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2019 NFL Draft: Titans Draft Primer

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Everything you need to know about who the Titans might be targeting, trades that could be made, and what I would do if I was Jon Robinson heading into the 2019 NFL Draft.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After months and months of mock drafts and reports and speculation, the NFL Draft is finally here! If you’ve been tuning all that out over the last few months and are just now getting interested in who the Titans might pick up this weekend, I am here to get you caught up and give you what you need to know as Jon Robinson gets ready to begin his fourth draft as Titans GM. We will start with some of the basics and then get into some of the deeper information for you diehards towards the end.

When is the draft and how can I watch/attend?

The draft schedule is as follows:

  • Round 1 — Thursday, April 25th at 7:00 PM Central
  • Rounds 2 & 3 — Friday, April 26th at 6:00 PM Central
  • Rounds 4 - 7 — Saturday, April 27th at 11:00 AM Central

I put together a comprehensive guide to attending the draft here if you’re in Nashville and want to be a part of the action. The short version is that everything is free to attend and there is a bunch of free parking around Nissan Stadium. The stage where picks will be announced is at the corner of 1st Avenue and Broadway. There will be free concerts and other activities surrounding the draft if you want to check those out as well.

If you’re watching on TV, you’ve got a few different options. All three rounds of the draft will be carried on ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network.

Are there any MCM events around the draft?

I’m glad you asked...

You may have heard that we are hosting a LIVE version of the Football and Other F Words Podcast at Corner Pub Downtown on Thursday. More information about that event can be found here, but we have a couple exciting updates to announce.

First, we are adding an extra hour to the show so we are now going to be live from 2:00 to 6:00 local time. We will also go back live when the Titans go on the clock so you can get our real live reaction to the pick — or trade — as it happens and then we will come back on after the last pick of the first round to recap and then reset the best players available heading into day two. If you can’t make it to Nashville or can’t swing by the event, you can watch the live broadcast on YouTube or Periscope. You can find the video by going to our Twitter feed.

Second, we have some really outstanding guests that we can now announce:

  • Jimmy Morris (Music City Miracles) — You may have heard of him. He’s the manager and head writer for the website you’re reading right now and also the host of the Locked On Titans and Locked on Bama podcasts.
  • Justin Graver (Music City Miracles) — You know Justin as well if you frequent this site. He’s an excellent writer and he’s coming in from out of town and will be joining us to talk about the draft.
  • Will Compton (NFL linebacker) — Compton is currently a free agent, but he’s still #ForTheBoys and is coming to hang out (he’ll be on in the 3:00 hour). We will talk all kinds of stuff with Will, including his upcoming podcast with Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan. If you follow Compton on Twitter you know he’s one of the best personalities in the league.
  • Jason Fitz (ESPN) — Fitz is a 13-time Grammy nominated music artist who is also talented enough to become a successful ESPN personality who is the Fitz half of the Spain and Fitz radio show (airing Monday through Friday from 5:00-8:00 Central on ESPN Radio). He also makes regular appearances on Golic and Wingo.
  • Turron Davenport (ESPN) — Turron covers the Titans for ESPN and does a great job. As a former college receiver, he’s able to bring a more advanced football eye to the beat in addition to his always excellent writing. He breaks down film and will have some great insight into the draft class, specifically which players fit the Titans.
  • Buck Reising (AtoZ Sports) — Buck has appeared on the podcast a few times now and he’s one of our favorite guests. If you’ve heard any of those pods, you know that we have a lot of fun with Buck. He also covers the Titans for AtoZ Sports here in Nashville and is going to be the host of their new primetime show.
  • Luke Worsham (AtoZ Sports) — Luke has been covering the Titans for AtoZ for a couple seasons and does a great job writing at atozsportsnashville.com. He’s going to jump on early in the show and talk Titans options in the draft.
  • Travis Haney (The Athletic) — Travis is another recurring guest for the pod. Like Buck, we always have a ton of fun when he’s on with us. He is an excellent writer and covers the Titans for The Athletic.
  • Jayon Brown (Titans linebacker) — That’s right! The Titans playmaking linebacker who enjoyed a monster breakout season in 2018 will be on the show in person at Corner Pub in the 2:00 hour.

Not to brag on ourselves too much, but this is a pretty fantastic lineup of guests and we can’t wait to talk with with them.

How many picks do the Titans have?

