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Comparing Titans’ Roster Needs to Others: Post-Free Agency Update

Which teams still share the same positional needs as the Titans after all the big free agents signings?

NFL: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

As the draft continues to crawl closer, day by day, hour by hour, we must find a way to pass the time... (I myself have passed about a week of that time working on this very article)

Before the start of free agency, I compared the Titans’ needs at cornerback and wide receiver (among other positions) to team needs across the NFL.

Now that free agency has calmed down with most of the big names off the market, let’s revisit these comparisons and see which teams are still likely competitors for the Titans’ favorite prospects.

For reference, the Titans have draft picks #5, #18, #83, #100 (COMP), #124, #164, #214, and #236.

Other Teams with Wide Receiver Needs...

We saw a flurry of free agency activity surrounding the wide receiver position this year. Veterans Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery joined forces with Carson Wentz in Philadelphia, Terrelle Pryor unexpectedly left Hue Jackson and Cleveland for Washington, DeSean Jackson will now run fly patterns for Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay, and the great Kenny Britt will catch passes from... someone? in Cleveland next season.

The ageless Brandon Marshall joins Odell Beckham, Jr. and Sterling Shepard in New York; Pierre Garcon signed with San Francisco; Ted Ginn, Jr. now calls ‘home’ the fast track of the Superdome; the winds blew Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton to the windy city of Chicago; and finally, Buffalo brought in Brandon Tate, Corey/Philly Brown, and Jeremy Butler to all probably get cut in the offseason... (just kidding, maybe).

Like I said, lots going on at wide receiver... and still lots of teams that want one or two more.

The Niners need help at virtually every position on the roster, and the addition of 30-year-old Pierre Garcon is not going to affect how the team views wide receivers in this draft. Maquis Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson will add depth and camp competition, but they won’t stop the team from adding wide receiver talent, either. I’d be shocked if they pick a receiver at #2 overall, but a trade down or an early second round pick (this article is called “2017 NFL Draft: 49ers Should Draft Zay Jones”) could be used to get a weapon for... is it really going to be Matt Barkley?

Draft picks: #2, #34, #66, #109, #143 (COMP), #146, #161, #198, #202, #219.

The Chargers signed Russell Okung to a 4-year deal to lock down the left tackle position, which should allow Philip Rivers more time to find talented wideouts Keenan Allen and... well I guess it’s just Keenan Allen...

In this Fansided article called “Charger Fans: Meet wide receivers Mike Williams and Corey Davis,” Nicholas Dilorenzo included the following explanation under the heading, “Why wide receiver is definitely a need for the Chargers...”

Whether the Chargers decide to take a receiver in Round 1 or sign an undrafted free agent after the conclusion of the draft, they need to add a playmaker for quarterback Philip Rivers.

Draft picks: #7, #38, #71, #113, #151, #190, #225.

Although the Bengals have arguably a top-five wide receiver in A.J. Green, apparently that’s not enough. Bengals insider and radio analyst Dave Lapham commented on the Bengals apparent need at wide receiver:

“This year, you have an extra fourth rounder. There will probably be a value wide receiver who has good enough speed even in the fourth round, or the third round, if you take one in the first,” Lapham said on the Locked on Bengals podcast. “I would not hesitate to double down.”

If you take one in the first? Double down?? If you didn’t know any better, you might think Lapham was discussing the Titans strategy with regards to addressing the wide receiver position...

Draft picks: #9, #41, #73, #116, #138 (COMP), #153, #176 (COMP), #193, #217 (COMP), #227, #251 (COMP).

Another team that already has a stud wide receiver but wants to add more wide receivers, the Buffalo Bills signed a bunch of scrubs after the great Justin Hunter left for Pittsburgh and Robert Woods moved to Los Angeles in free agency. Andre Holmes got a three-year deal, but he’s not the type of player that makes you pass on a talented receiver.

