Mike Fanelli | April 11th, 2020
The Tennessee Titans were very active in free agency this offseason. They first came to a long term deal with Ryan Tannehill which allowed them to place the franchise tag on Derrick Henry. Jack Conklin signed with the Cleveland Browns but the Titans quickly re-signed top back up offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who will take over as the starting right tackle, replacing Conklin.
Defensively the Titans also made changes, releasing Cameron Wake and replacing him with former Atlanta Falcon Vic Beasley. They also traded away Jurrell Casey in a move to open up cap space but did sign Jack Crawford to help with their defensive line depth. At the time of writing this Logan Ryan was still a free agent but the team and his agent have had talks about bringing him back. In total the Titans have seven draft picks but almost half of them are in the seventh-round. The Titans will have to do a good job finding diamonds in the rough this year.
To simulate this mock draft, I used The Draft Network simulator.
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Round 1, Pick 29: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Yes, the Titans did sign Beasley after letting Wake go but Beasley is only signed to a one year deal. Last year the Titans struggled to rush the passer, finishing the year with 43 sacks; middle of the pack. However, Harold Landry is the only Titan to have more than 5.5 sacks last year. With Beasley on the roster, they should change this year but adding another edge rusher is a must. The team is reportedly in contact with Jadeveon Clowney‘s agent but if he hasn’t been signed by the draft, the Titans should draft with the mindset that Clowney won’t be the roster next year.
Meanwhile, Epenesa is one of the most established pass rushers in the draft class. Over his last two seasons at Iowa, Epenesa totaled 22 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss. While Epenesa doesn’t offer the upside as other edge rushers in this draft class like K’Lavon Chaisson and Yetur Gross-Matos, he does have the safest floor and the ability to make a real impact as a rookie. With Landry and Beasley getting plenty of attention from opposing offensive coordinators, Epenesa could reach double-digit sacks as a rookie.
Round 2, Pick 61: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Much like Clowney, if Ryan isn’t re-signed by the draft the Titans should draft with the mindset that he won’t be on the roster next season. Meanwhile, Malcolm Butler will likely be a cap casualty next offseason while the Titans have to make a decision on Adoree’ Jackson‘s fifth-year option soon. If they decline it, he will be a free agent after the 2020 season, potentially leaving the Titans without their top three cornerbacks from this past season. During his time at Alabama, Diggs had 37 total targets, three interceptions, and a touchdown during his senior season. Diggs had a quiet pre draft process but to land the former Alabama star late in the second round, it would be a steal.
Round 3, Pick 93: Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
Last year’s second-round pick A.J. Brown was a steal. He finished the year as the only rookie wide receiver with over 1,000 receiving yards. However, Tajae Sharpe and Delanie Walker will be playing elsewhere in 2020 while former first-round pick Corey Davis has been a bust and will likely have his fifth-year option declined, making him a free agent after the 2020 season. After bringing back Tannehill, now is not the time to stop adding weapons. Johnson almost declared for the draft last year but returned for his senior season. Unfortunately, he struggled with injuries and had a down year. During his junior year, Johnson had almost 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson is 6’6” and giving Tannehill a big receiver to go along with Brown would be a wise investment.
Round 5, Pick 174: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt
While Henry had an outstanding 2019 season, he is currently just under contract for one year and the depth behind him is awful. The Titans released Dion Lewis (the smart move since it will cover about 40% of Henry’s cap hit this year) but have failed to replace him. During his two years at Vanderbilt, Vaughn had 1,272 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. However, his real value is in the passing game. During his senior year, Vaughn had a career-high 28 catches for 270 yards. By comparison, Henry has never had more than 18 catches in a season. While Henry can handle the majority of the workload, Vaughn would be excellent backup and can even start if Henry gets hurt.
Round 7, Pick 224: Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State
With Conklin in Cleveland, Kelly takes over at right tackle, while Taylor Lewan remains the starter at left tackle. To replace Kelly as the swing tackle, the Titans signed former Falcon Ty Sambrailo. However, he was signed to just a one year deal. Meanwhile, Taylor is a big man at 6’8” and 308 lbs, but he offers upside. While he comes from a smaller school and needs time to develop, the Titans can afford to give him a year to redshirt, whether on the active roster or practice squad, before pushing to replace Sambrailo as the swing tackle in 2021.
Round 7, Pick 237: Jon Runyan Jr., iOL, Michigan
Back-to-back picks on the offensive line? Hell yes. The starting trio of interior offensive linemen, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, and Nate Davis, is very good. However, the depth behind them is very thin. Daniel Munyer and Jamil Douglas are the only two backups currently on the roster and should be pushed for their roster spots. Runyan played left tackle at Michigan but projects to slide inside at the NFL level. Given his family bloodlines and his toughness, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Runyan take over as the top backup interior offensive linemen as a rookie.
Round 7, Pick 243: Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
Tannehill is back and given the size of his contract, no one will challenge him for the starting role anytime soon. However, Logan Woodside is the only other quarterback currently on the roster and the Titans should bring in some competition for the backup role. Over his last two seasons at Hawaii, McDonald put up crazy stats, throwing for over 8,000 yards and 69 touchdowns. While the Hawaii offense is very quarterback friendly, McDonald showed some flashes of an NFL quarterback. Using their last pick to bring in a developmental quarterback with the upside to turn into a solid backup is a smart move the Titans should make.
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