NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A wrap-up of the Tennessee Titans' draft.
Best move: The trade down from No. 1 still ranks as the best move, giving general manager Jon Robinson a lot with which to work. He traded back up to No. 8 to draft Jack Conklin, who's expected to fill the team's biggest hole at right tackle. The Titans will look to a player who had to fight for all he earned at Michigan State to be a tone-setter for the line and for the team. Robinson wanted the whole locker room to be able to look to the team's top pick and see a representation of what the team seeks in and expects from its players. Even Conklin's critics don't question his demeanor, attitude or work ethic. If he plays well in protecting Marcus Mariota, blocking for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and being a contagious leader for the rest of the line, he'll rate as a significent piece of a new era.
Riskiest move: Second-round outside linebacker Kevin Dodd is a great physical specimen coming off an exceptionally productive season at Clemson, but he didn't break through for major playing time until that final year, during which he was surrounded by high-level talent. "I like him just OK," one NFL defensive coach told me. "He uses a two-handed swipe to win outside. Nothing else. What's going to happen when NFL offensive tackles don't give him their hands? Limited juice and struggled in space on bootlegs." Draft selections are more about projecting a guy into the league than they are about reviewing the resume, and the Titans have plenty of use for a third pass-rusher from the position, with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan as the starters and little else. Dodd doesn't look high risk when you watch his highlights. He might be great. If he isn't, the Titans could seriously regret passing on Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard, a player they really liked who went five picks later to Miami and plays a position that the team didn’t get to until the fifth round.
Most surprising move: The Titans made a big trade on March 9, trading 13 spots in the fourth round to Philadelphia in exchange for running back DeMarco Murray. As part of the trade, Murray agreed to a revised contract that made him a better value but still pays him a premium price. The Titans had their workhorse back. But with the third of the Titans' three second-round picks, they drafted another guy in a similar mold in Henry. Henry is a compelling talent, but the Titans have invested a great deal of capital in the running back spot in a league where teams often find value at the position later. It's increasingly a passing league, and the Titans are going old school with two high-profile running backs. Is it going to be a struggle for one of them to find a rhythm with the other one looming? Will the run-game focus detract from allowing Mariota to do his thing?
File it away: Guard Sebastian Tretola knew the Titans loved his mentality but said lasting until the sixth round will only make him meaner. "I'm mean, I'm nasty, I want to make you not want to come back on the field any more," he said. "... I want you to hate playing me, feel me every play." The quotes kept coming. "I'm just worried about messing you up in any way I can," he said.
Thumbs up or Thumbs down: It took the Titans time to become as bad as they've been over the last two seasons. It's going to take them time to become good. But the first draft class for Robinson included a theme tied to an identity, something the previous GM and coach were never able to articulate, much less put into practice. In Conklin, Dodd, Austin Johnson, Henry and Tretola, they got big strong, nasty players who can help forge a team personality. Safety Kevin Byard, receiver Tajae Sharpe and cornerback LeShaun Sims look like players with better ball skills than the Titans have at those positions. Thumbs up.