One move Friday ensured that the 2021 NFL Draft will be unlike any other over which Jon Robinson has presided as Tennessee Titans general manager.
Robinson traded the first of Tennessee’s two third-round picks (No. 85 overall) shortly before he went on the clock. In return, he got the Packers’ third-round choice (No. 92) as well as a fourth-round selection (No. 135). The Titans selected Georgia linebacker Monty Rice at No. 92.
As a result, the Titans now have two picks in the fourth round, which will take place Saturday. In addition to Green Bay's, they also have their own (No. 126).
That is one more than the number of fourth-round picks Robinson made in the previous five years combined. That’s right – from 2016 through 2020, Tennessee picked just one player in the fourth round.
“You know, that pick in the fourth round to slide back a few spots we felt was a good value to us, adding another player early on in the process (Saturday),” Robinson said. “There were still players there that we would have considered at that pick but just felt like the value to slide back and pick up that fourth was really good for us.”
Typically, Robinson has traded away his fourth-round choices to acquire veteran talent or to move up and draft a player he wanted. For the most part, those moves have worked out well.
Last year’s fourth-rounder, for example (No. 135) went to Miami in 2019 in the trade that brought quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Titans. Similarly, Robinson swapped fourth-round choices with Philadelphia in a 2016 deal for running back DeMarco Murray. He later included the Eagles’ fourth-round choice in a trade with the L.A. Rams that included the No. 1 overall pick, which the Rams used to select quarterback Jared Goff.
In 2018, a fourth-round choice sent to Baltimore helped the Titans move up three spots in the first round (from 25 to 22) in order to select linebacker Rashaan Evans. In 2017, a fourth-round pick was included in a trade with New England that allowed the Titans to jump 11 spots in the third round (from 83 to 72) to select wide receiver Taywan Taylor.
The good news for Tennessee is that Robinson’s record with fourth-round picks -- such as it is -- is pretty good. The one he made was in 2019, when he selected safety Amani Hooker No. 116 overall (Tennessee traded with the New York Jets to move up five spots to get him). Hooker has been a valuable role player through his first two NFL seasons, and is in line to be a starter this fall.
Now, Robinson will have two chances to add to that record.
“We tried to move around some (Friday) night,” he said. “We were able to slide back. We tried moving up and couldn't get up quite high enough a couple times. … There are some players still left. We've got six picks (Saturday), and there are still some players on the board that we like.”