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Five Titans UDFAs that could have a shot at making the 53-man roster

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Jon Robinson has had some luck with undrafted players over the past few seasons.

Georgia v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The Titans announced that they have officially agreed to terms with 14 undrafted free agents, bringing their roster total to 86.

The Titans have had several undrafted players make an impact during the Jon Robinson era, including defensive linemen Matt Dickerson and Isaiah Mack, outside linebackers Sharif Finch and Derick Roberson, cornerback Kareem Orr, running back Dalyn Dawkins, and wide receiver Cameron Batson. They also have several other veterans who got their starts in the NFL as UDFAs for other teams like Malcolm Butler, Adam Humphries, Anthony Firkser, Kalif Raymond, Khari Blasingame, and Brett Kern.

Tennessee’s 14-man 2020 UDFA class consists of:

  • RB Cameron Scarlett, Stanford
  • WR Mason Kinsey, Berry College
  • WR Kristian Wilkerson, SEMO
  • WR Kyle Williams, Arizona State
  • WR Nick Westbrook, Indiana
  • TE Tommy Hudson, Arizona State
  • OT Brandon Kemp, Valdosta State
  • OT Anthony McKinney, TCU
  • IOL Aaron Brewer, Texas State
  • DL Kobe Smith, South Carolina
  • DL Teair Tart, FIU
  • ILB Cale Garrett, Missouri
  • ILB Khaylan Kearse-Thomas, Arizona State
  • K Tucker McCann, Missouri

This figures to be an unusually difficult offseason for UDFAs to make an impression and earn a spot on the active roster. Rookie minicamp and OTAs are so important for these guys when it comes to reps and with those activities cancelled due to COVID-19, undrafted rookies will have to find a way to shine in the extremely limited reps that they figure to get during training camp. However, there is still a decent chance that at least one of these guys emerge as a roster option. Here are the five that I think have the best chance.

K Tucker McCann, Missouri

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 South Carolina at Missouri Photo by Scott Kane/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Greg Joseph will enter camp as the favorite for the Titans placekicking duties after going a perfect 18 for 18 on extra points and 1 for 1 on field goal attempts after signing with the team late last season. He didn’t exactly get challenged much — his one field goal was a chip shot — but he did what was asked of him and also slightly improved the team’s touchback rate on kickoffs.

However, with just one full professional season under his belt — a solid 17 of 20 (85%) season with the Browns in 2018 — he’s certainly not entrenched in that role to the point that he’s immune to competition.

That competition will come from undrafted rookie Tucker McCann, a four year starter at Missouri who also handled the punting duties for the Tigers last season. McCann’s 72.6% field goal conversion rate and 94.1% extra point rate — remember, college extra points are still taken from the doorstep of the goal line, not the 15-yard line like the NFL’s — leave a little to be desired, but the Titans clearly saw something they liked.

That “something” was probably McCann’s booming power. His career long in college was a 57-yarder to put Missouri on top late in the 4th quarter against South Carolina — with a LOT of room to spare — and he hit a 60-yard field goal in high school, an Illinois state record. In 2019, he put a whopping 58 of 64 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback. McCann has a monster leg.

Obviously the tools are there for McCann to succeed as a pro kicker, it’s just a matter of finding consistency. The good news is that college accuracy historically has very little correlation to NFL accuracy. Just take a look at the ten most accurate kickers with at least 100 career attempts currently active in the NFL right now:

  1. Justin Tucker — 83.3% in college, 90.8% in NFL
  2. Harrison Butker — 71.7% in college, 89.7% in NFL
  3. Josh Lambo — 84.0% in college, 88.5% in NFL
  4. Wil Lutz — 69.2% in college, 87.5% in NFL
  5. Dan Bailey — 79.2% in college, 87.3% in NFL
  6. Chris Boswell — 73.9% in college, 87.0% in NFL
  7. Robbie Gould — 63.9% in college, 86.8% in NFL
  8. Steven Hauschka — 88.9% in college, 85.7 in NFL
  9. Dustin Hopkins — 78.6% in college, 84.9% in NFL
  10. Matt Prater — 67.6% in college, 83.8% in NFL

So four of the current top ten kickers in the NFL had a lower accuracy rate in college than McCann’s 72.6%. All but one — Hauschka, who attempted just 18 field goals total in college — improved their accuracy during the transition to the pro game. There are also examples of good college kickers becoming poor performers in the NFL. The most glaring is former 2nd round pick Roberto Aguayo, who converted 88.5% of his field goal attempts at Florida State before making just 71% for the Bucs and crashing out of the league in just one year.

