Times seem to be slow around this time of year, and while we got some individual draft analysis before, I'd like to talk about the 2014 Draft with a little more detail.
In a draft where the Texans got their hands on another disrupting pass rusher (Clowney), the Jaguars got their new QB (Bortles), and the Colts didn't do anything interesting, our Titans tried once again to fill their team with great young talent to push us over the hump of mediocrity.
Now, we won't know if this draft class is going to help achieve that until later, but analyzing the young men that'll be wearing the two-toned blue this season can help us better predict how and where they'll make an impact.
FIRST ROUND - "Taylor Curtis Lewan"
Offensive Tackle, Michigan
College Production: 4 Years
Taylor Lewan's early years at Michigan were marred with overly aggressive play and mental errors, from holds and false starts, to unnecessary roughness. The second year at Michigan, he seemed to learn how to get away with the rough stuff rather than stop doing it. This irritated other defenders, including one defender that was dragged down by his face-mask and responded by getting up and punching Lewan, who surprisingly enough didn't retaliate.
While Lewan's aggressiveness on the field didn't get any less volatile as time went on, his athleticism and skill continued to impress Michigan fans and NFL scouts. After a stellar 2012 campaign, there were questions that Lewan might bypass his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. Taylor decided against this, however, and made his 2013 season even more spectacular than the year before. In 2013, Taylor Lewan did not allow a single sack, and controlled future NFL star Clowney in their match-up that year.
While his on-the-field attitude and off-the-field controversies may derail his career eventually, it's clear that Lewan will be a great NFL tackle for the Titans for however long he lasts.
SECOND ROUND - "Bishop Shaquille Sankey"
College Production: 3 Years
After being a backup in Washington during his freshman year, Bishop Sankey took over the starting role for the Huskies in 2012. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry, with 1,439 yards on 289 carries. Their offense as a whole scored 161 points that year, with Sankey accounting for 112 of those points. That year, he supplied nearly 70% of the offensive scoring and 38% of their total offensive yardage. For the team's runningback to lead the team in points scored, in an offense that was extremely pass-heavy, speaks to the talent of Sankey and the trust the offense placed in him at the time to score when they were close to the endzone.
In 2013, Washington's offense decided to go with a more balanced approach, putting more pressure and drawing more defensive attention to the young tailback. He responded by having an even better year than he did in 2012. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry, with 1870 yards on 327 carries. Their offense as a whole scored 322 points that year, with Sankey accounting for 147 of those points.
What's very interesting is that, the year prior, Washington quarterback Keith Price had 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on 432 attempts. When the offense decided to let Bishop Sankey carry more of the offense, quarterback Keith Price had 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 352 attempts. His completion percentage and yards per attempt also significantly improved. This signifies one thing.
If you want a runningback whose ability can take pressure off the quarterback and allow that quarterback to play better, Bishop Sankey is the runningback you should want. No matter who starts in Tennessee at the quarterback position throughout Sankey's time here, it's apparent that he will consistently take pressure off of them by being a reliable, every-down back. The ability to make defenders focus in on him due to his ability to evade tacklers and burst off big runs is something that will help our Titans be much more two-dimensional in the coming seasons.
As a replacement for the "home run hitter" Chris Johnson, Bishop Sankey may never break any records, but he should end up helping the offense more than CJ2K did during his time as a Titan.
FOURTH ROUND - "DaQuan S. Jones"
Defensive Tackle, Penn State
College Production: 2 Years
Initially rated as a 3 to 4 star offensive guard coming out of high school, he committed to Penn State as a defensive tackle instead. This was a questionable move at first, as his first two years at the program saw him being nothing more than a backup seeing a couple of snaps here and there.
After an off-season of impressing coaches, Jones earned a starting spot as the team's second defensive tackle. He had a decent year, but nothing particularly stunning to see. That is when DaQuan decided he needed more speed to finish plays and be a more productive player. He lost 25 pounds prior to the 2013 season, and it appeared that his decision was an extremely intelligent one. In his first two games starting that season, he had nearly matched his total tackle numbers and easily surpassed his sack and tackle-for-loss statistics from the entire season before. The rest of the year he curtailed off a bit in his amount of tackles for loss and sacks, but he had nearly tripled his total tackle numbers in that one season.
