My football writing has mostly appeared elsewhere, but this doesn't really fit anywhere else. I plan to begin this post by writing a brief recap of the 2006 NFL draft, and then launch into an early look at the final 53-man roster.
The 2006 NFL Draft was held this past weekend. The Titans, due to a miserable 2005 performance, held the 3rd pick in the first round, which they used to select Texas QB Vince Young. With only Mario Williams and Reggie Bush not available, they were able to fill their most glaring need and select the player they considered to be the top quarterback available. I supported the selection of Young, due to his great athletic talent and potential to be a great signalcaller. But he's not that now, and is the biggest risk/reward pick in the 2006 draft. I don't expect Young to do much, if anything, in the 2006 regular season, and he may be eased in until the 2008 season; this has to be a wait and see approach, but he could be the Titans' QB for a decade if he pans out.
In the second round, they traded back from the 39th spot to the 45th slot, picking up an extra 4th round pick, #116 overall, in the process from the Eagles. Philly then used the 39th pick to select USC T Winston Justice, while the Titans took another Trojan with what was Philly's 2nd round selection, RB LenDale White. This was not a pick I liked, particularly given the risk-and-reward nature of the selection of Vince Young. White had weight problems, reportedly failed a drug test, and didn't do most of the workouts, most notably run the 40 yard dash, in any of the post-season workouts. He did do a bench press, but only did one more than Tom Malone, who happened to be the PUNTER for the Spoiled Children. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow vouched for White, though, and I really freakin' hope he's right. Personally, I would have preferred the Titans to select their highest-rated CB with this pick; this has been rumored to be Devin Hester, while Richard Marshall and Ashton Youboty were the two players highest in my mind.
The Titans didn't have a third round pick this year, as they traded what became the #72 overall selection to Buffalo for Travis Henry. Oops. The Bills used that pick to select Ashton Youboty, CB, The Ohio State University. What was that Coach Jim Tressel said about it making sense to leave early if you'll be a first round pick?
With the Titans' 4th round selection, #102, they chose Penn State S Calvin Lowry. Lowry should provide good safety depth behind free agent acquisition Chris Hope and contribute on special teams immediately. South Carolina's Ko Simpson was generally regarded as the top safety on the board, but he hasn't played much football and was probably too raw for a team that needed DB depth as much as the Titans. Simpson would be taken by Buffalo 3 picks later. USC S Darnell Bing was selected with the #101 pick by the Raiders. I didn't have strong feelings about who the Titans should have taken with this pick.
As noted above, the Titans had a second 4th round selection, obtained from the Eagles. I was hoping for Boston College WR/DB Will Blackmon, but, alas, Green Bay snagged him the pick before. The Titans then selected NC State LB Stephen Tulloch. This was another pick I didn't particularly care for. Tulloch was productive in college, and may have been the most consistent player in the front seven, but I don't think he has the speed or quickness to cover well enough in the NFL. Maybe they'll try penciling him as the starting MLB, but I thought upgrading that position was one of the Titans' goals this offeseason, and I don't see Tulloch as doing that.
The next Titans' selection was in the 5th round, #137 overall. Again, a player I'd been hoping for was snagged off the board with the previous pick, as the Patriots picked Cal T/G Ryan O'Callaghan. Miami (OH) LB Terna Nande was nice compensation, though. He had a stellar game against Ohio State early in the year, then suffered a freak liver injury, before coming back to play the last couple games. He had about the fastest 40 time at the Combine for a linebacker, and from what I recall, played fast, too. A good OLB depth selection.
The Titans had a second 5th round selection, #169 overall, granted to them as a compensatory selection. They used that on a hometown guy, University of Tennessee DT Jesse Mahelona, continuing the Hawai'i connection established by Joe Sala'vea, Jason Gesser, and Travis LaBoy. I was surprised to see them choose a DT with this pick, with Albert Haynesworth, Randy Starks, Rien Long, Jared Clauss, and Marcus White at the position. DE seemed to me the bigger area of need, as I'll detail in the positional breakdown.
The Titans had another pick just 3 slots later, 6th round/#172 overall, which they used on Wisconsin WR Jonathan Orr. I found this to be another curious selection, as WR doesn't seem to be an area of particular need. Orr also didn't impress me at Wisconsin. Sure, he has talent, but inconsistency was a major problem with him. Another pick I don't like. With either this selection or the Mahelona pick, I would have liked to see the Titans select Colorado FB Lawrence Vickers to potentially replace the disappointing Troy Fleming. The top CB or DE on the board would have been another good selection in my book.
The Titans did take another DB, albeit another safety, with their first pick in the 7th round, #215 overall, Cortland Freeman out of Samford. I have nothing particularly interesting (even to me!) to say about him, or about the Titans' two compensatory selections, ##245 and 246, both Utah Utes, OLB Spencer Toone and RB/FB Quinton Ganther. Ganther is maybe supposed to be the competition for Troy Fleming I wanted, while Toone might be a run-blocking linebacker who can't cover particularly well. Good thing they hadn't already drafted one of those about 3 rounds earlier.
Overall, I'd say I have mixed feelings about this draft. There were some picks I liked, Nande and Young in particular, and some I thought were curious, like Mahelona and Tulloch. This could end up being a very good draft, if Young and White both work out, the picks I like do well, and the other guys' limitations aren't as bad as I think they are. On the other hand, Young could never grasp the intricacies of an NFL offense, White could eat his way out of the NFL job he'd have when he isn't suspended, Lowry's never more than a bit player, and I could go on with predictions of doom. Ask me again in 3 or 5 years.
Hmm... I ended up writing more about the draft than I'd planned on, so I guess the roster breakdown will have to wait for another day.