Tennessee Titans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Monty Rice, LB, Georgia – Round 3
The Titans needed more talent in the middle of their defense, and they were fortunate to land a tough linebacker like Rice in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Rice was a really good player for Georgia over the past few years, and he was a sleeper steal who could turn into a solid starter for Tennessee early in his career.

The 6-foot, 235-pound Rice has three-down starting potential for the NFL as a middle linebacker. He is tough defender in the tackle box thanks to his strenght, thickness and quickness. Rice is instinctive against the run, really developed the mental side of his game. He shows very good anticipation that leads to him getting in good position to make a stop. With his excellent diagnosis skills, Rice reads his keys quickly and doesn’t take false steps while getting in good position to make tackles. He also is a sure tackler who has good fundamentals. The thick build and strength allow Rice to take on blocks, and he is a physical presence in the tackle box.

In pass coverage, Rice’s instincts and discipline are impressive. He does not bite on play action or misdirection, which is rare sight for a college linebacker, especially one that comes from a conference that still features rushing attacks. Rice is able to read routes and moves well in zone coverage. He also shows some man-coverage ability on tight ends.

The Titans have veteran inside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown at the moment, but in a year or two, they could get younger and cheaper by turning to Rice as a replacement for Evans. Tennessee declined Evans’ fifth-year option, so the writing is on the wall that he could be let go if he doesn’t produce a big 2021 season. I think Rice could end up being a better pro, and it would not surprise me if he turns into a solid starter for Tennessee during his rookie contract.

2020: Kristian Fulton, CB
2019: A.J. Brown, WR
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

Elijah Molden, CB, Washington – Round 3
The Titans made their second addition to their defensive back coprs in the 2021 NFL Draft when they took Molden in the third round. Tennessee lost multiple cornerback veterans, including Adoree’ Jackson, in the offseason. Caleb Farley, Janoris Jenkins, and Kevin Johnson might form a starting trio for the Titans, which could let them move Molden to safety. Molden is a tweener cornerback/safety who some teams had graded on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft, so he was a bit of a reach for Tennessee.

While Molden (5-9, 192) is an instinctive defender, he has real skill set limitations for the NFL. Molden is short, underweight, and does not have special speed to make up for his size. As a pro, he could lack the fluidity in movement to be a cover corner in the slot. He also may not have the deep speed that teams like their deep free safeties to possess. Given his short stature, Molden is always going to have issues with defenders making catches over him. Molden can have issues biting on play-action because he is such an aggressive defender, but he could develop more discipline in the NFL. As a pro, Molden’s best fit could come as a safety, but he’d have to be one who is schematically used in ways that highlight his strengths and mask his weaknesses.

The Titans have a good free safety in Kevin Byard. Molden lacks the size of a strong safety and could struggle to play man against tight ends. If Molden does rotate in to free safety, he could have problems with receivers making receptions over him downfield. Hence I could see Molden not translating to the NFL and being a potential bust for Tennessee.

2020: Darrynton Evans, RB
2019: Nate Davis, G
2018: Harold Landry, DE
2017: Taywan Taylor, WR
2016: Kevin Dodd, DE
2015: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
2014: Marqueston Huff, S
2013: Zavier Gooden, LB

Potential Boom Pick

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech – Round 1
Tennessee had big holes at cornerback and right tackle entering the 2021 NFL Draft, and the organization was fortunate to land a potentially elite corner like Farley at pick No. 22. If Farley didn’t have back surgery earlier in 2021, he probably would have been the first cornerback and first defensive player selected. Th legitimate durability concerns, however, caused Farley to slide to Tennessee. Titans general manager Jon Robinson previously took an injury risk in the first round with Jeff Simmons, which has worked out, but after a horrible pick in Isaiah Wilson last year, Farley was boom-or-bust selection for Robinson. If he can stay healthy, he should be a boom pick.

There is no doubt that Farley (6-2, 207) has an excellent skill set with very good height, length, and agility. He has closing speed that gives him recoverability to eat up ground and delete separation. With his speed, Farley is able to run with receivers downfield and keep them from getting open in the deep part of the field. Farley has the agility and enough twitch to run routes and prevent separation. Farley showed vastly improved route recognition in 2019 and did a nice job of not biting on double moves.

