What I'm hoping Tennessee Titans do – and don't do – in first round of NFL Draft | Estes

Gentry Estes
Nashville Tennessean
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The NFL’s never-ending quest for parity is never on display more than on the first night of the NFL Draft, where fans of the best teams must endure the longest waits.

The Tennessee Titans, once again, are there.

A lot will happen before the 26th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, which for now, is the one that belongs to the Titans. Maybe they'll trade it. Maybe they'll move up or down. Maybe they'll do as they have in recent years and hold tight and take a player still on the board. Maybe you’ll like that pick. Maybe not.

WHAT WILL TITANS DO IN DRAFT?:It all boils down to these three scenarios

MOCK DRAFT 5.0:With the No. 26 pick, here's who Tennessee Titans will select

For fans, that’s part of the fun and the frustration of this annual exercise. You know what you’d do, and it’s seldom what your team does. After all, they didn’t ask you.

General manager Jon Robinson hasn’t asked me, either, but I’m writing anyway with a forecast of what I’m expecting Thursday night and what I hope will – and won’t – happen for the Titans.

I think the Titans will …

Select one of two offensive guards: Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green or Boston College’s Zion Johnson.

This just makes too much sense, and while a guard obviously isn’t the sexiest pick in the first round, these are two wonderful options. Each seems more than capable of stepping into a starting role as a rookie. Meaning that the Titans, who need immediate help on their offensive line, couldn’t go wrong with Green or Johnson, depending on who happens to still be on the board.

Texas A&M offensive lineman Kenyon Green takes questions on stage in the Hyatt Regency during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Wednesday, July 21, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The biggest perk is that both project as guards in the NFL yet also started games in college at tackle. Positional versatility could be a huge selling point for the Titans, who need a right tackle as well as a left guard.

“Both guys have played a couple of different positions,” Robinson said. “Really, Zion has played three positions. Kenyon has played both guard and tackle. They're strong. They're good movers. Both of those guys were good when we met with those guys, and they're good prospects.”

Personally, I’ve thought Green was a bit better fit for the Titans. That was before a few recent rumbles of a knee issue, but Green is a former five-star and one of the nation’s best prospects coming out of high school. He plays with an aggressive, nasty streak that’s fun to watch.

Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson (77) points out a defense during the half of an NCAA college football game against Clemson Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Meanwhile, Johnson would be uniquely difficult for the Titans to pass up. He was a college position-mate and roommate of Tyler Vrabel, son of the Titans’ head coach. Few NFL coaches could ever know a prospect like Mike Vrabel knows Johnson.

“He’s an excellent player, an excellent person,” said Mike Vrabel, who has a track record of bringing in staff members and players he knows.

Off the field, Johnson couldn’t be more impressive. He has already earned a computer science degree and has been studying cybersecurity in grad school. Former NFL lineman Joe Thomas said on NFL Network of Johnson: “This is the guy that I think is going to surprise more people in this draft 10 years from now when they look back and they go, 'We missed on this guy, because he was one of the best guard prospects that has come out in the last 10 years.’ ”

Were it up to me, I’d take …

Wide receiver Treylon Burks from Arkansas.

When I watch Burks, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound receiver who likes to hunt wild boar, he looks an awful lot to me like A.J. Brown.

Burks was a problem in the SEC. He’s great on back-shoulder throws. He can high-point balls in coverage. He can outrun people, too. Basically, he’s big and physically gifted enough to be able to do what he wants no matter how well he’s defended.

(For what it's worth, I don’t think Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave will last until pick No. 26, but if he does, he'd belong in this conversation, too.)

The Titans have no business being able to draft a receiver of such quality at No. 26, but they might be able to do it with Burks. His stock started to dip when he had a relatively subpar NFL Scouting Combine and ran a 40-yard dash of 4.55 seconds.

I don’t care about that. Go watch Burks’ tape to see how fast he plays.

In my three years covering the Titans, the biggest consistent weakness on the roster has been a lack of durable, quality depth at wide receiver. The past two drafts have been loaded with receiving talent, yet the Titans barely nibbled. I’d like to see them take a big bite this time and add a meaningful and instant upgrade to their passing game.

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

I hope the Titans don’t …

Reach for an offensive tackle – or a quarterback – in the first round.

I like Green and Johnson because they appear reliable and capable of playing as rookies. For the same reason, I would not be in favor of drafting Tyler Smith from Tulsa or Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan – and each is being mocked to the Titans in the first round. Both are relatively inexperienced offensive tackles who have lots of potential but look like long-term projects in the NFL.

Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Central Michigan offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann (OL40) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Raimann, a native Austrian, has only played two years of offensive tackle and is already in his mid-20s. That's old for a project. Smith might end up being better suited at guard in the NFL, but he didn’t play guard in college.

Neither seems ready to step in and play immediately. That should be a deal-breaker for the Titans, who already burned high picks in 2020 (Isaiah Wilson) and 2021 (Dillon Radunz) on lineman incapable of helping right away. They need someone with this pick who can compete to start in 2022.

That goes for quarterback, too. While it wouldn't be a terrible idea to try to find Ryan Tannehill's understudy at some point in this draft, the Titans simply have too many needs to be sitting there entering Day 2 without a second-round pick and with only a backup QB in the bank from the first night.

A best-case scenario would be if UNC’s Sam Howell falls to them in the third round. I view Howell as one of the draft's more underrated players and better than some of the projected first-round QBs – Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder in particular.

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

The best thing for Titans might be …

Trading back out of the first round to compile additional picks.

If Green and Johnson aren’t available, the Titans could be stuck making a best-available-player pick that doesn’t fill a pressing need. That might work out anyway.

Devin Lloyd of Utah and Nakobe Dean of Georgia, for example, are both outstanding inside linebackers who’ve been routinely mocked to the Titans. It would be hard to gripe about taking either player at No. 26, given the value.

But the Titans don't need an inside linebacker in the first round. And the Titans don’t have a second-round pick, either.

Given the range of needs across the board, there’s a reason to perhaps seek more quantity by trading out of the first round if certain targets aren't remaining on their board.

Reach Tennessean sports columnist Gentry Estes at gestes@tennessean.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes. 

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