NFL DRAFT: Titans ready for GM's 1st draft after big trade
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans hired Jon Robinson to turn this woeful franchise around, and the new general manager has wasted no time getting to work.
So far, no move has proven too big for the first-time GM.
Robinson reshaped the NFL draft with one of the biggest trades in league history, swapping the No. 1 overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams in a deal netting Tennessee six selections within the first 76 slots. That made his trade for the league's 2014 rushing leader in March - Robinson dropped down just 13 positions to net running back DeMarco Murray - look like a mere warmup for his draft-shaking deal.
''I'm not scared to do what I think is in the best interest of the football team,'' Robinson said.
The Tennessee native was hired in January. Coach Mike Mularkey was given the job for good only two days after Robinson agreed to terms himself. Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk made it very clear she wants the Titans rebuilt after going 5-27 over the past two seasons. This franchise hasn't reached the playoffs since 2008 and has had just one winning season since then.
Fixing the Titans means better players, and, naturally, the more the better. That's why Robinson made his trade April 14, leaving the Titans two weeks to pursue other options in a year when no player was the consensus pick to go No. 1.
The Titans also might trade back up after narrowing in on the player they might have taken with that top selection.
Currently, the Titans hold the No. 15 selection in the first round. The trade left them with nine choices overall, including Nos. 33, 43, 45, 64 and 76.
Robinson signed nine new free agents and brought back three Titans. Tennessee has been bad enough that Robinson can fill needs and add depth at almost any position in the draft, but offensive line, wide receiver and defense are the top areas still needing help. He's ready to keep dealing, making it clear his phone is still working.
''Feel free to call,'' Robinson said.
Some things to watch as the Titans go on the clock:
PROTECT MARIOTA: The No. 2 draft pick overall last year started every game he played. The problem is quarterback Marcus Mariota missed four games as a rookie because of injuries. Worse, he hurt both knees when hit in the pocket. That makes improving the offensive line a top priority, and Robinson signed center Ben Jones away from AFC South rival Houston. He also brought back veteran tackle Byron Bell. Jack Conklin of Michigan State or Taylor Decker of Ohio State seems like options at No. 15. Or Robinson could trade back into the top 10 looking for Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame or Laremy Tunsil of Mississippi - the tackle so many thought the Titans would take at No. 1.
JALEN RAMSEY: With Dick LeBeau now Tennessee's defensive coordinator and calling the plays after Ray Horton left for Cleveland, the Titans could give the Hall of Famer someone to dream up schemes for in Tennessee native Jalen Ramsey. The defensive back from Florida State visited the Titans on April 11 and would love to play for his hometown team.
SHORE THAT D LINE: Derrick Morgan started off great with 4 1/2 sacks within four games, only to miss the final six games with an injury he tried to fight through. Brian Orakpo and Pro Bowl lineman Jurrell Casey each had seven, but the pass rush struggled with Morgan trying to play with a left shoulder that eventually needed surgery and put him on injured reserve.
MORE HELP FOR MARIOTA: The Titans added wide receiver Rishard Matthews from Miami and drafted Dorial Green-Beckham in the second round last year. But Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter struggled with injuries, and Mariota needs more targets beyond tight end Delanie Walker.
DEPTH: The Titans need players almost across the board to protect themselves better against injuries. When Wright, Morgan and cornerback Jason McCourty were hurt, their replacements weren't up to the job.
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