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2018 NFL Draft: Players with connections to the Titans coaching staff

The new Titans coaching staff has history with several potential draft picks in the 2018 class.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Army at Ohio State Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Titans have a brand new coaching staff, and with that comes a slew of new connections to current and future NFL players. Given the recent college coaching background of guys like head coach Mike Vrabel, defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs, outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen, and running backs coach Tony Dews, some of the ties with players in the 2018 draft class run pretty deep. Ultimately, Jon Robinson is the primary decision maker for the team when it comes to draft picks, but it will be interesting to see if the team ends up targeting some guys that their coaching staff already knows well.

I went through and compiled a list of the players who are directly connected with a member of the coaching staff below along with how they are connected and where they might go in the upcoming draft.

Yes, there are going to be lots of Ohio State guys on this list given the heavy influence of Buckeyes on the new coaching staff. Vrabel spent 3 years in Columbus from 2011-2013, Coombs was there for 6 seasons between 2012-2017, and Bowen spent just one year there in 2012.

Sam Hubbard | EDGE | Ohio State

Hubbard was a part of Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class and was recruited by Kerry Coombs. After redshirting his first year, he played 39 games over the past three seasons, totaling 116 tackles, 30 tackles for loss, and 17 sacks. He was a first-team Academic All-American in 2016 and second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2017.’s Daniel Jeremiah has Hubbard ranked as the 41st best prospect in the draft.

Hubbard has ideal size and he was very productive for the Buckeyes. As a pass rusher, he has an average get-off, but he has an array of hand moves and power. He has experimented with a spin move, but that is still a work in progress. He’s very effective when he’s used as a looper and allowed to rush against offensive guards. His effort is outstanding and he’s a good finisher despite some ankle stiffness. He’s very strong at the point of attack in the run game. He also uses his quickness and effort to make plays from the back side. I see Hubbard as an ideal 4-3 left defensive end. If he adds some weight, he would also fit as a DE for teams that employ three-man fronts.

— Daniel Jeremiah

Hubbard is an interesting guy. He was a high school safety who was also an All-American lacrosse player. In fact, he was slated to go to Notre Dame on a lacrosse scholarship before Urban Meyer and Kerry Coombs talked him in to going to Ohio State for football instead. Once there, he transitioned from linebacker, to tight end, back to linebacker, and then to defensive end. Once he found his home as an edge rusher, he forced his way on the the field despite playing on a ludicrously talented OSU defensive line. He’s a guy who could really push his way up draft boards with a strong combine performance, but right now I would expect him to be in play for the Titans at #25 or if they decided to trade back to the top of the 2nd round.

Draft Projection: 1st-2nd Round

Tyquan Lewis | EDGE | Ohio State

Lewis is Hubbard’s more productive counterpart from Ohio State. He was recruited to play for the Buckeyes by Mike Vrabel (you may have heard of him) in 2013 and went on to rack up 36.5 tackles for loss and 23.5 sacks over his four years, good for 15th and 5th, respectively, in OSU history.

Lewis has become less productive and seemingly less effective as Ohio State has added depth to their defensive front. Lewis had some intriguing flashes on tape when rushing from a defensive tackle spot, but he may not be effective enough against the run to become anything more than a situational rusher.

— Lance Zierlien

Lewis is a guy who put up strong, consistent sack production in college, but doesn’t really jump off the tape. Like Hubbard, he’s going to win with his 6’-4”, 265 pound size along with technique, rather than elite athletic ability. He could be an interesting late round pickup for the Titans though.

Draft Projection: 4th-6th Round

Jalyn Holmes | DE/EDGE | Ohio State

Holmes is another player that was recruited my Mike Vrabel and during the Senior Bowl he told Mike Keith that he is a true two-tone blue Titans fan. Holmes wasn’t as productive statistically as his edge rushing counterparts, but he’s got a ridiculously long frame — including an 83” wingspan — and the athleticism to match. That combination often makes NFL teams drool.

Holmes played defensive end in the Senior Bowl and finished with 4 tackles and 2 sacks. One of the sacks was a clean up job near the line of scrimmage after the quarterback escaped the pocket, but this nasty spin move for his other sack showed the kind of ability that may lead to him being drafted higher than his production would suggest.

Of course, Jon Robinson has a track record of focusing on #production in the draft so Holmes probably doesn’t fit the mold of what the Titans usually pursue.

Draft Projection: 3rd-4th Round

Denzel Ward | CB | Ohio State

Ward is the latest in the incredible line of talented cornerbacks recruited and coached by Kerry Coombs at Ohio State over the past 6 years. Daniel Jeremiah currently has him ranked 8th on his big board so it seems unlikely right now that the Titans will get a shot to bring him to Tennessee to play under his old coach, but the draft process is fluid at this time of year.

Ward is an undersized cornerback (5-foot-10, 191 pounds, per school measurements) with excellent quickness, toughness and ball skills. In press coverage, he is patient and he’ll catch and re-route before settling on the receivers and mirroring down the field. In off coverage, he is a fluid mover and explodes out of his plant to drive on the football. He is very twitched up. Ward’s ball awareness is excellent -- he can locate and high-point the ball down the field. His lack of size does show up on occasion vs. taller opponents, but overall, he plays much bigger than his height. He’s very aggressive in run support and has some snap on contact as a tackler. At the end of the day, Ward might lack ideal size, but he is a very skilled player and I love his competitiveness. He reminds me of a young Adam Jones.

— Daniel Jeremiah

Ward will probably be gone by the time the Titans pick. Even if he is there, he isn’t really the type of corner they need right now anyway. The team already has a version of Ward in Adoree Jackson. What they really need across from Jackson is a long, physical type corner who can matchup better with the bigger receivers like DeAndre Hopkins.

