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2020 NFL mock draft: an EDGE rusher in every round for Titans

NCAA Football: Purdue at Penn State John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans enter the 2020 NFL draft with a need to get more athletic on the edges. They went through a bit of a transition period with the 2019 season being the first time in a long time that Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo weren’t in the fold. Cameron Wake performed admirably when healthy, but missed the majority of the season and could be released in the next few weeks. Derick Roberson is a young guy that came on strong near the end of the season but let’s be honest, he’s van unknown commodity going forward. Kamalei Correa is set to become a free agent in a few weeks time and may have played his way into a lucrative contract elsewhere. Harold a Landry is a good start, but the time to add a quality starter opposite him is now.

Tennessee will likely add at least one pass rusher by the end of the Day 2. We decided to pick one out they could conceivably take in every round.

Round 1 | Yetur Gross-Matos | Penn State

Gross-Matos is a target that makes a ton of sense should he be available at the tail end of the first round. While he may not be the athlete that Landry is, that could actually make him the perfect compliment on the other side. While Landry tends to beat tackles with pure speed and flexibility around the edge, Gross-Matos is more of a long-armed technician that wins as a pass rusher with excellent extension skills. Make no mistake however, the ability to turn the corner is present in his skill-set as well.

Penn State moved him around all over their defensive line and the results remained consistent. Gross-Matos wins in a variety of ways. His advanced hand usage and red hot motor allowed him to wreak havoc in the backfield on a weekly basis. He’s also an excellent run defender. He would be a great addition heading into the 2020 season.

Round 2 | Curtis Weaver | Boise State

Weaver is THICC. Currently listed at 6-3, 265 pounds, Weaver is one of the more powerful edge defenders in this class. Weaver is a tough, strong defender who wins both as pass rusher and run defender. His snap anticipation is well advanced for his age and he does a good job striking his target immediately. Boise State moved Weaver all over their defensive line with great success.

The upcoming NFL Scouting Combine will play a huge role in ultimately determining Weaver’s draft stock. He’s been described as an average-at-best athlete in the past. A good showing in Indy could even catapult Weaver into the first round conversation.

Round 3 | Bradlee Anae | Utah

Anae announced himself as an intriguing prospect in this class with an excellent performance throughout the entire week at the Senior Bowl. The first thing that jumps off the screen when analyzing Anae’s game is how strong he is in the run game. He was able to routinely set the edge throughout his time at Utah.

As a pass rusher, he does a terrific job using his length and power to create problems in the back-field. He has a variety of moves in his arsenal, but he’s at his best when his spin move and bull rush win for him. Anae isn’t a pass rusher that wins around the edge consistently, but his twitchy first step, power and short-area explosiveness project well to the next level.

Round 4 | Alex Highsmith | Charlotte

The Titans don’t currently have a fourth round pick but anything can happen on draft weekend so we’re going to make a pick for them anyway. Highsmith was hardly on the draft radar before he exploded as a senior this past year by totaling a whopping 15 sacks, something he credits to working with pass rushing specialist coach Marcus West during his 2019 campaign.

Highsmith uses a good first step to threaten the edge on a snap-by-snap basis. It’s clear to see the impact that coach West had on his game, as he implemented a variety of moves into his 2019 arsenal such as his trademark chop-rip and a pretty good spin move as well. Coaches and general managers alike will love the consistent effort he puts on tape. He’s a name to watch at the combine.

Round 5 | Darrell Taylor | Tennessee

We’re staying local with this one. Taylor is a bendy edge rusher with the burst necessary to threaten the edge and turn the corner. He accumulated a productive 16.5 sacks over the past two seasons while playing in the SEC.

Taylor’s speed and ability to turn the corner gets into the head of opposing offensive tackles. He’s a tad undersized, but has been a good run defender throughout his time at Tennessee. As a pass rusher, he’s a bit of a one-trick pony at this time, but speed is always a good tool to possess as you work on developing a broader arsenal.

Round 6 | Kenny Willekes | Michigan State

Willekes plays the game like a man on a mission. You’d be hard pressed to find an edge rusher in this class that plays with more effort on a consistent basis than Willekes does. There are no wasted movements in his steps and he processes the game at an extremely high level.

Willekes isn’t an explosive athlete and he needs to do a better job rushing the passer with a plan in mind. With that said, he got better with each passing year at Michigan State and effort takes you a long way in Tennessee. He has the kind of attitude, production and effort that Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson look for in a Day 3 selection.

Round 7 | James Lynch | Baylor

Speaking of production, it came in bunches for our seventh and final selection. Lynch had a big 2019 season that saw him finish with 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. That’s the type of production that gets you drafted regardless of athletic profile.

And that’s the issue here and the reason why Lynch may be available on Day 3. Despite being Baylor’s all-time sack leader, he’s more of an effort player than anything else. It’s tough to see how he athletically will give NFL offensive linemen a problem at the next level, but he has the type of production and pedigree that’s worth working with.