NASHVILLE – When it comes to the 2022 NFL Draft, general manager Jon Robinson once again will try to do more with comparatively less than his peers.
The Tennessee Titans, even after being awarded a couple of compensatory picks last month (one in the fourth round and one in the sixth), currently have seven overall picks for the seven-round draft.
Only five NFL teams have fewer. The Raiders have the least – five -- after trading their first- and second-round selections to Green Bay in exchange for wide receiver Davante Adams. The Panthers, Bears, Commanders and Buccaneers each have six overall picks. In addition to the Titans, five other teams have seven selections.
On the other end of the spectrum, two of the Titans’ AFC South rivals are among the teams with the most selections this year. Rebuilding Jacksonville leads all teams with 12 picks, and rebuilding Houston is tied with Green Bay for second with 11.
The Texans are set up especially well, with seven picks in the first four rounds -- two in the first, one in the second, two in the third and two in the fourth. That’s why Houston is considered to have some of the most draft capital in the NFL this year, according to just about every measuring chart. A good definition of draft capital is “the total value of all draft picks for each team,” per OverTheCap.com.
Where do the Titans stand in terms of draft capital for the 2022 draft?
They’re not in a great place. Tennessee’s total of seven selections, combined with the lack of a second-round pick, has the Titans at No. 26 in that department. That’s the lowest amount of draft capital the Titans have had since 2018, per Sharp Football, when they were listed 31st and wound up making just four selections – linebacker Rashaan Evans, edge rusher Harold Landry, safety Dane Cruikshank and quarterback Luke Falk.
But it’s not necessarily surprising to see the Titans ranked so low this season. It actually makes sense, given not only their 12-5 record last year, but their winning records over the past six seasons.
In Robinson’s first two years as general manager, when the Titans were in rebuilding mode, he collected all kinds of picks and draft capital, making a combined 19 selections in 2016 and 2017. The team’s selections during those two years produced the likes of tackle Jack Conklin, running back Derrick Henry, safety Kevin Byard, receiver Corey Davis, cornerback Adoreé Jackson, tight end Jonnu Smith and linebacker Jayon Brown.
In the years since, after establishing themselves as one of the AFC’s better teams, the Titans didn’t necessarily need the big draft hauls, allowing the opportunity to trade some draft picks for established veterans – or package them to move up in the various drafts.
The Titans were still able to make the most of a relatively small draft class in 2019, when their six selections included defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, wide receiver A.J. Brown, guard Nate Davis, safety Amani Hooker and linebacker David Long.
But the last two years have not been nearly as productive.
The Titans’ 2020 draft will be most notable for massive first-round bust Isiah Wilson, who played only four snaps for the team. Cornerback Kristian Fulton appears to be the only standout in the six-person class.
The 2021 class is still full of question marks. Among them: Will first-round cornerback Caleb Fairly realize his potential having already undergone four surgeries for two injuries? Will offensive lineman Dillon Radunz eventually become a starter? Will edge rusher Rashad Weaver make a significant impact after missing nearly all of his rookie season?
So, the challenge for Robinson this year is – no matter the amount of picks for the Titans, no matter the lack of draft capital – to find prospects capable of making more immediate contributions than their peers of the last two years.