Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews have spent time in recent weeks focused on the future of the Tennessee Titans. In so doing, they have had to consider the past — their own.
The head coach and offensive line coach, respectively, are Hall of Fame guards who entered the league as first-round draft picks. Munchak was the eighth overall selection in 1982 and Matthews went ninth overall in 1983 to the then-Houston Oilers.
Tennessee has the 10th choice in this year’s draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday, and might just select a guard there.
No NFL team has taken a guard in the top 10 since 1997, but presumably the Titans would know better than most whether there is one who is worth it.
“It’s great having [Munchak] and [Matthews] and just being able to talk about the position with those guys — and really offensive line in general — kind of what they’re looking for and what they feel can be successful in the league,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “… It’s a good group of guards overall. I think there’s some depth there in that group, a lot of players that we like.”
Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper are widely regarded as worthy of selection in the first half of the first round and it is likely at least one will be available when the Titans select.
There are others, though, who offer nearly as much upside in later rounds. Kentucky’s Larry Warford, Oregon’s Kyle Long and Kent State’s Brian Winters all project as possible second-round picks.
“Everyone’s talking about the top two guards, which we all know are going to be good football players, but there’s about three or four behind them that have a really good chance to come in and start this year also for teams, like us or like somebody else,” Munchak said. “So I think that’s the good thing.”
Whenever the Titans take a guard, it almost certainly will be earlier than it has in a long time.
Munchak and Matthews were the last two the Titans/Oilers drafted in the first round. Since then, the highest selections at that spot were Jason Layman (second round, 1996), Zach Piller (third round, 1999), Leroy Harris (fourth round, 2007) and Eric Still (fourth round, 1990).
Layman was the 48th overall choice. Tennessee’s second-round pick this year is No. 40.
“That is still a position that we’re looking to add as we go forward,” Munchak said. “There’s options. So it’s not, ‘If we don’t get these two you’re going to have to wait until next year.’ There’s an opportunity in this draft to wait if you want to, do something at another position and know that you can still get an offensive lineman later in the draft.”
Harris was a starter the past three seasons, at left guard in 2010 and 2011 and at right guard last season. He currently is an unrestricted free agent whose replacement most likely will come in the draft.
Steve Hutchinson, the starter at left guard in 2012, retired following the season. Free agent Andy Levitre was signed to take his spot.
It’s clear that the Titans need at least one more. It also seems certain they have two guys on staff who know exactly what they’re looking for.
“Our scouts did a good job as well,” Webster said. “They put in a lot of time and effort and they have strong opinions from a lot of work. You never want to discount that. If a guy has been to a school two or three times and has seen a guy play a couple times it’s hard just to discount that off some film you did at a workout.
“But it definitely helps to have people you have confidence in on your coaching staff and your head coach, especially, when you’re picking a position.”