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Titans 2019 Draft Class Overview

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How does each new piece fit in with the Titans overall plans?

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NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

By most accounts, the Titans had one heck of a draft this year.

The six players they selected — two on offense, four on defense — all have a chance to become key contributors during their rookie contracts.

1.19Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi

2.51A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

3.82Nate Davis, OG, Charlotte

4.116Amani Hooker, S, Iowa

5.168D’Andre Walker, DE, Georgia

6.188David Long, LB, West Virginia

Let’s go through pick by pick, understanding how each player will fit into the bigger picture for the Titans in 2019 and beyond.

Round 1, Pick 19:

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi

Height: 6’ 4”

Weight: 305 lbs

DOB: July 28, 1997 (Turns 22 this summer)

Simmons was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine (for reasons that have already been thoroughly discussed in many other places), and he was unable to participate in on-field drills at Mississippi State’s Pro Day due to the torn ACL he suffered in February.

The Titans didn’t bring Simmons in for a pre-draft visit, but they spent extensive time with him earlier this year.

Jon Robinson’s comments on what Simmons brings to the Titans:

A guy we did extensive research on. He’s going to come in here and get to work and help this football team. Just really excited about the ability that he has... I can’t tell you how many people spoke glowingly about him and his time there at Mississippi State. I think a player of his caliber, and his ability, we would not have even been able to select him where we selected him had he not had the injury. He was one of a handful of players that we had graded where we had him graded, and just super stoked to have him on the football team... I think he’s a pretty impactful football player.

Simmons is a game-wrecker from the defensive interior.

Mike Vrabel’s comments on what Simmons brings to the Titans:

To get these types of players that can make an impact along the defensive front, they’re disruptive. And I think when you try to draw up blocking schemes and you figure out, “How am I gonna block this guy?” each and every week, we feel like we have that in Jurrell [Casey] and we feel like when Jeffery’s ready, and it’s time for him to come back, that he’ll be another one of those players that can help us.

Jeffery Simmons Career Stats

Year School Conf Class Pos G Snaps Solo Tckls Ast Tot TFL Sk QB Hits Total Pressures PD FR TD FF
Year School Conf Class Pos G Snaps Solo Tckls Ast Tot TFL Sk QB Hits Total Pressures PD FR TD FF
2016 Mississippi State SEC FR DL 12 364 12 28 40 3 0 2 11 2 0 2
2017 Mississippi State SEC SO DL 13 557 21 39 60 12 5 3 38 1 2 2 2
2018 Mississippi State SEC JR DL 13 597 25 38 63 18 2 7 32 4 0 1
Career Mississippi State SEC DL 38 1518 58 105 163 33 7 12 81 7 2 2 5
Sports Reference | Pro Football Focus

While unfortunately we’ll never get to know Simmons’ true testing numbers, we can see his elite-level athleticism clearly displayed on tape. Not just his explosion, but balance and agility, as well.

Look how nimbly Simmons lands and pursues the ball, able to recover the punt he blocked in the end zone for a touchdown.

And later in that same game, Simmons outruns everyone 87 yards to the end zone for his second touchdown. No doubt he is a special athlete at 6-4, 300lbs.

That’s 4.41-40 Montez Sweat (#9) running downfield with Simmons.

Awards and Accolades:

  • 2018 Bednarik Award Semifinalist
  • 2018 Conerly Trophy Winner (top player in Mississippi)
  • 2018 All-America Second Team (AP, The Athletic)
  • 2018 All-America Fourth Team (Phil Steele)
  • 2018 All-SEC First Team (AP, Coaches)
  • 2018 ESPN All-Bowl Team
  • 2018 SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week (vs. Ole Miss)
  • 2017 All-SEC First Team (AP, Coaches, PFF)
  • 2017 Bednarik Award Semifinalist
  • 2017 SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week (vs. LA Tech, LSU)
  • 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll
  • 2016 SEC All-Freshman Team (Coaches)
  • 2016 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll

Because of the ACL injury, Simmons dropped to the Titans at No. 19. According to most analysts, he would’ve been a top-10 (maybe top-5) pick otherwise.

How He Fits:

Simmons fills an impending need on the interior defensive line. The Titans have never deployed a playmaker next to Jurrell Casey. Once Simmons returns from his ACL rehab, he will be able to play all over the defensive front — from nose to shade to 3-tech and even outside — and help Dean Pees and Mike Vrabel generate pressure more naturally from the interior.

Long-term, Simmons will likely displace Austin Johnson on the roster, who is now in the final year of his rookie contract. The Titans will likely need to add or find another capable defensive tackle after this season to play alongside Casey and Simmons.