Kicking is one of the very rare positions on a football field where things actually get easier at the NFL level. The professional game features significantly narrower hashes which allow for more straight away angles than those that are used in college. Pro kickers also get actual special teams coaches — not just great recruiters who needed a spot on the staff so they could travel — and the benefit of improved muscle memory that comes with repeating their “swing” for additional years.

Whether McCann can prove to be consistent enough to push Joseph for the kicking job remains to be seen, but history has shown that his 72.6% college conversion rate is far from a disqualifier for NFL success.

ILB Cale Garrett, Missouri

Troy v Missouri Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Garrett is an interesting player to watch given the makeup of the Titans inside linebacker group right now. Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown are entrenched as the starters and 2019 6th round pick David Long looks poised to serve as their top backup after a strong rookie season.

However, there isn’t really a clear fourth option on the roster right now. Free agent signee Nick Dzubnar looks like a special teams only type addition, effectively filling the role Daren Bates has served the past three seasons. Wesley Woodyard could still return as he remains unsigned, but if the roster remains as it currently stands, Garrett — along with veteran Nigel Harris and fellow UDFA Khaylan Kearse-Thomas — will have a real opportunity to carve out a spot on the 53-man roster.

Garrett had an extremely productive college career at Missouri, leading the Tigers in tackles in 2017 and 2018. He was on his way to a potential All-American type season in 2019 before a torn pectoral ended his senior year after just five games.

Before the injury, Garrett was on pace for career highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks and had already set career best marks in passes broken up (5) and interceptions (3). He ended his college career with defensive touchdowns in three consecutive games, including the final score coming after he’d suffered his season ending injury.

So why didn’t a productive two-time captain from an SEC school get drafted? Well, it comes down to Garrett’s limited athleticism. He ran a 4.93 40 at the combine, which ranks in just the 7th percentile among all combine tested linebackers per Mockdraftable.com.

The bright side here is that his agility testing was strong, and while straight line speed is important for a modern inside linebacker, there are at least a couple examples of guys who have excelled despite 4.9-plus 40 times in Vontaze Burfict (5.09) and Brandon Spikes (5.05). However, those guys both checked in around 250 pounds, not the 234 pounds that Garrett weighed in Indy.

Instinctive, tough, smart, and great leadership are qualities that could earn Garrett a long look from the Titans. He’s known to be a tape junky and an intense competitor. His college position coach said that Garrett “probably knows the defense better than I do”. His anticipation and effort helps mask some of his speed deficiency, even in the passing game.

If you’re looking at the Titans inside linebackers, Long seems like a better fit to backup Jayon Brown’s Will linebacker spot which leaves an opportunity for more of a run down thumper to backup Evans at the Mike. Garrett fits that mold and he kind of reminds me a little bit of former preseason darling Robert Spillane.

WR Mason Kinsey, Berry College

Berry College

Titans fans falling in love with undrafted wide receivers during preseason is one of my favorite offseason traditions. Biren Ealy, Michael Preston, and Deontay Burnett all say hi, by the way.

There are plenty of options available this year, and with a lack of proven depth behind starters A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries, this could be a season where a UDFA actually cracks the roster.

Kinsey stands out to me as a guy that is likely to capture the hearts and minds of the fan base. He played his college football at Division III Berry College and put up video game numbers — 194 catches, 3,242 yards, and 49 touchdowns over the last three seasons combined, including a 65-1,221-16 line last season.

The highlights look as dominant as the stats would have you believe.

Obviously, there are serious questions about level of competition with any player coming from D-III, but a strong performance during the week at the East West Shrine Game helped him show that he could hang with D-I talent.

Kinsey looks fast on tape, but again, he’s mostly running away from guys who are nowhere near professional athletes. That’s where the testing numbers come in. Kinsey participated in two pro days, one at Kennesaw State, where he posted these numbers.

And then another at his training facilities, where he posted these.

I tend to take all pro day measurements with a grain of salt, but the “into the wind” part of the tweet from the Kennesaw State pro day is relevant when considering which of his 40 times is more likely to reflect reality. The combine, obviously, is held indoors and Kinsey’s second pro day, where he ran a 4.36, was indoors. Chances are his actual speed falls somewhere in between those numbers.

