I love to say I told you so, the Titans did a really good job of drafting defensive players in last April's draft. In today's links, you probably saw the list from Pro Football Focus about the early race for Rookie of the Year and how this year was really strong for rookie defensive linemen. Well, the Titans had two players on the defensive line and one more at linebacker.
Let's start with Karl Klug. I was a huge fan of this pick as soon as it was made. The fifth round for a guy who had improved that much in three years and a boatload of desire to get even better? Sign me up, this guy went from nobody to stud in no time at all. I was expecting him to get time at defensive end, but he seems to be just fine and is holding his own at tackle. Klug spends most of his time in the enemy backfield crushing and/or hurrying the quarterback. In limited time, he's got three pressures, three hits, and a sack. In limited time. Just keep doing what you're doing Karl, you'll crack the starting rotation in no time. Oh, and he also has tiny little arms.
Next up, Jurrell Casey. We were promised nasty explosiveness. Check. We were promised disruption in the backfield. Also check. He's ready, he was born ready. It's funny 'cause he's already got eight times as many tackles as Jerry Hughes. Things aren't looking good for Sen'Derrick Marks. I feel bad for the guy, but the best players gotta play and before long, Casey and Klug are gonna be the best players.
Finally, my pick for DROY in the preseason, Akeem Ayers. Although I'm at least a tad bit disappointed at how he's played so far, Ayers has already been noted as a top rookie twice by PFF, so expect for him to at least be in the conversation. Week one was an early coming out party as Ayers made some nice plays in the run game, but after that he seemed to drop off a little bit. At times he just seems to disappear out there. That's what I was kind of afraid of when he came in here, he's not the most physical linebacker and when he's forced to take on blockers head on, he struggles at times. However, he's playing really well against the run when given the opportunity, the pass rush will hopefully follow suit.
In terms of upside, I've still got Ayers at number one for the defensive players in this draft. He just has so many unique skills that make him perfect to be the next do-it-all linebacker. I have visions of Ayers blossoming into our own version of Baltimore's Terrell Suggs. It's a stretch, as Suggs was praised as an undersized, but dominant pass rusher coming out of school and Ayers as a coverage-first outside linebacker, but Suggs has changed his game by excelling in run support and becoming a crucial part of his team's defensive scheme.