The Tennessee Titans addressed the defensive tackle position — left open when Albert Haynesworth signed with Washington — in the second round, grabbing Auburn’s Sen’Derrick Marks with the 62nd overall pick.
Marks joined Rutgers’ Kenny Britt as the team’s only two selections from Day 1 of the NFL Draft on Saturday in New York City.
Tennessee lost star defensive tackle Haynesworth in the first day of free agency to the Washington Redskins with a record $100 million contract, and Marks called Haynesworth his idol.
“Coming up and going through college, Albert Haynesworth was like my idol,” Marks said. “I always liked the way he played, and to get up to the complex and watch film with the coach who coached him, as well as watching what he did and things like that, that was a blessing for me.
“To be in his shoes and try to pick up what he left behind is going to be hard work, but I know I’ve got my work cut out for me, and I’m ready for it.”
Cole Proctor, the Titans scout who followed and evaluated Marks, also said he sees the comparison to Haynesworth in terms of quickness.
“If you go to look at Albert, Albert has that quickness, and that’s what [Sen’Derrick] has,” Proctor said of Marks. “He doesn’t have the strength that Albert has, but he has the quickness. He can get off the ball. That’s what we are. We’re a pressure team. We get up the field and adjust off the move, and that’s what he’s going to bring.”
Marks likes the comparison to Haynesworth and the challenge of trying to help replace the star defensive tackle with the Titans.
“Albert Haynesworth, he was a penetrator,” Marks said. “I just like the way he gets after it and plays. He has no problem knocking the quarterback down with his forearm, and it looks like he punched him. He has no problem going in there with an attitude. I respect that, that he goes in and plays the game with an attitude, day in and day out.
“When you meet me personally, you won’t think that. But when I play, I play with an attitude.”
He was asked jokingly if he expected a contract like the record-setting deal Haynesworth received from the Redskins and had a quick reply.
“I wouldn’t be expecting one right now, but by the time this one is up, if I take care of my business, I’ll be expecting one similar. He broke the bank, didn’t he?” Marks said.
Marks, who at 6-2, 306 can dunk a basketball, was slowed by a pair of high ankle sprains his junior year. He played at tackle this past season after being a defensive end his sophomore year for the Tigers.
“He was banged up this year,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “He had two high ankle sprains, struggled through it and stayed on the field and played. We think his future is well ahead of him. We feel like he’ll fit right into the rotation.”
Marks had one of the more memorable plays in recent history for Auburn, blocking a field goal to help preserve a 20-17 win last year against Florida in 2007.
Despite his skills, the Titans were the only NFL team to host Marks in a pre-draft visit.
“I enjoyed it. That’s the only trip I took, but I enjoyed it. I liked the environment around the complex, the environment in the coaches room,” Marks said. “I really enjoyed it. It was a lot like where I came from at home. It was a lot like Auburn. So I know I’m going to fit in real well.”
The Titans have the 94th pick in the third round when the NFL Draft continues Sunday morning.
BRITT IS FIRST PICK:
The Tennessee Titans addressed their issues at the wide receiver position by selecting Rutgers’ Kenny Britt with their first-round pick, the 30th overall.
Britt, 6-3, 218, becomes the first wide receiver selected by the Titans since Kevin Dyson in 1998, and should immediately have a chance to move in as no worse than the team’s third receiver behind Justin Gage and Nate Washington.
Britt was one of the receivers the Titans hosted at Baptist Sports Park for a pre-draft visit, as Tennessee hosted four of the six wideouts picked in round one Saturday.
“I went down there with the coaches and everything and had a strong feeling about it,” Britt said of his visit to the Titans.
Britt also had another connection with the Titans organization, as he trained in Arizona at API with Denver Broncos great Rod Smith, whom Heimerdinger coached for a number of years there.
“He really helped me on my board work and everything. He came down there three times a week to work out with me,” Britt said. “I thank the Lord for that, and I thank Rod that he took his time to work with me.
Heimerdinger said he quizzed Smith about Britt’s work ethic and smarts to get a better read on him.
“Rod and I talked. He told me about his work ethic and the way Kenny had worked for him, and the things that he tried to help Kenny with,” Heimerdinger said. “He said Kenny did all the things he tried to help him with and improve on. We had talked and did the background on him. I really wanted to find out from Rod what his work ethic was like, plus his brain, and Rod said he handled everything good in everything and every challenge he gave him.”
Britt was extremely productive for the Scarlet Knights with 87 receptions for 1,371 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008 as a junior. His production at Rutgers improved every year, going from 29 catches in 2006 as a freshman to 62 receptions in 2007.
The Titans bypassed other such talent on the board as Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith to select Britt.
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, another player the Titans had interest in, was selected by the New York Giants with the 29th pick, just one ahead of Tennessee.
“We got nervous there at the end and didn’t think things were going to go the way we hoped, but nevertheless we’re very, very strong, physical receiver that can get in and out of cuts and make the catches and has been very well coached at that level,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. “We thought there was going to be a run [on receivers] three or four picks before our turn.”
As to where Britt fits, he will get the chance to make an immediate impact, according to Fisher.
“As far as where he fits in, we’re going to try to get him on the field as quick as we can and catch passes for us and make big plays for us,” Fisher said. “We feel like he’s what we’ve been missing in our passing game.”
Both Fisher and Heimerdinger said they like the way Britt can get off bump coverage at the line of scrimmage and run after the catch.
“One of the hardest things for wide receivers is to get off the bump and run, and I thought Kenny was one of the top one or two looking at all those wide receivers of getting of bump and run,” Heimerdinger said.
Added Fisher, “He’s strong and explosive, and he’s an out of frame catcher. For a tall guy, he can adjust to the low ball. He’s one of those guys that if you put the ball up, he can catch it.”