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Titans’ hiring of Brian Callahan shouldn’t impact first-round decision

The wide receiver versus offensive tackle debate is going to rage all offseason long

Syndication: The Tennessean Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK

Could the hiring of the new Tennessee Titans head coach Brian Callahan influence general manager Ran Carthon to take the No. 7 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft in a different direction than expected? There’s lots of historical evidence (via stats and interviews) to suggest Callahan will prioritize the wide receiver position.

Callahan was part of a Cincinnati Bengals regime that drafted receiver Ja’Marr Chase ahead of offensive tackle Penei Sewell. The Titans are in a similar position this offseason and will face a similar tackle versus receiver debate. The aging DeAndre Hopkins remains on the roster through 2024, but the Titans need a No. 1 receiver of the future given Hopkins’ advancing age and expiring contract. Treylon Burks doesn’t appear to be that guy.

The Titans also desperately need a left tackle after watching Dennis Daley, Andre Dillard, Jaelyn Duncan, and Nicholas Petit-Frere struggle mightily to play the position over the previous two seasons. Drafting an effective tackle or receiver directly, and positively, impacts franchise quarterback Will Levis. That’s ultimately the goal.

Several outstanding prospects at both positions could be available with the seventh overall pick. Marvin Harrison Jr. will likely be gone, but Malik Nabers and Rome Odunze may remain on the board at receiver when the Titans come on the clock. Both playmakers posted devastating numbers this season. Latest mock drafts suggest the Titans may also have their choice between Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt and Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu.

I personally believe the “Chase over Sewell” decision was unique for Cincinnati. Chase was a better prospect than Nabers and Odunze (not by much, they’re excellent, too), and there was the rare benefit of the chemistry he already possessed with Joe Burrow after winning a National Championship at LSU. I don’t see the Titans’ draft-day scenario being exactly the same, although the debate will be present.

The Titans must also weigh which prospects may be available in the second round. Both classes of receivers and tackles are deep in 2024, but the Titans are likelier to draft an instant-contributor wideout in the second round as opposed to a pro-ready tackle. That’s been historically true in recent drafts, too.

Drafting Nabers or Odunze could mean rolling the dice on a raw tackle prospect in the second round like Patrick Paul or Kingsley Suamataia. Tackles with good measureables and baseline traits, but ones that require further seasoning. The Titans can’t afford to take a risk at left tackle for a third consecutive campaign given how whiffing at the position completely derailed their offense for two straight seasons.

Meanwhile, the crop of second-round receivers could be more desirable. Think LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. (although he’s quickly rising), Texas’ Adonai Mitchell or Xavier Worthy, Georgia’s Ladd McConkey, Oregon’s Troy Franklin, and others. Think about the slew of second-round-or-later receivers that made instant impacts (AJ Brown, Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, etc). Puka Nacua was an outlier, but it’s another example of how later-round receivers are likelier to play right away versus later-round tackles.

Callahan is undoubtedly going to value playmaking receivers more than Mike Vrabel did. Callahan believes in the foundation of an effective passing attack, and he believes in Levis’ baseline traits. There’s loads of evidence pointing in that direction. That’s exciting news. Callahan’s appointment adds fuel to the Titans potentially drafting a wideout ahead of a left tackle with the No. 7 overall selection. They shouldn’t, though. Fixing the offensive line must remain Carthon’s priority.