Tennessee Titans 2017 NFL Draft Retrospective

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

How should the Tennessee Titans feel about their 2017 NFL Draft class after three years? We take a deep dive into it.

The 2016 NFL Draft saw GM Jon Robinson begin his rebuild of the Tennessee Titans roster with an excellent draft class. If the goal of that class was to bring in the foundation of the future, then the goal of the 2017 NFL Draft class was to purge the roster of past mistakes.

Heading into April the Titans had re-signed just 3 of 12 free agents with the jewel of that group being Karl Klug surrounded by special teamers Nate Palmer and Phillip Supernaw.

On the way out were two of the franchise’s biggest mistakes in recent history in first-rounders Kendall Wright and Chance Warmack whose futures would further emphasize just how bad the evaluation was by all involved.

Going into a draft where Robinson had managed to land a top-5 pick by conning the Los Angeles Rams to trade a 1st round pick for Jared Goff the year before, there were two huge needs.

First, the Titans needed a cornerback because the writing was on the wall for long time starter, Jason McCourty and no one had seen Logan Ryan outside of the New England Patriots roster which seemed to mass-produce talent at every position only for the facade to fade away once the player left Foxborough.

Second, it was time to get Marcus Mariota some weapons. After two seasons of mediocre (at best) play from the wide receivers some help was desperately needed.

Let’s take a look at how the Titans addressed these needs.

Original Grade

FanSided: B+

"“The Titans needed a wide receiver in the worst way. Many thought that Corey Davis would fall due to an offseason ankle surgery that gave him a quiet pre-draft process. However, the Titans stuck to their guns, stood behind the tape of Davis and bet on the high upside of a potential superstar receiver.”"

Draft Class

Round 1 (No. 5)

CURRENT TEAM: Tennessee Titans

Coming out of Western Michigan, Corey Davis was always a player that made the most sense as the WR1 in a class where he had to compete with speed demon John Ross from Washington and a tall wide receiver who made his living beating smaller DBs with Deshaun Watson throwing to him.

Jon Robinson’s ideal draft pick is someone who has been productive for at least two years while also having the athletic baselines and skillset to play at the NFL level. He has valued “sure thing” players of projects for his entire career.

As you can imagine, when the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver was on the board, missing the NFL Combine for a minor injury wasn’t going to keep the Titans from drafting the 6’3 WR1.

The thinking was that if you take someone like Marshon Lattimore here, by the time you get a chance to draft a wide receiver all of the “big three” would be gone and that would have been true.

Round 1 (No. 18)

CURRENT TEAM: Tennessee Titans

It is easy to forget now, but Adoree Jackson came into the league as one of the most interesting players in the 2017 NFL Draft.

While he was always going to be a CB in the NFL, there were just so many ways that you could use a player like Jackson which is why it was so hard to nail down what position to categorize him as.

In college, he had been a dynamic return man and USC had forced the ball into his hands on offense whenever they could. On top of all that, he was an Olympic caliber athlete who had been very productive in his true position which just doesn’t ever seem to happen.

Knowing that having a player who could come in and play CB as well as give you something special as a returner was intriguing to everyone. Plugging two major holes with high ceiling, high floor players like Davis and Jackson had to leave the front office feeling like rockstars.

Round 3 (No. 82)

CURRENT TEAM: Cleveland Browns

The Titans traded up to get Taylor thinking that he was going to be the missing element to that passing attack. At that time, the starters were scheduled to be Rishard Matthews and Corey Davis so having a slot WR with speed made a lot of sense.

Looking back without getting too detailed, Eric Decker being signed later in the offseason instead of pre-draft may have changed all three of these top picks. I’ll talk more about that in just a little bit, but I still completely agree with the strategy here.

Having said that, I should also point out that I had mocked Tarell Basham to the Titans in the third round and that pick worked out even worse than the Taylor pick did so that should be a reminder that 3rd round picks are very difficult to “hit” on.

Round 3 (No. 100)

CURRENT TEAM: Tennessee Titans

At the time I was a little bit frustrated with this pick and a lot of that had to do with the fact that the Titans seemed willing to go another year without solid backup EDGEs behind Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.

That is an issue that is still getting resolved in 2020, but you can’t deny that there is a huge gap between the talent and athleticism that Jonnu Smith has and what the rest of the TE class had to offer. Obviously this excludes George Kittle who I wanted the Titans to draft in the 4th round but I digress.

As for Smith, he has been a great developmental player who has turned into a real threat. With Delanie Walker likely done in Tennessee, he gives the Titans a young, athletic TE to use in the passing game for years to come.

Round 5 (No. 155)

CURRENT TEAM: Tennessee Titans

The Titans didn’t have a 4th round pick after the trade up to get Taywan Taylor, but man did they make their fifth-round pick count.

You may not know this because a lot of people don’t watch the Titans closely enough to see, but Brown is one of the best linebackers in the NFL when used correctly. 2018 was a great year for him that showed that you can use him aggressively as a blitzer and drop him into coverage and either way he has the skillset to make big plays.

While he is never going to be someone that you want in a phone booth with a fullback, he was a name that no one had been talking about who was absolutely a diamond in the rough for this Titans team.

Round 6 (No. 217)

CURRENT TEAM: Chicago Bears

Levin is one of the unsolved mysteries in the NFL. By all accounts he was well-liked, he was very athletic and every time he got a chance to play in a game or preseason game he did very well.

Despite that, the Titans released him following the 2019 preseason and he has bounced around a little bit. It wouldn’t shock me to see him find his way into a lineup in 2020 when he has a chance to compete on a roster for an entire preseason.

Round 7 (No. 227)

CURRENT TEAM: Los Angeles Rams

Carraway was hyped as one of the fringe draftable EDGEs in the class who seemed to showcase the tools needed to win as a pass rusher in the NFL even though he wasn’t exceptionally athletic. He only played in one game with the Titans and hasn’t really found a way to make a roster in the NFL.

Round 7 (No. 236)

CURRENT TEAM: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Another late round flier, the Titans added Seaton in an attempt to keep their offensive tackle position huge, which kinda made sense. The Titans had used a lot of jumbo package with their OL, often running out three OTs and making team defend all that size with rosters that usually were too small to do that. It didn’t pan out for Seaton in the NFL though.

Round 7 (No. 241)

CURRENT TEAM: Denver Broncos

A smaller running back, the Titans brought Muhammad in to help give depth to a unit that featured a lot of size and power, but not much pure speed and wiggle. He didn’t last with Tennessee but has bounced around the NFL a lot on practice squads and still has a chance in the NFL.

Retrospective Grade

B. . . Tennessee Titans. 2020 RETROSPECTIVE GRADE

Bottom Line:

The “what if” of Marshon Lattimore with the 5th pick in the draft will always be there because of what he has become. If the Titans had added a shutdown cornerback at 5 and had been forced to reach and take someone that had a lower grade on like….Juju Smith-Schuster, just imagine what this team could look like.

Still, Adoree Jackson’s absence is always felt if he has to miss time and Corey Davis seemed poised for a breakout before getting overshadowed by A.J. Brown this year. If Davis and Brown combine to be a WR1/2 tandem that hits 2,000 yards and if Adoree Jackson somehow takes another step forward then they will have been well worth the first-round picks.

History also tells us that basically any pick outside of pick-100 is a lottery ticket, so to walk away with four starters from a draft that had four top-100 picks is good, but not great. Add in the fact that all the above-average to great players were at positions of need and you get a pretty good, but not great draft class.

by Will Lomas

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