As Titans general manager Ruston Webster prepares for his second full season at the helm of Titans personnel, it’s important to look back on where the Titans have succeeded and struggled with their drafts in the past recent history.
The importance of first-round picks cannot be overstated when it comes to the Titans’ draft history. Since the franchise’s first draft as the Tennessee Titans in 1999, the team has selected only nine Pro Bowl players, and of those nine players, six of them were first-round picks.
The most recent year that the Titans’ were represented in the Pro Bowl was 2010, a year that saw three different Titans receive that honor. Former first-round picks Chris Johnson (’08) and Michael Griffin (’07) both played in the game, as well as seventh-round pick Marc Mariani (’10).
The Titans have built a solid foundation of skill position players moving forward, with the recent success of first-round picks Johnson, Kenny Britt (2009), Jake Locker (2011) and Kendall Wright (2012). Despite injury issues last year, the Titans’ draft picks along the offensive line have proven to be above average — if unspectacular — picks.
This fact that the first round is where you find the potential stars is by no means a new idea or unique to the Titans. NFL draft pundits frequently point to the case of Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick who transformed into one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, and stress that value picks in the later rounds can pan out.
But for every Brady or Terrell Davis (also a sixth-round pick) who outperform their draft position, there are 10 Peyton Mannings or John Elways or Adrian Petersons who become franchise changers as early first-round picks. Ultimately the success of any professional football franchise depends on how their early-round picks pan out.
Success for the Titans hangs on whether or not the recent first-round picks can sustain some of the excellence they have shown in flashes.
Kenny Britt, Jake Locker and Kendall Wright have all exhibited the ability to be such impact performers, albeit sporadically, but what’s needed to take the Titans from the level of “competitive” to “contender” is for these three players, along with whoever the Titans select with their first-round (10th overall) pick this year, to sustain that quality of play for a full season.