Sammy Watkins has had trouble staying healthy, and the Bills are reportedly unsure if they will pick up his fifth-year option before the deadline on May 2 (as the former #4 overall pick, Watkins would make the average of the top 10 wide receiver salaries of 2016, putting his potential 2017 price tag in the neighborhood of $13.25M. That’s a lot of guaranteed money for a receiver who’s only played 21 of a possible 32 games the last two seasons.

If the Titans can’t work out a trade down with the Bills, they may look at one of the top wide receiver propects at pick #10 overall.

Draft picks: #10, #44, #75, #156, #171, #195.

All the talk about Corey Davis possibly falling out of the first round should halt abruptly when the Cardinals take the podium. Because the Cardinals are drafting Corey Davis at 13 if he is there.

That’s my prediction, anyway.

I borrowed the below graph from an Arizona Cardinals Mock Draft Tracker, which shows all of the players mocked to Arizona at pick 13 since April 1. This website claims to have tracked 219 mocks since January 1st. There have apparently been 27 posted mocks trusted by this tracker since April 1st.

The Cardinals may very well lean quarterback in the first round, but if they don’t, it’s because they drafted Corey Davis.

Back in February, ESPN’s Cardinals’ beat reporter Josh Weinfuss listed Arizona’s top draft need as wide receiver. Whether or not Larry Fitzgerald retires, Arizona will need someone to play across from him and then to step into the number one role when he eventually hangs up the cleats. Davis could easily be that guy, as noted by Crawford_T in this SBNation Community Mock Draft:

First, I don’t like Watson or Kizer enough to use a 1st rounder on. I considered Mahomes, whose enormous potential is intriguing. I think he has a way to go till he is NFL-ready, but Arizona is a good spot for him as he could sit behind Palmer and Stanton this year and learn. But I think Mahomes is a risky prospect, a little too risky for the #13 overall pick, while I am confident in Davis.

To wrap this up, I think Davis is a pick that helps in both of the Cardinals goals; he helps in the team immediately as a #2 WR and the team in the future as Fitzgerald’s replacement and a big target for whoever is their young QB in 2018.

In this Fox Sports Article listing five realistic first-round draft targets for the Cardinals, Corey Davis came in as the Number One Most Realistic.

I continue to believe that if the Titans want Corey Davis, they cannot wait until pick #18 to draft him.

Draft picks: #13, #45, #77, #119, #157, #179 (COMP), #197, #231.

The Eagles may have signed two “big names” in an effort to rebuild the wide receiver position, but I don’t think they are finished.

Alshon Jeffery is on a one-year “prove it” deal, with no guarantee of where he’ll play football in 2018. Torrey Smith signed a 3-year contract worth $15M, but the Eagles could cut him before the start of next season with no penalty, and Torrey Smith is not the type of talent to prevent the Eagles from drafting a wide receiver anyway.

Will they be in play for a first round guy? It seems unlikely, but certainly not impossible. I’m not sure who Eric Galko is or if his information is totally verifiable, but he reported the following in his latest ‘what I’ve heard’ column:

Eagles first-round considered players: Charles Harris, Derek Barnett, Gareon Conley, Christian McCaffrey and John Ross. Of those five players, only one is expected to be available, and the Eagles will draft that one.

I’m not sure how he could know this already, but the point is the Eagles are going to be targeting a wide receiver in this draft, possibly at pick 14, but more likely in the middle and later rounds. Recent buzz is all about McCaffrey to the Eagles, which might be enough to satisfy their WR corps for 2017.

Draft picks: #14, #42, #99 (COMP), #118, #139 (COMP), #155, #194, #230.

The Ravens were extremely active in free agency, retaining their own Brandon Williams with a massive 5-year contract, inking Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr to big 4-year deals, and re-upping Lardarius Webb and Mike Wallace. Baltimore did lose Kamar Aiken to free agency and Steve Smith to retirement, so the Ravens recent efforts to add youth and talent to the wide receiver position won’t stop them from drafting a 2017 prospect.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome recently said as much when asked if Breshad Perriman’s presence, a first-round pick two years ago, would preclude them from adding another receiver early this year.

