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The Titans have problems with the inside of their offensive line, but is it worth it to use the tenth pick to try and plug the hole?
A lot of this back and forth about the value of Chance Warmack and draft position reminds me of MCM during last year's draft when the merit of taking David DeCastro, the highest rated interior lineman in the class, was hotly debated. Last year, the Titans were picking 20th overall and a lot of commenters were arguing that it was still too high to take an interior lineman, even one as solid as DeCastro. Last year I agreed with this kind of reasoning. I presented up counter-arguments about how some of the best offensive linemen in football are often dug up in the fourth round or later. We'd be fine just so long as the two Hall of Fame linemen on our staff could identify a fun project player like Brandon Washington from Miami later on in the draft? I know great player doesn't always mean great coach, but Washington was actually considered a pretty good prospect, especially as a run blocker, he may have benefitted from some one-on-one with Bruce Matthews.
Well, in the course of about nine months, Washington has been cut from the Eagles and my view on interior linemen has all but done a complete 180.
The Titans are not the team I thought they were heading into the 2012 season. I knew there were some holes and I knew that the team had come off of a very easy slate of opponents (but unlike Indy, we failed to cash in on our cupcake schedule) and I knew that we were a mess up front, but I was willing to let that slide a little bit because holy crap you guys my team just won nine games with a rookie head coach. In isolation, I was very optimistic about our chances this year, new schedule be damned. I think it's difficult not to be, you listen to Mike Munchak and his "BE A PRO, DO YOUR JOB" and hear rumors of everyone in the locker room praising Jake Locker and you think to yourself "Wow, I support a pretty neat and totally not dysfunctional franchise." And then we play a regular schedule and everything all just goes to hell. I'm kind of shocked that this team won six games with as bad as they looked at times. This is no quick fix and we need to realize that before we make any calls on who to draft.
An impact player at a skill position will not fix this team. I was tempted to say "an impact player short of Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson will not fix this team", but neither of them would be close to what they are in Seattle or Washington in this system anyway so why does it matter? Point is, until the coaches are willing to adapt or we find a perfect player to fit their system, we're screwed no matter who is lining up to throw, run, or catch. This is just a time to stockpile talent because make no mistake, if this crop of coaches can't get it done this year then they're as good as gone next year. If this leads to an external hire who knows what he's working with, all the better. It's not simply a coaching problem though, this team is dangerously thin in a lot of places, it all needs to be patched up at some point so we may as well look at where we've sprung a leak and work to address that.
If this were a team that had one, big glaring deficiency somewhere and was relatively solid everywhere else I doubt I'd even give Warmack the time of day, but it's not, it's a slow-motion train-wreck and it needs to be gutted. I can see how drafting a player like Warmack could be acceptable. The goal of 2013 is still going to be to win football games, but let's be honest, most of us will be happy if we see some kind of progress on both sides of the ball, if that brings in the wins then so be it. but I would personally love to just see some improvement in our play week to week. This draft should be about drafting for the future more than about drafting for the now. Linemen are rarely high-impact picks, but when you get a unit of them working together they make it so much easier for everyone else you draft on the offensive side of the ball to do their job. The Titans need to take a good long think about whether or not they think that they can find some good talent on the line in later rounds and if that's not a gamble that they're willing to take then Chance Warmack should be the guy. The difference between average and elite for linemen is absolutely huge when you have a group of players who all depend on each other and who basically dictate the flow of the offense. Don't agree with me? We have to terrific offensive tackles and yet, here we are having a discussion about taking a guard in the top ten.
He grades out as one of the most complete players in the draft. His presence alone probably won't improve the record of the 2013 Titans, but if we continue to surround him with talent (think of it as slowly drafting a unit as opposed to individual players) then he will be a vital cog in a group of players that will hopefully allow the coaches to plug just about any system they want without having to worry about the line.
Going guard in round one, especially this high, is not going to be a popular move. That's generally because it's kind of unheard of, the last guard to be taken this high was Mike Iupati, arguably one of the most dominant players in college football back in 2009. His team happens to be playing in the Super Bowl, and even though he's been a terrific addition to the team I think that this is probably a case of "correlation does not equal causation". The 49ers do have a fantastic line though, and Iupati is definitely a big part of that. I think if ever there were a year to take a guard this high, this would be it. This draft is incredibly deep with talent at safety and defensive end, two huge positions of need. This depth at positions like that makes it much easier for us to rest easy taking a guard because there is hope that quality players (Margus Hunt, Matt Elam, Tank Carrdine, Eric Reid, John Simon, etc.) can still be found in middle rounds. I think if the Titans are serious about grooming a good unit up front that they'd be smart to at least consider taking Warmack tenth overall.
I'm still a little wary, but really there aren't many players I'd pass up on him for at this point. Utah's Star Lotulelei could convince me otherwise, as would Texas A&M's Damonte Moore and Alabama's Dee Millner, but should all three of those be gone, Chance Warmack would be my pick without a second thought.