The Tennessee Titans
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher
2005 Record: 4-12
Strengths: Quarterback, Secondary, Wide Receiver
Needs: Quarterback, Defensive End, Running Back, Linebacker
It may seem odd that the position of quarterback can be both a strength and a weakness for Tennessee, but the devil is in the details. Steve McNair is still a great quarterback who can throw the football, but at 33 and ten NFL seasons, his body has taken a pounding. Now is the time to get a young quarterback into the Titans organization that can learn from McNair and ease into the role. A season or two under McNair’s direction goes a long way towards instilling the mental approach to the game so many young quarterbacks lack.
The question is, with the third pick in the first round, who will that quarterback be? At #3, the best players available will be quarterbacks. Unfortunately, it seems factors other than ability are coming into play. The Titans can choose between Matt Leinart of USC, Vince Young of Texas, and even Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt. Cutler’s stock has been on the rise, but where Cutler impressed in combines, Leinart and Young have impressed in the national championship game. Based on that alone, Young would have the edge, having beaten Leinart’s Trojans. However, most scouts feel Matt Leinart would be the better NFL quarterback. The Titans coaching staff and front office seem split between Young and Leinart, and owner Bud Adams is from Houston, so Vince Young may be a personal favorite. While Matt Leinart is the smart choice, Vince Young can help sell tickets and Titans jerseys. Like McNair before them, the new quarterback will be the standard bearer for Tennessee.
After they find their quarterback of the future, the Titans will have to shore up the offense and find some starters for the defense. Their second round pick should go to a defensive playmaker. The Titans rarely put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so finding a pass rusher is key. With the seventh pick in the second round (39th overall), you could very well see ends Tamba Hall of Penn State or Mathias Kiwanuka, a 6′ 6′ giant out of Boston College, chosen by the Titans. With an open slot at linebacker, you could see Abdul Hodge of Iowa chosen. Any of these football players have the talent to start for an NFL team right now and would be embraced by the Tennessee fans.
The Titans also need some new blood on the offensive line. Free agent signee Kevin Mawae will hold down the fort at center, but they also need a tackle. With no picks in the third round, it appears their fourth round pick, #5 and #102 overall, will fill this need. Ryan O’Callaghan of California or Guy Whimper of East Carolina are likely to be available. If, by chance, the Titans haven’t drafted a pass rusher by this round, Chris Gocong, a defensive end from Cal Poly, is a strong player and a good choice with this pick. Tennessee needs to draft more bruisers on both sides of the football.
The Titans also have four, yes, FOUR, draft picks in the seventh round. Jeff Fisher is smart enough to know that some great players can be found even in the final round, so you could see some defensive picks at this point, players who can get a chance to shine on special teams. The Titans could even take a chance at a running back. Fisher may look for special projects, players who do not show the athletic ability but have the heart to play. Fisher has shown a knack for finding players like these who excel in the NFL despite what the scouts say. A number of NFL stars have been taken in the seventh round; it is a myth that you cannot find decent football players at this point.
A good draft will go a long way to putting the Tennessee Titans back on top. The whole Vince Young vs. Matt Leinart debate may end up not being not much of a controversy for Tennessee, but whether their choice will be able to deliver for the Titans in 2006 could end up being the big question. The pieces are in place for Jeff Fisher and company to pull off another “Music City Miracle,” this time in the NFL draft room. The Titans faithful in Tennessee are waiting.