Paul Kuharsky breaks down the Tennessee Titans' 2017 draft class.
Round 1, No. 5 overall: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
My take: We don't know how the rest of the league judged Davis, but given general manager Jon Robinson's track record so far, we shouldn't care too much. With safety Jamal Adams, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and tight end O.J. Howard all available after four picks, Robinson still tabbed Davis. Titans QB Marcus Mariota has the protection and run game, and now he will have a more dynamic group of targets. If Davis can be what Tennessee expects, things will get easier for Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, DeMarco Murray, Tajae Sharpe and the rest of the skill players the Titans throw to.
It seems to be a bold move because under previous regimes the Titans have been wary of taking wide receivers early or have failed with them: Kendall Wright just moved on to Chicago and is largely a slot guy; Kenny Britt was a complicated guy who never met his potential. In Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham, the Titans missed with raw, athletic, second-rounders taken by former GM Ruston Webster. Davis brings athleticism and, we expect, more refinement.
Build for Mariota: Davis recently said Mariota is his favorite NFL quarterback. Mariota will never name a favorite receiver, but the two should be key resources for each other for a long time in Tennessee. The Titans' offense got a bit better on the perimeter last season but still played inside the hashmarks a lot. Davis can work along the boundaries and give the Titans a different element than they've had in Mariota's first two years. Protection was a focus with the Titans' No. 8 pick last year, right tackle Jack Conklin. Now Mariota has an additional quality target.
What they passed up: Davis is the seventh consecutive first-round selection on offense for the team. The Titans declined to pick Allen, Adams and Lattimore, but should be able to do enough later to address the pass defense. The Titans won’t have to make as big an improvement because they will be extending more drives and scoring more points when they have the ball with Davis in the mix on offense.
The pick: To nab Davis, the Titans used a pick they got from the Rams in last year's blockbuster deal.
Round 1, No. 18: Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
My take: Jackson had a productive three-year career at USC, showing real growth as a cover corner during his time as a Trojan. He was also a dynamic return man, with four punt return touchdowns and four kickoff return touchdowns. The Titans have not been fast enough on the back end, and Jackson is a track guy who's run a 4.42 40 and will be able to track down a guy like T.Y. Hilton even if he gets behind the Titans' defense. Will Jackson come into the league as a clear-cut top-two cornerback? That's not certain because his 5-foot-10, 186-pound frame could mean trouble against the increasingly big receivers running routes on the perimeter – such as the Titans' first first-rounder, the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Davis. I like the return-game boost Jackson will bring, but are the Titans a bit over-focused on special teams? I know coach Mike Mularkey will say there is no such thing. Still, I wouldn't trade a full-time cornerback for a part-time cornerback and return man. That may be what the Titans did.
Not just a speedster: Jackson's speed means he can mirror deep routes and chase people down, whether he was covering them or not. Pro Football Focus says he's solid against the run, with the 12th-highest grade against the run among cornerbacks in this draft class, and that he is a consistent tackler who missed only four of the 54 solo tackles he attempted in his final collegiate season. He also reacts well to screens. His frame may be small, but apparently he knows how to use it to get people to the ground.
Potential gadget guy: Jackson is a cornerback and a returner, but could we see him play a little offense? At USC he caught 39 passes in three seasons, and turned six of those catches into touchdowns. Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie run an exotic smashmouth offense, and Jackson could certainly factor in as an exotic piece if the Titans want to try it.
Round 3, No. 72: Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
My take: The Titans built up protection for Mariota last year by trading up to get All-Pro right tackle Conklin -- in exchange for a 2017 second-round pick -- and by grabbing right guard Josh Kline off waivers. This year’s mission is clear after three picks: Get the young quarterback better weapons. Tennessee took Davis fifth overall and now moved up 11 spots in the third round to get Taylor, a fast and explosive receiver. He’s going to have to get stronger and show he can be more physical. The Titans are in much better shape with their four receivers than they were two days ago, with Davis and Taylor joining Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe.
How he fits: Probably in the slot. Taylor is a shifty, fast receiver, a great stop-and-go player who can vary speeds and provides yards-after-the-catch possibilities, as does Davis. Per Pro Football Focus, Taylor averaged 7.8 yards after catch per reception during his four seasons with Western Kentucky. He caught 253 passes for 4,234 yards and 41 touchdowns. As a senior he caught 98 passes for 1,730 yards and 17 scores.
