a great upside choice for the Titans.
- 4th round selection: Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming Grade: B+ A good pick from a versatility standpoint, as Huff can play safety, corner, and special teams. Huff showed a knack for getting in the end zone with the Cowboys, scoring 2 TDs off fumble returns in 2012 while starting 10 games at cornerback. In 2013, he was moved to the free safety position, notching 127 tackles, 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, and a blocked field goal. Huff showed leadership qualities in college, being named team captain in 2013. He'll have immediate impact on special teams and projects as a starting cornerback in the pros. In a few years, he could be looked upon as a steal.
- 5th round selection: Avery Williamson, ILB, Kentucky Grade: C- Williamson was also a team captain and has been highly praised for his character. He has a high football IQ, making calls and line of scrimmage adjustments for the Wildcats. But, his ceiling is low in the NFL. Williamson has average athleticism, limited coverage skills, and is described as functional by scouts. His best case scneario to make the team is to become a special teams standout. For a team with only 6 picks at their disposal, they needed to do better than that with their 5th rounder.
- 6th round selection: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU Grade: A
The Titans did a far better job with their 6th round pick. Mettenberger was one of the more highly touted QBs among this year's crop of passers. A diluted drug test caused Mettenberger to slide from the 2nd round all the way to the 6th. Considering that the Titans may have whiffed completely on the Jake Locker selection, nabbing a potential starting QB this late in the draft is an undeniable coup. He played in a pro style offense at LSU under former NFL coach Cam Cameron and has tremendous upside potential. At 6'5", he has prototypical QB size and outstanding arm strength. Mettenberger needs to improve his pocket presence, as he took sacks too often and let pressure affect his throws. His delivery will need work, he relies on receivers to be open, a luxury he won't have in the NFL. Ken Whisenhunt has a reputation for developing QBs, he's credited with Ben Roethlisberger's rise in Pittsburgh and for rehabilitating Kurt Warner in Arizona. If Locker flops this season, perhaps Mettenberger will get a chance to compete for the starting role in 2015.
Overall draft grade: B+
While the choice of Lewan was puzzling and I didn't like wasting a 5th rounder on a player who's a special teamer at best, the Titans came out of this draft in better shape than they came in. The only thing keeping them from an A grade was using the 1st rounder on Lewan instead of addressing the cornerback position. To have only 6 picks and come out with 2 likely offensive starters, 2 high upside defenders, and a potential starting QB is a great haul.