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Tennessee Titans 8 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways

Chad MintonCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2014

Tennessee Titans 8 Biggest Scouting Combine Takeaways

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Now that the NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, the Tennessee Titans should have a clearer indication of where they may go with the 11th overall pick in the NFL draft.

    With the Titans having so many different positional needs, the scouting combine was particularly important for them to create some distinctions.

    Here are the biggest takeaways for the Titans from this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

Offensive Tackle Is Deep

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    We already knew that this draft class has several promising prospects at offensive tackle, and the NFL Scouting Combine further solidified that belief.

    Greg Robinson did a lot to help his cause by showing just how athletic he is despite his enormous frame. He also posted a very impressive 10-yard split time of 1.68, which is critical to his position, according to Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports.

    It was a very productive weekend for Robinson, and he should be near the top of the Titans' big board if they want to address offensive tackle first.

    We can't forget about Jake Matthews, even though it's pretty unlikely that he slips out of the top 10 picks of the draft. Matthews may be the safer pick since he was a four-year mainstay on the Texas A&M offensive line.

    Matthews didn't blow anyone away with his combine results, but he really didn't have to. His career at Texas A&M should do most of the talking. Unfortunately for the Titans, it's very improbable that Matthews slips to their grasp. If he does, the Titans have to take him without even blinking.

    Perhaps the best chance that the Titans have at getting one of these coveted offensive tackles is if they draft Taylor Lewan out of Michigan.

    Lewan had solid combine results, including a 40-yard dash time of 4.87, according to NFL.com. It would not be a reach by any stretch of the imagination if the Titans decided to take Lewan at 11th overall, and his performance at the combine just reinforced that notion even more.

    Any three of these guys would be great picks for the Titans.

Plenty of Options at Linebacker

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Linebacker is another position that is very deep and full of some excellent speed rushers. Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr are the first to come to mind.

    Both of these guys had average days at the combine, but their upsides are what make them so intriguing to a team like the Titans, who need to improve their pass rush.

    The Titans have an outside chance at picking one of these two guys, and they should strongly consider it if they want to build their defense into an elite one.

    Mack got some big praise from NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock recently, who said that he would take Mack with the first pick of the draft, per Mike Huguenin of College Football 24/7.

    However, the Titans don't have to jump on a linebacker in the first round. They could wait until their second-round pick to maybe get a guy like Kyle Van Noy, if he slips that far. Van Noy could easily go in the first round if a team wants him bad enough.

    Van Noy's 40-yard dash time of 4.71 and his 21 reps on bench press were very average, but Van Noy has great intangibles. He would be a great fit for the Titans if he's available for their second-round pick.

    Then you have Alabama's C.J. Mosley, who is the top inside linebacker of the draft class. The Titans might decide to take him if a lot of other options get taken up before they pick. Mosley declined to run the 40-yard dash.

Titans Can't Forget About Cornerback Position

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The cornerback position isn't currently getting a lot of attention as a need for the Titans, but it could easily become one if they don't retain Alterraun Verner in free agency.

    Justin Gilbert reminded everyone how much speed he has at the position by posting a 4.37 on the 40-yard dash, along with a respectable 20 reps on the bench press. Gilbert's scouting report from Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com describes him as a guy that figures to be a great shutdown corner at the next level. That's something the Titans just can't discount, and Gilbert's performance at the combine has helped his push for being the first cornerback taken.

    Another physical cornerback who has a ton of upside is Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State. His combine results haven't been as flashy as Gilbert's, but they're still very respectable and help his cause to battle with Gilbert.

    There aren't really any other cornerbacks that the Titans should take early in the draft. Waiting until the second round to take TCU's Jason Verrett is a possibility. Verrett has had a strong combine and helped silence some of his critics regarding his small frame, according to Jeff Reynolds of NFLDraftScout.com.

    It would be somewhat risky for the Titans to go cornerback early in the draft with so many other pressing needs. However, Gilbert may be an exception if they want to let Verner walk.

    These results collectively say that the Titans can't forget about all of the talent at cornerback in this draft.

Quarterback Will Have to Wait

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    As deep as the quarterback class is this year, it's also full of risks with every unique prospect. For that reason, it will be tough for the Titans to take a quarterback early on. There are so many teams that are more desperate for a quarterback than the Titans are right now.

    There is no way the Titans can afford to reach for a quarterback, and the ones that may not be considered reaches will be gone before the Titans' 11th overall pick. Hyped quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles will probably be off the board.

    Furthermore, Derek Carr would be a major risk at 11th overall.

    With that said, the Titans could still seemingly wait until the later rounds of the draft to take on a project at quarterback. Maybe take a chance on an Aaron Murray, David Fales or Tajh Boyd. All are projected to go in the fourth round or later according to NFLDraftScout.com.

    Murray is still recovering from knee surgery and obviously couldn't participate, but we did get some information on Boyd and Fales.

    To start with Boyd, his combine results hurt his draft stock even more than it already has been. His sluggish 40-yard dash time of 4.84 doesn't lend itself well to a guy that relies on his feet. More importantly was his mediocre performance in the throwing drills.

    As for Fales, he's a relatively unknown product out of San Jose State. His results also didn't really dazzle anybody. He further solidified that he's a late-round prospect despite the gaudy numbers he put up in college.

