The Titans threw some curveballs on day two of the 2021 NFL Draft by taking an offensive tackle in the second round and then flipping back to the defense to add a linebacker and another defensive back in the third. While it was a bit of a shock to see Jon Robinson pass on wide receivers and tight ends on day two, they did add some good football players and we should talk a little bit about those guys before we get back to what they didn’t do and what they could do today.
Dillon Radunz | OT | North Dakota State
With the 53rd overall pick, the Titans added Dillon Radunz, a 6-6, 301-pound offensive tackle from North Dakota State. Originally recruited as a defensive end, Radunz is a fantastic athlete for his position and that was evident both on tape and in testing.
Radunz is also one of just two tackles expected to go high in this year’s draft class to hit the magical 34-inch arm length threshold that many teams view as something of a standard for playing tackle at the NFL level. Showing up at the Senior Bowl and winning the best overall practice player award helped solidify his standing as a high pick.
Besides the arms and the athleticism, there is a lot to like about Radunz for the Titans. He played in an offense at NDSU that isn’t too much different from the one he’ll be tasked with learning in Nashville featuring lots of outside zone and play action passing. That should make for an easier transition to the NFL despite the jump in level of competition.
He almost exclusively played left tackle in college, but teams viewed him as a versatile guy who could play all five positions on the line if called upon. Radunz allowed zero sacks and just one QB hit during his final full season in 2019 according to PFF charting and was rated as the 32nd highest rated player on their board overall. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah had him 37th, one spot ahead of Vikings first round pick Christian Darrisaw.
I would expect Radunz to walk in and compete right away with Kendall Lamm and Ty Sambrailo for the starting right tackle spot in Nashville. Obviously, this is the hole left behind by Isaiah Wilson flaming out in spectacular fashion, but the need didn’t go away for Tennessee and we know Jon Robinson puts a premium on the tackle position. If he turns out to be a hit, Radunz (23) will help balance out the age of the Titans offensive line by joining 24-year old Nate Davis on the right side opposite Taylor Lewan (30), Rodger Saffold (33), and Ben Jones (31).
This pick was really good value at 53. If you want to be mad about the fact that they didn’t take a receiver, I understand that, but Radunz fills a need at a premium position. And oh by the way, with the division rival Colts going with defensive linemen with their first two picks — Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo — it’s probably good for the Titans to have a better answer than Kendall Lamm and Ty Sambrailo at right tackle moving forward.
Trade back from 85 to 92 and pick up pick up an extra fourth round pick
This was an interesting moment in the draft for the Titans. After taking Radunz at 53 it appeared that they were going to get a host of receiver and tight end options to fall in their lap at 85, but after Hunter Long, Dyami Brown, and Tommy Tremble went off the board back-to-back-to-back at picks 81, 82, and 83 the Titans then decided to move back a few spots and pick up an extra fourth rounder for their trouble.
First, let’s point out that from a draft capital standpoint the Titans absolutely fleeced the Packers in this deal. They got pick 135 for moving back seven spots in the back half of the third round. That’s at least a full round better than what they should have gotten if you go by modern trade value charts. It’s an absolute home run from a draft capital standpoint.
Of course the Packers were coming up for a receiver in Amari Rodgers and with the Titans needing pass catchers that stings a little bit. But here’s the thing… Jon Robinson almost certainly knew that Rodgers was the target with this trade before he made it. It is common practice for GMs to disclose who they’re looking to take when asking for a pick swap so unless Brian Gutekunst stone cold lied to Robinson, I have to believe he knew Rodgers was going to be the pick. That means that Tennessee obviously didn’t have a huge grade on Rodgers and felt they either A) could get their wide receiver later on or B) didn’t really need a receiver out of this draft. I’m guessing it’s A and we can debate the merits of that thinking if/when they finally take a pass catcher, but this is certainly some interesting insight into the Titans thinking at the position.
