Tennessee Titans Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn – Round 2
Tennessee needed more talent at cornerback to go with Caleb Farley, and they came away with an excellent value in McCreary. There were a number of teams eyeing McCreary early in the second round because he was a proven cover corner with multiple years of good tape from playing against top competition in the SEC. McCreary has some size limitations that hurt him for the next level, but he is a safe player to turn into a quality NFL starter.

McCreary is a smooth cover cornerback who is very skilled at not allowing separation. He is a natural man-to-man corner who can run the route and blanket receivers. While McCreary does not have great size, he is fast and twitchy to run with wide outs to keep them from getting open. McCreary’s fluid agility helps him flip his hips and run with wide receives vertically and keep them from breaking open downfield.

With quality instincts and ball skills, McCreary does not have to resort to contact to break up passes as he is patient, doesn’t panic, and does a nice job of slapping the ball away. Soft hands, instincts, and body control make McCreary a real threat to pick off passes, and it can be very dangerous to throw his direction.

McCreary possesses the versatility to play off-man or press-man coverage. He can play zone as well, but he would be better playing in a man scheme. McCreary also is a willing tackler in run support who will to fly to the ball to make tackles.

The big concern with McCreary is being a touch short and lacking arm length. As a result, some scouts worry about him being an outside corner in the NFL and think he might only fit in the slot. They feel he is a good player, just small.

The Titans have a big corner in Farley who can match up on large receivers. McCreary could take on slot receivers or other outside corners. After some development, McCreary could quickly emerge as a solid starter.

2021: Monty Rice, LB
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

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty – Round 3
Throughout the 2022 NFL Draft process, there was a lot of hype about Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Some draft analysts were projecting Willis as a top-five pick after seeing his powerful arm and running ability at the Senior Bowl. However, pro teams were not that high on Willis, and many NFL team sources said they had a backup grade on Willis, which would make him a mid-round caliber prospect. Thus, they did not feel he had a true slide.

Multiple team sources talked about Willis struggling to see the field and getting blinded by the line in the pocket. They also said that his tape was not that impressive. In 2021, Willis did not produce big results through the air, completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,626 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Playing at Liberty, Willis went against weak competition, yet he was not a dominant passer. One NFL team’s director of player personnel said they went to watch Willis in person against a team that he should have dominated, but instead, Willis put together an ugly performance. Their team was in dire need of a quarterback and passed on Willis repeatedly.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Willis has some raw elements to his game as a passer and needs development. The biggest point of improvement is field vision. He has to get better at reading defenses, working through his progressions, and throwing the ball to the right receiver. Due to his lack of height, Willis can get blinded by the line and does not see the field well consistently. He also does not anticipate receivers coming open and has to see them break open before he pulls the trigger. Team sources have also said Willis has poor awareness, which is something that will need a lot of development. Willis can struggle to operate exclusively as a pocket passer, and NFL defenses could give him problems by containing him on the edges and forcing him to beat them from the pocket.

Willis can have a tendency to stare down his primary read and predetermine where he is going with the ball. He has get better at working through reads and grow much faster at it for the NFL. At Liberty, Willis had a lot of receivers running wide open, and he will need to get comfortable throwing into tighter windows as a pro.

Footwork is another point of improvement for Willis, who can throw flatfooted and sometimes seems too reliant on his arm. Improving his footwork fundamentals in the NFL will make him more accurate.

The Titans have their starter in Ryan Tannehill, so they can groom Willis behind him. While Willis has upside, he might not develop the field vision and pocket-passing skills needed to become a starter. Of the Titans’ early-round picks, Willis looks like the riskiest with the largest bust potential.

2021: Elijah Molden, CB
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

Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas – Round 1
Tennessee made a great pick a few years ago in Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown. After emerging as their No. 1 receiver, Brown was up for a huge contract extension, but the Titans decided to trade away Brown rather than pay him. In my scouting report on Burks, my comparison for him was A.J. Brown because they are virtual clones in terms of skill set and college production from the same SEC division. Burks could be a star, No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

What really sets Burks (6-3, 225) apart is what he can do as a possessional wideout. Burks is a dangerous receiver who is not a burner with rare speed, but he makes up for it with polish and physicality. Via good route-running and strong, reliable hands, Burks is a chain mover who does the dirty work in the short to intermediate part of the field.

