Knowing what they want is one thing. Knowing what to expect is altogether different.
A year ago the Tennessee Titans had settled on their intention to cut ties — one way or another — with one quarterback, Vince Young, and another, Kerry Collins, was on the verge of a short-lived retirement.
In short, they needed a quarterback and with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, they were pretty sure they would get one.
They did, of course, when they selected Jake Locker. At that point, they promptly moved on to their next areas of need and used four of their next five picks on defensive tackles and linebackers.
With the 2012 draft set for Thursday through Sunday, their needs are not as glaring and their options for the first round, where they hold the 20th overall pick, are not as clear.
“It’s harder at 20,” second-year coach Mike Munchak said. “Last year was much easier. We had the eighth pick and you could pretty much sit there and figure out for the most part what teams in front of you were going to do.
“This year is a lot different in that regard because a lot can happen with people trading up and others taking people they didn’t think would be there.”
In the wake of a 9-7 season in which they narrowly missed out on a postseason berth, the Titans already have addressed shortcomings on the offensive and defensive lines through free agency, but could use more help at both positions — particularly at defensive end and guard and/or center. Safety is a spot that is in transition with Chris Hope gone through free agency and Michael Griffin retained only through the franchise tag. Then there is wide receiver where depth and uncertainty about Kenny Britt’s health are cause for concern.
“It’s exciting,” Munchak said. “It’s fun to add to the roster and build the roster. You don’t know what might be there so you have to be well-prepared and be willing to move from offense to defense real quick depending on who’s available.
“At some point, you do both. I think you try to fill needs that you have and you also try to get the best players available to you. There are certain areas going into the draft that we know we have to fill, and we’ll try to do that.”
As it turned out, the Titans did not need Locker as much as they thought. Months after his selection they signed veteran free agent Matt Hasselbeck, who started all 16 games and took the vast majority of snaps.
Most of the other eight players they took turned out to be imperative. All nine 2011 picks spent the entire season on the 53-man roster, including second-round pick Akeem Ayers, a linebacker who became the first Titans rookie in a decade to start all 16 games.
Tennessee has seven overall selections this year, its fewest since 2008 when it also had seven. That year its first pick was 24th overall and it brought running back Chris Johnson, despite the fact that the roster already included a young back, LenDale White, who had rushed for more than 1,000 yards the previous season.
Johnson led the Titans in rushing as a rookie and led the NFL the following year.
“We have to maybe go for the best player available,” Munchak said. “It may not be a need we want to address immediately, but we need to have a player that’s going to help us win on Sunday this year.
“You try to have a guy like that in a couple other positions that you think you don’t necessarily want to go there in the first round because of the depth of the draft or because we think we have some young players we believe in. But [circumstances] may force your hand.”