The Tennessee Titans know when they will make their first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Trying to figure out which player they will get is a different matter.
With the No. 22 overall pick, general manager Jon Robinson and his staff will have to wait more than three hours and while 20 other franchises (Miami has two of the first 21 choices) make picks and make trades and steadily drain the available talent pool.
If Tennessee does not get involved in the wheeling and dealing, recent history at least sheds some light on what positions likely could be addressed when the time comes – and it is good news, based on the team’s current needs.
Over the last 10 years, more wide receivers – 11 of them – have been taken with picks 20-25 than any other position. Next is offensive tackle followed by outside linebacker and cornerback. All four currently are positions of need for the Titans based on what has happened through the first part of the offseason.
A look at the position groups that have produced the most players drafted with picks 20-25 from 2011-20:
“There’s so much uncertainty going in front of you in the draft,” former NFL head coach Jim Mora Jr. told All Titans this week. “There’s going to be trades and there’s going to be all kinds of action. There’s going to be surprise picks and there’s going to be guys who fall.
“So, you really have to be prepared and you have to have done your homework on everybody that you’re interested in. You have to have complete knowledge.”
Wide receiver has become particularly popular of late. Eight of them have gone between 20th and 25th overall in the last five years. It is a notable group that includes proven performers such as Will Fuller (No. 21 in 2016), D.J. Moore (No. 24 in 2018) and Marquise Brown (No. 25 in 2019).
With Corey Davis’ departure in free agency and the decision to cut Adam Humphries, two of the Titans’ top three wide receivers from 2019 and 2020 are gone. Josh Reynolds was added in free agency and will have the opportunity to play a larger role than he did in his four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, but more help is needed.
Offensive tackle is another area that must be addressed because of last year’s disastrous decision to select Isaiah Wilson at No. 29 overall. Two years ago, the Houston Texans landed a starting right tackle, Tytus Howard, at No. 23, while several other franchises, such as Denver, Arizona and Minnesota, found long-term left tackles in that range.
Two veteran cornerbacks, Malcolm Butler and Adoreé Jackson, were released and outside linebacker – even with the free-agent addition of Bud Dupree (No. 22 overall by Pittsburgh in 2015) – is a position where Tennessee has been short of playmakers in recent seasons.
“What you need when you’re drafting at that point is a pool of players you have conviction about – at multiple positions or at the same position – a group of players where you say, ‘OK, at 22, if we get one of these five players or six players,” Mora said. “And I’m talking about the realistic group – you know you’re not going to get the top guys – then at least you can zero in on those guys and when you do make the pick you can feel like, ‘Yes, we accomplished something good.”