The 2021 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, April 29. As a lead-up to the draft, we’ll be giving a team-by-team breakdown for positional needs. For each team, we’ll give an overview of the current depth chart and how big of a need each position in the upcoming draft. You can find the rest of the team needs (as they’re updated) and the rest of our draft content in the 2021 NFL Draft hub.
Tennessee Titans 2021 DRAFT PICKS OVERVIEW
Round 1 (22)
Round 2 (53)
Round 3 (85)
Round 3 (100)
Round 4 (126)
Round 5 (166)
Round 6 (205)
Round 6 (215)
Round 7 (232)
Tennessee Titans Offense
By Rich Hribar
Even with some efficiency regression in play for Ryan Tannehill across the board from his 2019 output, he still closed 2020 seventh in yards per pass attempt (7.9 Y/A), and fourth in touchdown rate (6.9%) on his way to 33 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions.
One looming question is if there will be any impact from Arthur Smith’s departure to Atlanta while former tight end coach Todd Downing transitions to offensive coordinator. Tannehill thrived under Smith, especially in the play-action game, leading the league in play-action rate (36.4%) while averaging 9.7 Y/A on those throws.
Tannehill signed an extension last offseason that has him under contract through 2023 while both backups Logan Woodside and DeShone Kizer are only signed through the upcoming season.
Khari Blasingame (FB)
You already know the Titans’ backfield is driven by having Derrick Henry as the catalyst. Tennessee backs averaged 31.3 touches per game (fourth in the league) for 164.3 yards from scrimmage per game (also fourth).
Anchored by Henry, he himself accounted for 47.4% of the Tennessee offensive touches and 32.9% of their offensive yardage, both marks that led the NFL at his position. Racking up 2,213 and 2,192 total yards on 409 and 418 touches the past two seasons of football (including the postseason). Henry has scored 49 touchdowns over his past 45 games played with at least one score in 30 of those games. Getting an extension of his own last offseason, Henry is signed through the 2023 season.
Behind Henry, the only other back signed beyond 2021 is 2020 third-round selection Darrynton Evans. Through an injury-filled rookie campaign, Evans was available for just five games, accruing just 16 touches for 81 yards. With the way Tennessee uses Henry, there is a limited group behind him should he ever miss time.
The Titans only targeted their wideouts 58% of the time in 2020 (20th) but they were highly efficient with those looks, ranking seventh in success rate (57%) and fourth in yards per target (9.5 yards) targeting the position.
The Titans have a blue-chip option at the front of this group in A.J. Brown who has posted 1,051 and 1,075 yards over his first two seasons in the league while averaging 17.4 yards per catch and 19 touchdowns.
After Brown, however, this team has holes created from the free agency departures of Corey Davis (92 targets), Adam Humphries (35 targets), and Kalif Raymond (15 targets). The only remaining wideouts on the roster that received a target last season are Cameron Batson (13), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (eight), and Cody Hollister (one).
The team already has added Josh Reynolds on a one-year contract to compete for those vacated targets in the offense. A fourth-round pick in 2017, Reynolds never was able to elevate to a primary target in the Rams’ offense over the course of his rookie contract, but is coming off his best season in the NFL in 2020. After 11, 29, and 21 receptions through his first three seasons, Reynolds posted a 52-618-2 line in 2020.
The only wideouts here signed beyond 2021 are Brown, Rashard Davis, and Mason Kinsey. Tennessee is surely going to pursue a pass catcher in this draft, if not multiple players at the position.
Not only did the Titans lose a lot at the wide receiver position during the free agency period, but they also watched Jonnu Smith leave as well while backup MyCole Pruitt (who played 262 snaps) remains unsigned.
The Titans used 12 personnel 35% of the time in 2020, which led the league. They had four different tight ends log over 250 snaps on offense in 2020 with Anthony Firkser (360 snaps) and Geoff Swaim (384) remaining with the team.
Firkser signed his restricted tender for 2021, coming off career-highs with 53 targets, 39 catches, and 387 yards to go along with a touchdown. Firkser could fall into more opportunities after posting games of 8-113-1 and 5-51-0 in the two games Smith was out or exited early last season. But in signing that tender, Firkser is also only signed for the 2021 season.
Depth options in Jared Pinkney, Tommy Hudson, and Parker Hesse are signed through 2022, but tight end is also a need for the team for immediate competition.
LT: Taylor Lewan/Paul Adams/Ty Sambrailo
LG: Rodger Saffold/ David Quessenberry
C: Ben Jones/Aaron Brewer
RG: Nate Davis/Daniel Munyer
RT: Kendall Lamm*/Brandon Kemp/Anthony McKinney
The Tennessee offensive line was oft-injured and underperformed in 2020, closing the season 24th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate (53%) and 20th in their Run Block Win Rate (70%) metrics. At Pro Football Focus, Tennessee collectively graded out 28th in pass blocking grade, but were all the way up to fifth in run blocking grade.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan appeared in just five games due to a knee injury while his replacements at the position David Quessenberry and Ty Sambrailo combined to allow seven sacks and 30 pressures. Lewan is on track to return to start the season and is signed through 2023.