Justin Melo talked more about what Simmons can bring to the team here. Also check out his in-depth Twitter thread here. And Mike just dropped a deep dive article on Simmons today, which you can read here.

When we look back in a few years at the 2019 draft class as a whole, there’s a good chance Jeffery Simmons is viewed as the best pick. When he gets healthy, he should be an impact starter for years to come.

Round 2, Pick 51:

A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi

Height: 6’ 0½”

Weight: 226 lbs

DOB: June 30, 1997 (Turns 22 this summer)

The Titans met with A.J. Brown at the combine, and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith also attended the Ole Miss Pro Day. He also came to Nashville on a Top-30 Visit that was kept quiet until he was selected.

After three seasons, A.J. Brown enters the NFL as the all-time leading receiver for Ole Miss. His back-to-back 1200+ yard seasons in 2017 and 2018 as a true sophomore and junior are the most productive back-to-back years in school history, with his 2018 season breaking his own 2017 single-season school records for catches and yards.

Brown’s skillset is wide ranging. A detailed route-runner with elusive after-the-catch ability, he is capable of turning short throws into long gains. Brown can make contested catches with acrobatic contact-balance and body control, and he displays a nuanced knowledge of how his routes should be adjusted for the defense while fitting into the overall offense.

Jon Robinson’s scouting report:

Really productive in a strong football conference. Has played a couple different positions, has played outside receiver, has played inside receiver. He’s got good size, he’s got strong hands, good route-runner, he’s got good play speed, and really felt like he fit what we were looking for in a player.

I like his size, I like his play strength. He’s strong with the ball in his hands. He can catch the ball, he can break tackles. He’s good on the contested catches. He’ll create competition in that position group, and fortunately for us he was there when we were on the clock.

I think he’s got a good athletic skillset in all the testing portions of the stuff that we look at. His versatility to play a couple different spots, his production, and really we just felt like he was a good athlete, you know, he’s a pro baseball player. We’re excited to have him on the team.

A.J. Brown Career Stats

Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD
2016 Ole Miss SEC FR WR 11 29 412 14.2 2
2017 Ole Miss SEC SO WR 11 75 1252 16.7 11
2018 Ole Miss SEC JR WR 12 85 1320 15.5 6
Total Ole Miss SEC - WR 34 189 2984 15.8 19

Brown ran most of his routes from the slot for the majority of his snaps at Ole Miss until the final four games of 2018, when D.K. Metcalf was injured. In those four games, Brown racked up 25 catches for 515 yards (averaging 20.6 yards per catch), including this long touchdown:

When asked about moving back outside after D.K. Metcalf’s injury, Brown responded:

“I don’t have a problem [playing outside]. That’s home for me, honestly. I always mess around with the guys and just do releases and stuff on the outside. That’s not a problem, if it comes down to that, it’s not a problem.”

The very next question in that interview demonstrates how great a teammate Brown is. When asked about Metcalf’s injury, Brown got emotional discussing all the hard work they’ve put in so far this season. I recommend watching here.

Awards and Accolades:

  • Ole Miss Career Leader - Receiving Yards (2984)
  • Ole Miss Career Leader - 100-Yard Receiving Games (12)
  • 2018 All-America Second Team (FWAA, Phil Steele)
  • 2018 All-America Third Team (AP)
  • 2018 All-America Honorable Mention (CollegeFootballNews.com)
  • 2018 All-SEC First Team (AP, Coaches)
  • 2018 C Spire Conerly Trophy Finalist
  • 2018 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist
  • 2018 Maxwell Award Watch List
  • 2018 Walter Camp Award Watch List
  • 2018 Ole Miss Single-Season Leader - Receiving Yards (1320)
  • 2018 Ole Miss Single-Season Leader - Catches (85)
  • 2017 C Spire Conerly Trophy Winner
  • 2017 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist
  • 2017 All-America Second Team (Phil Steele)
  • 2017 All-America Third Team (AP)
  • 2017 All-SEC First Team (Coaches, AP, Phil Steele)
  • 2017 All-SEC Second Team (Athlon)
  • 2017 Ole Miss Single-Season Leader - Receiving Yards (1252)
  • 2017 Ole Miss Single-Season Leader - Receiving TDs (11)

How He Fits:

A.J. Brown should compete for the right to start across from Corey Davis on the outside from day one. In addition to his slot duties, Brown also functioned as a gadget player for the Rebels, running reverse actions and catching quick underneath passes and screens. That role for the Titans has belonged to Taywan Taylor.

