Derrick Morgan did not think he still would be available when the Tennessee Titans made their first-round selection in 2010 NFL draft on Thursday.
He was not the only one.
“I think internally, in a lot of our mock drafts and ‘what-if’ scenarios this was a guy that we thought would be gone when we picked,” general manager Mike Reinfedlt said.
They all were wrong.
Morgan, a two-time All-American and the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year for Georgia Tech, waited while 15 other selections, which included three defensive ends, were made. Thus, when it was the Titans’ turn – 16th overall – they were more than happy to take a player they had rated highly and who filled a need for them.
“I did feel like I was the best defensive end in the (draft) class,” Morgan, who is 6-foot-3, 266 pounds, said. “But Tennessee is a great situation for me. Looking at what they do on defense and how their ends get after the quarterback, it’s a really ideal situation.”
The Titans had him rated “just about 10th” on their draft board, according to Reinfeldt, and it was at the 10th pick that things started to get interesting for them.
Jacksonville took Tyson Alualu out of California at No. 10 and started a stretch in which four defensive ends were taken in a span of seven picks. Philadelphia went with Michigan’s Brandon Graham at No. 13, and the New York Giants, one spot ahead of Tennessee, chose South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul.
“To kind of reiterate what (Reinfeldt) said, we were very, very pleased and surprised,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “There were a lot of different scenarios where we were somewhat nervous that we weren’t going to get the defensive lineman that we wanted.”
The last time the Titans drafted a defensive end in the first round was 1999, when they took Jevon Kearse with the No. 16 pick (the same spot at which they chose this time). That season Kearse set an NFL record for sacks by a rookie and earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Morgan arrives at a time when they are looking to bolster their depth and performance at defensive end.
Kearse’s second stint with the team ended when his contract expired following the 2009 season. Not long after Kyle Vanden Bosch left and signed with Detroit as a free agent. Jason Babin, an eight-year veteran, was signed in March as a restricted free agent.
“(Morgan) is going to play,” Fisher said. “Whether he starts or not … there’s a lot of time between now and then, but he’s going to play. He’s going to be active and play football for us. … He really helps us up front.”
In three seasons with Georgia Tech, Morgan played 39 games and started the final 27 of his career. He recorded 19.5 sacks – all in the last two seasons – which is the seventh-highest total in school history. He led the ACC and finished eighth in the country with 12.5 sacks last season.
“The production is there,” Titans’ scout Cole Proctor said. “And when we move him outside in our defense and, of course, with (Jim Washburn) coaching him out there … you know the production we’ve had in our defense. I think he’s just going to reach the top. He’s going to go right off the scales for us.”
That’s exactly why they were so happy he stayed on the board as long as he did.
“I think there were some tense moments, but at the end of the day it turned out just like we hoped it would,” Reinfeldt said. “I think that’s the fortunate thing. We got a really high-rated player from our board at a position of need.”