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VOL. 40 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 22, 2016

Titans increase odds for draft success with trade

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Jon Robinson has played his trump card and might have ended much of the suspense Titans fans were anticipating in this year’s draft.

By swapping the overall first pick to the Los Angeles Rams for a bundle of draft choices this year and next, Robinson may not have made the splash that was anticipated but the ripple effect could set up the franchise for success for years to come.

Robinson dropped all the way back to No. 15 overall, but now between his own picks and those acquired from the Rams, Tennessee now has four of the first 45 choices in the draft and six of the first 76.

The Titans also own the Rams’ first and third-round choices for 2017, so Tennessee fans should be pulling for their old pal Jeff Fisher to fall flat this season so that pick will be in the top 10 next year.

Of course, the Titans still have to make good with those picks in order to replenish a roster that has endured plenty of dud choices over the past several years.

But with Robinson at the controls, there appears to be cause for optimism in Titans territory for the first time in a long time.

Robinson has come in from the outset with a plan for how to get the team back on course, and in just three months on the job has acquired DeMarco Murry to bolster the running game, Ben Jones to anchor the offensive line, Rishard Matthews as a solid receiving option and added some needed depth and role players on defense.

And that was all before the trade that could set up the Titans franchise to return to contender status and maintain that for years to come.

Robinson’s vision and his ability to act upon opportunities to make that happen already have positioned him to be the Titans’ most successful general manager since Floyd Reese – and that is before he has even made his first draft pick or seen the Titans play their first game on his watch.

From what I have been told, the Titans really liked Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey, the two players who were being strongly considered with the top overall pick.

But in their evaluation, the difference between Tunsil and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley really wasn’t that vast. And while Stanley may or may not be around if the Titans now stay put at No. 15, the impetus for the trade appears to be this: No one player who could turn around a franchise immediately was readily evident with the No. 1 pick overall.

So the best move the Titans could have made was to choose quantity in a draft where quality may have been lacking.

In other words, the next J.J. Watt, Lawrence Taylor or Calvin Johnson isn’t at the top of the 2016 draft, and even if he is, Robinson realized that the Titans are not in a position of being one player away from being a legitimate contender.

But if they hit on even four of those top six picks, then a year from now when they’re deciding what to do with not only their own first pick – plus the Rams’ No. 1 pick – they might be only a player or two away from truly contending again.

Titans’ mock draft

OK, there won’t be a Laremy Tunsil or Jalen Ramsey sighting for the Titans in this year’s draft unless they cash in some of those picks acquired from the Rams to move back into the top five.

Michigan State’s Jack Conklin would be ready to step and provide protection for Marcus Mariota.

-- Matthew Mitchell / Msu Athletic Communications

The Titans will, however, be the busiest team in the league through the first two days of the draft.

So here is our mock draft of what the Titans should do with all of these picks.

-- 1st round (No. 15 overall) – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. The Titans can fill their biggest hole – right tackle – with Conklin, generally regarded as the third-best tackle in a draft that falls off at that position after five or six players.

A plug-and-play player, Conklin would satisfy the edict of building around Marcus Mariota.

With the Titans needing pass rush help behind Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, they could play Noah Spence in situational packages and gradually turn him into a starter.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Ekusports Communications

-- 2nd round (No. 33 overall) - Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky. Spence is a special kind of pass rusher who starred at Ohio State before his career there was derailed by a drug problem.

He transferred to Eastern Kentucky and cleaned up his act, claiming to be a changed man now.

With the Titans needing pass rush help behind Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo, they can play Spence in situational packages and gradually turn him into a starter.

-- 2nd round (No. 43 overall) – Kendall Fuller, CB Virginia Tech. Fuller is the younger brother of former Titans safety Vincent Fuller and current Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller.

Fuller would help boost a shaky Titans secondary that was burned last year at times despite being in position to make plays on the football.

-- 2nd round (No. 45 overall) – Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State. More pieces for Dick LeBeau to work with, as Bell would come in and learn under the tutelage of veteran Rashad Johnson and then take over as the starting safety in 2017. He has center field type skills in tracking the football, something the Titans can definitely use on the back end of their defense.

-- 3rd round (No. 64 overall) – Vadal Alexander, G, LSU. The Titans are still a bit unsettled at left guard and haven’t decided what to do long-term with Chance Warmack at right guard either. So they can select Alexander and for now at least put him in the mix with Quinton Spain, Brian Schwenke and Jeremiah Poutasi at left guard and if he wins the job straight out, all the better.

-- 3rd round (No. 76 overall) – Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma. On the surface, the 5-10 Shepard wouldn’t appear to be the ideal type of receiver the Titans are looking for. But he was always around the football making big plays and the Titans could certainly use some of that. Besides, Kendall Wright, who has regressed the past two years, is in a “prove it” situation in the final year of his contract. Shepard might provide some good motivation.

-- 5th round (No. 140 overall) D.J. Reader, DT, Clemson. The Titans need another defensive tackle to back up Al Woods. And this year’s draft is loaded with tackle help. Reader, a player the Titans visited with in the pre-draft process, had enough athletic skill to play baseball at Clemson despite his 325-pound frame. Good defensive linemen can be found with mid- and late-round picks, and the Titans spend one on Reader here.

-- 6th round (No. 193 overall) Bryce Williams, TE, East Carolina. A sleeper pick from a non-power conference, Williams has the size (6-6, 257) and the hands to be a playmaker down the road if a team can show patience with him at the start.

-- 7th round (No. 222 overall) – Antonio Morrison, ILB, Florida. A talented player, who had some off-field issues and injuries. Not the fastest player around, but worth a gamble with the Titans’ final pick in the draft because he has potential to develop into something more than a special teams player.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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