Draft Review – Tennessee

by Tommy Lawlor¬† –¬† http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

Tennessee Titans

1 – QB Jake Locker – 6’3, 231 – Washington
2 – LB Akeem Ayers – 6’3, 254 – UCLA
3 – DT Jurrell Casey – 6’1, 300 – USC
4 – LB Colin McCarthy – 6’1, 238 – Miami
4 – RB Jamie Harper – 5’11, 233 – Clemson
5 – DT Karl Klug – 6’3, 275 – Iowa
6 – OT Byron Stingily – 6’5, 315 – Louisville
7 – DT Zach Clayton – 6’2, 299 – Auburn
7 – DB Tommie Campbell – 6’3, 203 – Calif. (PA)

The Titans must really like their scout for the Western region. The first 3 picks were UW, UCLA, and USC. The Pac-10 comes to Nashville. All this is exactly what I predicted. It was so obvious to everyone that the Titans draft would unfold exactly that way. Or not.

I was shocked when they went with QB Jake Locker at #8. I knew the Titans needed a QB for the long term, but I just didn’t think Locker would go that early. I don’t think he’s worth that pick. My personal feelings aside, there was little talk of Locker going to Tennessee. That pick really surprised me.

We all know Jake is very talented. He’s got good size and is a terrific athlete. Jake could pursue a baseball career if he wanted. You absolutely see his athletic ability on the football field. He’s nimble in the pocket and dangerous as a runner. Jake ran for 1,939 yards and 29 TDs in college (and remember sack yards lowered that yardage total). Jake has the arm to make every throw in the book. There are times when he made some great intermediate and deep throws. He can put the ball into tight spaces and has good velocity. What’s not to love?

While Jake has all the natural ability in the world, he is still raw. Normally this wouldn’t be a huge deal. Cam Newton is raw, but went 1st overall. The difference is that Jake played in a pro style offense for 4 years. He had very good QB coaching for the last couple of seasons. After all that, he should not look as raw as he does. Things weren’t always ideal for him (lack of great OL or skill players), but I don’t think that excuses Jake’s lack of progress. He should have shown more development as a QB than he did.

I have no doubts that Jake can be a good NFL QB. Will that happen? Very different feeling there. I’m just not so sure that will happen. So why did the Titans take him 8th overall? Clearly they love his talent. Also, he has great intangibles, which was a major issue with Vince Young. Jake is a natural leader. He really commands the huddle and you can see that the other players play hard for him. This is critical for the Titans. Chris Johnson comes across as a flighty guy. Kenny Britt definitely has issues. That huddle needs a leader as much as a gifted passer. And Jake can be that guy. The pick will make sense if he can just develop into a consistently solid passer.

I was surprised in the 2nd round when the Titans grabbed LB Akeem Ayers. He seemed destined for a 3-4 team where his pass rushing skills could be really taken advantage of. The Titans brought him in for a visit before the draft so that tells you he is a player they had targeted. New coach Mike Munchak has said that he wanted to get bigger in the front seven. Putting Ayers at SAM is definitely a way to get bigger. Ayers has ideal size for SAM at 6’3, 254. He is able to cover. He’s got agility, but also shows a feel for coverage. Ayers can set the edge on run plays. He’s big and strong enough to take on blockers and battle them at the POA. What makes Ayers special is his ability as a playmaker. In his 3 years at UCLA he racked up 29.5 TFLs, 6 INTs, 7 FFs, and 10 pass deflections. Not too shabby. 14 of the TFLs were sacks. Some came on blitzes, but others came when Ayers lined up at DE and rushed the passer.

Originally I thought Ayers would be a mid-1st round pick. I loved his game tape. He had a poor showing at the Combine. He was just too slow to be a high pick. Overall, he’s a solid athlete. He’s quick and has good COD. Ayers has good game tape and could turn out to be a great pick. The guy shows up on gameday. I think he was excellent value in the early 2nd. TEN has done well with developing LBs over the years so Ayers is in a good place.

Next up is DT Jurrell Casey, a Junior DT from USC. He is a pure one-gap DT. Casey is 6’1, 300 and loves to fire off the ball and attack upfield. He doesn’t have the explosiveness to be a force up front, but Casey is athletic enough to become a starting DT. He is quick off the ball. He pursues well. Casey moves well laterally. He’s a smart player with good awareness. Casey is active and had 59 or more tackles each of the last 2 years, a good total for a DT. There is a lot to like. The downside is that he needs to be more stout vs the run. Teams that run at him will have some success. He’s a solid pass rusher, but not great. He had 9 career sacks. 3 of them came vs lesser competition. Casey was solid value in the 3rd and fits the Titans scheme well. He’ll come in as a backup to Tony Brown and Jason Jones, but could become a starter in time.

