Three weeks ago, nearly every NFL Draft analyst had the Tennessee Titans selecting an edge rusher or outside linebacker.
But after signing linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive lineman Denico Autry, pass rush is no longer the team’s No. 1 need.
Jon Robinson could use a redo from last year’s first round debacle Isaiah Wilson, and the Titans did cut Dennis Kelly two weeks ago. But offensive tackle isn’t the team’s most pressing need. A case could be made that Tennessee’s main areas of weakness are now receiver and cornerback.
Receiver Josh Reynolds is a solid free agent addition, but he’s not Corey Davis. The rest of the Titans’ wide receiver room is composed of Cameron Batson, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Rashard Davis, Cody Hollister, Mason Kinsey and Chester Rogers, who combined for 16 receptions, 145 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. It would make full sense for Tennessee to use either its first- or second-round pick on a wideout.
A few draft analysts have abandoned the pass rush bandwagon and have instead mocked a receiver to the Titans at No. 22:
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN – Kadarius Toney, Florida
“With Corey Davis leaving in free agency, this is a really thin wide receiver depth chart behind A.J. Brown. Toney could have a few different suitors in this range, and Ryan Tannehill would love him. Toney could contribute as a dynamic receiver, runner and returner. And new offensive coordinator Todd Downing should get him the ball 10 times a game. Toney will do damage out of the slot: In his career, he averaged 15.6 yards per catch when lined up in the slot, adding 10 scores.”
Austin Gayle, Pro Football Focus - Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
"Losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith in the same offseason should put Tennessee in a prime position to target a wide receiver at No. 22 overall, and Elijah Moore would be a huge value for Ryan Tannehill and company. Moore was one of the most productive receivers in the country for Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, finishing the 2020 season with the third-highest PFF receiving grade in the country (92.4)."
Chad Reuter, NFL.com – Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
“Tennessee signed Josh Reynolds as a free agent to help replace [Davis], but the Titans still need another pass catcher. Bateman can play in the slot to replace the released Adam Humphries, with Reynolds and A.J. Brown on the outside. He's also capable of lining up outside, using his speed and body control to win down the seam or along the sideline.”
Ethan Cadeaux, NBC Sports – Bateman
“That need at receiver doesn't last long, though, as the Titans select Minnesota standout Rashod Bateman here, who's established himself as one of the best receivers in college football since he stepped on campus for the Golden Gophers.”
While the Titans certainly have a case for drafting a receiver with their first-round pick, they could also make an equally strong case for taking a cornerback. Tennessee saved over $20 million by releasing Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson, but free agent additions Janoris Jenkins and Kevin Johnson don’t fully compensate for their losses.
Kristian Fulton is expected to take hold of one of the starting cornerback spots opposite Jenkins. But Breon Borders, Kareem Orr and Tye Smith leave much to be desired from the NFL’s fourth-worst passing defense from a year ago.
Several draft analysts believe adding another corner to pair with Fulton and Jenkins could be in Tennessee’s best interest:
Nick Farabuagh, Pro Football Focus – Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
“He could only fall so far. Caleb Farley’s microdiscectomy is certainly a topic of discussion, considering this is his second procedure on his back. However, it is so rare to find elite freak athletes with pure coverage abilities that Caleb Farley possesses. After releasing Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson, the Titans have to address the position. Luckily, Farley can be that No. 1 cornerback they’re searching for, and his value here is tremendous in this 4-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.”
Rob Rang, Fox Sports – Farley
“The addition of Janoris Jenkins helps but after moving on from former first-round pick Adoree Jackson, as well as Malcolm Butler, the Titans will be looking hard at cornerbacks in this year’s draft. Farley is viewed by some as a top 10 talent. Tennessee won big gambling on the recovery of defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons two years ago and may not be as concerned with the back injuries, which could push Farley down the board.”
Joe Rexrode, The Athletic – Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
"Am I being too optimistic to think that Horn will still be there at No. 22? Maybe, especially after the son of former NFL receiver Joe Horn lit it up at his pro day — running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and showing off a 41.5-inch vertical. Robinson and Mike Vrabel were on hand, by the way. And Horn seems to be exactly what they want, a big, physical corner who loves to play press-man and take on challenges. In other words, a young Malcolm Butler with more speed (yes, pro day times are typically quite favorable, but that’s quite a number)."
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com – Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
“After moving on from Adoree' Jackson, the Titans could opt for a steady cover corner with a well-rounded set of skills.”
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com – Newsome
“Newsome could answer Tennessee's need for a cornerback with good tape, a strong pro day and an impressive level of competitiveness.”
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