Brown’s abilities will directly improve one of the weakest areas of the Titans’ passing attack: explosive plays. The Titans ranked 23rd in the NFL last year with just 48 total 20+ yard pass plays over the course of the 16-game season.

In 12 games with the Rebels last year, A.J. Brown popped off 33 receptions of 20+ yards (T-2nd in the NCAA), with only 10 of those 33 plays coming on passes that traveled 20+ yards in the air. It was Brown’s playmaking ability that created those yards, not offensive scheme or player usage.

If we go back to 2017 (when the Titans tied for 30th in explosive pass plays) and include the past two seasons, the Titans have accumulated just 85 plays of 20+ yards over a two-year span (in 32 games). A.J. Brown alone over that same timeframe — but only 23 games — racked up 57 explosives himself while breaking 40 tackles.

Pretend like A.J. Brown is the one pictured.

The additions of Brown and Adam Humphries might lead the offense to run more snaps from 11 personnel (3 WRs). All three receivers (including Corey Davis) are willing and effective blockers, so Art Smith will have plenty of options for different packages.

One of Tajae Sharpe or Taylor could be pushed off the roster by the addition of Brown. It will be interesting to see how many receivers the Titans decide to keep, and who makes the cut. Special teams will come into play, where Sharpe doesn’t contribute but Darius Jennings does.

It wouldn’t be shocking to see A.J. Brown become a “1B” to Corey Davis’s “1A” over the next couple of seasons.

Round 3, Pick 82:

Nate Davis, OL, Charlotte

Height: 6’ 3¼”

Weight: 316 lbs

DOB: September 23, 1996 (22 years old)

The Titans met with Nate Davis at the Senior Bowl and then brought him in for an Official Top-30 visit.

Davis was a four-year starter on the offensive line at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, making 37 career starts over his 40-game career after redshirting for the 2014 season.

Coming out of high school, Davis had plenty of offers, but he chose to go to Charlotte at the recommendation of his head coach to help start their new FBS football program.

Jon Robinson’s comments on Nate Davis:

Nate was a highly-rated guy on our draft board... I thought he had a good week at the Senior Bowl, we spent a lot of time with him down there, we spent a lot of time with him here, and we’re excited about him growing as a professional football player.

He certainly didn’t back down from the competition [at the Senior Bowl], a lot of times when those guys go down to the Senior Bowl, and they’re going against the best of the best that supposedly are going to be in the draft, sometimes those guys can fade a little bit. I thought he did a really good job of matching the competitiveness of the players that were down there, and he won a lot of matchups that he went against.

It’s all about competition. We’re not anointing anybody [as a starter], so we’re excited to get him in here and watch him go after it.

Awards and Accolades:

  • 2019 Reese’s Senior Bowl
  • 2018 All-C-USA First Team (Phil Steele)
  • 2018 All-C-USA Second Team (coaches)
  • 2018 Preseason All-Conference Second Team (Athlon’s)
  • 2018 49ers’ Best Offensive Player (SB Nation)
  • 2017 All-C-USA Honorable Mention
  • 2016 All-C-USA Honorable Mention

How He Fits:

Perhaps the biggest need on the Titans rostering entering the draft was for a new starter at right guard. Quinton Spain was replaced by Rodger Saffold, but the departure of Josh Kline left behind a gaggle of unproven players in Aaron Stinnie, Kevin Pamphile, and Corey Levin.

Davis should compete with that group for that starting right guard job after he played both tackle and guard at the small school of Charlotte, and he could be the long-term replacement for the recently cut Josh Kline.

Round 4, Pick 116:

Amani Hooker, S, Iowa

Height: 5’ 11⅜”

Weight: 210 lbs

DOB: June 14, 1998 (Turns 21 this summer)

The Titans brought in Amani Hooker for an Official Top-30 visit before the draft.

Hooker played all over the defense for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and in 2018, he shared team lead in interceptions (4) and pass break-ups (7) while ranking second in tackles (65).

Jon Robinson’s comments on Amani Hooker:

Versatile defensive back who’s played nickel, he’s played off the hash, he’s played down in the box, he’s played in the kicking game. He was set to return punts for them this year, so we’ll put him back there and see what that looks like.

We slid up a couple spots, and there was a team that was kinda in there that we thought might take him, so we felt we needed to get ourselves in position. He was the highest graded player we had on our board at that time, and felt really good about adding him and the role that he’s going to have on the team.

