Improving the pass rush is one of the Titans’ more pressing needs heading into the 2019 season. The defense as a whole was certainly good, but adding a couple more linemen to join Jurrell Casey and Harold Landry would be beneficial to that defensive line.
One spot the Titans can look to upgrade is defensive tackle, and fortunately this year’s draft class is loading with interior talent. One of those guys happens to be Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, who won two championships with the Tigers in his collegiate career. Wilkins generally hasn’t been put at the top of the DT class in mock drafts, which is a good thing for the Titans because if he falls to them he’s a guy they could consider taking later in the draft.
In his senior season Wilkins produced 5.5 sacks and 14.0 tackles for loss. In total, he had 16.0 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss in his career at Clemson.
The Titans defense was tied for 16th in sacks last season with 39 and tied for the 12th fewest quarterback hits with 90, so potentially adding Wilkins with Casey on the interior would greatly strengthen Tennessee’s pass rush.
Clemson was without Dexter Lawrence in the College Football Playoff, yet Wilkins still managed to create constant pressure (especially in the National Championship Game against Alabama, a blowout victory in Clemson’s favor). He had half a sack and a tackle for a loss, but his raw stats didn’t do Wilkins’ tape justice.
Wilkins’ quickness and technique are presented here (He’s #42). He counters the right guard’s blocking with a swim move, and along with the near side edge rusher heavily pressures the quarterback. He doesn’t collect a sack here but his presence was greatly felt.
Now, I mentioned the 40.5 tackles for loss Wilkins produced in four seasons with Clemson, and the Titans run defense was 15th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA stat as well as 15th in yards per attempt. Run defense is nowhere near as important as it used to be, but at the same time a good run defense is nice to have and Wilkins provides that thanks to his explosiveness at the line of scrimmage.
Here, Wilkins fends off double blocking with an impressive bull rush. He performs a two-step counter against the center then rams his way through the A-Gap, bringing down the quarterback for the sack. I’ve seen some people mention Wilkins’ ability to generate power was inconsistent in his senior season, but I think he was a monster in that title game against the Crimson Tide.
To be honest, my thoughts on Christian Wilkins are incomplete as of now, as I have more defensive tackle prospects to watch, but I do like the tape I’ve seen (You know what I meant by that.). Wilkins can potentially bring a promising interior rusher to the Titans with a combination of power, quickness, and a foundation against the pass and rush.
Eventually I’ll be able to discuss my full thoughts on Wilkins, whether on here or on Twitter, but I like him as a prospect, so that’s certainly a start. He’s potentially a first round pick, maybe an early second, and since this is the third in a series of articles I’ve written on guys the Titans should consider drafting, they’ve got plenty of options.