After being called the 'defensive MVP' of the Penn State defense and earning heaps of praise from Penn State coach Bill O'Brien on his work ethic and attitude towards nutrition, Jones was picked up to help further beef up the Titans' defensive line.
The Titans still seem to be searching for a second DT that can dominate beside the 'War Machine' Jurrell Casey. There's a good chance that Jones will be that player, and even if he isn't, his approach to the game ensures he should be, at least, a servicable rotational player for the Titans' new 3-4 defense.
FOURTH ROUND - "Marqueston Huff" aka "Quest"
College Production: 3 Years
Known at the University of Wyoming for his versatility, Huff's first contributions on the team were playing nickelback and on special teams in 2010. Huff became a full-time starter in 2011 at the cornerback position, showing an impressive ability to turn the tide of games. He was the only Cowboy player to score on defense for the team, was praised for his contributions in run defense, and lead the team in total forced turnovers including an interception in the back of the endzone that won Wyoming's last game of the year. In 2012, he added to his college resume by forcing a fumble at Wyoming's own one yard line to prevent a touchdown, blocking a kick on special teams, and breaking up seven passes on the year.
Play-making and run support seemed to be his specialty, so in 2013 he was moved to play the safety position. Unfortunately, this seemed to hurt him more than it helped him, as he saw a decrease in every category except for a jump in the number of total tackles. This, on top of playing for a team in the Mountain West Conference, hurt his draft stock tremendously. However, he performed admirably at the combine, keeping him from dropping too low in the draft.
The Titans front office could tell where the "Quest" played best, and drafted him in the 4th round with the expressed intent to play him at both cornerback and safety. As a safety, Huff was primarily a run support guy. As a cornerback, Huff was an extremely versatile playmaker, almost Verner-esque.
While it will certainly take a lot of good NFL-level production to prove he can be the same playmaker at cornerback for the Titans that he was for Wyoming, this is a solid pick that may have addressed a need depending on how the team chooses to use him, and at the very least added young playmaking talent to our defensive secondary in an off-season where we lost some of it.
FIFTH ROUND - "Avery Williamson"
College Production: 3 Years
Initially being a small-time depth option in his 2010 freshman season at Kentucky, he saw usage as a rotational player in the 2011 season. One would expect a rotational player to contribute here and there, and have some minor statistics. Avery Williamson is not the kind of player that you should set normal expectations on. As a rotational player, Avery Williamson never had less than 2 tackles in a game, finishing the year with 49 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and a pass deflection. He put up those numbers as a non-starter at linebacker.
It was extremely obvious who on the team had earned a starting spot in 2012, and the defensive production he showed in the SEC when he became a starter was nothing short of outstanding. He was second in the SEC and seventh in the nation with 135 tackles, and had 8 games where he had double-digit tackles, including 20 tackles against Vanderbilt. He was not only a top tackler, but made game-altering plays as well. He had three sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception during the season.
Returning for his senior year, his tackle numbers saw a decline, but were still impressing with 102 total tackles and 4 games with double-digit tackles. Sadly, he didn't force any turnovers and only had one sack, and seemed to be sinking on a defense whose team kept piling up loss after loss. This senior year performance is what likely caused him to fall to the fifth round.
Regardless, it seems the Titans drafted an incredible tackler at a position of need, who has shown an ability to force some turnovers in the past. Getting a player with the kind of college production Avery had at Kentucky in the 5th round is a positive, especially considering the toughness of the conference he played in, but in the end it is the toughness of the NFL that will test him. It's uncertain at this point if Avery Williamson's amazing 2012 season was a fluke, or a flash of what he can do as a pro. We will find out as the years pass what becomes of him at this level.