Six. The Titans have their own picks in rounds one through five and what was originally the Dolphins sixth round pick. Tennessee traded away their original sixth round pick for edge rusher Kamalei Correa before the start of last season and then swapped their seventh rounder for the Dolphins sixth as part of the trade to acquire backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Headed into the draft, the Titans have the following picks to work with:

  • Round 1, Pick 19 (19th Overall)
  • Round 2, Pick 19 (51st Overall)
  • Round 3, Pick 18* (82nd Overall)
  • Round 4, Pick 19 (121st Overall)
  • Round 5, Pick 19 (157th Overall)
  • Round 6, Pick 15 (188th Overall)

*The Giants used their 2019 3rd round pick to select cornerback Sam Beal in the 2018 Supplemental Draft so everyone bumps up a spot in that round.

Who are the Titans likely to pick at 19?

That’s the million dollar question obviously and there is very little in the way of clarity at the moment. The Titans have somewhat pressing needs at interior offensive line, edge rusher, defensive line, and wide receiver heading into the draft. I’d say that interior offensive line — the right guard spot in particular — would be the position I would be most concerned with if the season started tomorrow with edge rusher pretty close behind, but they may not draft strictly for need here. After all, this draft is about the 2020, 2021, and 2022 seasons more than it is about the 2019 season.

The team has been connected to several prospects to varying degrees. If you want a deep dive into those connections, you can find all that information on Justin Graver’s outstanding draft visit tracker.

The potential first round picks that seem to be closest to the Titans based on reports I’ve seen are Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, Clemson edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns, Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom, and Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown. If I was betting on who they take at 19 today, I would have my money on one of those seven players.

A few other day two and day three guys that we should probably keep our eye on based on reports include:

  • Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech
  • Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
  • Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
  • Connor McGovern, C/G, Penn State
  • Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
  • Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
  • Blake Cashman, ILB, Minnesota

However, it’s worth noting that Jon Robinson is a sneaky devil. Last year we didn’t have any pre-draft reports of visits with Rashaan Evans or Harold Landry besides the video of Mike Vrabel strapping on his famous chest pad and mixing it up with Evans at Alabama’s pro day. The Titans were able to sneak Landry — viewed by many as a top 15 prospect pre-draft — in for an official visit without the media catching wind of it so don’t assume that these visit lists are 100% complete despite our best efforts.

It would be pretty surprising to me if a guy like NC State center Garrett Bradbury wasn’t on the Titans radar despite minimal connections to him in the media to this point. By all accounts he’s a scheme, personality, and need fit for the middle of Tennessee’s offensive line. Could he be a target they’re trying to keep quiet? What about Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat? He seems like a perfect fit for what Dean Pees’ defense needs, but the team hasn’t had much connection to him during the process. Could they be the team to pounce if he falls due to the heart condition discovered before the combine? If Jon Robinson wants to get more “nasty” in the trenches, he might have interest in versatile Kansas State offensive lineman Dalton Risner.

Then of course you have the wild rumors like the Drew Lock to the Titans stuff that has floated out in the last week. It’s important to keep in mind that many GMs — including Jon Robinson by his own admission — actively put false information out there to either influence other teams or distract from any real reports that connect them to players they might want to pick. It’s certainly possible that the Titans do have real interest in Lock — he told 104.5 The Zone’s 3HL that he had met with the Titans “a couple times” and that he really liked Pat O’Hara during an interview today — but it’s also possible that they want another team to believe that and trade up to get him ahead of 19 and push another prospect down. It’s hard to know what to believe at this point in the process.

Everything about the pre-draft process makes me think the Titans will use their first pick on the defensive front — it’s the strongest position at the top of this draft class so there could be a player available at 19 that might go top ten in a “normal” year, the Titans reported meetings and visits were filled with top end defensive line and edge rush talent, and the inability to rush the passer with four was the Achilles heel of an otherwise excellent defense in 2018 — BUT... there is one big thing that keeps bringing me back to the interior offensive line: the release of Josh Kline.

Yes, I know Kline was terrible last year, not very good the year before, and his contract was ugly so he was a natural cut candidate. That’s true (especially now that we know there was offset language in the contract that allowed the Titans to save an extra $2M above and beyond the $3.25M they were already going to pocket by releasing him). However, I can’t help but think that if the team was satisfied with the idea of a replacement right guard, they would have just kept Kline around. After all, despite all his flaws, he at least would have given them an experienced “floor” at the position.

