With the draft now less than a month away, the media machine that is the NFL has revved up their promotion for this year’s upcoming extravaganza.
The city of Nashville is looking forward to putting on a show in their first attempt at hosting the event, and the hometown Tennessee Titans should benefit from the rare solo spot at center stage.
Behind the scenes, Titans general manager Jon Robinson is looking for his team to take center stage on the field after three straight 9-7 seasons. And what he does on draft weekend will go a long way in determining that.
When you think of teams that have enjoyed sustained success, it usually points back to their success in the draft.
As such, today we count down the top ten drafted players on Tennessee’s current roster.
10. Harold Landry – LBEmbed from Getty Images
On a hunch, Robinson decided to move up in the second round of last year’s draft to nab pass rush specialist Harold Landry out of Boston College. He was supposed to be insurance behind veteran starters Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo.
The hunch paid off, because Morgan and Orakpo hit the proverbial wall as a duo last season, thrusting Landry into a starring role sooner than expected.
Not only did Landry finish third on the team in sacks (4.5), but he also had twice as many sacks as Morgan and Orakpo…combined.
He should slide right in to a starting role in 2019, and if healthy, could post double-digit sacks this season.
9. Adoree Jackson- CBEmbed from Getty Images
Jackson got off to a slow start after being taken with the 18th overall pick of the 2017 draft. Known for his speed, athleticism, and electrifying return skills, Jackson has progressed as a cover man each of the last two seasons.
Jackson posted the first two interceptions of his career in 2018. He also finished 5th on the team with a career-high 73 tackles, and second on the team in pass deflections (10).
While he has struggled mightily in the return game as a pro, Jackson has proven to be a solid pick with plenty of upside as he enters his prime years.
8. Jack Conklin – TEmbed from Getty Images
Conklin was Robinson’s first draft pick, taken 8th overall in 2016, and his presence was immediately felt.
Conklin not only turned in an All Pro rookie campaign, but he also helped turn a team that couldn’t establish a run game post Chris Johnson into the league’s third-best rushing attack in 2016.
Last season Conklin wasn’t himself, and most would hope that his recovery from a torn ACL in January 2018 played a huge role. It will be interesting to see if the Titans pick up his 5th year team option. They have until April 15th to make that decision.
7. Corey Davis – WREmbed from Getty Images
Tennessee used their most coveted return from their 2016 blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Rams, turning what would have been the Rams’ 5th overall pick into wide receiver Corey Davis.
Hamstring issues caused Davis to miss time early and struggle to catch up throughout his rookie campaign. But a two-touchdown performance in Tennessee’s divisional loss to the Patriots that season gave Davis a confidence that he built upon in 2018.
Davis led the team in touchdown receptions in 2018, and was responsible for two game-winning td grabs in a season with little margin for error.
Davis proved to be capable of handling the role of number one receiver, and should benefit with the healthy return of Delanie Walker this season.
6. Derrick Henry – RBEmbed from Getty Images
Henry has been one of the most scrutinized players on offense not named Marcus Mariota after being selected in the second round of the 2016 draft, as his play has been a dizzying mixture of explosive plays and head-scratching ineptitude.
At 6’3 and 247 pounds of pure muscle, the mammoth back has routinely left fans scratching their heads when he elected to play like a scat back instead of bulldozing through his opponents.
But after a stern talk from Titans legend Eddie George last season, Henry returned to the field and finished the season with a vengeance, racking up 585 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns…which included his franchise best 238 yard – 4 touchdown perfomance against the Jaguars….spearheaded by an electryfying NFL record-tying 99 yard td run.
Henry’s close to the season earned the praise of his coaches and teammates, and for the first time in his professional career, apprears to be given the keys to the offense in 2019.
5. Jayon Brown – LBEmbed from Getty Images
While the first round duo of Corey Davis and Adoree’ Jackson stole the headlines in the 2017 draft, fifth round pick Jayon Brown may be viewed as the crown jewel of the class in 5 years.
Brown’s speed, aggressiveness, and play making ability propelled him up the depth chart, and he maximizes his opportunities every time he steps between the lines.
Last season Brown finished second in tackles (97), tackles for loss (11), and sacks (6). He also amassed six pass deflections, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a pick six.
Quite a performance from a late round pick brought on to add depth.
4. Kevin Byard – SEmbed from Getty Images
Byard made the most of his limited opportunities after being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft, and exploded onto the scene in his first year as a full-time starter in 2017.
Byard led the league in forced turnovers in 2017 en route to being named an All Pro, and led the team once again in forced turnovers in 2018.
Byard’s versatility is what makes him an indispensable commodity on Tennessee’s defense. In his spot duty rookie season, he showed to be a reliable tackler close to the line of scrimmage. In 2017, Byard showcased his amazing coverage skills.
Now paired with a safety in Kenny Vacarro that allows him to excel in his natural ball-hawking skill set, expect Byard to continue to rise as one of the best young safeties in the league.
3. Marcus Mariota – QBEmbed from Getty Images
While questions regarding his future in Tennessee will rage on throughout the season, there’s no denying the fact that the team’s turnaround started when Jon Robinson took the helm and provided Mariota with tools to succeed.
The team struggled in Mariota’s rookie season after being selected with the second overall pick of the 2015 draft, going 3-13. But even in that tenuous season Mariota broke franchise and NFL records.
That was the last losing season with the franchise qb under center.
Injuries and inconsistency has largely overshadowed Mariota’s stellar play when the pressure mounts and the game is on the line. He is one of the league leaders in 4th quarter comebacks since entering the league.
He also has a playoff road win under his belt in a signature game for the ages.
For all of his detractors, the Titans have been in the playoff race every year for the last three years with Mariota, and if healthy, the team should be in playoff contention once again this year.
2. Taylor Lewan – TEmbed from Getty Images
Lewan was taken with the 11th overall pick of the 2014 draft, and by season’s end, most people wondered why the Titans chose him with Odell Beckham Jr still on the board.
After three consecutive Pro Bowl nods, no one is asking that question in Tennessee anymore.
Lewan’s rise was meteoric given his sub par rookie campaign, and he is now firmly entrenched as the heart, soul, and vocal leader of the franchise.
The tenacity and passion in which he plays the game has filtered through the locker room, transforming a fractured group of individuals into the band of brothers you see today.
1. Jurrell Casey – DTEmbed from Getty Images
Long before “In J-Rob we trust”, Tennessee’s third round pick (2011) out of USC was quietly laying the foundation to become arguably one of the best draft picks in the franchise’s short history.
Casey was just voted to his 4th consecutive Pro Bowl last season after earning second team All Pro honors in 2013.
Not flashy or controversial off the field, Casey just quietly goes about his business of being one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league that few people out side of Nashville knows.
And as long as he’s winning and productive, that’s fine by him.