The Tennessee Titans were a bit of a wild card in the 2014 NFL Draft, with a number of different ways they could have gone. Mock draft experts had them all over the place from pass rusher, to corner, to quarterback, but the Titans ultimately went with Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan with their 11th overall pick. It was not the glorious pick that Johnny Manziel would have been, but Tennessee has set itself up for a thunderous offensive line for years to come.
Lewan was the third left tackle off the board after the Rams selected Auburn’s Greg Robinson second overall and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews went No. 6 to the Atlanta Falcons. The Titans recently signed Michael Oher to a large free agent contract to replace long-time starter David Stewart after he retired, but he will be shifting over to right tackle. Michael Roos is the incumbent left tackle, but he has aged as well and has an expiring contract. The Titans also have an out and can get out from under Oher’s contract after one year for $6 million.
This NFL Draft thus far has thrown a lot of curveballs at its viewers, with Lewan being one of the less surprising moves. The Titans used all of their allotted ten minutes to make their selection, and were close to trading down before wrapping up Lewan. The Michigan product dominated at the NFL combine posting a 4.79 40-yard dash time. He did that in lieu of his freakish size at 6’7″ and 309 pounds. He is a decorated four-year started at Michigan and is a legitimate mauler in the run game, getting good leverage and pushing through to the second level and crushing linebackers as well.
New coach Ken Whisenhunt could have gone elsewhere with the pick, and many analysts will wonder where Lewan fits in right away with Oher and Roos, but the Titans clearly went with the best player available on their board in the NFL draft. He is giving Locker one last chance despite not picking up his fifth year on his contract, going against the “new coach, new quarterback” philosophy. This draft also will see some good quarterbacks in later rounds, so Whisenhunt decided to shore up his line even more to ensure that the oft-injured Locker doesn’t go down once again.
On the other side of things, Lewan is undoubtedly one of the best linemen in the NFL draft, but he does have some red flags. Aside from not being an immediate fit for the Titans, he struggles on occasion in the passing game due to his slighter build in the lower half of his body. When bull rushers go low on his massive frame, he tends to get beaten. That would not bode well for Locker. Also, Lewan has three pending misdemeanor charges, which apparently did not deter the Titans from selecting him so high.
The Titans got a great player in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Whisenhunt will have one less position to worry about whenever Lewan takes over at left tackle for the foreseeable future. The offensive line overhaul continues after the Titans invested a first-rounder in Chance Warmack at guard last year, as well as another pick in center Brian Schwenke. They also invested $66.8 million in Andy Levitre and Oher over the past two years, so Lewan rounds out what should be a prolific line for years.
Commentary by Justin Hussong
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Tennessee Titans