NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If the Tennessee Titans stay at No. 5 in the first round of the NFL draft, they’ll want to pick a premium player who will have an impact for them for a long time.
The pick certainly won’t be quarterback and I have trouble imagining it would be an offensive lineman, but it could be virtually anything else.
If they stay put, or trade back five or seven picks, one would hope they tab a too-good-to-pass-up player.
And if they do, it won’t necessarily qualify as an indictment of what they already have at the position, though it will be hard not to view it that way.
Tennessee needed a starting cornerback even before it told Jason McCourty Thursday he’d be released. Lattimore or another corner wouldn’t be displacing anyone the Titans have invested draft capital or big dollars in.
The Titans lost their second, blocking tight end when Anthony Fasano signed in Miami, and while Howard projects as more versatile, he’d quickly plug in as the second guy and eventual successor for Delanie Walker.
A receiver should bump Tajae Sharpe from No. 2 to No. 3 in the group and as the Titans play a small share of three-wide as compared to the rest of the NFL, that would amount to a lesser role for sure. But if Sharpe is a top-three receiver in his second year as a fifth-round pick, that’s still a big role.
At a few other spots, the draft addition would be more complicated for the existing roster situations.
Let’s look at what some of the possibilities would mean for guys already on the roster.
Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen: He’s nearly 6-foot-3 and 286 pounds and would figure to play end in base and shift inside to be a tackle in nickel.
Jurrell Casey is automatic in that role, so the guy who would lose out to Allen is DaQuan Jones. He’s been the other starting end and played the second-most nickel/dime snaps (297) among defensive linemen in 2016 behind Casey (336) and ahead of Karl Klug (185).
The Titans like Jones for sure, and he’s got and inch and 36 pounds on Allen. Draft Allen and if everyone is healthy, Jones is the guy who loses playing time.
LSU safety Jamal Adams: Many, many analysts have him tabbed to go to Chicago at No. 3, but if he lasts until five, the cornerback needy Titans will have to consider him.
He’s loaded with the sort of attributes the Titans covet: A team-first, tough, disciplined player who seems born for the game, and to lead.
The Titans just gave free-agent safety Johnathan Cyprien a four-year, $25 million contract with $7 million guaranteed. He’s got cap numbers of $4.75 million and $7.75 million in the next two years.
But would his presence stop the Titans from drafting Adams? It shouldn't.
Tennessee rotated four safeties when healthy last year and Mike Mularkey has said the team likes that method and will stick with it. Give the Titans Adams, however, and one would expect he and last year’s third-rounder Kevin Byard would be a long-term starting tandem.
That would mean Cyprien would play in the team’s three-safety packages, which would now often include him working as a nickel linebacker. Sean Spence played that role last year with 271 snaps in nickel and dime last season. He moved on to Indianapolis as a free agent.
Adams would also bump Da'Norris Searcy, due $5.625 million this season, to fourth at the position.
He’s a good player and the team likes him a lot, but he has not proven he can cover tight ends consistently, and that includes some average guys who made big plays against Tennessee, not just the premium players at the position.
Foster is a rangy, athletic player who should effectively cover tight ends and minimize the damage they can do.
He’d certainly cut into Williamson’s snaps.
Williamson would play the Mike position, which typically leans to the strong side, while Foster would be the Will, more fluid in space than Williamson is. Foster would be the every-down guy, with Williamson coming off the field in nickel.
Foster’s presence in that scenario could have a trickle down effect that benefits virtually everyone else on defense.
Another guy who would lose out: Wesley Woodyard, who would become the third inside linebacker and remain a big special-teams contributor.
Temple outside linebacker Haason Reddick: Five would be high for him based on the popular opinion of draft analysts.
But with quarterback and offensive tackle covered already, pass-rushers are pivotal and Reddick made a big splash at the Senior Bowl in his first showing as an outside backer after playing end for the Owls.
While GM Jon Robinson has said he’s not big on projects, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau often minimizes the move from end to outside backer in his 3-4. The Titans drafted Clemson’s Kevin Dodd at the top of the second round last season and set him on course for the same move.
A foot injury basically killed Dodd's rookie season.
Depth and options at the spot are a key ingredient to the sort of defense the Titans run, and they were fortunate health-wise with their starters last year.
Reddick could also wind up being an inside linebacker. While Woodyard does good work in the lesser of the two roles inside, he’s aging and the Titans can get better there.