    Both of these guys will be projects in the NFL. The Titans still have Jake Locker for another year, so taking on a project at quarterback like one of these two guys isn't a major risk.

     

A Replacement Running Back Can Be Found Late

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It still remains very unlikely that Chris Johnson returns to the Titans in 2014, and that means that a void will be left at running back. That doesn't mean that the Titans should jump all over a running back in the early rounds.

    Nate Davis of USA Today writes that running back prospects just don't carry the same value that they once did, meaning that the Titans can afford to wait until the fourth round or later to address the need.

    Among the best performers at the scouting combine was Auburn's Tre Mason, who would be a great fit for the Titans with their fourth-round pick. Here is a list of Mason's numbers at the combine, including a few other notable running back prospects. This information according to SBNation.com.

     PlayerSchool 40 Time Broad JumpBench
     Tre Mason Auburn 4.50 10'6'' ---
     Andre Williams Boston College 4.56 10'9'' ---
     De'Anthony Thomas Oregon 4.50 10'4'' 8
     Dri Archer Kent St. 4.26 10'2'' 20

    There are so many running backs to choose from, and the Titans will need to take a low-risk pick on one of these guys. Mason's game is ironically very similar to that of Johnson. He relies a lot on his speed and making that initial cut to break one loose. He would be an excellent complement to Shonn Greene, and would give the Titans some more explosiveness on offense.

    Andre Williams from Boston College is another guy who shouldn't be forgotten. He put up crazy numbers in college and had a pretty productive scouting combine. He's worth taking a chance on if Mason falls off the board too early.

    The big thing to take away from the running backs at the combine is that a potential gem could easily be found without much risk involved. Look for the Titans to take one of these speed guys at some point.

The Titans May Be Tempted by Johnny Manziel

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It's not a foregone conclusion that Johnny Manziel gets taken before the Titans' 11th overall pick despite all of the hype. Manziel still has plenty of doubters, including ESPN's Ron Jaworski, per Mike Huguenin of College Football 24/7 .

    If somehow Manziel slips to the Titans, they cannot take the bait. Yes, Manziel is an amazing talent and he showcased some of that at the scouting combine. However, the Titans can't afford to take crazy risks early in the draft. Their other needs are too vital to trade for media hype.

    Most likely one of the teams that are desperate for a quarterback will save the Titans from the opportunity to be tempted by Manziel. The Raiders were "very impressed" with Manziel's combine results, according to Sirius XM NFL Radio (via Vinnie Iyer of SportingNews.com). The difference is that the Raiders are in a much more desperate situation than the Titans, who still have Jake Locker to fall back on.

    It may put fans in the seats for the Titans, but it wouldn't necessarily put wins on the board. A frenzy will definitely ensue if Manziel is still on the board when the Titans get on the clock. Thanks to the respected critics that are still out there, there is a tiny chance that the Titans will have to make a tough decision.

Several Intriguing Local Products Available

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    There are a handful of promising local prospects in this draft class, with Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews being on the top of that list. Since the Titans aren't going to go with a wide receiver early enough to take Matthews, there's another Vanderbilt prospect that is worth looking at. That prospect is cornerback Andre Hal, who is widely underrated, according to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

    Hal had a 40-yard dash time of 4.50 that showcased he has the speed to be effective at the position in the NFL. However, none of his results were enough to blow anyone away. With that said, he has received nothing but praise and confidence from former teammates at Vanderbilt, per Craig Peters of Titans Online.

    The Titans need to stay one step ahead of the challenge that could arise if Alterraun Verner isn't retained. Hal has a lot of upside to go along with great intangibles with which the Titans need to start filling their roster.

    There's still some work to do at offensive line for the Titans, and there is an entire offensive line from the University of Tennessee that will be available in this draft. Antonio Richardson is the big name at offensive tackle, but his sluggish combine raises some questions about him.

    The tight end position isn't getting a lot of attention for the Titans, but the puzzling lack of production that Craig Stevens gave to the Titans in 2013 makes you wonder if they should target a tight end at some point in the draft.

    A.C. Leonard, who transferred from Florida to attend Tennessee State, definitely improved his draft stock at the combine, according to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com. Leonard has the makeup of a Vernon Davis and could definitely be a great weapon for the Titans passing attack in 2014. Delanie Walker needs some help at tight end to solidify a passing attack that has shown modest improvement over the past few seasons.

There Are so Many Ways This Draft Could Go for the Titans

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It can be argued that the scouting combine raised more questions than it answered for the Titans. They may be in better shape than they were at this point last season, but the number of directions in which the Titans can possibly go is astounding.

    The 11th overall pick that the Titans currently hold will serve as a domino effect for how the rest of the draft goes. The Titans don't currently have a third-round pick, and that also has an impact on what happens in the first two rounds.

    What the combine really did was show that this draft class is very balanced with solid prospects from so many different positions. The combine concluded with the feeling that there is a lot of players with major upside that fit the Titans' unique set of needs. The first players that come to mind are Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack. However, there are plenty of others that would also be excellent fits.

    The Titans may miss out on a couple of their top choices, but there will still be a solid prospect available for the Titans that will address a big need. It could be at offensive tackle, linebacker, defensive end or even cornerback. It's all up for debate at this point.

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