Round 3, No. 100: Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
My take: The Titans could be a little less two-tight end reliant given their selections of receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor. But Mike Mularkey is a big two-tight end guy and the Titans have a great one in Delanie Walker. Phillip Supernaw has concussion issues, so they might not have access to him all the time. GM Jon Robinson said the Smith is slated as a move-tight end because he’s fast, but he’s a pretty good blocker at the point of attack and can finish them. “He just kind of fit us,” Robinson said. Said Mike Mularkey: “He’s more of a complete player than he gets credit for."
How he fits in: Anthony Fasano took off as a free-agent to Miami, and he was a key part of the Titans run game last season. Smith figures to get more chances to catch passes than Fasano did in 2016, but the Titans will need him to do some dirty work and help the offensive line as it makes room for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The Titans got Smith with the last piece of the bounty they got from the Rams in in the blockbuster deal that sent the No. 1 overall selection to Los Angeles in 2016.
Round 5, No. 155: Jayon Brown, OLB, UCLA
My take: The Titans waited from No. 100 in the third round until a trade up to No. 155 in the fifth round to get Brown, who should help them as a 3-4 inside linebacker. Brown got his early chances at UCLA in 2015 when Myles Jack suffered a bad injury. At UCLA, Brown played a few years with 2016 Titans seventh-rounder Aaron Wallace. Brown is 6-foot and 231 pounds, but said he knows how to overcome his size. "Grit, good technique, knowing the defense well," he said. "I’ve been able to make plays."
How he fits: The Titans need Avery Williamson to be their big thumper at inside linebacker. Brown will try to take the other spot in the base defense from veteran Wesley Woodyard. Tennessee has given up too many big plays to too many middling tight ends, and need an upgrade in coverage. Brown is fast and should be able to chase down tight ends. The Titans may get beat by Rob Gronkowski, but they can’t get killed by Jack Doyle and C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Round 6, No. 217: Corey Levin, G, Chattanooga
My take: At this point in the draft, teams take guys who have traits they like, largely without regard for positional need. Levin is a three-time All-America selection who started for three years, playing both guard and center. He participated in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. He brings nice size at 6-5 and 305 pounds, with room to add bulk. Scouting reports say he has big, strong hands and quality foot movement, but relatively short arms. Todd McShay called Levin tenacious and said he fits what the Titans are trying to do.
How he fits: In front of Levin at the start are left guard Quinton Spain, right guard Josh Kline, veteran reserve guard-center Tim Lelito and 2016 sixth-rounder Sebastian Tretola. The Titans like all those guys, so it will be difficult for Levin to advance past one of them.
Round 7, No. 227: Josh Carraway, LB, TCU
My take: An athletic, intriguing player with good speed and pass-rush instincts. Some scouting reports question his toughness and aggression, but he said he possesses those qualities. He had 17 sacks in his last two years, showing good finishing ability, and twice earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. At the next level, he will have to get better against the run.
How he fits: He’s probably a developmental guy the Titans don’t want to have to count on. But there are concerns in front of him on the depth chart. Starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan stayed healthy last year but have injury histories. Kevin Dodd’s rookie year was a bust, and he’s still dealing with a foot problem. Wallace can play outside but may be better inside and is hardly a roster guarantee himself.
Round 7, No. 236: Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova
My take: He said he loved everything about the Titans when he visited, and they fit his personal beliefs as a football player. They told him they wanted "size and athleticism and someone that’s willing to compete.” He said his size and athleticism have allowed him to improve, but he needs to work on his pad level and his technique. He said that published measurements shortchange him, and that he’s 6-8 and 330 pounds.
How he fits: The Titans have a Pro Bowl left tackle in Taylor Lewan and an All-Pro right tackle in Jack Conklin. "As a rookie, I am going to be surrounded by guys who have a lot to teach me,” Seaton said. Veteran Dennis Kelly is the team’s third tackle and played a lot of third tight end last year. It’ll be hard to get ahead of him, so Seaton will be pushing for a fourth tackle spot or the practice squad.
Round 7, No. 241: Khalfani Muhammad, RB, California
My take: Antonio Andrews was a complete wash as the Titans' third back in 2016 and they showed no interest in bringing him back. As good as their run game is, they couldn’t simply hand the No. 3 job to David Fluellen. Now he'll be slugging it out with a lightning-bolt rookie who beat the cornerback the Titans took 18th overall, Adoree’ Jackson, in high school track meets.
How he fits: The Titans have big, powerful backs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Muhammad is a different type of running back at 5-8 and 175 pounds. He played 45 games in four seasons with the Golden Bears, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. He also caught a pass per game, getting 10.4 yards a clip. His pro-day 40 time was 4.35, so he’s another jolt of speed for the Titans, who have gotten a lot faster on offense in this draft.