The Tennessee Titans have several young key skill position players in place thanks in part to solid scouting, evidenced by their last two drafts. However, most of them were added at the expense of fortifying the trenches on both sides of the ball. As any perennial playoff franchise can attest, such as New England and Pittsburgh, sustainable success is positively correlated with the right mix of talent and continuity.
One of the first priorities General Manager Ruston Webster must address this offseason is an assessment of how to upgrade the interior offensive line. Michael Roos and David Stewart solidify the tackle positions but upgrading at least two of the other three spots should be atop Webster’s to-do list.
With only a few games remaining in the 2012 regular season the Titans currently own the sixth overall pick. Here are some potential prospects that could end up hearing their name called by Tennessee in late April.
1st round – Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Height – 6-3
Weight – 315
It’s not often a guard hears their name called in the first round but Chance Warmack will likely buck the trend. The Titans have young playmakers on offense with recent first round picks at Quarterback, Jake Locker, and wide receiver, Kendall Wright. Locker’s other legitimate weapons in running back Chris Johnson, and wide receiver Kenny Britt are both still on the right side of 30, at 27 and 24 years, respectively.
Warmack is one of the safest picks in the entire draft class and will do wonders for Tennessee’s ground game while helping stifle opposing teams’ interior pass rush. What stands out on film is the incredible strength and aggression the Atlanta, Georgia native displays. He also has all the traits coaches look for in terms of toughness, durability, and dependability both on and off the field.
2nd round – Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Height – 6-1
Weight – 220
The Titans defense needs to improve on several fronts. Most pressing would be adding talent to a defensive backfield with a pass defense mostly responsible for 26th ranked team in the league. Additionally, their ability to stop the run and generate pressure on the quarterback leaves much to be desired.
Vaccaro has the size to blanket tight ends and the cover skills to hang on receiver’s hips trying to vertically stretch the field. But the biggest asset to his game will come via run-support. He is a sound tackler with a knack for separating the football from would-be receivers through jarring hits. While he does not have blazing speed, it is certainly functional (4.5 range) to not be a liability but his initial role would likely be at the strong safety position, where he would eventually supplant Jordan Babineaux.
3rd round – Quanterus Smith, DE, Western Kentucky
Height – 6-5
Weight – 250
One of the more intriguing mid-round prospects is the Hilltoppers towering defensive end. A season-ending torn ACL against Louisiana-Lafayette will require scouting departments to perform their due diligence but prior to that Smith was atop the nation’s leaders in sacks with 12.5, directly ahead of future Top 10 picks in 2013 and 2014, Jarvis Jones and Jadeveon Clowney, respectively.
Naysayers may try and discredit Smith’s production by the lack of high level competition in the Sun Belt conference. However, one needs to only look at the three sacks Smith tallied against Alabama while often going up against fellow draft prospect, highly regarded offensive lineman, D.J. Fluker.
Smith obviously needs to add another 15-20 pounds to stay at defensive end or he may find himself at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. But his frame should be able to accommodate that mass without a sacrifice in quickness.
Other needs for 4th round and beyond – C, WR, G