“No, that would have [no bearing],” Newsome said. “If we feel like the best player at 16 is a wide receiver, and we feel like he’s going to come in and help Joe [Flacco] and help the other guys, we’ll turn that card in in a hurry.”

Translation: “We’re not trading out of 16 and we’re taking a wide receiver.”

Taking the chance that one of the “big three” receivers falls to #18 is a yuggge gamble, in my opinion.

Draft picks: #16, #47, #74, #78, #122, #159, #186.

The Cowboys re-signed Terrance Williams to a four-year contract, and he will play #2 wide receiver to Dez Bryant. Cole Beasley is still there manning the slot, substantially decreasing Dallas’s need for another receiver. If Terrance Williams had left in free agency, the situation would be much more dire. The Cowboys will simply be looking for upgrades where they can find them, rather than severely needing a wide receiver.

One receiver I expect them to take a hard look at is Mississippi State’s Fred Ross, also known as “Dak’s favorite target.” Ross has already met with the Cowboys many times - he had spoken with Dallas twice by the end of January. From an MSU article...

Ross also had a conversation with the Cowboys on March 22. Dallas is a team that he was in talks with around the time of the combine earlier this month, but Ross said those conversations haven’t been as frequent lately. Still, the Bulldogs’ career leader in receptions would like the opportunity to again be teammates with Dak Prescott.

Ross (Fred, not John) is a receiver I really like as a late-round slot player. He is Mississippi State’s all-time leader in catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns, and he stood out at the Senior Bowl, as I wrote about back in January.

Draft picks: #28, #60, #92, #133, #211, #228, #246.

Kenny Britt signed with Cleveland in free agency, and despite what you may think of Kenny Britt, he put up over 1,000 yards catching passes from Jared Goff and Case Keenum last year. Who is Goff going to throw to now, Tavon Austin? Newly signed Robert Woods? Maybe... An elite receiver from this draft class? Not unless Los Angeles is magically awarded a first round pick.

However, the Rams pose a real threat to steal one of the “tier two” prospects if that’s on whom the Titans have set their sites. Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zay Jones, that range of talent. The Titans will likely need to pick up a 2nd-round pick to even be in consideration for these guys, assuming they don’t elect for a first-round receiver.

Draft picks: #37, #69, #112, #141 (COMP), #149, #189, #206, #234

The Titans will likely address the wide receiver position at multiple points in the draft. So basically, any team that is looking to add a wide receiver at any point will be competition for Jon Robinson.

The teams that are actually in play for a first-round receiver are as follows: Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Baltimore Ravens. Other teams, like the Carolina Panthers or New York Jets, could surprise and take an early receiver. Lots of teams are constantly trying to add weapons to help their quarterback. Indianapolis doesn’t need a receiver at all, but if Grigson was still GM, odds are they’d take one... That could happen for any team that wants to get their quarterback a new toy.

Wide receiver isn’t the Titans only need, though. The defense could use some help, especially at cornerback.

Other Teams with Cornerback Needs...

There was a good deal of free agent shuffling at the cornerback position, as well. To recap...

The Jaguars snatched A.J. Bouye from division rival Houston; the Patriots overpaid Stephon Gilmore after losing Logan Ryan; as mentioned above, Baltimore signed Brandon Carr to a four-year deal and re-signed Lardarius Webb; Captain Munnerlyn is returning to Carolina; the Jets picked up the oft-injured Morris Claiborne on a one-year deal; D.J. Hayden left Oakland for a one-year deal in Detroit; and Chicago overhauled their cornerback group with Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, and Johnthan Banks (not a typo - his name is “Johnthan”).

While the addition of Logan Ryan will be a tremendous upgrade for the cornerback group, I highly doubt the Titans are finished addressing the position.

The Titans’ brass may not see the cornerback position as a major need still (at least, not the way the fans do), but the Titans will likely be adding more competition at some point in the draft, whether it’s at pick number five overall or later.

