Whether the Tennessee Titans aced the 2022 NFL Draft seems to be entirely dependent on how the A.J. Brown trade is perceived.
Taking Brown out of the equation for a moment, the Titans addressed a lot of needs and filled a lot of holes.
They added a Brown clone with first-round pick Treylon Burks, and may have picked the tight end of the future in Chig Okonkwo, who many have compared to former Titans TE Jonnu Smith.
Tennessee also solidified the secondary with second-round cornerback Roger McCreary and UT safety Theo Jackson. If 2021 first-round pick Caleb Farley recovers well from his torn ACL, the Titans, who also have Kristian Fulton and Elijah Molden, could have one of the top, young cornerback groups in the NFL in a year or two.
General manager Jon Robinson also added a big, physical presence at both offensive line and running back with both Nicholas Petit-Frere, a 6-foot-5, 316-pound OL from head coach Mike Vrabel’s alma mater Ohio State, and Hassan Haskins, a bruising runner from Ohio State rival and left tackle Taylor Lewan’s alma mater Michigan.
Oh, and Robinson may have had the Titans’ quarterback of the future fall into his lap in the middle of the third round in Liberty QB Malik Willis, who many draft experts projected to be a top-15 pick.
We broke down the Burks pick in great detail earlier, so here’s a further look at what to expect out of Tennessee’s 2022 draft class:
Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
A first team All-SEC and first team All-American in 2021, McCreary is a nice insurance plan if last year’s first rounder Caleb Farley isn’t quite healthy enough to start the season. McCreary’s 14 pass break ups led the SEC and he’s seemingly always around the ball. His cover skills could translate to a shutdown corner in the NFL, and he excels at taking away space of the receiver he’s covering.
“I know when you press play [on his game tape] he is close to his guy, and he is competitive, no nonsense,” Vrabel said. “Every tape that we watched he is close to his guy, and they all get beat. It's fun watching him in that Alabama game, and those guys all got drafted high. He was covering them pretty well.”
Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State
A versatile offensive lineman, Petit-Frere has the athleticism to seal off gaps and make blocks in space. He’s still a developing blocker who needs time to learn how to not get beaten by stronger, faster players. The Titans seem content with Jamarco Jones at left guard and Dillon Radunz at right tackle to start the season, but Petit-Frere could slide in at either spot if one of them struggles.
“[He’s] extremely intelligent,” Robinson said. “I like the fact that he has played a couple of different spots and he has played a couple of different spots in-game. He has kicked over to the right side, kicked over to the left side in a game, and that's sometimes a tough transition for players to do that.”
Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
Considered the top quarterback in the draft by many draft experts, Willis’ fall could be Tennessee’s gain if he reaches his enormously high ceiling. The Titans have the luxury of sitting Willis behind Ryan Tannehill this season and letting him work with quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara and offensive assistant Tim Kelly to prepare him for 2023. He has a canon for an arm and excels when scrambling from the pocket, as is evidenced by his FBS-leading 91.3 passer rating when throwing on the run.
“You saw guys rally and playing hard when he had the ball in his hands, trying to block guys to free them up, and excited when he would make a big throw,” Robinson said. “He knows he has to come in here and earn the respect of new teammates, and that was one at the top of his to-do list when I spoke to him.”
Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan
The Darrynton Evans experiment didn’t quite work out. Enter Haskins, a 6-foot-2, 228-pound runner who doesn’t shy away from contact. Similar to D’Onta Foreman, Haskins is a downhill runner who can wear a defense down with his patience and physicality. He uses his stiff-arm as a weapon, much like Derrick Henry, and he should help reduce the wear and tear on Henry over the course of a 17-game season.
“Stylistically, Haskins is more of -- he is a downhill, between-the-tackle, stretch-and-cut runner,” Robinson said. “His long speed is good. I don't think he is going to be a 4.2 guy in the open field, but it's usually the first guy doesn't bring him down very easily. I like stylistically the way he carries a football.”
Chigoziem Okonkwo, TE, Maryland
The Titans didn’t find a suitable replacement for Jonnu Smith last year but they may have something in Okonkwo, who’s been compared to Smith but with a little more speed. He has plenty of athleticism to flat out beat linebackers or go up and get the ball from a defensive back. Look for him to be used plenty on screen plays or a few end-arounds. Not the best blocker — something he’ll have to develop if he wants to stick in Tennessee’s offense — Okonkwo can be brought along slowly behind Austin Hooper in Year 1.
“Chig is speed,” Robinson said. “[He] stretched the seam vertical, get the ball in his hands. He is competitive at the point. I think he may have been the fastest tight end at the combine or something.”
Kyle Philips, WR, UCLA
If Okonkwo is a Smith replica, Philips is an Adam Humphries replica. He is primarily a slot receiver with quickness and agility to turn a play once the ball is in his hands. He needs to learn how to run better routes and how to create separation between himself and defensive backs. Philips will likely see the bulk of his playing time on special teams, where he was a solid punt returner at UCLA.
“[He’s] confident, fields it well, gets one cut, gets upfield,” Robinson said. “He is not trying to circle up on the return game and bounce it outside. … Make sure you field it cleanly, quickly transition your eyes down and find the coverage, make one guy miss and then get vertical.”
Theo Jackson, S, Tennessee
Working mostly as a nickel corner for the Vols, Jackson adds solid depth at CB and safety behind Kevin Byard and Amani Hooker. More of a physical defensive back, Jackson led SEC DBs with nine tackles for loss and ranked second in the conference with 12 pass breakups.
“The coaches at Tennessee, when you are asking about their prospects, just continue to rave about Theo and what he meant to their football team,” Robinson said. “He plays safety. He played some nickel. Can play some outside corner. Kind of a versatile piece there in the secondary. … The thing we liked about Theo (Jackson) is we do think he has a home in the kicking game, and I like his versatility on defense.”
Chance Campbell, LB, Ole Miss
Campbell seems to fit the Mike Vrabel mold of linebacker perfectly: big, strong, and aggressive. While he’s not the best in coverage, Campbell makes his money close to the line of scrimmage. A true stay-at-home LB, Campbell is good at attacking blocks and getting to runners quickly.
“I think that he's traditionally been more of a downhill between-the-tackles type of linebacker, which certainly lends itself well to special teams,” Robinson sad. “But I think that his intelligence and his savviness is there as an overall football player.”
Undrafted free agents:
Reggie Roberson Jr., WR, SMU
Tre Swilling, CB, Georgia Tech
David Anenih, pass rusher, Houston
Jayden Peevy, DT, Texas A&M
Michael Griffin II, DB, South Dakota State
Ryan Stonehouse, P, Colorado State
Haskell Garrett, DT, Ohio State
Sam Okuayinoua, pass rusher, Maryland
Caleb Shudak, K, Iowa
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