Feeling a Draft? Tennessee Titans Draft Recap
By Greg Gutman
Posted May 1st, 2006

Everyone knows that you don’t start analyzing a draft ‘til 3 years later, but that wouldn’t be much fun right now.  So let’s take a look at how the Titans did, what they got, how these players may impact the team this year and the future, and what to do about the McNair situation.

The initial intrigue happened the night before the draft when the Texans agreed with Mario Williams.  This would potentially put the Titans in an interesting situation.  The Saints have ‘The Deuce’ at RB and just gave him a ton of money.  If they don’t take Bush, would the Titans stick with the game plan of taking a QB or take Bush…arguably the best player in the draft?

Titans fans didn’t have to worry about that as the Saints took Bush.  I think everyone but Matt Leinart knew what was coming next…

Round 1
QB Vince Young (6’4 ½”, 230lbs, 4.48)
Young has ideal size and is one of the most elusive QB’s this side of Michael Vick.  But it’s 2 other qualities that make Young so special.  Leadership and the ability to take over a game in crunch time.

Much like McNair, Young is the ultimate leader.  He has that knack of knowing how to lead without being a rah-rah guy.  He leads by example and but knows how to keep the atmosphere loose.  His joking to keep guys loose reminds me of Elway before the ‘Drive’ and Montana in one of his first Super Bowls.  Both players were jokers in the huddle when the tension needed breaking and they both instilled confidence in their teammates.  Young has that intangible.  He also knows when to take the game over.  He can throw it or run it or a combo of both to beat you and like McNair, on the key play, he’ll go through a brick wall if it means the difference between winning and losing.

But Young is far from a guaranteed NFL success.  They actually simplified the Texas offense for him (1 read on pass plays…same as Vick had in VT), Mack Brown (his coach) actually said he played worse the more they tried to coach him, he made virtually no pre-snap reads, played predominantly out of the shotgun in a spread offense, throws from a ¾ angle, and generally gets by on being the best athlete on the field.  The laundry list of things he’ll have to learn will look something like this…learn proper footwork for 3, 5 and 7 foot drops, learn pre-snap reads, learn to adjust that read WHILE dropping back, go through 3 and 4 man receiver progressions, possibly change arm mechanics, learn how to throw from a gathered position (not flat-footed), and improve his deep throwing accuracy.  They must also adjust the offense to suit his strengths much like Atlanta has for Vick.

While that is a long list, he can get on the field and contribute long before all of that is perfected.  He can always run and run he will.  It is a superb strength.  And while 4.48 speed is not comparable to Vick’s 4.3 speed, Young appears twice as big as Vick and is nearly as elusive.  Plus, Young PLAYS much faster on the field than his timed speed.  For example, the best Safety in the draft was Michael Huff also from Texas.  Young and Huff would jaw over who was faster.  Well Huff turned in a blazing 4.36 40 leading up to the draft…so he’s faster, right?  Wrong.  Huff admitted that during some practices, Young took off running and Huff couldn’t catch him.  He PLAYS fast.

Young is a gamble on greatness pick.  At worst, he becomes Akili Smith and doesn’t make it.  At best, he could become McNair in his prime without the injuries and a little more speed but he may take just as long to develop.  One thing is for sure…he’s gonna be exciting to watch!!!

Projection – Will have a better career than his mentor – Steve McNair – IF he’s given the time to develop.

Grade - A-  Young is a MAJOR talent but there is significant risk, he won’t be able to play early in his career, and the Titans may have been able to drop a  couple of spots and still gotten Young and another player.

Round 2
RB LenDale White (6’1”, 240lbs, 4.50)
White was the ‘Thunder’ on USC’s powerhouse football team.  Even with the emergence of Bush as the best player in college football, White was a large portion of the rushing attack and that speaks volumes.  What also should catch your eye is not his 1,302 yards gained (6.6 avg) in 2005, but that 913 of those yards came after first contact.  White is a BEAST as a runner…similar to a Corey Dillon when he came out.  He won’t break a 50 yard run, but he’ll run over people and truly wear down a defense over 4 quarters.  He’s also a scoring machine when he smells the endzone.

Unfortunately, since USC lost the National Championship game (though White far outplayed Reggie Bush), White showed his immaturity by not preparing for the NFL.  His weight ballooned up as he didn’t work out.  When he started seeing his name plummet on draft boards (and heard the whispers from scouts), he tried to catch up and tore his hammy.  This immaturity is a serious cause for concern and saw him – a top 20 talent - fall to the 2nd rd.  While his maturity and weight will be issues, the Titans were in the perfect mindset and spot to take him.  With Norm Chow - his former offensive coordinator at USC – vouching for him, the Titans felt good about taking him.  Also, Chow knows exactly what his strengths and weaknesses are and how to use him most effectively in the offense.