Instead, the Titans cut him and now have just Kevin Pamphile, Corey Levin, and Aaron Stinnie as in-house options to fill that spot in 2019. Pamphile is easily the most experienced of that bunch and it’s hard to say he’s an upgrade over Kline on paper. Could Levin be ready to take the job? Maybe. He showed some flashes at times in preseason and the during the second half of the Jets game last year, but also struggled mightily in the Chargers game. Again, it’s hard to say he’d be a clear upgrade over Kline. Stinnie remains a complete unknown at this point, though I get the feeling that the Titans like him.

If they want better than replacement level play at right guard in 2019, they’re going to have to spend a draft pick on one pretty early in my opinion. The interior offensive line group has some decent plug and play options towards the top of the class — Bradbury, Lindstrom, and Risner are my personal favorites — but it thins out quickly after those first few. Landing an above average instant starter at right guard after the second round is very unlikely.

The Titans have tended to spend first round picks on obvious roster needs during Robinson’s tenure as GM, taking Jack Conklin at right tackle in 2016, Corey Davis and Adoree’ Jackson at receiver and corner in 2017, and drafting Rashaan Evans at inside linebacker in 2018. All of those positions were pretty apparent need spots heading into those selections. If that trend continues, I could certainly see Bradbury or Lindstrom being the guy to replace Kline at right guard (or bump Ben Jones to right guard if Bradbury is the pick).

What are the likely options if the Titans want to trade back from 19?

Jon Robinson traded up three time in the 2018 draft, landing Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry, and Dane Cruikshank in the process. Those three trades were:

  • Titans trade their first round pick (25th overall) and their fourth round pick (125th overall) to the Ravens for their first round pick (23rd overall)
  • Titans trade their second round pick (57th overall) and their third round pick (89th overall) to the Raiders for their second round pick (41st overall)
  • Titans trade their fifth round pick (162nd overall) and their sixth round pick (215th overall) to the Ravens for their fifth round pick (152nd overall)

All those trades up, combined with a poor pick in Luke Falk in the sixth round, left the Titans with effectively a three man draft class. Fortunately, all three of the guys they traded up for had positive impacts in 2018 and look to be significant contributors in 2019 — and they added at least one promising UDFA signing in Sharif Finch — but this certainly isn’t a practice that I would expect the team to make a habit of moving forward.

As we mentioned above, the Titans only have six picks in the 2019 draft due to the Kamalei Correa trade and are already down to six in the 2020 draft as well after the Ryan Tannehill trade so I’m sure Jon Robinson would love to get more picks to help backfill his light 2018 class.

Trading back can be tough though. First, you have to be comfortable moving back and passing on the players that are at the top of the board when you come on the clock. Second, you need another team to covet a player enough that they’re willing to give up assets to go get him.

If the Titans were to trade back from 19, I think there are a few partners that could make some sense. The Raiders jump out because of the three picks they have at 24, 27, and 35, but they don’t pick again after that pocket until 106. Might they be willing to give up 27 and 35 to move up to 19 and get back 82 from the Titans? That doesn’t necessarily give the Titans extra picks, but it does give them three picks in the top 51 which would allow them to pick up several potential plug and play caliber players before the end of day two.

Another prime trade candidate is the Patriots. We know the Titans and Patriots know each other well and New England just happens to have 12 picks in this draft. The Titans could move back to 32 and pick up 56 or 64 in the second round. The Pats desperately need weapons for Tom Brady after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement this offseason. Currently, their top receiving options — besides running back James White — are soon-to-be 33 year old Julian Edelman, a 31 year old Demaryius Thomas coming off an Achilles injury, and newly signed journeyman tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Could the Patriots eye a move up for one of the Iowa tight ends or a receiver like D.K. Metcalf or Marquise “Hollywood” Brown? I wouldn’t rule it out.

The Texans are another team that could be an option. They are rumored to be interested in trading up and have the draft assets to do it with picks 23, 54, 55, and 86 in the first three rounds. Moving back from 19 to 23 would likely get the Titans the 86th pick and I think that might be an ideal scenario. The Texans could be moving up to grab a falling tackle or cornerback that they covet.

I’d be surprised if the Titans traded all the way out of the first round. Even though it shouldn’t matter to Jon Robinson, he knows that would be a bummer for the home fans. More importantly, teams value that fifth year option that first round picks get tacked on to the end of their rookie deals.

What’s your prediction?

My prediction is that the Titans trade back a few spots and take Chris Lindstrom. I just have a feeling that they’re going to fill that right guard spot early and he’s the guy that’s always made the most sense to me. What’s your prediction? What do you hope the Titans do at 19? I look forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments. Happy draft day everyone!