How Tennessee Titans free agency moves may change draft strategy with No. 22 pick
The Tennessee Titans' draft approach seemed predictable a few days ago: Get the best pass rusher available with the No. 22 pick.
Then free agency reshuffled the roster, and it’s not so clear anymore. In fact, Titans general manager Jon Robinson may have gained some draft mobility with his moves in free agency.
Injury-plagued wide receiver Adam Humphries and offensive tackle Dennis Kelly were released. Tight ends Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt and wide receiver Kalif Raymond are free agents.
So will the Titans still target a pass rusher at No. 22? Or does a wide receiver, tight end or cornerback make more sense? Here are some options the Titans could consider in the draft.
Reach for a wide receiver or wait
The Titans will try to sign a wide receiver in free agency. His skillset should dictate what they look for in the draft.
The Titans won’t get a shot at the top wide receivers in the draft — LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith — unless they trade into the top 15 picks.
And at No. 22, most of the second-tier options may fit better immediately as slot receivers.
They include Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore and LSU’s Terrace Marshall, who are projected to go between the mid-first round and late second round.
They tout talent and a variety of skills. But would the Titans really use the No. 22 pick on a slot receiver when they can get a quality one in the second or third rounds? And if they want a deep threat, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace may be a good option, but well beyond the first round.
Practice patience for a tight end
The same situation goes for tight end. Florida’s Kyle Pitts will be a top-10 pick, but there may not be another ultra-athletic tight end in the draft.
Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble and Boston College’s Hunter Long are big-body, physical-blocking tight ends with good hands. But they could be available in the second and third rounds.
So if the Titans fill their need at tight end through the draft, it will be a different type than Jonnu Smith. Also, the available players make that position less likely at No. 22 than other positions.
Simply take a cornerback with first pick
If Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II fall to No. 22, expect the Titans to pounce on either cornerback. If not, Georgia’s Tyson Campbell or Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. could make sense in the late first round.
The Titans can’t think the pass defense will hold up with just Jenkins and Kristian Fulton at cornerback. So that depth chart deficiency, free agency decisions and the draft pool make cornerback a higher probability than other positions if the they don’t move out of No. 22.
Don’t think pass rush problem is fixed
If you think Dupree and Autry completely fix the pass-rushing issues, consider the Titans had only 19 sacks last season, tied for the fewest of any playoff team in NFL history.
So don’t discount the possibility that Robinson still drafts a pass rusher in the first round. Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Miami’s Jaelan Phillips, Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Penn State’s Jayson Oweh could be options.
Move out of the No. 22 pick
Available wide receivers and tight ends may not have enough value at No. 22. Pass rusher is a lower priority than it was before free agency. And who knows which cornerbacks will be available?
It sets up a situation where the Titans could just draft the best player available, regardless of position, or move out of the No. 22 pick to get maximum value.
If they drop back, some of the same players may be available. Packaging picks to trade up could be an option. The Titans also have a second-round pick (No. 53) and two third-round picks (No. 85 and No. 100), in addition to late round picks.
Robinson rightfully was criticized for his draft shortcomings last year. This could be his chance to make major moves to put his stamp on this draft.
Reach Adam Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdamSparks.