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2017 NFL Draft: Some Off the Radar Titans Fits

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Nine prospects that haven’t gotten much love from Titans media.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

We have spent a lot of time this offseason focusing on a few prospects that seem to fit the Titans needs. Most national media mock drafts end up giving the Titans some combination of Mashon Lattimore or Jamal Adams and then whoever is left at 18 out of Mike Williams, Corey Davis, or John Ross. That makes sense considering the Titans biggest positional needs are pretty clearly in the defensive backfield and at wide receiver.

We have seen a lot of a few other prospects too. Malik Hooker, Jonathan Allen, Solomon Thomas, Gareon Conley, Tre’Davious White, Quincy Wilson, Marlon Humphrey, Sidney Jones, O.J. Howard, Reuben Foster, David Njoku, Christian McCaffrey, and Haason Reddick have all gotten a decent amount of coverage locally as well, but there are a few others that I think haven’t gotten enough mention as potential Titans targets.

Below is a short list of some of my favorite guys that I believe could be in play for the Titans in the first 3-4 rounds and why I think they would be good fits. I have linked to the Draft Breakdown page for each of these guys as well if you want to do your own deep dive as we lead up to the draft this week.

Kevin King, CB, Washington

King has been a late riser through the draft process. I’m usually wary of those types of guys because they are often the workout warrior types that blow up the combine, but didn’t have great tape. King did blow up the combine, but he also has the tape to back it up. I think the only thing keeping him off the radar early on was the fact that he played in the same defensive backfield as Sidney Jones and Budda Baker. Here is King’s ridiculous spider graph which showcases how ridiculous of an athlete he is.

Guys that are 6’-3”, 200 lbs and run 4.43 are rare, but the 3-cone and the 20 yard shuttle are the numbers that really pop out for a guy of King’s size and length. Bill Belichick famously puts a huge emphasis on 3-cone numbers for wide receivers and corners, something Jon Robinson may have picked up during his time there. However, that wasn’t evident in his 2016 draft picks as both LeShaun Sims and Kalan Reed posted 3-cone times north of 7 seconds which is poor for a corner (to be fair Sims improved his 3-cone to 6.82 at his Pro Day which is slightly above average for a corner). But then again, they were also 5th and 7th round picks. King’s combine may be what drove him in to the 1st round conversation, but its not all there is to him as a prospect. I think King has the highest ceiling of any corner in this draft with Marshon Lattimore and Fabian Moreau right behind him.

He played safety his first couple years at Washington so some of his technique at corner isn’t the most polished, but his ability to play press man is what intrigues me as a fit for the Titans.

This is among the greatest interceptions I’ve ever seen. It also shows everything that is good about King’s game. He’s good in press man and has enough size/strength to disrupt routes (although his technique could use refinement), he has good feet and matches and mirrors exceptionally well for a tall corner, and of course, his incredible length and ball skills are on full display here.

Draft Breakdown

Kevin King’s Draft Breakdown Videos

As of now, there have been no reports of a meeting between King and the Titans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Some teams try to keep certain meetings quiet to hide their interest in a guy from other teams. Kevin Dodd was never linked to the Titans before we took him at the top of the 2nd round last year. Of course it could also mean that they have higher grades on guys like Marlon Humphrey, Gareon Conley, and Chidobe Awuzie who are all projected in that same late 1st/early 2nd range that King is. We will find out soon enough. Speaking of Awuzie...

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado

Awuzie has been one of my favorite prospects ever since I first laid eyes on his tape back in December. He and Corn Elder were my two favorite non-Lattimore corners to watch. Back then, like King, there wasn’t much buzz around him as anything more than a 3rd or 4th round pick. However, now Awuzie is consistently being talked about as a late 1st or early 2nd round pick. He didn’t have the massive combine that King did, but he definitely helped himself there by running a 4.43 40. Here is his spider graph for a snapshot of his athleticism.

Awuzie stands out to me as a guy that would fit particularly well in the Titans culture. He actually reminds me a little bit of a faster version of Logan Ryan. He split time at Colorado between covering the slot and playing outside corner, like Ryan. He also ranks as one of the most physical tackling corners in this draft class and is completely obsessed with football. He really is a different kind of corner.

Awuzie is an outstanding blitzer from the secondary as evidenced by the fact that he racked up 8 sacks over his final two years at CU. That is part of why the Buffs often kept him in the slot. He’s different than King though. King could turn in to a lock down cover man. Awuzie likely will never be that guy in the NFL. He is going to be best suited to a CB2 role. However, he has a very high floor in my opinion. Worst case scenario you get a guy who will be a special teams ace and can play both safety and nickel corner. This is a good representation of who Awuzie is as a player. His eyes stay on the QB and he is able to read and react to come up and make a really nice hit on the wide receiver.

Draft Breakdown

Here is his Draft Breakdown page for more videos.

Awuzie has been linked to the Titans as Terry wrote about a couple weeks ago. Most think he will be in play for the end of the 1st round so this would likely be an option for the Titans at 18 or at the top of round 2 if they end up trading back.

Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado

Witherspoon, Awuzie’s teammate, is a lot like Kevin King physically. He’s a super long 6’-3” tall corner weighing in at 198 lbs and running a 4.45 at the combine. Again, that kind of size/speed is rare.

I first noticed Witherspoon when watching tape on John Ross, and then again when I was watching Awuzie. His main draw back is his tackling ability and play strength, which is why he’s not in the conversation in the 1st round. He looks extremely thin on the field and it shows up in his play as well. However, his length, speed, and ability to mirror make him an intriguing round 3 option.

This is the play that really got my attention when watching the Ross tape. He’s on an island against Ross and does a good job keeping inside leverage and then using his insanely long arms to reach in front and poke the ball away.

Draft Breakdown

Witherspoon’s Draft Breakdown Videos

The Titans have not been reported to have met with Witherspoon at this time. If the Titans decide to wait on corner until the 3rd round, he could be one of the primary targets there.

Corn Elder, CB, Miami

Corn Elder is a local high school football legend. He was named Tennessee’s Mr. Football two years in a row in 2011 and 2012 while leading Ensworth to three consecutive state titles as a running back. He was heavily recruited as a running back, but when he got to Miami he switched to corner and stuck there ever since.

Elder is undersized at 5’-10” and 183 lbs and didn’t test very well at the combine. Here is his spider graph. (Note: He didn’t participate in all of the drills so that’s why some are missing)

Elder’s 4.55 at the combine was pretty surprising based on what his tape showed, but he ran 4.45 at his pro day and had run a 4.42 coming out of high school, so I think his real speed is likely somewhere in the mid-4.4s which is adequate. The measurables are what will keep him from going higher than the 4th-5th round range, but his tape his fantastic. He plays fast and instinctive football and is one of the best tackling corners in the draft despite his small stature. He’s a fiery and competitive guy who would excel on special teams as well. If you are taking him, you have to know that he’s probably never going to be an outside corner in the NFL, but that’s OK. Nickel corners are more important than ever these days.

Elder plays the game the way a coach dreams of it being played. He is constantly breaking on the play before the ball leaves the QB’s hands, just as he does here.

Corn Elder’s Draft Breakdown Videos

Elder has met with the Titans, although since he is from Nashville, he doesn’t count against their 30 visit limit so that’s not all that surprising. The Titans have brought in basically every draftable player from the region for a “free” visit. Corn Elder doesn’t check the measurables boxes like a Kevin King type, but whoever does draft him is getting an excellent football player.

Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida

Inside linebacker is one of the Titans biggest need positions outside of corner and wide receiver so it makes sense that they’ve often been linked to Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick. However, one guy that I have yet to hear anyone mention as a possible Titans ILB is Jarrad Davis. Davis may be one of the best fits for what the team needs at that position though as he is an outstanding athlete and can cover as well as any linebacker coming out this year. Here is his spider graph from Mock Draftable, but he didn’t participate in the workouts there.

He did participate in drills at the Florida pro day though and completely stole the show. He ran a 4.56 40 and jumped 38.5” in the vertical and 10’-8” in the broad jump. All three of those measures would have been the best among linebackers at the combine (I’m not considering Jabrill Peppers a LB). In addition to being the best athlete among linebacker prospects in this year’s draft, Davis also gets rave reviews for his leadership and off-the-field personality. This is what sets Davis apart for me though. This is an example of him running down the seam with a tight end and getting his head around to break up the pass.

Jarrad Davis’ Draft Breakdown Videos

Most projections for Davis have him going somewhere around the last quarter of the first round and I think he would be a great value there. There are no reports of the Titans meeting with Davis at this time, but I think he’d be a great 3rd option in the Foster/Reddick tier of ILB’s.

Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee

It’s hard to be “under the radar” when you are projected to be drafted as high as Barnett is, but you almost never hear him linked to the Titans. Edge rusher is not a glaring need for 2017 for Tennessee with Orakpo and Morgan coming off great seasons and 2016 2nd rounder Kevin Dodd coming back healthy, but if we project forward a couple years the situation gets a little more complicated. Orakpo will be 31 by the time the 2017 season starts and Morgan will be 28. Both players contracts are up after the 2018 season ends. The Titans can’t afford not to have a succession plan in place at this position. I’m higher on Dodd than most, but you can’t feel comfortable relying on him as a long term solution based solely on his 2016 season.

That’s why I could see Barnett as a dark horse pick for the Titans. Like Elder, Barnett is a product of a local Nashville high school, Brentwood Academy. He went on to break Reggie White’s career sack record at Tennessee with 33 sacks during his 3 year career, which is two more sacks than consensus #1 pick Myles Garrett recorded. He is also the only player in SEC history to finish 3 straight seasons with at least 10 sacks. Simply incredible production. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com thinks that Barnett is a better pass rusher than Garrett. The only reason that Barnett is not in the mix for the #1 overall pick is this:

He’s not the incredible measurables guy that Myles Garrett is, however his tape is incredible. He’s a max-effort, non-stop motor kind of guy with exceptional ability to bend on the edge and outstanding pass rushing skills and elite production at the college game’s highest level. That should equal a top 5 pick to me. It’s a little bit similar to the way that lots of people overthought it with Joey Bosa before last year’s draft.

Here is Barnett whipping the guy that most experts are calling the best tackle in this year’s draft, Cam Robinson. This is your typical Barnett sack. He beats the tackle immediately around the edge and is able to dip his shoulder and avoid getting pushed too far downfield.

Derek Barnett’s Draft Breakdown Videos

Look, I get that taking a guy in the top half of the 1st round and using him as a rotational player in year 1 is less than ideal, but pass rushers are to defense what quarterbacks are to offense. Getting a difference maker like Barnett to add to the rotation at OLB is always a good thing.

The Titans have met with Barnett, but like Elder, he falls under the local exemption so it would be more surprising if they didn’t meet with him. I’m not predicting that Barnett ends up in two-tone blue, but I don’t think it is out of the question either.

Tyus Bowser, EDGE, Houston

If the Titans don’t go with Barnett or another edge guy with their first pick, Bowser could be an option for them a little later. Bowser is a super athletic, quick twitch type edge rusher who crushed the combine. Just look at this spider graph.

Incredible. Bowser was a guy who split time between basketball and an football for his first couple years at Houston before committing to football full time before his junior year. As you might imagine, he’s not exactly the most polished from a technique standpoint, but he doesn’t show any of the contact avoidance that you might worry about with a former basketball guy.

Tyus Bowser’s Draft Breakdown Videos

Bowser’s production at Houston this past season was elite. He missed 5 games of his senior year due to an injury suffered during a fight with a teammate at practice (Bowser didn’t throw a punch), but the 8 games he did play in produced 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss despite the fact that Houston often dropped him in to coverage. If you project that production out to a full season you get 14 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss which would have left him top 5 in sacks and top 20 in tackles for loss for the season. I mentioned the fact that Bowser was often dropped in to coverage and that is something that is even more interesting about him. He’s excellent at it for a pass rusher which makes it possible to move him off the line of scrimmage and either leave him alone covering a back/tight end or blitz him from the 2nd level. I think this versatility would be very appealing to Dick LeBeau.

Bowser hasn’t been connected to the Titans, but he could be a surprise pick, especially if the team ends up with a pick late in round 1 or early in round 2 where Bowser is likely to hear his name called.

George Kittle, TE, Iowa

The Titans have often been linked with O.J. Howard in the 1st round and I think he is among the most likely guys to end up being picked by the team. David Njoku is another option that has occasionally been mocked at pick 18. However, if the Titans leave round 1 without a tight end, I would expect them to be very interested in that position in round 3. That is around the area of the draft where George Kittle could be in play. Kittle ranks among the best athletes of all the tight ends in the draft.

However, all that athleticism only tells part of the story. Kittle’s stats were pretty unimpressive during his 4 years at Iowa, but part of that is because Iowa runs a run-first offense. They averaged just over 13 completed passes per game. That makes it pretty hard for a tight end to put up huge numbers. However, his tape shows a different story. He’s an outstanding athlete. Check out this one-handed grab on a seam route.

PFF

More impressive than his receiving work though, was his run blocking. Take a look at the next play. Kittle is lined up outside of the left tackle and is blocking the defensive end. That’s a soul-snatching block right there.

PFF

There are a BUNCH of these types of blocks from Kittle on his tape. He’s not a huge tight end, but he plays with a ton of functional strength and great technique. He would be a great replacement for Anthony Fasano in the short term and could develop in to a big time receiving option long term with his athletic profile.

Kittle hasn’t met with the Titans to our knowledge, but he just seems like a Mularkey guy. If the Titans don’t go with Howard early, I would expect Kittle to be on their radar during rounds 3 and 4 where he is likely to be taken.

Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland

Shaheen is a large, large man at 6’-6” and 278 lbs. Coming from a school as small as Ashland, you have to know that he made a big splash at some point to end up on the radar of NFL draft experts. Those splashes started with some grainy footage of him just destroying his competition in Division II and continued with his performance at the combine.

That combine performance earned him the nickname of “Baby Gronk” among some analysts. Although, I was under the impression that Travis Kelce was Baby Gronk, so does that make him Middle Gronk now? Shaheen’s broad jump and 3-cone are nuts for a guy that big. He is a former basketball player who came to football late, which is why a guy this talented ended up at Ashland.

The first thing you’ll notice about Shaheen on these clips is just how big he is. He also shows great ability to leap and make acrobatic catches down the field as the following clip shows.

Adam Shaheen’s Draft Breakdown Videos

He is a load to bring down after the catch and shows better speed than you would expect for a guy his size, although that may have more to do with his level of competition. His route running is excellent, especially when you consider that he hasn’t been playing football for very long. Scouts say he’s not a very good blocker for his size though so that aspect of his game will need to be developed, but all the physical tools are there with this guy to become a physically dominant tight end.

Again, no reports of the Titans meeting with Shaheen so far. He is projected by most to be taken somewhere between round 2 and round 4 so he would be another option for the Titans if they don’t go with Howard.