Tennessee Titans General Manager Jon Robinson may have landed the best cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Conversely, Robinson may have also taken the biggest risk of any other GM in the first round when he drafted Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley with the No. 22 pick.
Farley’s selection marks the third straight year the Titans have used their first-round pick on a high-risk, high-reward player. For Robinson’s sake, he’s hoping Farley turns out more like defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons then offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson.
“We certainly thought that he was a premium player on our board,” Robinson said. “We had a lot of good grades from our scouts, from our coaches. We watched a lot of film on him. [He offers an] explosive skill set that's going to help our football team.”
Farley, who many projected to be the top cornerback in the draft prior to his opting out the 2021 season, fell to the early 20s presumably due to the microdiscectomy he underwent prior to the draft to clear up some lingering back issues.
The 22-year-old has already had two back surgeries, which likely scared off many of the franchises drafting ahead of Tennessee.
“I'm no doctor, but our medical staff [has] dealt with a lot of injuries in the National Football League, and they feel confident [Farley is healthy],” Robinson said. “We spoke to him several times and said he was he was feeling great after having the latest procedure, and I have the utmost confidence he's going to attack the process to get himself ready as soon as possible.”
The Titans could have easily drafted a receiver at No. 22 with Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman or Terrace Marshall Jr., all fine options to replace Corey Davis. Tennessee could have even gone after an edge rusher to bolster the league’s third-worst pass rush last season with Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh or Jeremiah Owusu-Karamorah all still available at the time.
But after losing Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson and Desmond King II, Farley’s upside was too much to pass up for a fledgling secondary that will be breaking in two new players in Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson and depending on second-year corner Kristian Fulton to take a big leap in his development after playing in just six games as a rookie.
“We spent time with him and got medicals on him and had follow up phone calls to talk to trainers at Virginia Tech ... and really got a detailed breakdown of what he's been doing and how he attacks everything. And everybody spoke glowingly of that,” Robinson said. “I've had follow-up conversations with our medical team several times about Caleb because we had such an affinity form, and again, just excited that he was there were left we were able to pick him.”
Farley had to spend the majority of his pre-draft interviews with organizations assuring them he is healthy enough to play in 2021. Fortunately for him, the Titans have a soft spot for top-10 talents coming off major injuries who happen to fall in the draft.
“Neither his agent nor anybody else knows when he's going to be ready,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We've been down this road before. I’m not going to compare him to what Jeffrey Simmons might have went through — different injuries, different players — so we're confident and comfortable and that's why we took him. We’re extremely excited, but we're not going to sit here and try to give everybody a timeline of when that may happen.”
Added Farley about being selected later in the draft than he would have hoped: “It's just frustrating. You get to a point where ... you want a team to draft that you believes in you. And if you don't believe in me, then play against me.”
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