The 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone for the new Tennessee Titans coaching regime. The franchise has been in a static place over the past handful of years, and this new organizational overhaul intends on making a loud and immediate impact from day one to get the Titans back to the top of the NFL. Tennessee made some smart moves as well as some surprising ones, but snap judgments need not be made. New coach Ken Whisenhunt has high aspirations for this team and fans are going to have to wait and see how things unfold before making an accurate assessment on his first draft.
The Titans started the festivities by snagging controversial left tackle Taylor Lewan out of Michigan with the 11th overall pick. Michael Roos is aging and also in a contract year as the team’s incumbent left tackle, and newly-signed Michael Oher will be manning right tackle for at least one season due to a clause in his contract. Lewan will be given the chance to win a starting job from day one. Regardless of whether or not that happens, Whisenhunt likely took care of a crucial position on the field for his Titans for the next decade. Lewan is an immensely gifted player and although the Titans did not address an immediate need with his selection, they did go with the best player available on their NFL draft board.
Tennessee then addressed a major need in round two after cutting Chris Johnson by selecting the first running back in the draft, Bishop Sankey out of Washington. Sankey is a tremendous talent and could immediately step in as the lead back in Whisenhunt’s offense. Shonn Greene is more of a short yardage guy, while free agent acquisition Dexter McCluster is more of a scat back. Sankey has the power and speed to grab hold of the spot and give the Titans an easy transition from the CJ2K era.
In the fourth and fifth rounds of the NFL draft, Tennessee nabbed defensive tackle DaQuan Jones out of Penn State, a massive body who could fit well in Ray Horton’s new 3-4 scheme. The Titans also selected cornerback Marqueston Huff out of Wyoming and linebacker Avery Williamson from Kentucky in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
One of the biggest steals in the NFL draft came in round six where the Titans nabbed Zach Mettenberger, the LSU quarterback with a huge arm and a torn ACL. Prior to his knee injury, very few thought there would be any chance of him lasting past round two. The Titans have an uncertain situation at the position with the oft-injured Jake Locker heading into the last year of his deal, and it was almost a certainty the Titans would look for quarterback help in this draft. Mettenberger has healed remarkably fast from his injury and clearly Tennessee had no reserve stealing him so late in the draft. He could easily turn out to be the best value pick of 2014.
Overall, the Titans brought in a good crop of players with only six draft picks, but the one area believed to be a huge need was pass rushing. Derrick Morgan, Kamerion Wimbley, Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown all regressed this past year in getting after the quarterback, and it was widely assumed that acquiring a potential dominant edge rusher in the draft was one of, if not the most pressing need for this team. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey was the team’s most productive rusher last year with 10.5 sacks, a number almost sure to go down given his increased reputation and the shift to the 3-4. Whisenhunt did bring in Shaun Phillips in free agency, but he is obviously banking on the scheme alterations to bring out the best in the guys already in town. All the aforementioned players have shown the ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, but it just hasn’t happened the past couple of years. Hopefully Whisenhunt can change that.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Tennessee Titans