A too early look at prospects of Titans draftees
By BOB MCCLELLAN
The Titans 2010 rookie class has impressed the coaching staff to date with its intelligence. Coach Jeff Fisher has said he didn’t go about changing his locker room into a think tank, and there are plenty of NFL coaches who will tell you the last thing they want their players to do is think.
[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Myron+Rolle&iid=8171684″ src=”5/f/5/c/2010_NFL_Combine_25c9.jpg?adImageId=13080593&imageId=8171684″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]But the Titans loaded up on brainiacs such as Rhodes scholar Myron Rolle (pictured at left), Ivy League graduate David Howard (BS in economics) and early graduate Robert Johnson (three years to get his BS in sociology). Six of their nine draft picks already have their degrees.
Will it translate to on-field success? Fisher at least recognized that his new charges were picking things up quickly. “The learning curve is quite high at this point, but they’re doing a good job,” the coach said. “I’d say this group is a little further ahead after one day than some groups we’ve had.”
Herewith a very early look at the nine draft picks and their prospects on the field in the fall:
First round: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech. Barring unforeseen circumstances Morgan will open as a starter. He slipped to the Titans at No. 16 overall (nearly every reputable and disreputable mock draft had him gone by then), and he’ll be prepped by Jim Washburn, one of the best position coaches in the league. Outlook: STARTER
Third round: Damian Williams, WR, USC. He practically already has been handed the jobs as the primary kickoff and punt returner. He’s another player the Titans were thrilled to see last until they picked in the third round since the team didn’t have a second-rounder and didn’t have a serious return threat on the roster. Outlook: SPECIAL TEAMS IMPACT PLAYER
Third round: Rennie Curran, LB, Georgia. Diminutive typically is not a good word to associate with a linebacker. The Titans list Curran at 5-11, 235. The 235 is believable. The 5-11 is believable if you also believe in the Tooth Fairy and the comedic genius of Dane Cook. Curran may have been a reach in the third round, but he’s a tackling machine, and the Titans, at this moment, are razor thin at linebacker. Stephen Tulloch is staying away from OTAs because of his contract, and David Thornton’s health remains a concern. Outlook: SPECIAL TEAMS CONTRIBUTOR
Fourth round: Alterraun Verner, CB, UCLA. Most of the talk about the competition to start opposite CB Cortland Finnegan has centered on second-year pros Ryan Mouton and Jason McCourty. But Fisher says there is another player in the mix, too. “The draft choice can play out there, as well,” he said. The Titans traded up to draft Verner on day three, and the coach doesn’t throw around statements such as that one very often. The former Bruin is a sleeper to crack the lineup. Outlook: NICKELBACK, STARTER BY MIDSEASON
Fifth round: Robert Johnson, S, Utah. One of two safeties drafted in the later rounds, he looks less ready physically than Rolle. Both players have Chris Hope, Michael Griffin and Vincent Fuller ahead of them for sure, and there are more safeties on the roster. Outlook: SPECIAL TEAMS CONTRIBUTOR
Sixth round: Rusty Smith, QB, Florida Atlantic. Smith already has drawn rave reviews from the veterans for his strong arm in just a few practices. Offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger gets a sly grin whenever he talks about him. The Titans will bring Smith along slowly, but he’s a keeper. Outlook: NO. 3 QB
Sixth round: Myron Rolle, S, Florida State. Regardless of how much football he has played in the past year he’s still a physical specimen with an unmatched intellect. He’ll pick up the playbook and the nuances quicker than anyone else in the class, which will give him a chance to see the field. Outlook: SPECIAL TEAMS CONTRIBUTOR
Seventh round: Marc Mariani, WR, Montana. The Titans have a bunch of wide receivers ahead of Mariani. He’ll have to make plays in the return game if he expects to play at all. Outlook: SPECIAL TEAMS CONTRIBUTOR
Seventh round: David Howard, DT, Brown. Fisher likes his explosiveness, but he’ll essentially need to redshirt before he even thinks about getting into the rotation. Outlook: PRACTICE SQUAD