If you were to think about it rationally, second round draft picks can be seen in the same light as their first round counterparts.
The first round supposedly represents the cream of the crop, the pool that possesses the most desirable pool of college talent the draft has to offer. The second round however, possesses the same amount, if not more gifted athletes than its first round partner — value wise that is.
That’s why when the Tennessee Titans selected former North Dakota State star Dillon Radunz in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, many thought the Titans were getting a premium tackle prospect with plenty of upside.
But as we saw throughout the 2021 season, Radunz’s rookie season didn’t exactly go as planned.
What was expected to be a healthy competition for the starting right tackle spot — with some already penciling in Radunz’s name as a starter — quickly turned into lopsided contest with Radunz very much on the outside looking in.
That same negative momentum carried itself into Radunz’s rookie year, as he failed to garner any significant game acton — aside from his emergency start at left tackle in Week 16 of last season.
Questions then began to rise. Both regarding Radunz’s ability to truly aid a team in the midst of a period of winning football, and whether Radunz himself was even ready to step on the field and play meaningful snaps in the near future.
With no way to dismiss those concerns, shadows of doubt drifted over Radunz’s role moving forward. Would he have to continue shuffling along the offensive line due to him not being able to effectively secure a defined spot? What happens if he’s still working through the same performance related problems that plagued him last summer?
These questions loomed ahead of the Titans’ off-season program, an important period where we’d get the first updated thoughts of Vrabel and his staff regarding Radunz and his development on this team.
But with training camp just under a month away, it appears Radunz has seemingly blown his previously dormant reputation — and any questions about his immediate future — out of the water, and has positioned himself well enough to compete for a starting spot along the offensive line.
Well, at least for now.
When the Titans report for training camp next month, Radunz will sit squarely in the drivers seat for the starting right tackle job — thanks to a few cuts at the spot and his only competition being third round rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere.
It’s a position Vrabel and his staff have settled him down at, this after the same staff rolled him around at different offensive line spots last off-season, somewhat like a head scratching game of musical chairs.
If Radunz does indeed win the starting job, it’d culminate a pretty vast reflection and development period for the former North Dakota State Bison.
From rookie disappointment to starting right tackle, that’s a pretty respectable amount of growth. But despite all the joy and optimism surrounding Radunz finally getting his shot, one more question has yet to be answered.
Should the Titans truly feel comfortable with Radunz if he does win the starting right tackle job?
It’s a rather tough question to answer, especially considering how little we know regarding his improvement on the field. The specific holes in Radunz’s game were never revealed by Titans coaches, so it’s hard to gauge just what he has and still needs to improve on in order for the doubts to go away for good.
Popping on the film from his pre-season mishap against Joe Tryon and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would give you some initial thoughts and suggestions. Even his emergency start at left tackle could provide some clues.
But it’s hard to say Radunz is still the same player he was then, in fact it’s more so unlikely.
Not only because Radunz was high tier prospect with plenty of tools to work with, but also because general rookie development for FCS players — like Radunz — yields much better results in year two rather than year one.
So without an ample amount of source material, and no specific detailed explanations from Titans coaches, what can we really use to say Radunz has worked out the kinks of his previously flawed game?
Well, nothing at this moment.
With such uncertainty surrounding a likely key member of your offensive line, you’d be hard pressed to find any sort of concrete optimism from an outside party regarding Radunz’s potential impact this fall.
Of course, Vrabel and the rest of the staff have seen him up close way more than we have, and have a much better idea of what Radunz is as a player and how much he’s improved.
Their opinion is the only one that matters right now, so any sort of state of worry or fear would be far fetched and quite unnecessary.
But with such uncertainty, it’s hard to completely say Radunz is ready to go and if anyone should be truly comfortable with that conclusion if it comes to pass.
At the end of the day, we won’t get a true answer on Radunz’s ability to aid this football team until July at the earliest. But the best possible answer will come in the form of the pre-season, which will start in August.
Until then, we can keep speculating, and wait for the answer to our questions until time comes.