SIXTH ROUND - "Zach Mettenberger"
College Production: 4 Years
Oh, Mettenberger. His college story is like a sandwich made with old bread. Sandwiched in-between the bitter red flags is deliciously amazing play and production.
Excuse me while I go get a ham sandwich.
Being ranked as one of the nation's top 15 quarterbacks coming out of high school, Mettenberger was recruited to the SEC's University of Georgia in 2010. Zach promptly blew this opportunity when he pleaded guilty to two sexual battery charges and was kicked off of the Bulldogs squad for violating team rules. Not long afterwards, Mettenberger transferred to Kansas-based Butler Community College. As their quarterback in 2010, he had 32 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, leading the team to the "Junior College National Championship Game".
It seemed that Butler Community College was Zach Mettenberger's chance to show the SEC that he could play ball, because he again transferred schools. This time, he transferred to the SEC's Louisiana State University, where he spent the 2011 season sitting on the bench.
He was named starting quarterback for the team in 2012, and showed he could lead another college team to superb results. He passed for 2,600 yards with 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions that year as the Tigers went 10-3, and then the next season, he passed for 3,082 yards with 22 touchdowns and 8 interceptions as the Tigers went 9-3.
It seemed Zach Mettenberger had overcome his first blown opportunity and was showing the world he could be a good professional quarterback. Then in LSU's final game, he tore his ACL.
There, you have the 6th round quarterback selection of the Tennessee Titans, in a nutshell. His college career had a very concerning start, an amazing middle, and a concerning finish. Zach Mettenberger showed great production and leadership in college, but also showed immaturity to start and had a major knee injury to end his college career.
The Titans' last draft pick shares something in common with their first. There's a possibility their career could be derailed eventually. Zach got kicked off a team, blew a great opportunity at Georgia, was charged with two counts of sexual battery, transferred twice, and had a major injury. Bad choices and bad fortune are in his history, and in the NFL too much of either can disrupt your career and hurt your team.
All that being said, Zach Mettenberger has a real shot at being a great quarterback in the league for however long he lasts. This season is Jake Locker's time to prove he can stay healthy and produce, and if he can't, 2015 is likely going to be Zach Mettenberger's time.
RANKING THE SELECTIONS
1. 2nd rounder Bishop Sankey; Should be a day one starter.
2. 6th rounder Zach Mettenberger; Could be a good NFL QB if circumstances allow him to start
3. (Tied) 4th rounder DaQuan Jones, 5th rounder Avery Williamson; Can really contribute to our front seven in the new 3-4 scheme.
5. 4th rounder Marqueston Huff; Adds playmaking ability in the secondary and likely on special teams.
6. 1st rounder Taylor Lewan; Can be a long-tenured starting tackle if he doesn't lose control
Overall, I felt this was a decent draft by Ruston Webster and Ken Whisenhunt.
Bishop Sankey is a good second round pick and should be a definite starter, finding someone that could be a good starting NFL quarterback in the sixth round is tremendous, while mid-draft selections DaQuan Jones, Avery Williamson, and Marqueston Huff should be able to contribute to the team within the first few years of their careers.
As for our first round pick being at the bottom of my selection rankings...
The alleged threat to rape a woman, the sometimes overly-aggressive playing style, the fact we already signed a FA tackle with starting ability, and the numerous other good selections we could have chosen at that spot are all reasons I disapprove of the pick. That being said, Taylor Lewan's on-field talent shows he is undeniably NFL starting-quality material, and he has the natural size you look for in a starting tackle as well. The pick still has a chance of being a positive one down the road, even if we could have done better at that spot.
So, what do you think? I'm sure there are a lot of members that weren't around during the first batch of the site's articles on the new Titans draftees, and even those of you who were may have some additional points to make about these players. So please comment, and let your voice be heard! ... or... your words be read, I guess!
Thank you for reading. Please recommend this post if you enjoyed it so it can be pinned to top of the comment section. I have some other subjects I plan on writing about in the near future to give you guys some things to discuss during the long dark boring off-season.