With the Trio of Brown, Henry and White, the Titans should have a dominant rush attack that will be able to weather injuries or a drug suspension.  And unlike most rookies, White is an excellent pass blocker and already knows most of the offense.  As long as he has his head in the game, he will be a major contributor this year.

Projection – Will have a successful NFL career and be considered one of the steals from this draft.  At best, he could be a Dillon in his prime.  At worst, he could bust because of his attitude and work ethic but was worth the shot in the 2nd round considering his upside and the support he has on the Titans.  I don’t think Vince Young will allow him to be lazy.  

Grade - A+  As long as White stays in line, in shape, and doesn’t end up in jail, he SHOULD be a steal in this draft.  The Titans could have traded the original 2nd rnd pick for WR Javon Walker, but White’s value and potential contribution make this an A – especially after trading down and still getting White!!!

Round 4
DB Calvin Lowry (5’11”, 200lbs, 4.50) 
Lowry has the kind of instincts you want in a safety and also has the quick burst to make a play on the ball.  He’s a good run support player when he has a clear lane in pursuit.  He also is a punt returner who’s more quick than fast.

The only real negative is his size.  At only 200lbs, he’s small for a SS and gets knocked around when trying to take on blockers.  He should move to FS where he’ll have more open lanes in pursuit and can play the ball.  He’ll also have to learn when not to gamble as he goes for the interception (he gambles too much).

Overall he’s a nice pick in round 4 as he serves a variety of roles.  He’s got the instincts to become a starter at FS or could potentially be a nickel/dime CB.  He can help on the coverage teams and compete as a returner.  A good value pick..

Projection – Will become a good backup player at FS and play well on special teams.  I don’t think he’ll end up as a returner for us.  If he develops into a starting FS, it’ll probably be down the road and for another team.

Grade = B+  While Lowry has good value…I prefer drafting a guy who has a chance to become a Pro Bowl caliber Safety rather than a guy who will be a productive backup.  I had Simpson as a higher rated FS.

Round 4
LB Stephen Tulloch (5’11”, 241, 4.84) 
Tulloch was a premiere LB in college, but he has a glaring weakness projecting him to the pros…his 40 time.  He simply doesn’t have the top end speed.  However, he has excellent instincts and I’ll take a 4.8 guy instantly moving in the right direction at the snap over a 4.5 guy moving in the wrong direction.  To say Tulloch was productive in college is an understatement.  In fact, he’s probably the best college LB you never heard of.  In 2005, he was 14th in the nation in tackles with 134 (59 solo), 6 sacks (though Lawson and super Mario were on his team), 21 tackles for loss and 9 QB pressures.  Sound impressive?  It is.

On the other hand, where do you play him?  He played weakside outside LB where he had the freedom to run downhill and make the plays.  But he doesn’t have the speed to play OLB in the pros because he can’t cover RB’s and TE’s in man coverage.  Projecting him inside is difficult because he’s not great at shedding blocks (he didn’t have to much as the weakside LB), he’s short (with short arms) so if he’s not protected he can get engulfed by OL guys, and lacks lower body strength to stuff OG’s and FB’s in the hole.

Projection – He’s an excellent tackler, blitzer and plays well in zones AND is a high effort player who plays with aggression.  While he improves his lower body strength and learns MLB, he’ll be a demon on special teams and should develop into a good strating MLB in time.  Excellent player…but can he make the transition?  I say YES!

Grade = A-  He may never be a starting MLB but it’s worth the shot.  He could be just a good special teamer, or turn into a Zach Thomas.  Keep in mind that Thomas dominated when he was protected by those 2 big DT’s…same with Ray Lewis.

Round 5
Terna Nande (6’, 232lbs, 4.51) 
Nande is what you call a superior athlete at OLB.  His measureables should have vaulted him into the 3rd rnd in a normal draft.  He has 4.51 speed in the 40 (he’s run as fast as 4.43), an even more impressive 1.59 in the 10 yard, 39” vertical (showing excellent athleticism), did 41 reps of 225lbs (better than 90% of the OL and DL in the draft), and had the cone and shuttle numbers of a top flight CB (6.98, 4.12).  Did I mention he’s a superior athlete?

Despite his super-athleticism, he has technique flaws.  He sometimes plays out of control over running plays, not wrapping as a tackler, doesn’t have great lateral movement, not active or effective enough with his hands when engaging and plays too high too often.  With that said, you have a player who could project to SS (if he can loosen up his hip swivel), could develop at weakside OLB but should be a demon on special teams in the meantime.

ProjectionNo doubt Nande has amazing athleticism and even if he’s only a terror on special teams, this is a very good pick.  However, there were also a few players available who had more likely starting potential than Nande. 

Grade = B A good pick.

