Stop me if you've heard this one before: the NFL is a passers league. From that statement alone, the Titans pursuit of a new cornerback to replace the void left by Cortland Finnegan is a legitimate one. I won't get into the strategy of drafting better pass rushers to mask the deficiencies of an untalented group of secondary players because right now, there seems to be some legitimate momentum behind this whole "corner in the first round" stuff that's going around lately. Of course, we're still at the "don't know anything" stage, but we can't just wait until we know for sure what direction Webster is going to go in because we really wouldn't get a whole lot done, so bear with me and imagine for a second that the Titans have announced their intentions to draft a cornerback in the first round.
In my "ideal but still almost realistic" scenario, the Titans are picking Dre Kirkpatrick.
Morris Claiborne will not be there. He might be the best corner in the draft with no bogus character concerns to weigh down his draft stock. That's top 10 material right there, end of discussion. Kirkpatrick, on the other hand, has a high risk of falling in the draft due to a ridiculous run-in with the law. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm not a smoker of any kind, but if Kirkpatrick's biggest issue is sparking up every once in awhile, he's ok in my book. Just don't show up to the games high and we won't have any problems. It's going to be surprising to a lot of people out there on draft day when Kirkpatrick doesn't get picked in the top 15, but remember that Dez Bryant, one of the most talented receivers to come out of college in the last few years, also saw a huge drop in stock largely because of alleged character concerns.
I feel like if the Titans are committed to taking a cornerback in the first round and Kirkpatrick is still around at 20 that they absolutely have to take him. He's one of the best zone coverage guys to come out of the college ranks in years. He just simply shuts down one side of the field like nobody's business. He's not on the same level, but it's really very Asomugha-esque to watch. I remember thinking that if he can be bumped inside where he won't get burned quite so much over the top or finds a way to improve his instincts on the double-move and/or his straight line speed, watch out, you've got a shutdown corner in the making. However, unlike Nnamdi, Kirkpatrick thrives when he's given the chance to take down ball carriers. He's really pretty huge by cornerback standards, weighing in at nearly 200 lbs and standing 6'2", he'll be able to match up well with some of the bigger receivers in the NFL from day one. Unfortunately, also unlike Nnamdi, he's not very good in man coverage. If he's got one big weakness, it's matching up with one man on a deep route. Because he's not incredibly fast, he's got to learn to use that long frame or just improve man technique.
In any case, this is the player the Titans have ended up with in my world. What happens now?
I don't think that Jason McCourty is in any danger of losing his spot as the "number one" cornerback. I think that as good as Alterraun Verner has been, McCourty kind of separated himself last year with a strong third season. Of course, I think Verner outplayed McCourty in 2010 even before his injury, so there's always the chance that the two regress towards their true skill levels, but there's also a chance that what we saw in 2011 was closer to their true skill level than 2010 was. Anyway, the point is that the Titans have two really talented young corners who are due to play in expanded roles this year. It makes sense to me to mix in quite a few cover-2 looks with Kirkpatrick, that's where he plays his best football. I don't know if he surpasses Claiborne in this area, but he's probably on the same level. Keep McCourty on the outside, bump Verner inside to cover the slot man when necessary, but keep giving the offense multiple looks.
Honestly, I don't know how much this would improve the pass defense. I like the idea of having three above average, maybe even two elite, corners in the secondary, but I still like the idea of a couple of terrorizing defensive ends on the defensive line to pair with Karl Klug and Jurrell Casey. That being said, I'll be satisfied if the Titans end day one with Kirkpatrick on the team, I think his zone coverage skills and tackling ability in run support be a huge asset in a division like this.