Either way, the route running, ball skills, and competitiveness make him an intriguing prospect — traits that tend to translate well across varying levels of competition — even if he doesn’t have the elite top end speed that the 4.36 time would suggest. He also brings some value as a potential punt and kick return option with college experience doing both.

Working against Kinsey is his size, which likely makes him more of an option in the slot than out wide. With Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond, and Cameron Batson all similarly undersized receivers, the Titans may feel more of a need to add another bigger-bodied outside receiver.

WR Kristian Wilkerson, SEMO

NCAA Football: SE Missouri State at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Wilkerson doesn’t necessarily qualify as a “big body” receiver at just a little over 6’-1” and checking in at 200 pounds at his pro day, but the SEMO product does have a build that qualifies as something closer to what you’d expect from either a split end or flanker in an NFL offense. His pro day only adds to the intrigue as he turned in some elite times in both the explosive and change of direction drills.

@MathBombs

Wilkerson has plenty of production to pair with that enticing athleticism, putting up 3,540 yards and 33 touchdowns over four seasons at Jon Robinson’s alma mater. His final year was his best, posting 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns while helping lead SEMO to a 9-3 season and an OVC Championship.

Wilkerson’s tape, like Kinsey’s is filled with scintillating highlights that show him to be a big time vertical threat who also brings strong run after catch ability and some eye-popping ball skills.

Wilkerson is extremely aggressive with the ball in the air, making him successful more often than not in contested catch situations. The Memphis native also has a great attitude coming in as highlighted in our own Justin Melo’s interview with him.

Like Kinsey, level of competition is the biggest question mark with Wilkerson and likely the reason he went undrafted, though when he did have a chance to play against high level players he performed well, including a 6 for 146 and a touchdown outburst against Panthers 2nd round pick Jeremy Chinn and his Southern Illinois team.

WR Kyle Williams, Arizona State

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, I’m tripling down at wide receiver here. There are a couple reasons for that... one is that this is a really interesting crop of UDFA receivers and there is some opportunity for one or two of these guys to carve out a roster spot with the Titans given their current depth at the position. The other reason is that the offensive linemen the Titans brought in — another spot that seems ripe for some back of the roster competition — don’t really do a lot for me. Aaron Brewer is positionally flexible, having played tackle, guard, and center at Texas State, but at roughly 280 pounds, he’s so undersized that it’s hard to see him making the roster. The other two — TCU’s Anthony McKinney and Valdosta State’s Brandon Kemp — suffer from the opposite problem, checking in at over 6’-7” and profiling as pure tackles at the NFL level. McKinney and Kemp feel more like stash and develop practice squad candidates more than real threats to make the 53-man roster.

Kyle Williams rounds out my group of wide receivers to watch and he’s an interesting guy on a lot of levels. In addition to being a three year contributor on the field for the Sun Devils, he majored in biomedical engineering and has plans to become a surgeon once his playing days end, a career choice inspired, in part, by a separated shoulder injury suffered during his freshman year at Arizona State.

Williams’ academic accolades are extensive, including the Pat Tillman Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, and he’s spent the better part of the last three years working under Arizona State team physician Dr. Annikar Chhabra.

On the field, Williams has been a productive receiver, accumulating 1,674 yards and 11 touchdowns during his college career. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but it’s worth noting that he’s played behind two first round picks in N’Keal Harry and Brandon Aiyuk during his time there.

Williams has never been the focal point of the Sun Devils attack, but he’s been a consistently productive role player who was highly respected in the Arizona State program both as a player and as a person.

“He’s probably our best all-around receiver if you consider speed, hands, blocking ability,” wide receivers coach Charlie Fisher said. “On top of everything else he’s just great to be around. He’s always positive and encourages the other players. He the model citizen and the epitome of what you want in a student-athlete.”

The 5’-11”, 192 receiver certainly profiles as primarily a slot option, a role he played frequently in offensive coordinator Rob Liken’s scheme. We don’t have testing numbers for Williams because he was not invited to the combine and ASU’s pro day ended up getting cancelled due to COVID-19, but he’s more quick than fast on tape. His strongest assets are his sure hands and his ability to create after the catch.

Williams, Kinsey, and Wilkerson represent an interesting selection of potential back of the roster options for the Titans at receiver behind A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, and Kalif Raymond. They’ll be competing with the likes of Cameron Batson, Cody Hollister, Rashard Davis, and Trevion Thompson.