Amani Hooker Career Stats

Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Tackles Ast Total Tackles TFL Sk Int Yds TD PD FR FF
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Tackles Ast Total Tackles TFL Sk Int Yds TD PD FR FF
2016 Iowa Big Ten FR DB 13 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2017 Iowa Big Ten SO DB 10 41 15 56 0 0 2 30 1 2 0 0
2018 Iowa Big Ten JR DB 13 36 29 65 3.5 1 4 10 0 7 0 0
Total Iowa Big Ten DB 36 80 45 125 3.5 1 6 40 1 9 0 0

The fact that Hooker fell to the fourth round was quite a surprise for many draft analysts. Hooker was widely regarded as a Day Two player.

Awards and Accolades:

  • 2018 Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year
  • 2018 All-America Second Team (AP, USA Today)
  • 2018 All-America Fourth Team (Phil Steele)
  • 2018 All-Big Ten First Team (AP, coaches, media, Phil Steele)
  • 2018 Roy Carver Most Valuable Player, defense
  • 2018 Coaches Appreciation Award, defense
  • 2017 All-Bowl First Team (AP)

HOW HE FITS

The Titans starting secondary is pretty set with Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson as the outside corners, Logan Ryan in the slot, and Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro working interchangeably in the back end. But those guys can’t play every snap, and three-safety packages are valuable in the modern passing era of today’s NFL.

Kenny Vaccaro is a warrior on the field, and that mentality unfortunately results in a higher number of injuries. Last season, that meant Kendrick Lewis was forced into significant action, and he was responsible for a long touchdown given up against the Chargers.

Now, the Titans have Hooker in that 3rd safety role. He’ll be able to play almost anywhere on the back end of the defense, providing depth and versatility. He’ll also be on kick and punt coverage and will have a chance to win the primary punt returner job.

Continuing the theme of this draft class, Hooker was a steal in the fourth round.

Round 5, Pick 168:

D’Andre Walker, DE, Georgia

Height: 6’ 2⅜”

Weight: 251 lbs

DOB: January 23, 1997 (22 years old)

Walker didn’t participate in the combine drills, recovering at the time from sports hernia surgery. However, he did meet with the Titans that week in Indianapolis.

He was healthy enough to work out for scouts at Georgia’s Pro Day in mid-April, where he again met with the Titans. Walker didn’t make a Top-30 visit to Nashville, but the Titans were already comfortable with him from the time they’d spent.

Jon Robinson’s comments on D’Andre Walker:

Good length, he’s not a really tall player but he plays long. We think he’s got value on all three downs. Good strength, good speed to power. Can set the edge and has the lateral agility to work along the line of scrimmage.

When D’Andre was still on the board, it just felt like he was a player that we had kinda targeted all along, and just kept sitting there, and he was popping out to us so we took him.

He’s a guy that we spent time with at the combine, we spent time with him at his pro day, and we got really comfortable with him and what he would add to the team. We like him as a football player.

D’Andre Walker Career Stats

Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Tackles Ast Total Tackles TFL Sk PD FR FF BLK
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Tackles Ast Total Tackles TFL Sk PD FR FF BLK
2015 Georgia SEC FR LB 13 7 2 9 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 1
2016 Georgia SEC SO LB 13 9 10 19 2.5 0 0 0 0 0
2017 Georgia SEC JR LB 15 26 14 40 13.5 5.5 1 0 1 1
2018 Georgia SEC SR LB 13 23 22 45 11 7.5 3 1 4 0
Total Georgia SEC LB 54 65 48 113 27.5 13.5 4 1 5 2

Walker had to sit behind some talented players during his time at Georgia, including Leonard Floyd (who he calls a “mentor”), but he became a starter in his final season and led the team in tackles for loss (11), sacks (7.5), and QB pressures (14). Walker also forced four fumbles last season.

HOW HE FITS

The Titans clearly needed another edge defender after the retirement of Brian Orakpo and the departure of Derrick Morgan. Harold Landry will move into a full-time starter role, with a rotation of Cameron Wake, Sharif Finch, and Kamalei Correa filling out the other side. Walker can enter the mix in that rotation and spell Landry when needed.

Typically, lanky speed rushers like Walker come into the league as situational rushers while they bulk up and improve their run defense. Not that case for Walker, who might be a better run defender right now than he is edge rusher.

Walker will also contribute as a rookie on the kicking and punting units. He played special teams for Georgia and made an impact. That included on the onside kick team...

On the punt block/return team...

And on the kick coverage team...

A year of bulking up with Frank Piraino and the Titans training staff while contributing on special teams should allow Walker to carve out a role on the defense.

A player some thought the Titans might draft in the third round fell to them in the fifth. Another great value pick at a position of need.

Round 6, Pick 188:

David Long, Jr., LB, West Virginia

Height: 5’ 11¼”

Weight: 227 lbs

DOB: October 12, 1998 (20 years old)

David Long didn’t participate in drills at the combine or at West Virginia’s Pro Day due to a high ankle sprain, but he plays with speed and shows off athleticism on tape.

