Titans 2010 Draft Recap
Another April weekend, another NFL draft, at least for some definition of weekend since this year’s draft started on Thursday. Anyway, some idiosyncratic, pessimistic, snarky thoughts on the Titans’ selections. Player name links are to the relevant Total Titans post. For this analysis, I’m considering only the Titans’ 2010 draft day activity, not last year’s trade of this year’s second round pick to acquire the pick used to select Jared Cook.
#1-16: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
A very popular selection. DE was the biggest need on the Titans’ board, and Morgan was generally seen as the best DE in this year’s class, even though Brandon Graham and Jason Pierre-Paul both ended up drafted before him. I’ve already said elsewhere I’m not a big fan of Morgan; I think his upside is as a left defensive end who has 8 sacks in a great year and is very good against the run, but unlikely to ever make a Pro Bowl. To me, you can find defensive ends who can’t rush the passer in the 3rd or 4th round pretty easily and getting a relatively low upside guy like Morgan in the first round is a mistake. I expected the Morgan pick, but that doesn’t mean I had to like it. My preferred pick would’ve been the highest rated CB on the Titans’ board; for me, that was Kyle Wilson.
#3-77: Damian Williams, WR, USC
Since the 1996 draft, when Keyshawn Johnson was taken #1 overall, the following wideouts have been drafted out of USC in the first 4 rounds of the NFL draft: Patrick Turner, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, R. Jay Soward, and Larry Parker. Of those players, Smith is the only one who wasn’t a disappointment for his team, and Williams and Soward are both unadulterated busts. Williams is regarded as a polished route runner and a reliable receiver with good size, which puts him in the Colbert/Jarrett category. Williams does have added value as a punt returner; I’m less confident in my evaluation of how good he is at that, but I’m very skeptical Williams’ upside is other than as an extremely mediocre #2 wideout, and can’t see him in the Titans’ top 3 in the next 2 years. I was surprised to see the Titans draft Williams, as ex-Longhorn Jordan Shipley was still on the board and fits the same profile.
#3-97 Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia
Compensatory pick. I did the Total Titans post, so see that for some of my thoughts. Curran is pretty much a carbon copy of current Titans MLB Stephen Tulloch: a shorter but speedy backer who was hugely productive. I suspect Curran’s future will be as the Titans’ starting Mike as soon as next season, as Tulloch will likely play this year under a one year tender. I’d been hoping for Donald Butler as the 3rd round linebacker, but he went off the board between Williams and this pick.
#4-103 Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA
Pick acquired from Seattle. Like Curran, Verner was a highly productive college player. He’s regarded as a good zone defender, but has questionable speed on intermediate and deeper routes against NFL caliber wideouts. That’s about all you can expect out of a 4th round cornerback, which is why you draft cornerbacks in the first and second rounds if you’re serious about finding a quality starter. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks with the Titans’ original pick took another CB, Oregon’s Walter Thurmond, a more talented CB with injury issues. Given that 4th round corners rarely become good players, taking a gamble may be a wise move.
#5-148 Robert Johnson, S, Utah
It’s another entry in the long-running Tennessee city battle, as the Titans grab one of the greatest of the Delta bluesmen. Ok, it’s not actually that Robert Johnson; a very fine thing, as he’s long dead. In a recurring theme, Johnson was a very productive player in college and like Verner, is regarded as a good zone player who needs to improve to be able to play man coverage. Which, again, is not unusual for a 5th round selection. With White traded, another RB would have been a pleasing addition in my eyes, with somebody like Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon a good power back of the kind the Titans could use.
#6-176 Rusty Smith, QB, Florida Atlantic
Pick acquired from Seattle. Just in case you weren’t sure Vince Young might not be locked in at the QB of the Future for the Titans, the team reminded you that he’s not, necessarily, and that this whole “mobile QB” thing may end up being just an experiment. Smith is the sort of prospect you’d expect to find with a later round pick: good size, a strong arm, but in need of work in terms of accuracy and making more sophisticated reads. He should make the roster, since the #3 QB is a valuable spot, but ideally will never have to start in Tennessee. If the Titans wanted more of a VY clone, they could’ve grabbed Dan LeFevour, who went a couple picks later, but I’m happy with this pick.
#6-207 Myron Rolle, S, Florida State
Compensatory pick. Rolle is, of course, by far the most famous 6th round pick this year: one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school (the #1 ATH), played as a down but still quite famous school (FSU), then of course the whole Rhodes Scholar thing. A number of fans are quite happy about this pick, as there’s a general perception that Rolle’s stock was unfairly dinged because teams question his commitment to football. Yes, there is all that stuff, but the sad truth is that Rolle simply wasn’t a very good player. He’s neither physical enough to be a very good in the box safety, nor does he have sufficient quickness to play pass coverage in really either man or zone coverage. His “upside” as an NFL player is as a smart (cliche alert!) special teams player; he could replace Donnie Nickey as soon as this season, but is never likely to be the kind of player who doesn’t create fear in the hearts of his teams’ fans if he plays on actual defensive snaps. The Rolle pick, while a reasonable one, to me describes too much of the Titans’ draft: a focus on character and some production over potential impact at the NFL level. 6th round picks generally fail and produce limited value; if you’re going to fail, you should try to fail boldly.
#7-222 Marc Mariani, WR, Montana
Jeff Fisher’s kid’s buddy. Mariani was very productive at the I-AA/FCS level; one scouting report in the link called him “the FCS Jordan Shipley,” after the Longhorn wideout and punt returner. Since Shipley is considered to have only a limited NFL future, likely unable to play on the outside and to struggle with press coverage, getting the inferior version of him is a great move. I won’t get overly exercised about 7th round picks, but this smacks of blatant homerism and short-sightedness, especially given that the Titans drafted a superior version of Mariani in Damian Williams 4 rounds earlier. A very odd pick in my eyes, especially considering the absence of both an RB and an offensive lineman.
#7-241 David Howard, DT, Brown
Good pro day measureables, I know nothing about him. At this point of the draft, I’d be picking names out of a hat. I will say I would have, once again, preferred RB or OL with this pick, especially RB given the Titans’ lack of depth at the position, rather than another DT when the Titans already have 4 who expect to make the roster. Then again, late 7th round picks are about as much about getting rights to guys who you wouldn’t be able to secure as UDFAs as what you need, so maybe it’s better to take a DT you couldn’t get as somebody with almost no chance to make the roster rather than an RB when you should be able to attract some quality UDFAs with at least one RB space open.
I am, of course, unsurprisingly down on most of the Titans’ picks. That’s because I didn’t like them, and think the front office is wrong philosophically with the emphasis on college production and character over ability to be above-average player at the NFL level. Interestingly, while I think the Titans did overvalue some things in this draft, at no point did I have the immediate reaction that any player was a severe overdraft, as I did with the Sen’Derrick Marks selection last year, the Chris Johnson pick in ’08, and the Chris Henry pick in ’07, among others; maybe that’s progress of a sort, maybe it’s a front office paying too much attention to internet wanking.
Anyway, the true verdict on the draft will of course come later on, after we have a chance to see how these players perform on the field. We’ll see who did better 6 years down the line when I do Draft in Review: 2010.
EDIT: For a true draft recap, I do need to mention the trade the Titans made during the draft. They gave up their own 4th and 6th round picks, 111th and 185th overall, plus RB LenDale White and DT Kevin Vickerson, for Seattle’s 4th and 6th round picks, 103th and 176th overall. I wasn’t surprised White had that little trade value, but I thought Vickerson had more value than that, unless, of course, the Titans took less in trade because they preferred not to cut White.