Draft Projection: 1st Round

Billy Price | C/G | Ohio State

Price was another Vrabel recruit at Ohio State who is now ready to enter the NFL. He was the 2017 Rimington Trophy winner for best interior lineman and an unanimous First-Team All-American selection.

Price was a four-year starter for the Buckeyes. He played both guard and center during his career. He was a very dominant run blocker while lining up at center in 2017. He has quick feet and a very powerful base. He latches on and flashes the upper torque to rag-doll opposing defenders. He isn’t a great knee-bender, but once he gets his hands on you, he stays attached. He does struggle with balance at the second level. He gets overly aggressive and ends up on the ground too often. In pass protection, he can anchor easily against power rushers and he’s very aware vs. twists and stunts. Overall, I love his strength, toughness and position flexibility. He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a Day 1 starter at either guard or center.

— Daniel Jeremiah

Price is in the conversation for best interior lineman not named Quenton in this year’s draft and is currently slotted to be drafted somewhere near the end of the first round. He’s a guy who could play center or guard at the next level and projects as a plug-and-play starter. I think the Titans have much greater needs than center/guard on the roster, but if the team is going with a “best player available” strategy, Price could be in the mix. His pre-existing relationship with Mike Vrabel certainly won’t hurt his case here either.

Draft Projection: 1st-2nd Round

Jerome Baker | ILB | Ohio State

I promise we are almost done with the Ohio State guys. Baker is a freak athlete. He reportedly ran a 4.37 40 as a 6’-1”, 225 pounds linebacker in college. A full-time starter for the Buckeyes the last two years, he tallied 155 total tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 2 interceptions. Physically, Baker is the prototype “modern NFL linebacker” in the mold of Telvin Smith and Myles Jack, but his tape doesn’t do him many favors. He does tackle well in space and his burst jumps off the screen. The problems revolve around his highly inconsistent motor and his tendency to get completely lost looking in the backfield in coverage.

Baker is the kind of guy that drives coaches, scouts, and fans crazy. He has the top of the line skill set that could make him an elite player at the next level but he so rarely uses it. He can fit as a 4-3 Will linebacker or as an undersized inside linebacker in a 3-4.

Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Damon Webb | S | Ohio State

Webb is a former corner who converted to safety to get on the field for the Buckeyes. He is undersized at 5’-11“ and 195 pounds and probably isn’t athletic enough to compensate at the next level.

Draft Projection: 7th Round or UDFA

Justin Crawford | RB | West Virginia

A non-OSU player!!! Crawford’s position coach at WVU was new Titans running backs coach Tony Dews so the scouts will have someone on staff to lean on in their evaluation of this player. After going the JUCO route out of high school he signed with the Mountaineers after his sophomore season and immediately became their starting running back, putting together back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons. His career highlight was a crazy 331 yard outburst against Oklahoma in 2016. Crawford is on the small side at 6’-0” and 202 pounds, but he’s a very good athlete. The way he was used at West Virginia probably hurts his draft stock. He was rarely used in the passing game and that’s something he will have to provide if he’s going to stick in the NFL at that size. I don’t think Crawford is the complementary back to Derrick Henry that the Titans are going to be looking for, but I wouldn’t complain if they wanted to bring him in as competition to David Fluellen for the RB3 spot.

Draft Projection: 7th Round or UDFA

Kyzir White | S | West Virginia

Kyzir and his brother Ka’Raun are looking to follow their older brother Kevin — the #7 overall pick by the Bears in the 2015 draft — in to the NFL this year. Ka’Raun plays wide receiver like his older brother, but Kyzir is the far better pro prospect as a safety. White profiles more as an “in the box” type safety at the NFL level. His 6’-2”, 216 pound frame gives him the size to backup his extremely physical style of play. He is known as a true leader (of men) and fiery competitor who brings a lot of intensity to the game. His connection to the Titans is through his overlap with Tony Dews time as running backs coach at West Virginia. While Dews wasn’t his direct position coach, he certainly would have some sort of relationship with him.

Safety is not a major need position for the Titans right now. Kevin Byard is heading in to his 3rd year with an All-Pro nod already under his belt and Johnathan Cyprien is still under contract for another three seasons. While Cyprien didn’t have his best season in 2017, I still fully expect him to be back as the starter across from Byard in 2018. Behind those two, the team is paying way too much money to Da’Norris Searcy to be a backup. Searcy’s deal will almost certainly have to be restructured again this offseason if he wants to stick around with the Titans. If that doesn’t happen, I think there is a pretty good chance that the team releases him outright. That would jump the team’s need at safety up a notch and possibly put a guy like White in play for the draft.

Draft Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Harold Landry | EDGE | Boston College

This one is a less direct connection, but it’s a connection nonetheless. Mike Vrabel’s son, Tyler, just signed with Boston College as an offensive lineman. Vrabel and BC head coach Steve Addazio both spent time — separately — working for Urban Meyer so that seems to be the obvious connection between those two. The night that Vrabel’s hiring as new Titans head coach was announced, he was spotted having dinner with Addazio in Boston.

You can safely assume that Vrabel will be able to get a very complete understanding of who Harold Landry is as a player from his former head coach if the Titans are considering drafting him at #25. I think Landry is probably the most physically gifted edge rusher in the 2018 class (yes, even more than Chubb) so I still think it would be somewhat of a surprise if he fell that late in the first, but crazier things have happened. The Titans could also consider trading up to get him if they feel strongly that he’s the next Von Miller-type edge rusher. Terry wrote a great post on Landry a few weeks ago which you can check out here if you want to learn more about him. If he’s on the board at #25 I would sprint to the podium with his name if I were the Titans.

Draft Projection: 1st Round