Round 5
Jesse Mahelona (6’, 311lbs, 5.37) 
Mahelona was a wrecking machine in college much like Tulloch.  In 2004, he surprised with 43 tackles (28 solo), 5 sacks, 7 QB pressures, and led the SEC with 18.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage…and he’s a DT!  He tailed off a bit in 2005 with only 35 tackles (18 solo), 2 sacks, 9 QB pressures, a FF, and 8 stops behind the line.  Even still, DT’s are not all about the stats…

Mahelona is a naturally strong player with better field strength than measured (only 27 reps at 225lbs), a high motor and all effort tenacity, excellent hand usage, good pass rush moves and can stack.  Sounds like a first rnd pick right?

Well his negatives are his tendency to play high (which is when he gets moved and washed out of the play), lack of speed preventing him from going far down the line to make plays on the perimeter, slow to find the ball (and gets fooled by misdirection), is on the ground too much, and runs out of gas.

Still, he can become a productive backup and if the light goes on, could become a good starter in time.

Projection – Will be a solid backup and potentially start for another team down the road ala Robaire Smith and company.

Grade = B  Can provide a spark, but his real value is what he turns into beyond a backup.  A good pick that could be great in time.  Good value in potential.

Round 6

WR Jonathan Orr (6’2”, 198lbs, 4.44) 
Orr is an interesting project and one the Titans really couldn’t afford to pass on in the 6th rnd.  While this draft class didn’t have a lot of top flight WR talent, it did have a lot of mid-round talent.

Orr has excellent measureables…6’2”, 4.44 40yd, 1.57 10yd which combine with excellent body control and natural/sure hands.  Again, he sounds like a first rnd talent based on that.  So why wasn’t he?

Orr had a nice 2002 with 47 catches for 842 yards (17.9avg) and 8 TD’s.  Then the floor fell out.  In 2003, the Badgers went to a predominant run attack and his production dropped dramatically.  He had only 7 catches for 117 yards in ’03, and 13 catches for 177 yards in ’04.  In ’05, he was much better with 33 catches for 554 yards (16.8 avg) and 6 TD’s, but that is still LOW production – especially from a player of his measureables.  And despite his sure hands, he caught only 46 of the 99 passes thrown his way the last two years.  Was that the QB’s fault or Orr’s…or both?  So inconsistency is also a knock on him.  In addition, he’s not a good blocker, has a small frame (only 198lbs at 6’2”) and struggles getting a clean release vs the press.  He also didn’t run all the routes in college so he’ll need a lot of route work.

Still, Orr reminds me a bit of McCareins in the sense that I feel he really needs some coaching up and some time to develop.  His measureables and his hands are a nice combination and if he can become consistent, he’ll be a steal!

Projection – He’ll compete to crack the top 4 WR’s by 2007 and could become a starter by ’08.  Even still, I fear he won’t live up to the potential his measureables and hands offer him.  He’ll start at some point, but I HOPE he becomes consistent!

Grade = A  He has the talent to be a good starting WR and you rarely find that in round 6.  A very good pick!

Round 7
Cortland Finnegan (5’10”, 188lbs, 4.34) 
Can you say this year’s Reynaldo Hill?  I can.  Finnegan, despite sounding like something you’d order at a bar, is a bundle of superb athleticism.  GM’s were raving about Cromartie’s fine workout which vaulted him into the first rnd because of his size (6’2”) speed (4.3) and athleticism (44” vertical).  Well, I didn’t here anyone raving about Finnegan’s, so I’ll do it for ya.  He doesn’t have Cromartie’s size at a shade under 5’10”, but he has legit 4.34 speed and also boasted a 44” vertical.  A 44”vertical is quite rare and is a good test for athleticism.  This kid can MOVE!

Finnegan played FS in a no-name college (Samford) but did dominate the competition.  In 2002, he had 46 tackles (35 solo), forced a fumble and had 2 interceptions…in only the last 7 games in his first year starting.  More impressively, he was second in the Nation with a 32.2 avg on kick returns (and 2 TD’s).  In ’03, he was Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year with 108 tackles (56 solo), 3 stops for loss, 3 INT’s (1 returned for a TD), 8 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries.  He was ONLY 10th Nationally on kick returns that year with a 27.5 yard avg and 1 TD.  In ’04 he had 86 tackles (37 solo), 3 INT’s, 2 pass breakups, and ranked 16th in kick returns (26yard avg) despite missing 3 games.  In ’05, he added All-American honors posting 98 tackles (48 solo), 7 pass breakups, 1 INT (returned for a TD) and had a 25.1 yard avg on kick returns and 15.1 yard avg (with 1 TD) as a punt returner.

