By Greg Arias
The 2017 NFL Draft is just days away and the Tennessee Titans sit in an advantageous position heading into the first round on April 27. Two first round selections give general manager Jon Robinson the “draft capital” he desires to make deals and add two talented, difference makers with those two selections.
There has been much speculation as to who Robinson and the Titans will select with these picks- numbers 5 and 18 in the first round- with cornerback and wide receiver being the top two positions fans and media pundits alike have attached to the Titans.
While the Titans can certainly use a boost at receiver and cornerback, those two positions are considered among the deepest in this draft class which could allow the Titans to select the best player available regardless of position rather than filling one of those positions. In other words, if Myles Garrett were to fall to No. 5, the Titans could elect to select him and find a receiver or corner in the latter rounds.
Some people might disagree with that philosophy for this time this year, but it is certainly a possibility, especially with the fifth pick where the Titans might not rate any players at those two positions worthy of a top-five selection.
Robinson, of course, most likely wants to trade that fifth pick, falling back into the first round and gaining more “draft capital,’ including a second-round pick, which the Titans currently do not possess.
Should the Titans be unable to, or not receive sufficient compensation, Robinson will not be hesitant to “stick and pick” in that spot. But who might the Titans target in this spot?
We look at five potential additions with the fifth pick.
Marshon Lattimore, CB- Ohio State: There is no denying that the Titans could use help in the secondary, and specifically at corner. Lattimore is arguably the best corner in this class and the Titans look to have the opportunity to add him in the top five picks. Lattimore checked in at a solid 6-0, 193 pounds and with a 4.36 time in the 40-yard dash, along with a 38 1/2-inch broad jump. Lattimore has the athletic ability to be a long term fixture for the Titans. There are questions about him, mostly past injuries, but his closing speed and athletic ability make him a good fit for a team that could use a dynamic corner.
Wide Receiver: The two leading candidates here are Clemson star Mike Williams or Western Michigan standout Cory Davis. Once again the Titans could benefit from the addition of a playmaking wide out, and these two are the believed best of the class. Neither is perfect and both have questions surrounding them, but if the Titans have answered those questions during the pre-draft process, then either of these two could fit the bill.
Cory Davis, Wide Receiver- Western Michigan: Of the two players in question, and after watching film of both, Davis seems to fits the Titans more because of his run after catch ability and his 4.48 time in the 40 compared to Williams’ 4.54 time. There are also four wide outs who currently have second-round grades that could be available with faster times than Williams, but perhaps no other receiver in this class matches him when the ball is in the air. Still Davis, despite the small school question is a big play waiting to happen and has far less of an injury concern for me than Williams, which sways the choice to the small school player.
Jonathan Allen, Defensive line- Alabama: Defensive line is not a position of need, but Allen is a talent that might just be too good to pass up should he be on the board when the Titans go on the clock.
Allen concluded his college career by winning more hardware than any defensive lineman ever and was a second away from back-to-back national championships. Like most everyone in the top 10, he has questions, but the doctors have stated his shoulders shouldn’t be a problem and his production tends to agree. You know the old saying about never having too many pass rushers. Allen isn’t an edge rusher but he is more than capable of pressuring the quarterback up the middle. A paring with Jurrell Casey could be very intriguing and would certainly force opposing coordinators to have to account for that inside tandem and allow for more one on ones for the Titans edge rushers.
Rueben Foster, Inside Linebacker- Alabama: Once again, this is not a position of need, but Foster is the best linebacker in this class hands down. He is a true three-down linebacker who plays with reckless abandon and is a big hitter. He would be a welcome addition to the current group of inside backers. Foster would not have to step into a starting role on day one, and he is a special teams demon who would also help that unit until he takes over a starters role in the future.
Safety: Once again, I hedge here and list two because there are two top-tier safeties in Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker, who would improve the back end of the defense as soon as their name is announced in the draft. While I don’t personally think this is the direction Robinson will go, after drafting Byard last season and adding Jonathan Cyprien in free agency, there is no way to overlook the talent of these two players and what they would add to the Titans secondary.
WILD CARD- O.J. Howard, tight end- Alabama: Howard started the draft process as a late first-round selection and has worked his way up to top ten consideration. He is by far the best tight end in this class and has the physical abilities of some of the all-time best at the position. He is an excellent blocker and has the size and speed to be a mismatch for most linebackers and safeties. Paired with Delanie Walker, Howard could would not be pressured to be an All-Pro day one, but would give Mike Mularkey another tight end which he values in this exotic smash mouth offense.