In recent years, teams with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft have lived and died by their selections. While the Carolina Panthers reached Super Bowl heights with their selection of quarterback Cam Newton back in 2011, the Houston Texans’ decision to take linebacker Jadeveon Clowney at the onset of the 2014 Draft has so far failed to live up to the hype. Following an unfortunate 3-13 season, the Tennessee Titans are the next team in line to face this difficult choice, and with franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota already in place, the team has no shortage of options with the pick.
With a plentiful crop of young prospects, it’s entirely possible the team could consider dealing the pick in order to acquire more talent in the heart of the first round. Even Titans General Manager Jon Robinson has openly discussed the possibility of trading back and compiling more selections, if the right offer presents itself. With quarterback needy teams like the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams trying to find the future face of their franchises, the two teams could consider leapfrogging over the quarterback deprived Cleveland Browns, for the right to grab either California quarterback Jared Goff or North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. With so many teams hunting for quality signal caller play, it’s reasonable that the Titans may be able to command a king’s ransom for the pick. And better yet, trading back may be the team’s best option as they could fill multiple starting positions with quality prospects.
Now if the Titans opt to keep their prime pick, they could choose to repair their disastrous secondary. Last season, the Titans allowed opposing teams to score on average 26.4 points per game, in large part due to their inability to slow down wide receivers. A prospect like Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey paired up with veteran cornerback Jason McCourty could really help solidify the defensive backfield. Standing tall at 6-1, Ramsey is the perfect combination of size and versatility. Playing in every position in the secondary, from corner to safety, Ramsey shut down receivers with ease, as he allowed a completion rate of just 38.5 percent over his college career. If the Titans don’t pull the trigger on Ramsey, someone in the top five will.
The most likely scenario, however, is that the Titans take a chance on one of the best tackles in years, Ole Miss’ left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Tunsil is a rare prospect, and as this league has shown, quality blindside protectors are hard to find. Not only is he the top talent in the draft, but he also comes in a position of dire need. During the 2015 season, the Titans’ lackluster offensive line gave up 54 sacks, the most in the league. The Titans had to watch as their quarterbacks were hit 105 times throughout the year. In his 28 games as a starting left tackle, Tunsil only gave up two sacks. Despite his natural born talent and ability, Tunsil does come with a glaring red flag, as he was arrested in July of 2015 on charges of domestic violence against his stepfather. If the Titans can get past his potential off-the-field concerns, there’s no reason to think the team wouldn’t choose Tunsil.
The Titans sit in the driver’s seat as they race towards the NFL Draft on April 28. Their decision will either propel them forward towards the playoffs, or send them crashing into years of irrelevancy. Could a team like the 49ers step up and make an irresistible trade offer that the Titans couldn’t refuse? Or will the team remain where they are, and make a choice between top notch athletes like Tunsil and Ramsey? Conventional wisdom says that the Titans will roll the dice on Tunsil to shore up their offensive line. Last year the Titans found the future face of their franchise with Mariota. This year, they’ll likely find the man who will protect his blindside for seasons to come.