Along with being big and fast, Farley has some ball skills and is a threat to snatch passes for turnovers. He uses his length to make it difficult to get passes by him and a nice ability to slap passes away when he can’t catch the ball. With his size and physicality, Farley shows solid technique to jam wideouts and knock them off their routes. He could fit in any pro scheme, as he is capable of playing off-man, press-man and zone.

Farley still has areas he could stand to improve. Farley can be late getting his head turned around to track the ball in flight at times. He is a physical defender who flashes tackling and hitting ability, but he could stand to improve his tackling fundamentals for the NFL because he does miss some tackles at times.

Farley enters the NFL with serious medical concerns. He tore and ACL in 2017, had a back injury throughout 2019, and then underwent back surgery in 2021. I think the Titans will have a steal on their hands if Farley can stay healthy. He has a No. 1 corner skill set with Pro Bowl potential, but he could be another big and avoidable bust for Robinson if he continues to suffer injuries. Thus like Wilson and Simmons, Robinson took a real boom-or-bust gamble with Farley.

2020: Isaiah Wilson, OT
2019: Jeff Simmons, DT
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

Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh – Round 4
I think Weaver was a nice value pick by the Titans in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He had multiple good seasons for the Panthers, getting after the quarterback and causing disruption in the backfield. While he has some speed and athletic limitations for the NFL, I think he is a good fit in the Titans’ 3-4 scheme and could work his way into being a rotational five-technique defensive end who can provide some good snaps. Over his last two full seasons of playing time, Weaver collected 14 sacks and was a tough run defender. He may lack elite speed and agility to become a three-down starter as a pro, but Weaver could turn into a solid rotational backup and good depth player.

2020: Larrell Murchison, DT
2019: D’Andre Walker, LB
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 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

22. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech – B- Grade
This is another pick that is incredibly difficult to grade. Caleb Farley would have been in the same pantheon as Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain if he didn’t have any medical concerns. Unfortunately, Farley was one of the riskiest players in this class in regard to health. If he can remain on the field, he’ll be a shutdown cornerback for the Titans. However, there’s a decent chance he won’t be able to stay on the field at all. Again, players like Farley and Jaelan Phillips often fall, so I’m surprised that didn’t happen.

53. Dillon Radunz, OT, Notre Dame – B Grade
The Titans have lost three right tackles in the span of two offseasons, so this was a position they needed to address. This is fine value for Dillon Radunz, but the one concern I have is that Radunz won’t have the length to stay at tackle, so he may have to move inside.

92. Monty Rice, LB, Rice – B Grade
The Titans needed a linebacker. Then again, they needed to address every single position on defense. Monty Rice is a solid linebacker prospect I’ve been mocking around the middle of the third round, so I like this value for Tennessee.

100. Elijah Molden, CB, Washington – C Grade
The Titans are filling a need. Then again, everything is a need for them on defense. This includes slot cornerback in the wake of Adoree Jackson’s departure. Elijah Molden is a gritty and tough cornerback, but he’s small and slow, which doesn’t bode well for him. I had him in the fifth round.

109. Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville – C- Grade
I wouldn’t have minded if the Titans drafted Dez Fitzpatrick with their natural pick in the fourth round, but I don’t get why they moved up for him. There are several quality receivers still remaining, and I don’t think Fitzpatrick stood out from the rest of them. Fitzpatrick was great in the Senior Bowl, but I don’t think that warranted this sort of move, even if it fills the void that Corey Davis’ departure created.

135. Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh – A+ Grade
The Titans signed Bud Dupree, but still needed to find an edge rusher because they couldn’t apply any pressure on the quarterback last year. Rashad Weaver is a second-round talent who fell because of his injury history. He’s very athletic and possesses high upside, so I love this selection.

205. Racey McMath, WR, LSU – B Grade
I never had Racey McMath in my mock drafts, but he nearly made the cut at the end. McMath is a big receiver, so he could be used as a possible replacement for Corey Davis. There’s some upside here, so this is a fine pick.

215. Brady Breeze, S, Oregon – B- Grade
Safety was a big need for the Titans entering the offseason. They didn’t address it until now, but I’m not sure if Brady Breeze is the answer. His size and athleticism are both mediocre.

2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: B-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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