Well we are officially in draft season for 2011, with all the showcase games and combine coming up quickly. I wanted to revisit a different draft, however, and rewind to 2008 to review the Titans' draft and see where the picks are now. It has been three years since this draft, and most prognosticators agree that three years is a good indicator of where a player is heading. So, let's look at the 2008 draft for the Titans.
(Note: If there is a new pick, I limited it only to players available at the time the Titans selected, no taking someone who was already off the board.)
Pick: Chris Johnson, RB, ECU
Analysis: Is there really any that is needed? I recall when the pick was announced (I watch every single moment of the first round so this was after a lengthy time of waiting and anticipation), I was disappointed that they had taken ANOTHER RB early. Obviously Reinfeldt knows better than I, and "CJ2K" has become one of the most explosive RBs in the league, and I do mean RB, not just a fast guy. His lateral speed is practically unparalleled (see: SD TD run from 2010 season), and he can find room up the middle as well. His passing game prowess seems to be missing, but there is no denying that every time he gets the ball, he can take it all the way.
New Pick: None. CJ was a fantastic pick.
Pick: Jason Jones, DT, Eastern Michigan
Analysis: Jones is a bit of an enigma. I was at the Pittsburgh game in 2008 where he subbed in for an injured Haynesworth and exploded onto the scene, it was fantastic. Unfortunately injuries have led to inconsistency, and I say that more in the sense of...he can't stay on the field, not that his every-down play is necessarily inconsistent. If he stays healthy, look out.
New Pick: Jones. Looking through picks made after him in the second and early third, no one stands out as someone who would be a better option for where they were. Gotta stick with the guy who has shown real talent, just gets banged up.
Pick: Craig Stephens, TE, California
Analysis: Stephens this past season seemed to finally be getting his chance and making the most of his opportunities. I have never really watched a blocking TE closely, but I don't think you can fault him for what was really more of an interior OL problem in the run game. Surprisingly, he also contributed in the passing game. Fourth year could be big for him.
New Pick: Jermichael Finley, TE (chosen by Green Bay)
Just six picks after Stephens, the Packers picked up Finley, who was poised for (and looked to be having) a breakout year as a game-changing TE for them before going down to injury. He could've been that threat across the middle that this offense has been missing really since Wycheck (Scaife has been solid, but unspectacular), and one could argue had Finley been picked, the trade up for Cook the following year wouldn't have happened, allowing us to keep a second-round pick. Stephens has started to show potential, but Finley could've been another weapon to pair with CJ in the backfield.
Pick 1: Willam Hayes, DE, Winston-Salem State
Analysis: The trade up for him surprised me, but hearing Washburn was high on him had me ok with it. Three years later, he hasn't amounted to much more than a specialist at this point. Like most our DL this year, he was inconsistent and injured. More of a rotational guy than anything.
Demps had a solid rookie year as a situational guy for the Eagles, but made his biggest contribution as a kick returner. At the time of the draft, Chris Carr was not a factor. Demps could've provided solid depth at S as well as been another KR option (or THE option if he was drafted and Carr not around due to that). Three years later, he is with the Texans after losing his starting job in Philly, but could've been good depth and special teams guy here...and who knows what development behind Hope could've meant.
Pick 2: Lavelle Hawkins, WR, California
Analysis: Hawkins is the epitomy of "offseason wonder". It seems every single offseason we heard how he had turned a corner, was having a great camp, etc. Then the regular season started and he disappeared. Whether that is because of coaching loyalty to veterans or his own deficiences, we may never know. He showed some flashes, but ultimately continued the curse of Titans WR draft picks.
Carr has become a very good player for the Chiefs considering he was drafted in the fifth round. With 135 career tackles (counterpoint: only 3 INTs), he is a solid defender in the secondary.
Pick 3: Stanford Keglar, LB, Purdue
Analysis: I was excited about this pick, I thought he would spend a year or so backing up and playing STs, then this past year burst onto the scene a la Bulluck. Unfortunately, that was way, way off. Keglar is a complete bust, having done really nothing to warrant staying on the roster as long as he did.
New Pick: Jonathon Goff, LB (chosen by New York Giants)
Chosen near the end of the fifth round, Goff has been an on-and-off starter. Played special teams his rookie year, appeared in all games the following year and started four at MLB. Not a whole lot of career tackles, but a guy who could've contributed on STs while backing up Bulluck and Thornton and learning from them. For a fifth-rounder (late at that), he's been solid and would've been a good late-fourth pick.
Pick: Cary Williams, CB, Washburn
Analysis: I was hoping for another Finnegan, but those are a dime a dozen. Williams really never did much, and my memory may be off...but did he even make the team?
New Pick: Mike Tolbert, FB (CFA signed by San Diego)
Tolbert is huge, really huge. Not only is he huge, but he can run for a big guy, with 900+ career rushing yards and 12 career rushing TDs to go with 55 receptions for 500+ yards. Could've been a bruising fullback as well as a short-yardage and goal-line guy both in the run and pass.
The early picks from 2008 look very, very good. CJ is a beast, Jones is great and just needs to stay healthy, and Stephens looks to be becoming a capable, primarily blocking TE. Unfortunately the later rounds didn't bring quite as much fortune, and today we could look to those rounds as a signal of our current lack of depth at key areas and lack of developed talent. Hayes has been a solid contributer, but besides that all picks from the fourth round on in this draft are no longer on the roster (I'm not counting Hawkins, don't think he'll be back either). Had some of those turned into quality depth, maybe injuries this year on both sides of the ball wouldn't have been as big of an issue. However, hindsight is obviously 20/20 and this is really just a fun exercise in "What If?" Discuss at will!