The Tennessee Titans on Sunday twice went to Conference USA with their fourth round picks, Gerald McRath and Troy Kropog, then went to the Big 10 in the fifth by selecting running back Javon Ringer during Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
The Titans addressed their linebacker depth situation by selecting McRath of Southern Mississippi with their original fourth-round pick (No. 130 overall), and followed that up by adding offensive tackle Kropog of Tulane with a compensatory selection five slots later.
In the sixth round, the Tennessee Titans went back to Rutgers for a second time in the 2009 draft, grabbing cornerback Jason McCourty with the 203th pick.
On Saturday, the Titans took his former Rutgers’ teammate, wide receiver Kenny Britt, in the first round of the draft. McCourty, who had a twin brother in the Scarlet Knights squad, joins Ryan Mouton of Hawaii, a third-round pick, as cornerbacks in Tennessee’s rookie class.
Three picks later, the Titans used their sixth-round compensatory pick to select wide receiver Dominique Edison of Stephen F. Austin.
The team had two picks in the seventh and final round, grabbing 300-pound Syracuse guard Ryan Durand and Nick Schommer, a free safety out of North Dakota State.
Durand will compete for a backup guard spot, while Schommer will vie for a backup safety role and work on special teams.
McRath is a two-time All-Conference USA pick and was the league’s defensive player of the year in 2007. He led the league in tackles last season.
McRath, 6-2, 231, played middle linebacker for the Golden Eagles, but could project as a weakside linebacker at the NFL level.
“We fell like he can do it all,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of McRath. “We will probably line him up outside first, but the special teams contributions was real intriguing to us.”
McRath will compete with the likes of Josh Stamer, Stanford Keglar, Ryan Fowler and Colin Allred for the backup linebackers spots on the Titans’ roster.
“He is all over the field,” director of college scouting Mike Ackerley said. “We are excited about him because he can run so well.”
Kropog started 34 games at left tackle for Tulane and two at right tackle for the Green Wave, and was also an All-Conference USA pick in 2008.
Kropog is already familiar with the Nashville area, having worked out at D-1 in Franklin. It was there that he worked under the tutelage of former Titans star offensive tackle Brad Hopkins, who also recommended him to line coach Mike Munchak.
“He helped me work out and get ready for the Combine and the draft,” Kropog said of Hopkins. “Through him, he had introduced me to a few more of the guys, but mainly him.”
Added Fisher, “He worked out with Hoppy, and Hoppy loved him. He said that he was very talented and very athletic.”
According to Fisher, Kropog can help fill the backup tackle void caused by the loss of Daniel Loper in free agency.
The Titans place a great value on running backs, and might have gotten a nice value pick in Ringer.
Ringer, one of the players the Titans had in for a pre-draft visit, was the 173rd overall choice in the draft, a compensatory pick for free agent losses from the year before. Ringer, who starred for the Spartans, joins a crowded stable of running backs, including Chris Johnson, LenDale White and Chris Henry.
“I’d say I fit in pretty well. I think I’ll kind of be a mixture of the running backs they have,” Ringer said. “I feel like I’ll be able to be a nice complement to LenDale White and also to Chris Johnson. Chris Johnson is like the super fast one and LenDale White is like the really big one, and I’m kind of like in the middle.”
Ringer, 5-9, 208, is a workhorse running back who had 390 carries last season for 1,637 yards and 22 touchdowns. His presence in the backfield certainly puts Henry and perhaps White on notice as the 2009 season approaches.
“They told me they liked what I would do and would be able to help bring to their team,” Ringer said of his visit to Tennessee. “They like my versatility, and how I could contribute as a running back and also how I was very willing to play on special teams. They just liked my all-around game.”
There was little not to like in terms of production for Ringer, who has also overcome a pair of knee injuries in his career. He tore the ACL in his right knee his senior year of high school and the meniscus in his left knee this year, an injury he is still recovering from.
“The one I just recently had, I feel like I’ve been able to recover from this pretty quickly,” he said. “I was able to still perform at the Combine, even though I wasn’t 100 percent, and I still did pretty decent there, and the improvement I made at my pro day from the Combine was another compliment on how my knee was improving.”
Ringer said he ran a 4.54 on a knee that he estimated was 75 percent healed at the Combine in February, and added that he ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash last month at his pro day with the knee around 85 percent.
He said he doesn’t really believe he has a lot wear and tear, despite 635 carries for 3,084 yards and 28 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Michigan State.
“I didn’t hardly get any carries my freshman and sophomore years. I didn’t really start getting the ball till my junior year and senior year,” Ringer said. “I’m still pretty young and body still feels pretty good, so it’s going to be able to hold together for a pretty long time.”