The good news is there are lots of quality cornerbacks entering this year’s draft. CBS Draft Analyst Rob Rang recently reported the following:

I had one longtime scout, in fact, emphatically state that opinion, commenting that he had first- or second-day grades on a remarkable 22 cornerbacks -- far and away the most of any position this year and the most cornerbacks to get such lofty grades over his 20-plus years in the league.

Unfortunately, despite the events of free agency, there remains a long list of teams that could be competitors for drafting all of these many available cornerbacks...

As I said before, the Niners need help at virtually every position on the roster, but the sub-head to this article reads, “Niners are expected to address weakness at cornerback in upcoming draft.” Recently, Tramaine Brock was released from the roster on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Brock was a starting cornerback for the team, but new GM-HC tandem of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan stressed at their introductory press conference that they would not have much tolerance for off-field issues, so now the team is looking for yet another cornerback.

I think the 49ers will draft multiple defensive backs, possibly targeting a corner with their early 2nd-round pick or even snatching Marshon Lattimore at #2 overall.

Draft picks: #2, #34, #66, #109, #143 (COMP), #146, #161, #198, #202, #219.

The Bears needed help at cornerback, and they went out and acquired a good deal of it. Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara should start outside for Chicago next season, but that shouldn’t stop them from drafting one or two prospects from this talented class. The number three pick seems high though, unless they’ve fallen quite in love with Lattimore, and apparently the Bears really like Deshaun Watson. If he’s still there at the top of the 2nd round, you have to think they pounce on him.

All of that makes me think the Bears will be competing with the Titans for the third-round-and-later cornerback prospects rather than the top-of-the-draft guys.

Draft picks: #3, #36, #67, #111, #117, #147, #221.

The Jets had one of the worst secondaries in the league last year, with Darrelle Revis doing some serious regressing as a player last season. The team signed Morris Claiborne, but they don’t appear to be finished addressing the secondary. Dan Kadar’s April 10th mock draft has the Jets taking Malik Hooker at #6 and Teez Tabor at #39. If Marshon Lattimore is on the board still at #6, the Jets are candidates to take him.

Draft picks: #6, #39, #70, #107 (COMP), #150, #191, #224.

In February, I wrote: “The Saints need help at virtually every position on defense.” In free agency, the Saints re-signed DT Nick Fairley, added ILBs A.J. Klein and Manti Te’o, OLB Alex Okafor, DE Darryl Tapp, CB Sterling Moore, and FS Rafael Bush - addressing almost every position on defense.

Of course, three of those guys (and both secondary additions) are bottom-of-the-roster depth players. There’s no doubt amongst analysts that the Saints will be adding a cornerback in the draft. Gareon Conley, whom the Titans have met with multiple times, is a common mock draft pick for the Saints.

Draft picks: #11, #32, #42, #76, #103 (COMP), #196, #229. updated their list of team needs on March 31, stating that the Cardinals need to find another potential starter at the cornerback position while noting that the departure of Tony Jefferson adds a hole at safety, as well. The Cardinals were rather quiet in free agency, adding 32-year-old strong safety Antoine Bethea and no other secondary players. The first round might be a little high for the Cardinals to target a cornerback, but they will surely be competing with Titans for the mid-round prospects.

Draft picks: #13, #45, #77, #119, #157, #179 (COMP), #197, #231.

The Eagles may be the only fanbase clamoring for cornerback help more than Tennessee’s. According to Bleeding Green Nation, the Eagles signed journeyman Patrick Robinson to a one-year deal, mostly to provide “veteran depth and experience.”

Philadelphia will be starting two new players on the outside this season after cutting Leodis McKelvin and letting Nolan Carroll leave in NFL free agency. The Eagles are still expected to pick at least one cornerback (if not multiple corners) in the 2017 NFL Draft.

I’ve seen at least as many mock drafts with Conley going to the Eagles at 14 as I have with the Saints at 11. The Eagles will surely be targeting both of the Titans biggest positions of need: cornerback and wide receiver.

Draft picks: #14, #43, #99 (COMP), #118, #139 (COMP), #155, #194, #230.

