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With Contract Done, It's Full Speed Ahead for Okonkwo

The Tennessee Titans signed the fourth-round pick out Maryland and expect him to help the offense pick up the pace in 2022.

NASHVILLE – Chig Okonkwo took his time when it came to signing his contract, relative to other members of the Tennessee Titans’ 2022 draft class, at least.

The fourth-round selection, a tight end out of Maryland, finally took care of that bit of business Monday. He became the seventh of nine Tennessee picks in this year’s draft – the last of six selected on the third day – to come to terms.

It might be the last time he does anything slowly.

Okonkwo, who is 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, was the fastest tight end at this year’s NFL scouting combine, and he and the Titans plan to put that speed to good use in the NFL.

“We're kind of moving away in our league from just the big blocking tight ends,” Okonkwo said on draft day. “You need a tight end to be a mismatch just because the way the game is evolving, there's so much speed involved in the game now.

“So, you want a tight end who can win those matchups, and I feel like I'm that person who can win those matchups and beat people with speed and just make plays for us.”

In four seasons at Maryland, Okonkwo averaged 9.3 yards on 77 receptions, which was better than the Titans got in 2021 from either of their tight ends who had at least 15 catches. Anthony Firkser averaged 8.6 yards (34 receptions), and Geoff Swiam averaged 6.8 yards (31 receptions).

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Around the league, there were 20 tight ends who caught 30 or more passes and averaged at least 10 yards per reception. Kyle Pitts, a rookie with the Atlanta Falcons, led the way with a 15.1 yards-per-catch average on 68 receptions. Baltimore’s Mark Andrews led all tight ends with 107 receptions and averaged 12.7 yards.

Okonkwo’s 40-yard-dash time the combine was 4.52 seconds, nearly one-tenth of a second faster than the next fastest tight end, Jelani Woods (4.61). But that, he said, was not the best he could have – or has – done.

“The fastest time I ran was when I was in Florida [for training],” he said. “I ran a 4.44 and that I feel like that makes me a very dangerous vertical threat down the field, just being able to beat guys with my speed. So that's a big piece of my game is my speed.”

But not the only part.

“I actually think versatility is my number one asset just because I can line up outside, I can line up in the backfield, I can line up in the wing or I can play with my hand in the dirt,” he said. “I can run routes. I can block from any position.

“So, I feel like versatility is definitely my number one thing.”

As long as he does it all at full speed, the Titans will be happy.