I know what everyone thinks about Mel Kiper around here, and I also know what people think (for the most part) about drafting for need as well.
Well in this post, I'm about to combine them. Mel Kiper has laid out a pretty basic grouping of the strongest and weakest positions in this years' draft class.
First thing I saw when I looked at this list of strongest positions was that the Titans are seriously in luck. Positions listed are wide receiver, offensive guard, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, and cornerback. All are positions of need at some level, and all should have some good players available at the twentieth pick.
Wide receiver is an intriguing, but seemingly unlikely option in the first round. There should be plenty of good players there for the taking, including everyone's favorite mancrush Stephen Hill, but I don't see the front office viewing any of the receivers projected to be there as being more valuable than, say, some of the corners or even some of the defensive ends. I'm still holding out hope that, somehow, Alshon Jeffery is there in the second round. Offensive guard is another area of need with some intriguing prospects, but again, I can't see the team going guard in the first round. First of all, I think I've laid out my thoughts on drafting an offensive guard in the first round fairly extensively on this site over the past few months, second of all, we have heard straight from the horse's mouth that guard will likely not be targeted that early. If that means missing out on potential once-in-a-decade talent David DeCastro, so be it, there are more important holes to fill.
I think the linebackers and the defensive tackles are going to be the real winners in the first round. From workout warriors (Dontari Poe) to more polished prospects (Devon Still), defensive tackle boasts a very, very deep class. While not as top-heavy as maybe the Suh and McCoy class in 2010, this class still has very much to offer in terms of late first round talent. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Titans pick up a guy to plant in the middle of the defense alongside Jurrell Casey. Cornerback is another spot I see the Titans targeting early. Stephon Gilmore is a hot name right now, I definitely wouldn't mind seeing him take over the slot role that Cortland Finnegan manned last year. Assuming he panned out, he would instantly give the Titans one of the best trio of young corners in the league. I think the love for Chris Hawkins here is far too widespread. There's no reason to write off his career or anything, but he really hasn't done anything to prove that he belongs on the field consistently. Same goes for Tommy Campbell, maybe even more so. In any case, Alabama's Dre' Kirkpatrick is another intriguing prospect whose large body and excellent zone cover skills would make him an ideal fit for Jerry Gray's defense.
Now, moving onto the weakest positions in this year's draft, guess what, we're in luck again. Tight end, safety, and offensive tackle come in as the weakest.
I don't know about anyone else, but I know that I'm personally in love with both our tight end unit as a whole and our two tackles. Jared Cook can continue to be "wasted potential" all he wants as long as he produces like he did last year. Yes, I'd like to see more from him just because we're all very familiar with his ridiculous physical skill set, but honestly, his 2011 was not as soul-crushingly disappointing as it would appear to be. Craig Stevens will continue to be the blocking tight end, and although he may have passed the eye test last year, he could do better there. Overall, I still love the one-two punch of Cook/Stevens and wouldn't trade it for many other tight end tandems. Consider also that they should only be getting better. This group is going places.
As for offensive tackle, I think we all know what the deal is there. Big Country and Michael Roos are immovable monoliths that kept Matt Hasselbeck off of injured reserve for a good part of last season. I expect more of the same in 2012 for the league's best tackle tandem.
As for safety, I really can't see the team sinking a first round pick into the position after, for better or for worse, extending both of its' starting safeties from 2011.
All in all, 2012 is shaping up to be a very advantageous year for the Titans. Although this is the highest draft pick they've had in awhile, it's one of the most important ones as well. This is a year that they could really strike gold in. After particularly strong showings in 2010 and 2011, I'm very excited to see what they've got cooked up for 2012 after being given such a wide range of talent at key positions.