We’re finally here.
After months and months of prospect rankings, mock drafts and rumor swirling, we can finally put all NFL draft related hypotheticals to bed. That’s right, tonight is the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, one that’s sure to be full of the ups and downs we’ve been bracing for. We’ve been discussing all possible Tennessee Titans-related draft avenues for weeks now. But with the excitement and sheer magnitude of this event, it can be easy to forget the little nuggets that’ve accumulated over the course of the draft process.
So I wanted to take all of the little pieces of Titans related info that stand out to me — along with some true developing storylines to keep an eye on — and condense them into six or so topics to remember during the entirety of the first round tonight. You can call it a refresher or a reminder of sorts.
Without wasting anymore of your time, let’s get to it…
1. Where will the run of second-tier wide receivers begin?
After watching Corey Davis sign with the Jets, Jonnu Smith with the Patriots, and releasing Adam Humphries, it’s no secret that Mike Vrabel’s team needs another talented wide receiver added to the mix. The group is full of questions, along with guys you wouldn’t want to trot out there with such important roles attached to their names.
That’s why the team needs to address the position as early as possible in the draft, specifically during tonight’s first round.
The upper echelon of wide receiver prospects — Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle — are all expected to be picked in the first 12 or so picks tonight. So unless a trade up is in play, aiming for those names seems like a big waste of time.
With those specific players out of reach, attention will then turn towards the “second tier” of wide receivers.
It’ll include the likes of Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman and Kadarius Toney, players that are realistically in the Titans’ range. However, just because these sorts of players are realistic options for the team, it doesn’t mean the player of their liking will be available when the 22nd pick rolls around.
Now in all likelihood, one of either Moore or Bateman will be on the board at 22. But with a couple teams above the Titans also looking at a big wide receiver need, Titans fans will have to keep an eye on which teams could surprise = and snatch one of the second-tier wideouts earlier than expected.
New England, Miami, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and even Chicago are all teams above the Titans that could nab a wide receiver from the “second tier” group of guys. Those teams all have more significant needs though, so there’s certainly hope that a player the Titans are targeting will slip.
But the draft never goes the way we expect it to, so everything is on the table.
2. How serious are Caleb Farley’s medical concerns?
Along with wide receiver, we’ve discussed the team’s need for another corner to add to the mix. As currently constructed, the Titans’ starting corners will consist of Kristian Fulton, Janoris Jenkins, and newcomer Kevin Johnson.
That’s not good enough.
Luckily for the Titans, there’s an ultra-talented corner that should be available once #22 overall rolls around.
Caleb Farley has been said to be one of the best corners in this draft, talent and technique-wise. But because of his concerning past when it comes to back injuries (he’s had multiple surgeries), rumors are he’s going to slide during tonight’s first round.
If Farley’s medical info checks out okay — and everything so far suggests it has for the most part — then he could be another first-round option for Tennessee. If his medicals come back in the red though, the team needs to stay away with a ten-foot pole in hand.
Keep an eye out for any reports regarding Farley’s medical issues before and during the proceedings of the first round.
3. The Teven Jenkins situation
A position of need that hasn’t been mentioned with as much excitement among the fanbase as wide receiver and corner is offensive tackle, specifically right tackle. There isn’t a lot to be enamored with regarding the current in-house candidates to start on the right side, so adding a younger tackle prospect should be in the cards.
One of those younger tackle prospects that’s caught the attention of the Titans is Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins. His name has been connected to the team for a few weeks now, mostly due to his play style perfectly fitting with what the Titans want out of their offensive linemen and multiple reported virtual meetings.
Now you might not want Jenkins to be the team’s first pick of the draft. Especially with wide receiver and corner being much more significant positional needs.
But if he slides past the 15-20 range of the first round, you might need to start envisioning him as a potential first-round option for Tennessee.
The idea of taking a tackle in the first round tonight shouldn’t be entertained by the team, but Jon Robinson loves him a nasty offensive lineman, so the temptation might be too great to ignore.
4. The potential EDGE rusher slide
Edge rusher was knocked down on the list of needs for the Titans after the signing of talented pass rusher Bud Dupree. But depth is still a bit of an issue, so the position should still be addressed sometime during the draft.
A first-round pass rusher is likely off the table, but the first round itself could present some interesting options for the Titans during the later portions of the draft. We know about Jaelan Phillips and his concerning history with concussions, but apparently he’s not the only pass rushing prospect that could slide due to injury concerns.
Azeez Ojulari, one of the best pass rushing prospects in this year’s draft, has knee issues that some teams are a worried about, according to Peter King of NBC Sports.
With that in mind, a slide could be in order for Ojulari, maybe as far as the second round, which would add to the talented group of players expected to hear their names called on day two of the draft. If he slides far enough, maybe the Titans could be in a position to pick up one of the most talented players the draft has to offer at a reduced price.
It’s unlikely he slides far enough for the team to even be in range to select him with one of their original picks without compromising their other positional needs, or even trade up to acquire his services.
However, like I said before, the draft rarely goes the way we expect it to go. It’s best to see if and how far Ojulari slides tonight before jumping to any conclusions, ditto for Jaelan Phillips and even Gregory Rousseau.
5. Prospects that could slide into day two of the draft
As always when it comes to draft talk, you can’t forget the possibilities of some highly talented prospects falling into the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft. We saw it with Kristian Fulton last year, D.K. Metcalf a couple of years ago, Harold Landry in 2018, and so on. The same can be said for Laremy Tunsil (the epitome of draft-day surprises, although his slide stayed confined to the first round).
The point is, good players can run into some trouble pre-draft and see their stock tumble farther than they would’ve imagined. Sometimes that trouble is well-documented (see Micah Parsons), other times that trouble happens right as the draft is starting (a la Tunsil).
Once that occurs, the draft turns into a frenzy of phone calls between general managers across the league, and high fives in war rooms between front office and coaching staff members. It’s truly a special, yet unfortunate spectacle to witness during this time on the NFL calendar.
We’re likely to see that same spectacle this year as well, with a number of prospects facing the risk of losing out on millions of dollars by sliding into day two of the draft.
Caleb Farley, Azeez Ojulari, Jaelan Phillips, Asante Samuel Jr., Gregory Rousseau, and even Christian Barmore are just a few prospects that could slip into the second round, therefore setting up another thrilling dash to the finish when it comes to maneuvering the draft order to select premium talent.
Keep a watchful eye on how the first round shakes out. Some of those players you dismissed as first-round dreams could become realistic options in the second round.