The Tennessee Titans will start every round of this week’s NFL draft with a six-pack, so to speak. Eventually they will toast each selection, confident in their assessment that the player can contribute something to the team.
“[We] try to have six guys in mind,” general manager Ruston Webster said Tuesday. “We’ll put six on there when we start the draft and just kind of see how it goes.”
The 2012 NFL Draft begins Thursday with the first round (7 p.m.), continues with the second and third Friday (6 p.m.) and concludes with the final four rounds on Saturday (11 a.m.).
Tennessee has seven overall selections this year, one in each round. Barring any trades to add or subtract picks, that is the fewest since 2008 when it also added seven players.
Still, the most important number is six.
Webster and his staff cull a list of half a dozen players from their overall rankings and set it apart as the potential selection pool for each pick. It is not the best six players at any given time. It is the six deemed most likely to be available and of the most value come the time to select.
For example, with the 20th overall pick, the Titans’ initial list of six will not include quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, running back Trent Richardson and the like. Those players effectively are guaranteed to be gone well before Tennessee’s turn.
Pre-draft rankings suggest the six Webster and Co. will set apart figure to include some defensive linemen, a cornerback or two and likely a wide receiver.
“Experience tells you one of those guys will be there,” he said.
One? Probably. All six? Not likely.
The number, in other words, stays constant. The names do not.
“The point is for us to have a pool of players and when somebody else comes off it somebody else comes on it,” Webster said. “We’ll just keep working the list. … When one of them gets taken, somebody else will come on to that list and they’ll just keep moving up that way.
“That way there’s no panic in the room and probably not even too much discussion.”
Those in the draft room spend the time preceding their pick pondering those six who have been set aside. The moment the team goes on the clock is the time for any final concerns about the order of those six or to weigh the merits of a higher rated prospect who might have dropped unexpectedly.
“It’s kind of looking at what we think is a good fit for us if we made that decision at that time to take someone,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… There’s some good choices out there.
“It’s all timing. It’s easy to sit here and say what you’d like to have, but it’s a question of what’s available when it comes to our turn to pick.”
Then when that time comes, the Titans actually see it as a choice among just six players, not the entire pool of draft-eligible players.
“You have to trust your scouts and your coaches and what you’ve seen and kind of just work off of that,” Webster said. “I think that’s been one of the strong points of the Titans through the years. I hope to continue that.
“We’ll rely on our own people and we’ll just make the decisions off the grades we’ve given the players throughout the year. … I think at this point in time we’re ready to roll.”
TAKE YOUR PICK
Six players who might be available to, and fill a need for the Titans when they make their first-round selection (20th overall) Thursday:
• Mark Barron, S, Alabama (6-1, 213): A physical player for the No. 1-ranked defense in the country last season, he is the only safety in this draft worth a first-round pick.
• Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina (6-1, 190): A smart player who understands his assignment, he looks to fit best with a team that plays more zone than man-to-man coverage.
• Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech (6-4, 215): Has the size that NFL teams love and performed well in all drills at the combine, but with just 43 catches the last two seasons he is not proven in terms of production.
• Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama (6-2, 186): Has the size and strength and attitude to be productive in a man-to-man scheme, but he didn’t put up big numbers in college.
• Nick Perry, DE, USC (6-3, 271): A good first step makes him a dangerous pass rusher, and the Titans have had success with picks out of USC the last two years (Damian Williams, Jurrell Casey).
• Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois (6-4, 261): An active, athletic player who showed versatility in college but he had just one productive season after two lackluster ones.