NFL Draft 2018: Titans eager to build on their playoff run
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are coming off their first playoff victory in 14 years with a brand new coach and no obvious holes to be filled in the NFL draft.
That gives general manager Jon Robinson lots of flexibility on what to do with the 25th pick overall Thursday night.
He’s working with first-time head coach Mike Vrabel to find a way to push the Titans past an ugly divisional rout last January , and Tennessee already has all the key pieces in place led by quarterback Marcus Mariota. Robinson used free agency to replace aging veterans such as running back DeMarco Murray , bolstered the Titans’ secondary and added depth on the offensive line.
“What we wanted to try to do was be able to go into the draft with what we thought was a pretty deep roster,” Robinson said. “I think we’ve got good depth on our roster. We’ve got good competition really at all the position groups and hopefully we can add some guys here over the next three, four days to maybe even make that more competitive.”
That leaves the man who traded away the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 free to trade up or out of the first round to add to the six selections Tennessee has this draft as the Titans try to improve after consecutive 9-7 seasons that couldn’t help Mike Mularkey keep his job .
Some things to watch with the Titans in the draft:
Tennessee tied for fifth in the NFL last season with 43 sacks led by Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. But both outside linebackers are going into the final season of their current contracts, and Orakpo, a four-time Pro Bowler, turns 32 around the time training camp opens. Kevin Dodd, the 33rd pick overall in 2016, was supposed to provide depth. So far, he has one sack in 18 games. Backup Erik Walden, who was signed last July, has not been brought back.
Tennessee signed a pair of guards Kevin Pamphile and Xavier Su’a-Filo with starting experience in free agency. If right tackle Jack Conklin isn’t recovered by the start of the season from a torn left ACL suffered in the loss at New England, Su’a-Filo is capable of sliding over until Conklin returns. They also signed starting right guard Josh Kline to a new deal and starting left guard Quinton Spain signed his contract tender.
Dion Lewis was signed as Murray’s replacement and complement to Derrick Henry. Quarterback could be an option later as a future upgrade to Mariota’s backup after the Titans released veteran Matt Cassel and signed Blaine Gabbert.
MORE DEFENSIVE HELP
The Titans’ biggest offseason addition was cornerback Malcolm Butler as he received a five-year deal to bolster the secondary on a defense that ranked 25th in the NFL, giving up 224.4 yards passing per game. He slides into the lineup with former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan, signed last offseason, and Adoree Jackson, the 18th pick overall in 2017, in a secondary that also features All-Pro safety Kevin Byard.
HITS, MISSES AND BARGAINS
The Titans’ draft luck improved drastically under Robinson who has 17 of his selections on the roster. His first pick was Conklin, an All Pro as a rookie after being the eighth pick overall thanks to trading away the No. 1 selection . Robinson found another All Pro in the third round of that same draft in Byard, who tied for the league lead with eight interceptions in 2017. Robinson has set a high standard that includes nabbing Henry with his third pick in the second round of 2016.
Robinson’s biggest miss — for now — is Dodd. Bishop Sankey, the first running back drafted in 2014, easily is the Titans’ biggest miss over the past five drafts.
Their best bargain over the past five seasons is linebacker Avery Williamson, a fifth-round pick in 2014 at No. 151, the Tennessee native started 59 of his 63 games before signing with the Jets this offseason.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker