Tennessee Titans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss – Round 2
Titans general manager Jon Robinson has not been all that effective at giving Marcus Mariota receiving talent to work with. Corey Davis has been okay, but not as good as a top-five pick should be. The other receivers on Tennessee’s roster are rather average, but Robinson made a move to help change that with A.J. Brown in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Brown was an underrated receiver throughout the draft process, and I think he could turn into a good starter for Tennessee.

Brown had a strong debut as a freshman, notching 29 receptions for 412 yards with two touchdowns in 2016. He was even better as a sophomore, when he 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns despite playing for a bad team that lost its starting quarterback to injury.

What really sets Brown apart is what he can do as a possessional receiver. He is a dangerous receiver who is not a burner with rare speed, but he makes up for it with polish and physicality. With good route-running and strong, reliable hands, Brown is a chain mover who does the dirty work in the short to intermediate part of the field.

Brown is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He uses his well-built frame to break tackles and is very difficult for a lot of defensive backs to get on the ground. His strength to run through their hands makes it difficult for them to get a hold of him. While he isn’t super elusive and is more straight line, Brown does have the feet to dodge some tacklers in the open field. For the NFL, Brown has tremendous yards-after-the catch potential and could be a great fit in a west coast offense.

With his strength and ability to catch the ball in traffic, Brown is a nice weapon in the red zone. He tracks the ball well and uses late hands to make the reception. He flashes his strength to make contested catches and win 50-50 passes. As a pro, Brown is going to have to win on contested catches because he won’t be a receiver who generates separation. But he has shown the ability win 50-50 passes and outfight defensive backs using his thick frame and strength to get the better of them.

The Titans do not have a lot of talented veterans standing in Brown’s way from becoming a starter. While it may not happen as a rookie, I think eventually Brown will earn a starting spot and be a solid starter during the majority of his NFL career.

2018: Dane Cruikshank, S
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

Nate Davis, G, Charlotte – Round 3
The Titans’ offensive line was a disappointment in 2018, so it is understandable that they drafted Davis. Right tackle Jack Conklin has really struggled, and the former first-round pick had his fifth-year option declined by the Titans. Given Conklin’s struggles, he could be a candidate to move inside to guard, which is the position he probably should have been playing since entering the NFL out of Michigan State. The Titans signed Rodger Saffold in free agency, so it could be difficult for Davis to get any playing time.

Davis (6-3, 316) had a decent week at the Senior Bowl, but he needs development for the NFL and will see big jump in competition. Of Tennessee’s early-round selections, Davis looks like he has the most bust potential to me.

2018: Nate Davis, G
2017: Taywan Taylor, WR
2016: Kevin Dodd, DE
2015: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
2014: Marqueston Huff, S
2013: Zavier Gooden, LB

Potential Boom Pick

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State – Round 1
After the college football season, Simmons looked like a top-10 pick for the 2019 NFL Draft. However, a torn ACL in combine preparation caused him to slide to Tennessee in the back half of the first round. While he may miss his rookie season, Simmons could be a boom pick for the Titans once he gets back onto the field because he is extremely talented with a lot of upside.

The NFL is driven by passing, leaving teams always on the lookout for interior pass-rushers. They are a tough commodity to find, and getting to the quarterback from the inside is the fastest method to put pressure on a quarterback. Thus, Simmons (6-4, 301) is going to intrigue a lot of evaluators even though his rookie season could be lost to ACL rehab.

Simmons is a dangerous interior rusher. He is fast at the point of attack with the speed to fire a gap and charge down the pocket. He has a real burst to close with athleticism to redirect and uses his speed to chase down the signal-caller. Simmons puts a lot of quick pressure on the quarterback to get them off their landmark and harass thm. On top of his speed, Simmons has real power to bull rush through blockers and heavy hands to shed blockers. With a strong lower body, Simmons is able to ride blockers straight back into the pocket by getting them on roller skates. With his combination of speed and power, Simmons is a dynamic interior rusher.

As a run defender, Simmons is pretty sound at the point of attack. He gets in trouble when he stands up too high, but he has the strength in his base to anchor when he plays with good leverage. Simmons uses his speed to chase down ball-carriers outside of his gap, and he blows up a lot of run plays by creating havoc in the backfield. Simmons is at his best when he uses his great skill set to get upfield and cause disruption off the snap.

Simmons is also extremely versatile, possessing the ability to be a three-technique tackle in a 4-3 or play five-technique defensive end in a 3-4. With DaQuan Jones on the other side, Simmons could be a boom pick for Tennessee and end up being one of the steals of the 2019 NFL Draft.

2018: Rashaan Evans, LB
2017: Adoree’ Jackson, CB
2016: Derrick Henry, RB
2015: Marcus Mariota, QB
2014: Taylor Lewan, OT
2013: Chance Warmack, G

Future Depth Player

D’Andre Walker, LB, Georgia – Round 5
The Titans signed Cameron Wake but were in need of a solid backup edge rusher behind the aging veteran. They then landed Walker in the fifth round, which was good value. Walker recorded 45 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three passes batted in 2018. He was a nice replacement for Lorenzo Carter, showing a nice ability to blitz off the edge. Walker finished his career playing really well for Georgia and had a real presence off the edge. Walker (6-2, 251) may not have the size, speed, or athleticism to become a three-down starter in the NFL, but he could be a good depth player who rotates into the game and contributes in the pass rush. Walker should make for a fine backup to Wake and Harold Landry.

2018: Luke Falk, QB
2017: Jonnu Smith, TE
2016: Tajae Sharpe, WR
2015: David Cobb, RB
2014: Zach Mettenberger, QB
2013: Justin Hunter, WR

Walt’s 2019 NFL Draft Grades:

19. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State B Grade
This is a very interesting pick. If Jeffery Simmons hadn’t torn his ACL, he would’ve been drafted in the top 10; perhaps even as high as No. 4 overall. There’s also a video of Simmons hitting a woman when he was in high school, but he was defending his sister, and he has grown since. He has turned his life around, so this should not be an issue going forward. The only worry here with Simmons is that the Titans won’t be able to use him in 2019, which might be a make-or-break year for Marcus Mariota. Shouldn’t the Titans have gotten Mariota some help? Probably, but Simmons is such an outstanding talent that I can’t grade this poorly.

51. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss A+ Grade
This is another favorite pick of mine. A.J. Brown was a spectacular player at Ole Miss, unlike D.K. Metcalf. Brown would’ve been even more productive in school if the program wasn’t such a mess at the very end. I thought Brown should’ve gone in the back end of the first round, so I absolutely love this value. Brown also fills a need across from Corey Davis.

82. Nate Davis, G/OT, Charlotte B+ Grade
Nate Davis played tackle at Charlotte, but he’ll slide inside to guard in the pros. He’ll fill a huge need for the Titans, who surrendered 11 sacks to the Ravens in a game last year. That cannot happen again, and Davis will help. Davis is a better run blocker at this stage, so he’ll open some big running lanes for Derrick Henry. He fits the range in the third round.

116. Amani Hooker, S/CB/LB, Iowa A- Grade
Amani Hooker provides solid value in the middle of the fourth round, as I thought there was a good chance he could sneak into the back end of Day 2. Hooker is very versatile, as he can play safety, cornerback and even linebacker. He’ll be a nice chess piece for the Titans’ defense.

168. D’Andre Walker, DE/OLB, Georgia A+ Grade
I don’t understand why D’Andre Walker fell to the fifth round, and if the NFL Network would stop showing promos of NFL100, we may have been told why. Walker was a terrific player over the past two years at Georgia. He can rush the passer well, hold up against the run and drop into coverage. The Titans had a big need at outside linebacker, and Walker should be able to fill it.

188. David Long, LB, West Virginia A Grade
I had David Long being chosen in the fourth round, so I love the value the Titans are getting at this selection. Long is undersized and needs to improve his tackling ability, but he’s a speedy player who should do well in coverage. Long should provide a boost on special teams as well.

2019 NFL Draft Team Grade: A . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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