Burks 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 hard for them to get a hold of him. While he isn’t super elusive and is more straight line, Burks does have the feet to dodge some tacklers in the open field. For the NFL, Burks has excellent yards-after-the-catch potential, and he could be a great fit in a West Coast offense.

With his height, strength, and ability to catch the ball in traffic, Burks is a nice weapon in the red zone. He also tracks the ball well and uses his hands land in the receiving process. Burks is comfortable using his big frame to shield defenders from the ball and present a good target for his quarterback. He also uses his height, length, and leaping ability to make catches over defensive backs. As a result, he is difficult to cover with his ability to win 50-50 passes. As a pro, Burks is going to have to win on contested catches because he won’t be a receiver who generates a huge amount separation. But in the past, 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 wasted some picks on an aging and declining Julio Jones. While they added veteran Robert Woods, Tennessee needs a No. 1 receiver, and Burks could hit the ground running in the NFL. He has real boom-pick potential for Tennessee.

2021: Caleb Farley, CB
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

Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan – Round 4
The Titans are set with one of the best running backs in the NFL with Derrick Henry, but one thing they could use is depth. They lost D’Onta Foreman in free agency, and Foreman did an admirable job filling in for Henry when he was injured last year. Haskins was a nice fourth-round pick for the Titans because he is a bruiser who can help reduce Henry’s workload. Haskins is a power runner who can push the pile and attack North-South. While he may not be dynamic enough to be a starter, he could be a solid No. 2 back and play that role well.

2021: Rashad Weaver, DE
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 2022 NFL Draft Grades:

18. Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas – B Grade
The Titans acquired this pick from the Eagles for A.J. Brown. They obviously needed to replace him, and Treylon Burks is the best receiver on the board. He was considered the fifth of the top five receivers even though he was the sixth wideout chosen, but I didn’t think that was fair. Burks is very close to the other four receivers, so I love this value for Tennessee. Surrendering Brown is a tough pill to swallow though.

35. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn – B- Grade
No Malik Willis for the Titans, which has to disappoint the Tennessee fans. It’s a shame, as they’ll have to continue to endure Ryan Tannehill’s mediocrity. Roger McCreary is a solid pick, and I thought he had a chance to be chosen in the middle of the second round. This is a bit early for him, but it’s fine.

69. Nick Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State – B+ Grade
This is a solid pick. I had Nick Petit-Frere in the second or third round, depending on the update, and the Titans really needed to focus on their offensive line. They missed out on the top two guards, but Petit-Frere should help protect Ryan Tannehill, as the mediocre quarterback chokes away another playoff game.

86. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty – A+ Grade
LOL! I thought the Titans should have abandoned Ryan Tannehill and drafted Malik Willis at No. 35, yet they were able to do this at No. 86. Willis will obviously sit for a year or so, but he’s going to take over for Tannehill at some point. Willis has huge upside with his athleticism and mobility, and he’s also a smart quarterback. He’s just raw, but the Titans should be able to develop him rather quickly for 2023 and beyond. This is an obvious A+.

131. Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan – C- Grade
Hassan Haskins was in and out of my mock draft in the sixth and seventh round. He didn’t make the final cut, but easily could have. With that in mind, this is a reach. The Titans could’ve found a similar running back later, though it does make sense that they’d find some insurance for Derrick Henry.

143. Chig Okonkwo, TE, Maryland – B Grade
I liked one or two tight ends better than Chig Okonkwo, but the Titans are making a fine selection to conclude the fourth round. They’ve lacked good tight end play for quite some time, so maybe Okonkwo can help in that regard.

163. Kyle Phillips, WR, UCLA – B Grade
This is a decent pick. The Titans may have been able to obtain Kyle Phillips a bit later, but that’s not a big deal at this juncture. He potentially fills a need in the wake of the A.J. Brown and Julio Jones departures. Kyle Phillips is a quick receiver and a strong route runner.

204. Theo Jackson, S, Tennessee – C+ Grade
Theo Jackson was a productive player as a quality blitzer at Tennessee, but I didn’t think he was going to be drafted. This is a bit of a reach, but we’re in the middle of the sixth round now, so I don’t think this is a big deal.

219. Chance Campbell, LB, Ole Miss – C Grade
I thought this said Charlie Campbell for a second, which would be a better pick for Tennessee. Chance Campbell has been a productive linebacker for both Ole Miss and Maryland throughout his collegiate career, but I didn’t think he would be drafted.

2022 NFL Draft Team Grade: B-. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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