The Tennessee Titans are feeling pretty confident about the skill players on offense, so they’ve been expected to upgrade the defense in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Two guys up front have been on Titans’ fans’ wish lists; Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry, and Florida State University defensive end Josh Sweat.
Now, it’s been suggested by some that the Titans will look to trade up to draft Sweat, but I think they should prioritize that on Landry. But before we get to him, let’s take a look at why drafting Josh Sweat may not be for the best for the Titans.
Josh Sweat has come a long way. In 2014 in high school, he dislocated his knee and tore his ACL, almost having his leg amputated. So it’s a miracle and a great story that he’s even on the field, let alone being considered a first round draft pick.
I feel that Sweat’s burst is extremely inconsistent; There are moments where he can absolutely shred a tackle, but then there’s other time where he lacks the impact of the other guy in this article. There are times where he looks like Calais Campbell, Everson Griffen or Jadeveon Clowney, and other times where he struggles to put pressure on the quarterback.
Sweat looks like a guy that will need to be developed and taken into the later rounds. He has great potential, but hasn’t consistently utilized it in my opinion, and needs to show more consistency in terms of overwhelming the pass protection and quarterback as an edge defender.
Granted, his role may have had a say in this. He reportedly was asked to read the offensive line an abundant number of times instead of going after the quarterback, but it’s not particularly clear to me how much of this is true. He’s certainly going to find a home with a DE needy team, I just don’t know if he’s the right fit for the Titans.
Now let’s get to Harold Landry. Every time I look at him, I feel like he will be more of an impact on the field than Sweat. And as a player alone, he looks like he’s going to be phenomenal.
Landry is extremely versatile. He can be schemed as an outside linebacker or as a defensive end and still overwhelm an offense. His success up front has helped him receive numerous All-American awards.
The right tackle on this play does everything he can to prevent Landry from passing him. He takes a big leap back and looks to have a good enough angle to lock onto the edge pressure. But Landry is too overwhelming here. He shows impressive burst at the beginning while ducking under the right tackle, using his agility and balance to get to the quarterback before he can process it. The result is an ankle breaking spectacle. Landry isn’t particularly strong, but he has creative ways of sneaking past linemen in order to bring the smackdown.
As aforementioned, Landry’s balance is phenomenal. He’s able to prevent himself from straying off course without decreasing his dangerous level of velocity. This is shown on this play, where the quarterback just barely gets the ball off before the linebacker grabs him. It won’t show up on the stat sheet, but the pressures Landry constantly puts up is as valuable as a sack in my book.
When Landry can’t knock a defender out of his path, he’s able to use his intelligence to find ways around. On this play, he uses a subtle push to make his way around the left tackle, just enough where he’s able to use one hand to disrupt the quarterback’s throwing motion. This results in the very same pass being picked off in Boston College’s favor.
Landry’s only weakness really comes from a lack of consistent power against blockers in the run game, which can easily be developed since he has the skill set elsewhere to thrive. But if his path is just open enough, your running back is going to get wrecked.
Besides, his raw speed allows him to easily devour who’s in his path, as shown on this read option. The impact of a defensive lineman against read option is kind of like a batter in baseball. You need perfect timing to hit the home run or get a hit, and it’s not always going to go in your favor. Landry takes that risk here and delivers a vicious hit on the back.
If either one of Josh Sweat or Harold Landry falls into a great situation, they’ll easily make an impact on the field. But Landry feels like more of a day 1 starter than Sweat is. Landry’s versatility, speed, agility, and balance make him a dream for a linebacker starving franchise.
The Titans defense is on the rise, and they could fast forward their potential by drafting Landry. They may have to trade up to do it, but it’s a risk worth taking.