It has been the most frequently asked question I have received since the conclusion of the third round of 2016 NFL Draft on Friday night. What do you think of the Titans draft so far?
My initial response was that I really hadn't thought about it in terms of the entirety of all five players that had been selected in the first three rounds. I could honestly say that because I had not had time to look at things in that way because I had been busy working on stories for each draft pick and the various other things that I had going on during day two of this event.
Now that I have had a night to sleep on things, and a morning drive from home back to St. Thomas Sports Park, I've had a few moments to think things through and here is what I have come up with.
The Titans entered this draft with needs of a tackle, safety, defensive tackle, cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver and depth across the board.
Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin, who is a massive young man fills the need at tackle, be it the right, or left tackle. He is a physical, mauler who brings a tough mentality from a winning college program to the Titans offense. He should be able to help the Titans improve their running game, and protect the franchise in Marcus Mariota.
Kevin Dodd was one of the top pass rush prospects in this draft class, but there are questions about him because he was a one year starter, and star for Clemson. Can Dodd do it for more than one year?
That's the biggest question mark for Dodd, who played as a down end for the Tigers, but according to general manager Jon Robinson, Dodd will be a linebacker for the Titans. At 6'5" 277 pounds, Dodd reminds me of the big, strong, fast, physical linebackers that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau featured during his time with the Steelers.
Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson for me was a bit of a head scratcher. Another big young man, (6'4" 313) Johnson certainly has the size and had a nice career at State College, but there weer other players still on the board that I had ranked higher than Johnson.
However, after having the change this morning to look at some film of Johnson and reading over reports, I understand what the Titans saw in him, and their time with him at the Senior Bowl cemented their decision to want to take him if the situation arose.
Johnson is a solid player who appears to have the ceiling to become a very good NFL football player. He is the perfect example of someone with that dreaded word potential.
He will be a piece of the of the defensive line puzzle, backing up Al Woods and playing along side Angelo Blackson that can add rotational depth right away and have the physical size to get bigger, and stronger and reaching his athletic potential could make him a great addition to this roster.
In the effort of full disclosure, those who know me and my background know of my allegiance to the University of Alabama and the Crimson Tide football program, so the selection of Derrick Henry excited me on a personal level.
However, my initial response was tempered by the fact that while Henry's resume is incredible, I was of the thought process that the Titans would use his pick to fill a need such as corner, wide receiver or safety, all of which had highly regarded players still available.
To that end I needed to make sure that I liked this pick for what the player brings to the team and what he can do to help them, rather than liking it because of where he went to college.
After listening to Robinson and Mularkey field questions on the subject, and having a discussion on the pick with Titansonline Senior writer Jim Wyatt, and the time I spoke of earlier to ponder the move, I understand it and like the move more and more.
In today's NFL teams need more than one back, and Henry along with DeMarco Murray give the Titans two, big, strong, fast physical backs that can pound opposing defense, shorten the game and take pressure off Mariota. Also when you look at the remaining roster at this position, none of those players excite you with their play so far for the Titans.
Henry will excite people in a positive manner, similar to what we witnessed last year when Mariota joined the Titans.
MTSU safety Kevin Byard concluded day two and filled a need at safety for the Titans.
Byard had an eye-popping 19 interceptions in his career and over 370 career tackles for the Blue Raiders. Most experts had him projected early on in the process as a 5th or 6th round player, however, his workout at his pro-day turned heads and he began to get more attention.
His draft stock rose to the early 4th round. The Titans selected Byard in the third round, which some prognosticators and pundits thought was a reach, but considering the Titans do not have a 4th round selection, and had a need at the position, it was a good reach, and one that I'm not sure was a reach at all.
Byard's production and intangibles make him a soild selection to me and after speaking with him via conference call last night, his passion, enthusiasm and desire to be a Titan was evident.
What does all that mean in terms of my opinion on this class overall so far?
It means that I like what they have done to this point and see the plan that is in place.
Let's be honest with ourselves here for a minute, ok.
This team is not likely a playoff team in 2016. It is also not likely to win a lot of games if you believe the projections and predictions.
The talent level had to be improved in multiple positions and in general, and that is what these five players will do. They will also bring a professional, workman type, physical mentality to this team.
Returning to the playoffs and being considered a championship contender is not an easy process, and it does not happen overnight, it is a process that takes time and attention to detail.to fill the roster with players capable of reaching those levels.
Robinson knows this and he also knows that he is building toward the future. Make no mistake, Robinson wants to win now, but he is smart enough to know that it will take time. That is part of the reason that his acquisition of another first round pick in 2017 is so important. He is banking "currency" to use to add talent to this team.
Winning now would be great, but building a franchise where you reload every season by replacing players that move on with equally gifted players is much better than rebuilding, which is something that the Titans have been doing for several seasons.
Stick with the plan Mr. Robinson, and keep . If we in the media and fans don't like it or understand it, we will all be happy when it comes to fruition.