The Titans wanted new bodies at LB. Ayers went in the 2nd and in the 4th they added Colin McCarthy from Miami. He projects to the inside in the NFL, but played both OLB and MLB in college. The Titans probably view McCarthy as an insurance policy. They’d love to re-sign free agent Stephen Tulloch, but if he gets a great offer from another team it doesn’t seem like Tennessee with try to match. If Tulloch does leave, it will be interesting to see what happens at MLB. Does Will Witherspoon get shifted in there? Does McCarthy get a chance to play as a rookie? McCarthy is very experienced. He played a ton at Miami. McCarthy finished his career with more than 300 total tackles. He also had 35 TFLs, very impressive for a LB. McCarthy certainly looks like someone that will be a starting MLB at some point. He has the size and skills. Good enough athlete. He likes to attack downhill. He needs to do a better job of reading plays and then going to the ball. McCarthy seems like a coachable guy and that is something that can be worked on. Good value pick in the 4th round.

I was surprised to see Clemson RB Jamie Harper go in the 4th round. Harper impressed me at times, but I just didn’t expect him to go that early. He left Clemson after his Junior season. Harper only got to be the feature back for one year and piled up 760 yards and 7 TDs, hardly staggering numbers. Does he have NFL ability? Yes. Harper, fair or not, just makes me nervous. One solid season at Clemson convinced him to head for the NFL? We’ll see. He does have good size at 5’11, 233. He runs well for a big back. The thing that stood out to me was what a good pass catcher he is. Harper was 35-328-3 as a receiver in 2010. Beyond the numbers, he showed good hands and the ability to make tough catches. Harper is a good fit for the Titans. Chris Johnson is the workhorse, but isn’t a great goal line or short yardage runner. Harper and his size can help in those areas. Javon Ringer is another talented runner in the mix. He’s a capable backup, but is ideally someone you’d like to have as your #3 RB.

DL Karl Klug as the next pick. He played DT at Iowa, but could very well move to DE in the NFL. Klug is 6’3, 275. He was an attacking 1-gap DT in college. He could be a situational DT in the NFL, but with Munchak saying he wants more size on defense it would make sense that Klug will be a DE in the base unit. He can obviously move inside in sub packages. Klug was a disruptive interior player at Iowa. In 2 years as a starter he had 9.5 sacks and 26 TFLs. Klug played some DE early in his career at Iowa, but moving there in the NFL would be a big adjustment. He’s not used to playing in space. His specialty is exploding off the ball and going straight up the field. There’s a whole other set of angles and moves at DE. Plus, beating OTs off the edge is much more challenging that getting by interior blockers. Klug does have the build to be a solid LDE. He’s got the toughness to hold up vs the run. If Klug fails as a DE, he could be a good STer and situational DT. The Titans showed interest in him prior to the draft so this is a player they think can work despite the changes. Solid 5th round pick.

Tennessee went for an O-lineman in the 6th round, taking OT Byron Stingily from Louisville. The Titans have a pair of very good starters in LT Michael Roos and RT David Stewart, but there is always a need for depth. Stingily has the size and athleticism to play in the NFL. He’s 6’5, 315 and posted good workout numbers. The game tape is also impressive. He has the physicality to be a good run blocker. He’s tough and physical and puts good effort into his run blocks. Stingily is athletic enough to potentially be a LT in the NFL. He takes short, choppy steps and has solid footwork. Stingily does need to work on how to use his hands. He should have time to develop, which he will need. Good value in the 6th.

The Titans had a pair of 7th round picks. First up they went for Auburn DT Zach Clayton. He’s 6’2, 299 and is another 1-gap type of DT. Clayton was “the other guy” to Nick Fairley in 2010. No shame in that. Fairley dominated. Clayton was solid. He had 8 TFLs. Clayton was very much under the radar until his Pro Day. He put up fantastic numbers (ran 4.87 and did the 3-cone in 7.35). Game tape shows that Clayton is a good athlete as well. He doesn’t project as a future starter, but could develop into a good backup.

Finally the Titans took DB Tommie Campbell. He had one of the more interesting backgrounds of anyone in the draft. Tommie began at Pitt back in 2005 (that was the Bronze Age I think). He was a backup SS. In 2006 he moved to WLB and started 6 games. Grades forced him to leave Pitt and he played at Edinboro in 2007 as a SS. Campbell left there and quit football. He was a janitor and PIT Intl Airport when he was offered a chance to play at Calif. PA in 2010. Campbell grabbed the chance and had a solid year. He even got some starts at CB. Campbell has good size at 6’3, 205. He projects to Safety in the NFL. He had a solid workout at his Pro Day and showed that he’s got NFL athleticism. His versatility as a WLB/SS/CB should help him adjust to life in the NFL, where players must do a variety of things well. Moving around hurts him because Campbell is far from a polished player and he could use quite a bit of coaching and practice time. Good value in the 7th round.

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