Monty Rice | ILB | Georgia
This was the biggest surprise pick of day two for the Titans. I am not surprised that they wanted to take an inside linebacker — Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans both entering contract years — but taking Rice at 92 with Jabril Cox still on the board felt like a bit of a reach to me.
Rice was pretty universally considered to be an early day three type prospect — 110th on PFF’s board, 109th for Daniel Jeremiah — so this isn’t terrible value, but it’s not great and given the Titans needs at other spots… it’s just a bit odd.
As a player, Rice is a 6-0, 233-pound battering ram who ran a 4.58 40 and broad jumped over 10 feet at his pro day, flashing some big time athleticism. Running and tackling are strengths, but his scouting report reads eerily similar to Rashaan Evans. There are questions about his ability to quickly diagnose post-snap and he too often seems lost in coverage.
The physical tools are very clearly there. You don’t end up at Georgia without those and he should also be given some credit for being a captain and handling all the defensive playcalling for Kirby Smart’s complex pro style defense over the last couple years.
This pick gives us a hint of where the Titans are leaning with regards to Rashaan Evans’ future. They have to decide on his fifth year option later this month and it would be a massive upset if they picked it up. More likely than not, we’ll see Evans and Brown playing in contract years in 2021 with Rice and David Long waiting in the wings as potential replacements. Despite my reservations about Rice as a prospect, it wouldn’t totally shock me if he pushed Evans for a starting role sooner than later.
Elijah Molden | DB | Washington
Again, setting aside the fact that he’s not a wide receiver or tight end… this pick was a huge value grab by Jon Robinson. Molden is a 5-9, 192 pound slot corner/safety who was almost universally considered a second round prospect. He was 35th overall on PFF’s board and 60th on Jeremiah’s so getting him at pick 100 is a full round value steal for the Titans.
Molden was a constant playmaker for the Huskies, totaling 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, and 13 pass breakups over his last 17 collegiate games. He’s got phenomenal instincts, football IQ, and toughness.
The best way to describe Molden to Titans fans is to think of a young Logan Ryan. He plays the game the same way.
Molden gives Tennessee another piece in their totally rebuilt defense. He can compete right away for snaps at both slot corner and in the Titans three safety packages. A cornerback room that was a major concern heading into the draft now features first round pick Caleb Farley, 2020 second rounder Kristian Fulton, free agent signee Janoris Jenkins, and Molden with Breon Borders, Chris Jackson, and Kareem Orr in the mix to battle for depth spots.
How the starting roles get distributed will be something to watch throughout training camp, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Molden finds a way to get on the field a lot in 2021.
Day 3 approach
Surely we see a pass catcher today… right? Tylan Wallace in the fourth could ease a lot of the angst of the Titans fan base. So would Brevin Jordan. Both Wallace and Jordan? Now we’re talking.
However, there are good players available at other spots as well. Local product Trey Smith is a big time value at this point in the draft and could be a natural successor to Rodger Saffold at left guard within the next couple years. Drew Dalman of Stanford and Drake Jackson of Kentucky could be Ben Jones backups/successors at center as well.
There are also a few options to go get pass rushers on day three. Duke’s Chris Rumph is undersized but highly productive and could serve as a dynamic sub package rusher right away. Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith is a 6-6, 252-pound edge rusher with explosive athleticism (jumped over 41 inches at his pro day) with unlimited upside. Virginia’s Charles Snowden is a full grown pterodactyl at 6-6 with 35 inch arms. Then you have guys like Jordan Smith from UAB, Cam Sample and Patrick Johnson from Tulane, Quincy Roche from Miami, and Shaka Toney from Penn State.
One of my favorite day three targets is LSU nose tackle/fully stocked refrigerator Tyler Shelvin who could serve as the Titans early down glass-eating nose to help free up Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry to penetrate and make plays in base fronts.
The Titans still have six picks left and if I was them, I’d be looking for opportunities to package some of them and move up for the top guys left on their board.
Round 4: 126
Round 4: 135
Round 5: 166
Round 6: 205
Round 6: 215
Round 7: 232