If the Tennessee Titans go shopping for a wide receiver as expected in the early rounds of the NFL Draft, they could find plenty of prospects to choose from. The question is, will they find what they really want?
According to TFY Draft Preview’s Tony Pauline, the 2008 draft is loaded with the type of receivers the Titans already have — big, strong, possession-type receivers — but has only a few who offer the speed element Tennessee covets.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher said earlier this offseason that the Titans would obviously prefer a receiver with speed and size, but if it came down to one or the other, that the team needed to get faster with someone who can stretch the field with breakaway potential.
“It is a deep receiver draft, but there are no outstanding prospects at the top of draft,” Pauline said. “There are plenty of talented receivers that can be had late in the first round, early in the second round and literally right on through the fourth round, where you can come away with a good No. 2 or No. 3 receiver.”
Pauline rates Michigan State’s Devin Thomas as the best receiver in this year’s draft, but said Thomas should certainly not be classified with Calvin Johnson, the best receiver in last year’s draft, who went second overall to the Detroit Lions.
There is the possibility that Thomas, who visited the Titans last week, could be there at No. 24 when Tennessee is scheduled to pick, but he said it more likely some receiver-needy team will grab him beforehand.
“He is probably the most complete receiver in this draft, and he should be there when the Titans pick based on his overall grade, but because there are so few available, some team will probably take him before that. I think he’ll definitely be gone in the top 20,” Pauline said.
So what does that leave the Titans? There are bigger receivers available, such as Limas Sweed of Texas, whom Vince Young played with in college, but he might not exactly fit what the Titans are searching for.
“The issue is there’s not a lot of speed at receiver in this draft. Most of the receivers are big strong possession guys or West Coast yards-after-catch types,” Pauline said. “The speed guys in this draft are DeSean Jackson, Donnie Avery, Dexter Jackson and Will Franklin. Because of that, a guy like Donnie Avery, who should be a late second- to early third-round pick, could go early in the second round because a team like Tampa Bay could sort of reach to make sure they get one of the few receivers in this draft that has some speed.”
Cal’s Jackson has size issues (5-9, 169), but Pauline indicated there are off-field worries as well about the Golden Bears’ punt returner and receiving star.
Other players have questions as well, such as the situation that arose last week at the pro day of Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly.
The players were scheduled to run on a faster Astroturf surface, according to Pauline, but at the behest of a Titans scout were asked to run on Field Turf instead, something that Kelly apparently was upset about, especially after posting times of 4.68 and 4.75.
Still, Pauline said that at the right spot, Kelly could be a decent fit in Tennessee.
“Malcolm Kelly would be a good player for them. He’s a big, strong target,” Pauline said. “He’s a natural receiver, and he can catch most of Vince Young’s errant passes.”