The team is set on the left side with Lewan and Roger Saffold (signed through 2022), but then things open up as far as talent and future contracts are concerned. Center Ben Jones is still a solid player that graded out as the fourth-highest center per Pro Football Focus in 2020 as he did not allow a sack and was fifth in their run blocking grades. Jones is in the final season of his contract this upcoming season.
While center is only in play due to an expiring contract, the right side of the Tennessee line is a trouble spot. Right guard Nate Davis has made 28 starts over his two seasons in the league, but did allow the ninth-most pressures (30) among guards last season.
After losing Jack Conklin last offseason, Tennessee thought they drafted his replacement in the first round last season in selecting Isaiah Wilson at No. 29 overall. Wilson appeared in one game due to COVID and then a violation of team rules which had him suspended in season. Wilson ended up playing three total snaps as a rookie and was then traded and subsequently released by Miami this offseason already.
The players that took right tackle snaps for the Titans last year were Dennis Kelly (1,046), Marshall Newhouse (16), Quessenberry (six), and Wilson (three). Only Quessenberry is currently on the roster. The team signed Kendall Lamm this offseason, who has made 27 starts over his six seasons in the league, but has just three starts over the past two seasons with the Browns.
Tennessee Titans Defense
By Dan Pizzuta
Interior Defensive Line
Jeffery Simmons played 75% of the defensive snaps for the Titans in the middle of the line. Simmons was 30th in pressure rate among interior defenders, per Sports Info Solutions. Simmons got to the quarterback quite often with 14 quarterback hits. He was also a plus run defender who ranked seventh in ESPN’s Run Stop Win Rate.
Denico Autry was signed as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts. Autry had 7.5 sacks but didn’t have as much down-to-down success as a full-time edge rusher last season. He had been better in previous seasons with more time inside and that’s likely to be the role he fills with the Titans.
DaQuon Jones played 68% of the defensive snaps last season and those snaps will need to be filled. Autry will do some of that but the depth here is not great after the top two.
Harold Landry has been a consistent pass rusher since he came into the league as a second-round pick in 2018. While Landry doesn’t have a standout season, he has at least 14 quarterback hits in each of his first three seasons with a career-high 16 in 2020. He was ninth in Pass Rush Win Rate among edge rushers in 2020. Landry is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Last season, the Titans tried to take swings on Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley to be the pass rusher opposite Landry, but neither of those moves worked out. This offseason the Titans took another swing with Bud Dupree. Dupree was in the midst of a career year before a torn ACL cut his season short. Still, Dupree ranked 22nd among edge rushers in pressure rate during the 2020 season.
Derrick Roberson played 22% of the defensive snaps last season but wasn’t much of a pass rusher. He only had two quarterback hits. The rest of the depth here also isn’t great. Tennessee ranked 27th in pressure rate as a team last season, per SIS.
Jayon Brown was having a great season before an elbow injury ended his 2020 early. Brown was 22nd in yards allowed per coverage snap among linebackers. He had as many passes defensed in 10 games during 2020 (eight) as he did in 14 games during 2019. Brown signed a one-year deal to return to Tennessee for 2021.
Rashaan Evans had some flashes in coverage with five passes defensed after just one in his previous two seasons. 49.5% of Evans’s tackles came before a first down was gained, which ranked 22nd among linebackers. Evans played 79.8% of the defensive snaps last season. As a 2018 first-round pick, the Titans have the ability to pick up his fifth-year option for 2022, which they have not yet officially done.
2019 sixth-round pick David Long played 33% of the defensive snaps last season and he had some struggles, especially in coverage. Long ranked 56th among 59 qualified linebackers in yards allowed per coverage snap.
Tennessee rolled over most of its cornerback group and that might not be a bad thing, given the Titans ranked 30th against the pass by DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
Janoris Jenkins signed a two-year deal in free agency. Last season, Jenkins ranked 78th among 149 cornerbacks in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap, which accounts for touchdowns and interceptions. His completion rate allowed ranked slightly better, at 42nd. Jenkins will turn 33 years old in October.
Kristian Fulton was last season’s second-round pick but only got into six games for 18% of the total defensive snaps. But when Fulton was on the field, he was good and that’s not even considering the rookie struggles just about every other first year corner saw in 2020. Fulton was 26th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap.
Kevin Johnson had success in both the slot and outside for the Browns in 2020. He ranked 40th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap. He’s signed for just one year at $2.25 million.
Kevin Byard split his time between the box and as a deep safety. That upped his tackle numbers while he played downhill more often and his raw coverage stats stopped. Byard was still 10th among safeties in yards allowed per coverage snap.
Amani Hooker also played both roles and got on the field for 41.8% of the defensive snaps. Kenny Vaccaro played 77% of the defensive snaps but is still a free agent.
As is the case with other positions along the defense, there isn’t much depth after the projected starters.