INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tennessee Titans have no clear-cut lead running back, and their situational backs aren’t well-established either.
Perhaps a reworked offensive line will change that. But it seems likely the team will add a back in the draft or free agency who will have a chance at significant work.
Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian said Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry “would fit quite well” in a Mike Mularkey scheme, that typically seeks a power back. Henry is 6-foot-3, 247 pounds.
Running back may now rank as the safest position in the draft, but the position is also devalued. Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is expected to be a first-rounder. Henry is often mentioned as the second back who will come off the board, but few are predicting he’s a first-rounder.
“I think the guys last year that were first-round picks like Todd Gurley, they set a standard for the younger generation coming up,” Elliott said at the NFL scouting combine. “I feel we're going to bring it back.
Titans GM Jon Robinson is about to be a draft-day decision-maker for the first time.
During his 14 years working in the front office of the Patriots and Buccaneers, those teams drafted just six running backs. (He was with the Patriots for 13 free agency and draft seasons, and with the Bucs for only one.)
The league view of the draft value of backs has shifted substantially since New England made Laurence Maroney a first-rounder in 2006.
“We want a strong, physical runner,’’ Robinson said. “He has to be able to get tough yards when we hand him the ball. And when I say strong, that doesn’t mean he has to weigh 250 pounds. There’s backs in this league that are maybe smaller in stature, but they are explosive and powerful backs. So when you do hand them the ball they can make yards. They have to be able to run in between the tackles and grind out plays that way.
“There’s good backs in this draft, there’s varying degrees of size. Henry was 247, a big guy, and then there’s some guys smaller and quicker in stature. Not that Henry is not quick, but from a stature standpoint they are different guys.”