Like a few of the other players the Titans drafted, he’s an excellent football player with physical limitations.  He doesn’t have room to really add bulk to his frame so he’s very small for a FS.  In run support, he takes good angles but like Lowry, will get bounced or washed out by bigger blockers.  So he projects to CB but lacks the technique and may not have the hip swivel to make the transition.  Still, he can play as a coverage FS, perhaps develop into a CB and in the meantime, be a good KR/PR!

Projection – Will be an above avg KR/PR and contribute depth in the secondary.  Should be a CB down the road.

Grade = A  This is where you draft this type of player, not in the 3rd or 4th rnd (see Waddell).  He’s exactly what I was looking for in the 7th rnd.

Round 7

OLB Spencer Toone (6’1”, 235, 4.70) 
Toone, like several of his fellow draftees, was a very good college football player.  In ’05, he was All-Academic and All-MWC (First Team) while tying for the conference lead with 113 tackles (52 solo), 2.5 sacks, 5 stops for loss, a FF and 1 fumble recovery.  And did I mention he was team Captain?

Toone has good instincts, is quick to react, and good tackler, will make plays all over the field when he has a clear lane (is protected).  He is also a good special teams player.  His negatives are that he has stiff hips, sometimes plays too wrecklessly and over runs the play, sometimes does not play with high urgency, has trouble shedding blockers, can have trouble working through trash, and is not a knock-out hitter.

Still, if the Titans can coach him up – get him to use his hands better (to engage and shed) and play with urgency but under control, he could develop like Sirmon did.

Projection – will be strictly a special teamer for a few years.  If the ‘light’ goes on, he could be a solid MLB or SLB in the right scheme.

Grade = B  A solid developmental player who fills needed depth but can also bring a good work ethic and intelligence to his unit.  Not the best pick in the world, but not a bad one either.

Round 7

RB Quinton Gather (5’9”, 218lbs, 4.50) 
Gather is an interesting player and multi-dimensional.  In 2005, he was All_MWC (Second Team) leading the Utes with 1,120 yards (5.5avg) and 7 TD’s.  He also caught 25 passes for 314 yards (12.6 avg).

He’s got good bulk and leg drive for a 5’9” guy, enough burst to hit the hole and avoid trash and is a good short area receiver.  He’s also good at cut blocking.

However, he has small hands (some fumbling issues), runs too tall, can’t move the pile, doesn’t have good second gear acceleration (is not gonna outrun the secondary), can’t stone a blitzing LB, and will probably only be a slashing change of pace back in the Pros.

Projection – He will probably not make it as a starting RB, but can compete for a backup spot.  However, his small hands are a concern that can’t be coached up.  And backup RB’s that fumble don’t last long.  I don’t think he’ll stick as a backup RB for the Titans for more than a year or 2.

Grade = B-  He’s not a bad pick in the 7th rnd because all the prospects are backups, however this is a good area to go for a major talent who has a major red flag.  If he hits, you’re a genius, and if he doesn’t…he wasn’t supposed to anyway and you only risked a 7th.

Overall I’d give this draft an A-. 

The first day was an A and the second day a B+.  Certainly a good draft.

But going forward, the Titans have some things to figure out.  First is McNair.  Can they agree on a contract that works for both sides?  Can they afford to keep McNair for this year at his current cap level?  If McNair refuses to sign a smaller deal or won’t put incentives in it for some of the guaranteed money, he’ll be traded or cut.  I hope this doesn’t happen for several reasons.  First, McNair is Young’s mentor and went through exactly what Young will be going through.  He’d be very helpful in that regard.  Second, we will have more success with McNair at the helm than any other QB on the roster this year.  But perhaps almost more importantly, they can keep the offense revolving around a running QB.  If Volek or Kerry Collins comes in to run the offense, they are more pocket passers and the offense will be run as such.  You can’t gear your offense towards both strategies at the same time.  And remember, Young will be learning whatever offense we’re running.  Keep McNair and the mobility and design of the offense can be consistent.

As you can see, it’s not simply about McNair playing.  Him playing helps our future so over-paying him a bit is worth it IF we can afford it.  That may mean we have to start a rookie at MLB and things like that, but they can be doable….but not without McNair’s help.

Chow should examine the Falcons running game as they really have good design that puts great pressure on DE’s to stay at home (in case Vick doesn’t hand the ball off and they have to contain him).  But if the DE stays at home, the OT can go get a LB and the RB won’t get hit by the DE.  In effect, the DE takes himself out of the play or risks giving up the outside on a Vick bootleg with only a LB (whom Vick can outrun) and S stopping him from the endzone.  The Titans should study this design and see how they can incorporate some of it into the offense.

As far as immediate impact, only White (RB), Tulloch (MLB), and Finnigan will start or see significant playing time as rookies with Mahelona (DT) and Orr (WR) having outside shots.

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