DE or curveball for Titans?
General managers play it cooler than the guy in the Dos Equis commercials leading up to the NFL Draft. It’s high-stakes poker, and they’re hoping they have no “tells.”
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=%22Pierre-Paul%22&iid=8146229″ src=”4/6/7/0/2010_NFL_Combine_ce74.jpg?adImageId=12603888&imageId=8146229″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]Everyone at the Titans practice facility for Tuesday’s news conference with GM Mike Reinfeldt and assorted scouts was asking about defensive ends. Nearly every mock draft you can find has the Titans taking one, be it South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul (at left, during the NFL Combine), Texas’ Sergio Kindle, Michigan’s Brandon Graham or Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan, if somehow he slips that far.
Reinfeldt and the scouts were happy to talk about the DEs. Yes, they like them all. Yes, “JPP” as one scout referred to Pierre-Paul, is a bit of a gamble because he has far less experience at the major-college level, playing for only one season after going to junior college. Yes, Graham appears to be more NFL ready. Yes, they’d like to find a player in the first round who can contribute quickly, maybe even make a major impact by season’s end.
The Titans may very well go the route everyone is thinking. Who could blame them after losing Kyle Vanden Bosch to free agency? Defensive end is clearly an area of need. But is there a chance the Titans pull a surprise?
I asked Reinfeldt if there’s a scenario in which the Titans go offense in the first round.
“You’d like to match the best player with some need,” Reinfeldt said. “If the best player is an offensive player you certainly have to put him into the decision-making process.”
The Titans’ other biggest need is a return man. They tied for 29th in the league in kickoff-return average and were 25th in punt-return average last season.
OK, so go with me on this. Titans running back Chris Johnson has done some posturing about a potential holdout. The Titans’ brass doesn’t believe he’ll do it, but the guy rushed for 2,000 yards last season and is scheduled to make only $565,000 this season, the third of a five-year contract signed as a rookie. At that price he’s the biggest bargain in the league.
So suppose Clemson RB C.J. Spiller is on the board at No. 16? Not only is he considered the best running back in this draft, but he’s the best kick returner in this draft, too. He finished his college career with seven kickoff returns for touchdowns, the most in NCAA history. He also returns punts. He and Reggie Bush are the only players in college football history with 3,000 yards rushing, 1,500 yards in kickoff returns, 1,000 in receiving and 500 in punt returns.
Drafting Spiller would give the Titans a difference-maker in the return game and insurance in the event Johnson does, in fact, hold out. It would send a message to Johnson to get into camp in a hurry, and really, would it be so bad to have another weapon in the backfield?