The 2019 NFL draft has come to a close. Everyone from Numero Uno to Mr. Irrelevant has made their way across the stage in Nashville and joined their new team. Now that all the drama and tension has come to an end, the analysis can begin.
“With the 19th pick in the 2019 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans select Jeffery Simmons, defensive tackle, Mississippi State.” Well… I was wrong, if you read my previous article, I thought the Titans would have been better off grabbing Montez Sweat, who ended up going to the Redskins with the 26th pick, but they selected the more talented player even though he won’t be able to make contributions early. He is very gifted, and watching his highlights you can see why the Titans went with him even though they had other gaps to fill. Simmons is the kind of player who will be an immediate starter once healthy, and would have easily gone in the top 5 of the draft had he not torn his ACL back in February. The average time table for ACL recoveries is anywhere from 9-12 months, so while he will likely not see the field this year, the Titans are making a play for the future and once Simmons is back to full health, WATCH OUT.
Next the Titans selected A.J. Brown, WR Ole Miss, in the second round with the 51st overall pick. The Titans desperately need some help in the passing game after ranking 29th in passing yards per game last year, and Brown will give Mariota another receiving weapon. It will be interesting to see where he fits into the offense because he primarily played out of the slot at Ole Miss and the Titans already signed a slot receiver, Adam Humphries. They may elect to slide Brown to the outside, and with his skill set this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it will be an adjustment and could take a little time should they choose to go that route. Brown has a decent catch radius and can make some solid contested catches, but his route running still needs some refinement so it will be crucial to watch his development through training camp and the preseason to see what we can expect from him moving forward.
82nd overall saw the arrival of offensive lineman Nate Davis from UNC-Charlotte. Davis is a very capable player who has the ability to start at right guard day one. He is also capable of shifting to center or tackle should the need arise, which gives the team great flexibility in assembling the best set of linemen they can. Last year the Titans were one of the worst teams in the league when it came to giving Mariota time in the pocket, or opening holes for their RBs to run through, so the addition of Davis will hopefully allow them to create those gaps and give their QB time to assess the defense and take shots downfield.
Day 3 of the draft for the Titans started with their selection of safety, Amani Hooker, who they traded up to get at spot 116. Named the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year in 2018, Hooker is a solid pickup on the defensive side of the ball. He is a larger safety, and tends to play closer to the box typically covering tight ends playing on the line, and giving added protection against the run. He may not be on the field full time to start, but he will definitely see play in certain packages and may get a crack at some special teams play as well.
Next off the board at 168 was D’Andre Walker, OLB from Georgia. A massive man at 6’ 3” and 250lbs, he will immediately compete for a spot in the rotation at OLB. You may remember seeing him in the SEC championship against Alabama where he tallied five tackles, a sack, and forced a fumble. He is excellent against the run, and has the speed to get after the quarterback on passing downs. He fits well into the Titans desire to play smash mouth football and will be essential in wearing down offenses. Look for him to be in the starting rotation at the beginning of the season.
Lastly, at 188, the Titans picked up David Long Jr, LB from West Virginia. He led the Mountaineers in tackles and sacks last season, but is a bit smaller than most teams would like, and will likely be a special teams player to start his NFL career. He is very passionate about the game and is excited to be learning under Mike Vrabel who also played Linebacker back in the day. Given some time to develop his skills and add some muscle to his frame, Long could see more play as time goes on.
Overall, I would say that the Titans did a solid job in this year’s draft. Even though we will have to wait on Simmons, everyone else will be able to start contributing from the onset and will hopefully be able to get the Titans out of their 9-7 streak and into the playoffs.