Titans make a power play with first-round pick in NFL draft

Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 9:32pm

Chance Warmack’s greatest strength is his power.

“His physical style of play — his power,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “At the right guard position, that’s what it calls for and he fits the mold.”

It was a word uttered as much as any other by Tennessee Titans’ personnel Thursday after they made Warmack, an All-American guard from the University of Alabama, their first-round pick (10th overall) Thursday in the NFL draft.

Mainly, that notion centered on the power within his 6-foot-2, 317-pound frame that allows him to stand his ground or move a pile of humanity with equal efficiency. There was also an assertion, though, that with his work ethic and through the sheer force of his will he had the power to transform the personality of the entire offense — maybe the whole team.

“He’s been successful at what he does,” coach Mike Munchak said. “He’s worked very hard to get what he’s accomplished at Alabama. We see that kind of being contagious to our group and our offensive line. I think you’ll see a whole different demeanor in how our guys play this year.”

He already changed the thinking of the franchise that selected him. The last time the Titans drafted any offensive lineman in the first round was 1993, when the then-Houston Oilers took tackle Brad Hopkins 13th overall.

Not since 1983, when Bruce Matthews, now the Titans offensive line coach, was the ninth overall selection, had it gone with a guard in the first round. Matthews’ selection followed that of another guard, Munchak, eighth overall in 1982.

Both eventually made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“That’s definitely a motivational thing to try to shoot for that,” Warmack said. “Especially talking with each of them every day in practice, yeah.”

The 21-year-old played four seasons at Alabama and finished his career with a streak of 40 consecutive starts at left guard and was a part of three national championship teams. He was credited with 49 blocks that resulted in or contributed to touchdown runs and helped clear the way for 25 100-yard games by running backs.

Numerous analysts rated Warmack as the best guard available this year — in many years, actually — but he ultimately was the second selected. North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper went seventh overall to the Arizona Cardinals after three offensive tackles went within the first four selections.

The last time any NFL team took a guard in the top 10 was 1997, when New Orleans took Chris Naeole 10th overall.

“It’s the power to anchor,” Titans scout Tim Ruskell said. “It’s the power to explode and get movement against bigger people, which is something we always look at. So it just sets [Warmack] apart from the normal offensive linemen you look at. And that’s what got our attention.”

His selection is the latest move in an attempt to retool the interior of the offensive line that started with the free agent addition of Andy Levitre, who will play left guard. Tennessee also added two other veteran free agents.

Barring any unforeseen developments, Warmack will be the starting right guard when the Titans open the season Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh.

The idea is to get back to more of a power (there’s that word again) running game after two years during which former offensive coordinator Chris Palmer attempted to employ a scheme that spread the field more and often relied on extra-receiver sets.

“What sold me on him was every time I was with him I got excited about the opportunity to watch him play and coach him,” Matthews said. “… He has the demeanor and the mindset and he plays the style we’re looking for and what we want to accomplish up front.

“Even [Thursday], just to confirm it, I went back and looked at the tape again and I’m very confident that he has a great opportunity to be a real good player in this league for a long time.”

In other words, he looks to have staying power.

“You don’t see — even in the NFL — the kind of power he has, the way he moves the line of scrimmage,” Munchak said. “To me he’s the complete package. He loves the game. He has a passion for it. … He has great size. He played against some great football players during his time at Alabama. Played well. Played well in big games.

“We re all excited thinking we can help him get a lot better than he is. We’re really excited it worked out this way. We talked about being more physical as a football team. This is a physical guy. That’s what it’s all about.”