New General Manager Chris Ballard is on the record stating that the Colts “want to be a great drafting team.” He may be on to something with this strategy - if they’re successful, it will be only a matter of time before other teams pick up on this “be great at drafting” strategy and try to copy it - so look for a trend of “great drafting” to potentially sweep the NFL over the next few years...

Okay, all kidding aside, an Indy-local Fox news reporter, Mike Chappell, is doing a series focusing on the Colts draft needs, and after writing pieces on “pass rusher” and “running back,” he penned this nugget on their cornerback needs. Chappell notes the level of concern at cornerback is “high, very high,” followed by a long description of what Gareon Conley would bring to the Colts.

That’s three straight breakdowns now that show teams’ interest in Conley before pick 18... He ain’t falling to 18.

Draft picks: #15, #46, #80, #121, #137, #144 (COMP), #158.

The Ravens addressed the cornerback position in free agency by signing Brandon Carr to a four-year deal worth over $23M and re-signing Lardarius Webb to a three-year contract worth just over $6M. However, these two players are 30 and 31 years old, respectively, so Baltimore may be looking to get younger at the position, and they can get out of Brandon Carr’s contract after this year with no penalty - the three subsequent years are essentially options.

I’d actually be shocked if the Ravens didn’t spend a first-round pick on the wide receiver position after Ozzie Newsome’s comments (noted above), but if the “big three” options are off the board by #16, the Ravens may look to add a young stud at cornerback.

While it would be surprising to see the Ravens use an early pick on this position, they will be candidates to add a mid- or later-round guy. The Titans are likely adding early round guys AND late round guys.

Draft picks: #16, #47, #74, #78, #122, #159, #186.

In an April 17th Bleacher Report piece titled, “Ranking Oakland Raiders’ Biggest Needs in 2017 NFL Draft,” the first position on the list was, obviously, cornerback. Author Maurice Moton had this to say about the position:

The Raiders don’t need a cornerback. However, another underwhelming season for the secondary, along with Carrie's potential departure, could plunge the team's pass defense into deep peril. It's best to acquire an asset at the position to prevent a disaster rather than deal with a second-level defensive collapse later on.

Hmm... sounds to me like cornerback shouldn’t be the top-ranked need for this team, but that’s not for me to judge. While the Raiders are not likely to use a first rounder on a cornerback, they will probably address the position at some point in the draft, making them competitors of the Titans.

Draft picks: #24, #56, #88, #129, #168, #208, #242, #244.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Seahawks “Legion of Boom” was one of the most vaunted secondaries in the league. Now, they are in dire need of cornerback help. While I personally don’t expect to see Richard Sherman traded, if he was actually moved, that would only exacerbate this need for the Seahawks even further. Apparently, he hasn’t reported to voluntary workouts, but plans to report in May, so the media will likely make a Derrick Henry-esque story out of this.

The Seahawks re-signed their #2 starting cornerback DeShaun Shead, but a torn ACL suffered in the playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons will cause Shead to miss most of 2017. From a Fansided article on the signing:

When he’s healthy, Shead will likely return to his spot as a starting cornerback. In the meantime, his absence leaves Seattle with a depleted defensive backfield aside from Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, as well as a massive hole at cornerback. If they do not draft a cornerback, Jeremy Lane will slide in across Sherman, with either Neiko Thorpe, Perrish Cox or DeAndre Elliott filling Lane’s spot inside at nickel cornerback.

Perrish Cox a potential starter? Yeah... Seattle is drafting a cornerback.

Draft picks: #26, #58, #90, #102 (COMP), #106 (COMP), #210, #226.

The Chiefs have Marcus Peters, so cornerback won’t be at the very top of their needs list, but this recent CBS Sports article has cornerback listed as the Chiefs’ number two need, behind a mostly devalued position in running back.

The Chiefs added four cornerbacks last year, but only one made a significant contribution: free agent Terrance Mitchell. Going into his third season, Marcus Peters is one of the top young defensive backs in the league. But for the K.C. defense, it's a big drop in production after Peters.

