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Tennessee Titans 2016 NFL Draft Review

The Tennessee Titans were ready to make a splash when they decided to trade away their number one overall pick in this year’s draft to the Los Angeles Rams for a slew of draft picks. They were able to make ten picks this year in hopes of bolstering a team ready to bounce back from a disappointing season last year.

1st Round, 8th overall – OT Jack Conklin (Michigan State)

2nd Round, 33rd overall – DE Kevin Dodd (Clemson)

2nd Round, 43rd overall – NT Austin Johnson (Penn State)

2nd Round, 45th overall – RB Derrick Henry (Alabama)

3rd Round, 64th overall – S Kevin Byard (Middle Tennessee State)

5th Round, 140th overall – WR Tajae Sharp (Massachusetts)

5th Round, 157th overall – CB LeShaun Sims (Southern Utah)

6th Round, 193rd overall – OG Sebastian Tretola (Arkansas)

7th Round, 222nd overall – OLB Aaron Wallace (UCLA)

7th Round, 253 overall – CB Kalan Reed (Southern Miss)

Titans 2016 Draft Grade: 8/10

Tennessee Titans 2016 NFL Draft Review

The Best Player: Jack Conklin has to be the safest pick for the Titans this year. They wanted to add protection to the line to protect their 2015 first overall pick in Marcus Mariota, and that’s exactly what they’ll get with this young player. Conklin played left tackle but expect him to be shifted with ease over to right tackle to complement Taylor Lewan on the offensive line. Keep an eye on that Week 1 starting roster, and you’ll see Conklin’s name for years to come.

The Head-Scratcher: Built like a strong safety but playing like a free safety, Kevin Byard will have to do some soul searching at rookie and mini camps. Byard has a strong football IQ, making him appealing to some NFL scouts. What is concerning is his lack of physical play outside of the box, especially for his body frame. Watching tape, he is an “ankle tackler,” which scares scouts just as much. He doesn’t appear to square up, wrap up, and finish a tackle. Instead, he just grabs and drags and seemingly hopes for the best. Another concerning factor is how he will match up in open space against the elite wide receivers in the NFL. During camp he’ll have a “coming to Jesus” moment where he’ll be tested to see if he’s able to play the position at an elite level.

The Surprise: Look for Tajae Sharp to be the pleasantly surprising pick out of this year’s draft. The tall, lean wide receiver will create problems for defenses with his footwork on routes of all lengths. His weight might be something to watch, as he’s on the slimmer side for a receiver of his height. He is quick to achieve top speed, which will allow him to separate from defensive backs. He’s eager to learn, and that’s something coaches covet. He’s got good football character and that paired with the talent will turn him into a productive receiver in the NFL.

The Steal: Derrick Henry is a monster of a man, especially at the running back position. At 6’3″, 247 pounds, he is one of the biggest running backs you’ll ever see. He is a runner that will look for contact, and attempt to drive the ball, using his leg strength to push the defender back rather than outmaneuver them. He was expected to go in the second round, but 14 picks were made before Henry heard his name called and one of those was by the Titans, picking Austin Johnson just two picks earlier. Henry will complement DeMarco Murray and will likely be used on short yardage situations. Once he gets going, he’ll be hard to stop.

Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp: Mr. Irrelevant. Though that is the name given to the gentleman taken last in the NFL Draft, don’t expect Kalan Reed to live up to that name. The defensive back out of Southern Miss will look to show up and get work done at camp. His playmaking ability will more than make up for the fact that he’s a little awkward in tight, man coverage. He plays better a few yards off the line, waiting for things to develop and reading the quarterback’s eyes. Look for him to shake things up at camp.

The Rest: Kevin Dodd had a big year last year, though it’s the only time we’ve seen him play. A big, strong defensive end, he ended the year on a sack frenzy, trying to live up to the name of his touted teammate Shaq Lawson. His knowledge and talent are there, it’s just a matter of getting snaps under his belt.

Austin Johnson is a strong nose tackle that fits perfectly in a 3-4 scheme, which is what Tennessee runs. Expect him to share playing time with incumbent Al Woods.

LeShaun Sims is the prototypical physical type of cornerback. He is effective with his hands and has solid match and mirror technique. The only concern with Sims is the quality of receivers he faced in the Big Sky Conference.

Sebastian Tretola is a physical offensive lineman with the brute strength to be envied by most. However, that same strength causes him to get “stuck” and appear stiff after initial contact. Watch for him to try to become more fluid during camp.

Aaron Wallace is a good late round pick with potential to blossom into an above average outside linebacker. He’s well built, strong, and explosive. He tends to think rather than react, which causes him to play always a step back. He’ll need to learn how to turn it up a notch.

The Bottom Line: The Titans fell short in many ways last season, but they addressed many of their needs during this draft. They added speed at the wide receiver position, giving Mariota more weapons to throw to. They added heft on the defensive side of the ball, trying to lower the amount of points allowed compared to last year. They’ve added protection for their quarterback, allowing him more time to make decisions. They also picked up some quality future players, who we should expect to see more of in the next few years. The Titans drafted very well this year, and you can expect to see them make a bit of noise this year in the AFC South.

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