National media members agree that the Tennessee Titans wound up with one of the most talented players in the NFL Draft.
Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley could have very easily been a top-15 selection. Two back surgeries since he last played a live football game in 2019 pushed him down the board in Thursday’s first round, though. The Titans got him at No. 22 overall.
Still, those concerns caused national pundits to cautiously grade Farley’s selection. Most have the Titans earning a low B, a few handed out Cs and fewer dished out As.
" I’m no doctor, but our medical staff they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries in the National Football League, and they feel confident in it," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. "We spoke to him several times and said he was feeling great after having the latest procedure, and I have the utmost confidence he’s going to attack the process to get himself ready as soon as possible."
A roundup of first-round draft grades and comments on the pick from numerous national outlets:
CBS Sports: B-
“This is a boom-or-bust pick. If he's healthy, this is a great pick. But injury concerns are real.”
“Tennessee found a top-12 talent available at No. 22, so it made the selection, despite Farley's previous back and knee injuries. The Titans have a big need at the position, and his size, length and smooth athleticism are fun to watch. At some point in every draft, teams must decide how much medical risk to take with their early selections. His upside as a playmaker makes him worthy of this selection.”
“Caleb Farley was once viewed as a potential top 10 selection before his microdiscectomy surgery. His talent is still among the best at the position in this class, making him an intriguing value for the Tennessee Titans. Farley is yet another A grade in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft, but if he recovers well from surgery, then he could even outperform this grade.”
“The Titans let Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson and Desmond King walk, so corner was a huge need. If Farley is healthy, it’s a home run. He’s a long, highly athletic man-cover talent. But multiple teams we spoke with in the lead up to the draft expressed concern about the fact that he’s now had multiple microdisectomies and that his back issues could linger. After whiffing on Isaiah Wilson hard last year, this is quite the risk this time around. They must feel good about his medical eval.”
“Despite major injury concerns surrounding Caleb Farley, the Tennessee Titans are willing to bite the bullet here for a prospect who recently converted to the defensive side of the ball. Farley is an outstanding prospect who could slide in and fill the role Adoree’ Jackson left.”
“For the Tennessee Titans, they couldn't let Farley pass with this year’s 22nd pick. Amazingly, the organization chose one of the class’s riskiest prospects after already moving on from last year’s first-round selection, right tackle Isaiah Wilson. Wilson’s issues were completely different than Farley’s, but the uncertainty swirling around the cornerback can’t be overlooked. His medical profile is downright frightening.”
“Based on tape and production, Farley is a great prospect. He’s 6-foot-2 with long arms and can run. Farley started 23 games and had strong ball production with 25 passes defended and six interceptions. But this pick comes with considerable risk. Farley missed the final two games of the 2019 season with a back injury that required surgery and then opted out in 2020. He had another back surgery in March. And Farley missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL. If Farley stays healthy, this pick could be a home run. But I’m not sure I would have been willing to take this big a risk with the 22nd pick if I were the Titans.”
“The Titans stopped Farley’s fall because of injury concerns, knowing he has the size and smooth coverage skills to develop into a shutdown player who can also make big plays when needed. The Titans could have also considered offensive tackle or edge rusher, but this was a good choice to bring into their defense along with Janoris Jenkins and Kristian Fulton. The value boosts the decision to address this position first.”
“Obviously, the medicals are the only reason Farley was available this late, but the Titans still made a wise move by stopping his fall here. Farley opted out of the 2020 college football season due to COVID-19, and had offseason back surgery, but he got good marks at the NFL’s medical checks earlier this month. He’s a top-10 talent at full strength, so if he’s able to stay healthy, this will be a grand slam pick.”