JC Latham was correct pick for Titans with immediate results, massive upside expected

The Tennessee Titans selected former Alabama offensive tackle JC Latham with the No. 7 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. The most commonly mocked scenarios didn’t come to fruition. For some Titans fans, it may have been nightmare fuel to see Joe Alt and Malik Nabers go with back-to-back picks before the Titans came on the clock.

If that phased Titans general manager Ran Carthon and head coach Brian Callahan, they did an excellent job not showing it. No, Carthon and Callahan stayed put, rejecting alleged trade offers, and took Latham, the prospect I believed was the league-wide consensus OT2, proven by his draft slot on Thursday. The Titans drafted their target with a sense of conviction, and I believe them when they state he was the guy.

Drafting Latham was the most responsible decision the Titans could have made all things considered. Washington Huskies wide receiver Rome Odunze was the lone receiver available among the perceived big three wideouts, and he went two overalls later to the Chicago Bears. The Titans wisely resisted temptation by prioritizing Will Levis’ health.

The Latham pick wasn’t a shocker, but what transpired after could be described as surprising. Carthon and Callahan immediately confirmed that he will play left tackle in Tennessee, the position the Titans entered the draft with the biggest need at after Dennis Daley and Andre Dillard provided league-worst play at that spot across 2022 and 2023. There was no coach-speak of finding Latham’s best positional fit throughout training camp despite Latham playing precisely zero snaps at left tackle in college. He earned a combined 1,748 snaps at right tackle over the previous two campaigns, and played right guard sporadically in 2021.

“Yes, we’re going to start him [Latham] at left tackle,” Carthon confirmed shortly after making the pick. “He’s played right tackle at Alabama, but I know he’s practiced at left tackle. He’s taken reps there. It’s not foreign to him. He’s going to start off at left tackle,” Carthon concluded.

Latham hasn’t played left tackle since high school, and received minimum practice reps as the blindside protector at Alabama. Legendary Titans offensive line coach Bill Callahan believes Latham is capable of making the full-time switch to the left. I personally thought Latham was a right tackle throughout this process, but it would not behoove me to question the elder Callahan. He certainly knows more about offensive line capabilities than I do.

Callahan has a proven history of aiding tackles in switching sides. Most recently, a fellow former Alabama right tackle, Jedrick Wills made the successful transition to the left under Callahan’s tutelage in Cleveland. Callahan was also with the Dallas Cowboys when Tyron Smith was drafted as a right tackle out of USC. Smith has gone to eight Pro Bowls as a left tackle.

Speaking of the elder Callahan, Latham was allegedly his favorite overall prospect in the draft. I believe that, seeing that Latham is a near 6-foot-6, 342 pound easy mover all things considered. He possesses arm length (35 1/8″) and wingspan (84 3/8″) measurements in the 82nd percentile according to MockDraftable, and 95th percentile hand size at a massive 11 inches.

The Titans drafted an offensive tackle with a premium top 10 selection and will ask him to switch positions to his less natural side. For what it’s worth, the Los Angeles Chargers will do the same with Alt, who will play right tackle. The Titans have drafted offensive linemen with consecutive top 11 selections, and will ask both prospects to switch positions after converting Peter Skoronski from tackle to guard last season. The Skoronski positional switch was straightforward the entire time though with Skoronski’s arm-length deficiencies making it the likely outcome. The Latham one qualifies as more surprising, adding an element of unknown.

Pro Football Focus credits Latham with allowing 2.0 sacks across 960 snaps in pass protection, qualifying for a 79.4 true pass set pass-block grade. Latham allowed just four quarterback hits and 20 hurries throughout that time frame. The Oak Creek, Wisconsin native earned a pass-blocking score of 81.7 this season. Latham’s 1.4% pressure rate allowed over the last two seasons ranks sixth-best in the FBS among right tackles with at least 800 snaps, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Breaking down his effectiveness by scheme in 2023, this next grade is the one I find most interesting. PFF assigned Latham an elite 86.1 score in zone-based concepts, the system that Callahan and offensive coordinator Nick Holz are expected to install in Tennessee. By comparison, Latham had a much lower score in gap/power, a 68.7.

Latham was the most powerful offensive tackle prospect in this class. His sheer strength and power allowed him to routinely manhandle and maul defenders at Alabama in the run game. Latham will be just 21 years old throughout his entire rookie campaign, indicating he’s scratching the surface of his long-term potential. Foot speed to protect the edge is a minor question that was magnified by a lack of athletic testing throughout the NFL Combine and pro day circuit, but indications on tape are that Latham is plenty athletic for his size. Offensive line coach Callahan also believes that Latham is athletic enough to play left tackle, if you’re in need of another boost of confidence regarding Latham’s athleticism.

Latham and Skoronski should form an ascending left-sided duo with shades of the old “Run Left” mantra under Taylor Lewan and Rodger Saffold. Working under the tutelage of Callahan gives both players a Pro Bowl ceiling with All-Pro potential. The Titans addressed a need at No. 7 while finding an ideal culture fit that is legitimately excited to work with the legendary O-line coach. Latham will help the Titans offense take a sizable step forward throughout 2024.

Author: Justin MeloSenior Writer, Interviewer and Podcaster for Broadway Sports covering the Tennessee Titans and NFL draft. For more than five years, Justin Melo has professionally covered all things NFL draft and Titans for The Draft Network, SB Nation and USA Today. Best known for his Interview Series with NFL draft prospects, Justin has interviewed more than 500 NFL players. Co-host of the Music City Audible podcast alongside Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom).

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