Some teams are really quite spoiled. They already have Marcus Peters. If I’m assessing this team’s needs, cornerback is not in the top five. But apparently, the Chiefs (and their reporters) feel differently...

Draft picks: #27, #59, #91, #104 (COMP), #132, #170, #180 (COMP), #216 (COMP) #218 (COMP), #245.

Bleacher Report’s April 17th article “Ranking Dallas Cowboys’ Biggest Needs in 2017 Draft” notes the number one draft need for the Cowboys as... (I wouldn’t be referencing this article if it wasn’t...) cornerback! As Marcus Mosher writes:

The current state of the Cowboys' cornerback situation is concerning. The Cowboys have four cornerbacks on their roster, two of which are over the age of 30. Second-year player Anthony Brown will likely be the team's third defensive back. While Brown played well as a rookie, he only finished 96th among cornerbacks in the NFL1000. The fourth is journeyman Leon McFadden.

Heading into the draft, the Cowboys' starters at cornerback will likely be Orlando Scandrick and Carroll. Both are over the age of 30 and neither played well in 2016. Both players finished outside the top-75 cornerbacks in the NFL1000. Dallas will consider adding a cornerback with their first pick, because right now, it's the team's biggest need.

Analysts seem to be split on whether Dallas will use the 28th pick on a pass rusher or a defensive back (and analysts who think the Cowboys are making that decision before they’re on the clock next Thursday night are silly anyway). Regardless, the Cowboys will use a fairly early pick on a cornerback.

Draft picks: #28, #60, #92, #133, #211, #228, #246.

Green Bay released Sam Shields and lost Micah Hyde to the Buffalo Bills, leaving their secondary in pretty bad shape. They brought back former Packer Davon House to play corner, but House struggled mightily in Jacksonville last season. After signing a four-year deal in 2015, House started 15 of 16 games for the Jaguars in 2015, but was benched after four weeks of 2016 and then released in March.

House is not the answer for the Packers secondary. From a USA Today’s Packers News article:

House will get to compete with 2015 draft choices Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, as well as anybody the Packers draft for a starting spot.

House will likely be competing with multiple rookie cornerbacks for a starting spot. Luckily for the Titans, the Packers (and the Seahawks) pick later than Tennessee in most of the earlier rounds.

Draft picks: #29, #61, #93, #134, #172, #182 (COMP), #212, #247.

Trumaine Johnson is still on the roster, but rumors of his availability via trade haven’t quite died off. It’s possible he could be moved on draft night, which would only make the Rams’ need for a cornerback that much greater.

The Rams tried to address the position in free agency by bringing in Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman, but that didn’t stop Turf Show Times’ co-editor-in-chief Joe McAtee from mocking Kevin King to the Rams on April 12. Dan Kadar had this to say about the mock selection:

If you go through the history of Wade Phillips' defenses, he always has really good cornerbacks. Really, the only good cornerback on the Rams' roster is Johnson, so finding a good player in the secondary has to happen this draft.

The Rams only have two picks in the top 100; one of those will probably go towards a cornerback.

Draft picks: #37, #69, #112, #141 (COMP), #149, #189, #206, #234

So the short-list of teams to keep an eye on early in the draft for the top-level corners include: San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Dallas, Seattle, and Green Bay. The other teams listed above are wild cards early but likely to address cornerback at least somewhere in the draft. And of course, there are the other 17 NFL teams to worry about, as well.

Additionally, if New England trades Malcolm Butler on draft night, they may be in the mix for drafting a new young cornerback. Or they may elect to try to find another Malcolm Butler in the UDFA pool. There’s also a rumor floating around that the Saints and the Patriots have already agreed to a trade for Malcolm Butler, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

Jon Robinson showed a willingness to be aggressive and get the guys he wants last year when he traded up for Jack Conklin and LeShaun Sims. If there are corners or receivers he wants more than others in this draft, he will have to be just as aggressive this year to secure them.