If the Tennessee Titans use the full 10 minutes they’re allotted to make their first-round draft pick, it won’t be because they’re not sure which player they want.
“I would hope the debating is finished by then and there’s no debating,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “… You try to have guys lined up in every round for every pick and then go from there.
“The discussion by that point in time should have been done and you wait to see if you get any calls, if anybody calls you for a trade if that’s what you want to do. Then eventually, more than likely, you go ahead and make the pick.”
In the days and weeks leading up to the first round, which begins 7 p.m. (CDT) Thursday, though, Webster, his personnel staff, the scouts and the coaching staff have had plenty to consider.
Tennessee has the 10th overall pick and — having missed the playoffs each of the last four seasons — no shortage of needs. Webster expressed confidence that there were enough players worthy of selection at that spot to guarantee the Titans would be happy with whatever player they selected — whatever position he plays.
“I think it could be one of three or four [positions],” Webster said. “I don’t think it is a certainty right now at this point. Now maybe it becomes that way as we get a little closer, but I don’t think enough is known about the top 10 and how that is going to go really to say.”
The second and third rounds will take place Friday and the draft will conclude with the final four rounds Saturday.
For now, though, the entire league is focused on the first round. With that in mind, here is one look at what the Titans might think and how they might arrive at their selection.
• Areas of need: The best-case scenario for the first round always is to get a great player who also fills an immediate need. Tennessee needs a right guard and/or center who can be a starter by next season at the latest. It also needs a safety — free agency filled some holes there in the short term but the future of the position remains largely undetermined. Elite defensive linemen are at a premium for every team, every year.
• Openings to come: If the interior of the offensive line is not an immediate need, it will be one before long. Eugene Amano and Fernando Velasco, the starting centers each of the last two years, have one season on their current contracts. Likewise, free agent strong safety Bernard Pollard signed a one-year deal. Those scenarios only add to the importance of those positions.
• Best of the best: Chances are that three offensive tackles will go within the first six or eight picks. It’s also possible that a quarterback will go sooner than many expect, and if that happens it only increases the number of position groups from which the Titans can make the first pick, if they choose.
Two Alabama players, guard Chance Warmack and cornerback and Dee Milliner, are considered rare talents at their respective spots.
• Later options: The good news for Tennessee is that there figure to be enough guards, defensive ends and defensive tackles to ensure a quality player at one of those spots is available in the second or even third round. There is less of a likelihood a worthwhile safety will be there later.
• What’s available: Naturally, what happens with the first nine picks will dictate what the Titans can/will do at No. 10. Chances are Milliner doesn’t get past the New York Jets (No. 9), who recently traded Darrelle Revis and have the picks to move up and get him if need be. There’s a better chance — but still not a good one — that Warmack is available when the Titans pick given that Arizona and Buffalo at seven and eight, respectively, both need help there.
There’s a chance that one or more of the top defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids such as Oregon’s Dion Jordan or LSU’s Barkevious Mingo still will be available, but the Titans already have that type of player in 2011 second-round choice Akeem Ayers.
• The prediction: Expect the Titans to focus on defensive tackle, a position that typically has a big drop from the top prospects to the rest. Warmack is the one guy who would change their thinking in that regard, but more likely they will target an interior blocker, possibly even Alabama center Barrett Jones with their second pick. Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro is a possibility if all else fails.
The best-case scenario is they have their choice between Florida’s Sharrif Floyd and Utah’s Star Lotulelei.
If it comes to that, expect it to be Floyd, who has the size, athleticism and versatility they covet at that position.