Is O.J. Howard the best value and best fit for the Titans?

Is O.J. Howard the best value and best fit for the Titans?

Opinions and mock drafts are all over the map as to what the Tennessee Titans will do with their two first-round picks on April 27.

The Titans hold No. 5 overall, courtesy of last year’s trade with the Rams, and LA’s subsequent terrible 2016 season, plus their own pick at No. 18.

Certainly, Titans general manager Jon Robinson is a threat to trade at least one of his choices, especially with Tennessee currently without a second-round pick.

Draft guru Tony Pauline of says Robinson’s maneuvers last year, where he dealt the No. 1 overall pick to the Rams, sliding to 15 and then trading back up to No. 8 on draft day to choose Jack Conklin shows that the Titans GM isn’t afraid to make a deal.

“Certainly it’s always possible that Jon Robinson with two first-round picks would try to move out of No. 5 and move down a few spots and pick up some more choices,” Pauline said.

In his latest mock draft, however, Pauline has the Titans selecting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard with the fifth pick and has them going with Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis at No. 18.

In going with Howard extremely high for a tight end, Pauline explained, that “There are not any receivers or cornerbacks worthy of the fifth overall pick.”

Multiple reports have the Titans having spent time with Howard in the draft process. Tight end is also a position of need for Tennessee, which lost Anthony Fasano in free agency to the Dolphins earlier this month.

As for Howard, he said he sees two different aspects of the Alabama tight end.

“If you looked at him at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, you saw a guy who is an all-world prospect,” Pauline said. “At the Senior Bowl, he was a 250-pound guy gliding down the field like a big wide receiver. And then he followed that up at the Combine by showing what a great athlete he is.”

But … there’s always a but, isn’t there? Pauline says Howard is not without his shortcomings.

“If you look at the tape on him from his senior year at Alabama, you see a guy that didn’t always finish his blocks and sometimes looked a little bit uninterested, or like he didn’t care, when the play wasn’t coming his way,” Pauline cautioned. “That is a red flag, to be sure.”

However, he sees the Titans – if they choose Howard – being able to remedy a lot of that.

“The Titans have a great leader in Marcus Mariota, who is the type of guy who can influence guys in a positive way and make them work harder,” Pauline said. “You don’t normally draft a tight end that high, but Howard has the talent to be a Tony Gonzalez-type of tight end for the next 8-10 years, because he is so big and talented.”

As for the other pick at 18, Pauline has Tennessee addressing a need at receiver with Davis, whom some regard as the best available receiver in the draft. And while the wideout position is deep, Pauline has reservations.

“I don’t see any wide receivers in this draft who will be surefire impact players right out of the gate,” Pauline said. “There are a lot of No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 receivers in this draft in my opinion. Mike Williams, John Ross and Corey Davis have the potential to develop into solid players, but I’m not sure any of them will be superstars.”
With the Titans still needing help in the secondary, Pauline said he could see the Titans taking a versatile safety like Malik Hooker of Ohio State with one of their picks, if they go defense.

“I don’t know that I would take any cornerback with where their picks are in the first round. I’m not on the Marcus Lattimore bandwagon. If I were them and was going to look for help in the secondary in the first round, I would look at Malik Hooker,” Pauline said. “He’s can play centerfield and he’s versatile enough that you can line him up over the slot in the nickel package.”

Pauline said he believes Hooker, whose game tape he raved about, would give the Titans something different at safety than Kevin Byard, Jonathan Cyprien and Da’Norris Searcy more so than Jamal Adams, who is regarded as more of a box safety.

Outside of those needs, Pauline likes where the Titans are headed, saying they can go best player available at almost any position.

“They can go best player available within reason. Obviously, they wouldn’t draft another quarterback or another left tackle, but with the exceptions of a few need positions, the Titans are in a position to take the best players available to them in this draft.”

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