The Titans met with Long at the combine and his pro day but did not bring him in for a Top-30 visit.

Jon Robinson’s comments on David Long:

Just a really, really productive player. We spent time with all three of these [day three] guys at the combine, at pro days, at private workouts. All of them play hard, all of them are passionate about football, and we’re really excited about adding them to the team.

David Long Career Stats

Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Tackles Ast Total Tackles TFL Sk PD FR FF
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Tackles Ast Total Tackles TFL Sk PD FR FF
2016 WVU Big 12 R-Fr WLB 13 37 28 65 4.5 2 0 0 1
2017 WVU Big 12 R-So WLB 9 56 20 76 16.5 4 6 1 0
2018 WVU Big 12 R-Jr WLB 12 76 35 111 19 8 4 1 1
Total WVU Big 12 -- WLB 34 169 83 252 40 14 10 2 2

Long started all 12 games at Will Linebacker for the Mountaineers last season and led the team with 111 tackles (averaging 9.3 per game), 8 sacks, and tackles for loss (19). He finished with 10 or more tackles in six different games in 2018.

While he’s a bit undersized, he’s aggressive, smart, and plays with physicality.

Awards and Accolades:

  • 2018 All-America Second-Team (AP, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Athlon Sports, Phil Steele and The Athletic)
  • 2018 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (Coaches, AP)
  • 2018 All-Big 12 First Team (AP, Coaches, Phil Steele)
  • 2018 Butkus Award semifinalist
  • 2018 tied for the school record in single-season tackles for loss (19)
  • 2017 All-American Second Team (ProFootballFocus)
  • 2017 All-Big 12 First Team (ESPN.com)
  • 2017 All-Big 12 Second Team (Athlon Sports)
  • 2017 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention (Coaches)
  • 2017 WVU Defensive Player of the Year
  • 2017 - Finished No. 4 on WVU’s single-season TFL list
  • 2017 - Set single-game school record with seven tackles for loss vs. OSU; the mark is the second-most in NCAA history

HOW HE FITS

The Titans have their starting inside linebackers for 2019, but David Long should get some run in sub-packages as the Titans prepare for the eventual end of the Wesley Woodyard era, which could be 2020. The Titans regularly use three inside linebackers on the field, with Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans joining Woodyard, as run-stuffers and blitzers in the passing game.

Long will fit right into that role. He was an excellent blitzer in his time at WVU, compiling more sacks last season than the Titans’ 5th-round pick D’Andre Walker.

Long is similar to Jayon Brown in size and should be able to bulk up a bit during his rookie season. Aside from his defensive role, he’ll also likely replace Darren Bates on special teams after Bates was arrested for marijuana possession in one of the most ridiculous stories I’ve seen in a while.

When Jon Robinson took over as General Manager, one of his first moves was to revamp the special teams units with veteran leaders like Bates and Brynden Trawick. More recently, he’s started filling out the special teams with young, athletic players like Dane Cruikshank last season and Walker and Long this year.

When you can find contributors on Day Three of the draft, that’s a success. Long will play early on special teams and could grow into a package player for the defense by the end of his rookie season.

Draft Class Facts

Top-30 Visits: 3/6

Senior Bowlers: 1/6 (would’ve been 2, but D’Andre Walker was hurt)

Shrine Week Participants: 0

Players Met with During Pre-Draft Process: 6/6

Average games played: 39.33

Average games started: 25.33

Average age: 21.63 years old

Class breakdown: DT, WR, OG, S, DE, ILB

Conference breakdown: 3 SEC, 1 Big 10, 1 Big 12, 1 Conference USA

Interestingly, the Titans don’t seem to care much about athletic testing under Jon Robinson’s regime.

In 2016, Robinson drafted Kevin Byard in the third round despite the safety not being invited to the combine. In 2017, he took Corey Davis despite Davis being injured throughout the draft process and never posting any athletic results.

This year, three of Robinson’s six picks missed the combine drills because of injury. It seems JRob is content to let the on-field “play speed” speak for itself.

I’d expect all six draftees to make the roster in 2019 and contribute on some level during their rookie seasons. Simmons should resume running full-speed again by October; from there his timetable will depend on how quickly he can return to football shape. A.J. Brown and Nate Davis have legitimate plug-and-play starter potential as rookies, while Hooker, Walker, and Long will contribute early on special teams with the chance to rotate in with the defense as the season progresses.

It was a heck of a draft haul on paper. We’ll see how they look on the field when they convene for rookie minicamp on May 10th.