Tennessee Titans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Dane Cruikshank, S, Arizona – Round 5
With the Titans not having a third- of fourth-round pick, I have to go on a limb for this prediction and select a late-rounder who could develop into a solid starter. While Cruikshank has some flaws as a player, he has physical upside to develop in the NFL.

Cruikshank went under the radar at Arizona, but the 6-foot-1, 209-pounder is a talented defensive back who also has speed. He ran an electric 40-yard dash of 4.41 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine that illustrated his tremendous combination of size and speed. Cruikshank didn’t always play that fast, but he did have a good senior year at cornerback with 75 tackles with five passes broken up, one forced fumble and three interceptions. He also was impressive at the East-West Shrine in St. Petersburg, Florida. Cruikshank has a lot of untapped potential to develop in the NFL.

The Titans needed to upgrade their safety talent because Jonathan Cyprien was a mistake as a free agent signing prior to the 2017 season. Tennessee could use an upgrade to go next to Kevin Byard, and Cruikshank has the skill set to make the transition to safety. The only issue with this move is that Cruikshank needs to get a lot more physical as he is a finesse player. The lack of physicality hurt Cruikshank’s draft grade with teams. As a safety, he will have to get tougher and stronger to tackle NFL running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. Still, he has the skill set to make the change with his size, speed and athleticism. I think Cruikshank has the potential to develop into a solid starter.

2017: Corey Davis, WR
2016: Jack Conklin, OT
2015: Jalston Fowler, FB
2014: Bishop Sankey, RB
2013: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB

Most Likely To Bust

Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College – Round 2
Days before the draft I wrote, “Of the first-round candidates, [sources] say some of the top candidates for Tennessee include Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard, Boston College defensive end Harold Landry, and Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.” Surprisingly, Tennessee was able to get two of those three players after trading up for both Evans and Landry.

The Titans only drafted four players, taking only two players in the first four rounds. Tennessee had zero picks in Rounds 3 and 4, with one pick in the fifth round and one in the sixth round. The vast majority of third-day picks don’t make it in the NFL. In fact, less than 50 percent of second-round picks do, according to teams internal data analysis that was shared with me from sources. Thus, I limit my bust pick to being a player selected in the first three rounds. I only have two players to pick from, and I think there is more risk of Landry not working out rather than Rashaan Evans.

In the ground game, the 6-foot-2, 252-pound Landry needs to be protected in the NFL. Landry’s run defense was awful in 2017. He struggled to get off blocks and didn’t look that interested in fighting to hold his ground or get in on tackles – see the Notre Dame and Clemson games. Landry’s run defense was a liability when he was on the field, and he has to get much better in the NFL to become a three-down starter.

When he’s healthy, Landry is a dangerous pass-rusher off the edge. He is a pure speed defender who consistently explodes into the backfield. Landry shows some moves with a spin, cuts to the inside, and speed around the corner. In the NFL, he should be at least a designated pass-rusher and a situational player. However as a second-round pick, he is expected to become a starter, and being a backup role player would not be good value for a second-round selection.

Sources from teams that liked Landry and had him in the running for their early-round picks were worried that Landry could be a bust. “There’s a big hole with Landry and just a minimal track record of successful NFL rushers at his size with his athletic profile, but he’s got some damn good tape,” said one top evaluator at a playoff team. Thus, of Tennessee’s two early-round picks I think Landry has the most potential to be a bust.

2017: Taywan Taylor, WR
2016: Kevin Dodd, DE
2015: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
2014: Marqueston Huff, S
2013: Zavier Gooden, LB

Potential Boom Pick

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama – Round 1
Entering the offseason, adding inside linebacker talent was a point of emphasis for Tennessee. The team needed a starter to go next to Wesley Woodyard and could use some youth in the middle of the defense. The Titans also needed to add some pass-rushing talent to rotate with outside linebackers Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. Tennessee traded up in order to help address both issues with Evans.

As a run defender, Evans is solid. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and is excellent in pursuit to chase down ball-carriers. He is a hard tackler and can take on power backs. In pass coverage, Evans is a fast linebacker who covers a lot of ground. He is athletic to run with backs, tight ends, and he even helped contribute some in coverage on slot receivers. Evans is reliable and comfortable in zone coverage with the ability to quickly pick up targets running into his area.

Perhaps the single part of the game that Evans does best is rush the passer. He is explosive off the edge and gives even good left tackles some problems. Evans closes on the quarterback in a blur and packs a serious punch when he gets home. Evans uses his speed and athleticism to dart by blockers or spin away from them. He also is smart about when he should fire his gun and chase down the quarterback.

With some experience and development, I think Evans could be a dynamic defender with a big presence for Tennessee. He could be a solid run defender, a capable pass protector, and an impactful pass-rusher. Evans could end up being a boom pick who is a center piece for Mike Vrabel’s defense.

2017: Adoree’ Jackson, CB
2016: Derrick Henry, RB
2015: Marcus Mariota, QB
2014: Taylor Lewan, OT
2013: Chance Warmack, G

Future Depth Player

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State – Round 6
The Titans could use a solid backup quarterback to protect themselves if there’s an injury to Marcus Mariota. Falk has a lot of good traits that lead to him being a potentially good backup quarterback. His best and most impressive trait is his accuracy. Falk is a precise passer who has very good ball placement. He leads receivers downfield and throws them open with where he locates his passes. Falk possesses enough arm strength and throws good touch passes. He has pocket presence while throwing with good timing and anticipation. He is a good rhythm passer who would be a nice fit in a West Coast offense. Before long, Falk could easily replace Blaine Gabbert as Tennessee’s primary backup to Mariota.

2017: Jonnu Smith, TE
2016: Tajae Sharpe, WR
2015: David Cobb, RB
2014: Zach Mettenberger, QB
2013: Justin Hunter, WR

Walt’s 2018 NFL Draft Grades:

22. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama A- Grade
The Titans lost Avery Williamson in free agency, so they had to replace him. With Leighton Vander Esch being taken off the board, there was just one first-round inside linebacker remaining, so I like the Titans taking the initiative and moving up three spots to secure him. Tennessee also needed an edge rusher, but those will be available in Round 2. A player like Evans would not be.

41. Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College A- Grade
Many believe this is a huge steal for the Titans. It’s definitely a nice bargain, as Harold “Arnold” Landry (thanks, Vince Young) could’ve been chosen in the 20s, but he wasn’t this excellent, top-20 prospect some people touted him to be. Some teams we spoke to had a second-round grade on him, and they turned out to be right. However, I like this selection, as Landry is one of the top players available who fills a big need on the edge.

152. Dane Cruikshank, S/CB, Arizona B+ Grade
Dane Cruikshank is a very athletic safety who might be able to play cornerback. His natural position might be safety, however, and the Titans needed to find someone to challenge the disappointing John Cyprien. Cruikshank could’ve gone a bit earlier than this.

199. Luke Falk, QB, Washington State B+ Grade
I wasn’t a fan of Luke Falk going in the middle rounds. He has all the bad traits someone like Drew Bledsoe used to have without the good ones. He takes forever to release the ball in the pocket, and he has no mobility at all. Still, I like the value here, and the fit makes sense because the Titans needed a solid backup.

2018 NFL Draft Team Grade: A . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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