The Tennessee Titans make Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright their first pick in the 2012 draft with the 20th selection overall, and the selection certainly indicates an updated philosophy regarding the team's offensive thinking.
Wright had 108 receptions for 1,663 yards in 2011 on the receiving end of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III's passes.
In selecting Wright, the Titans' philosophy is to make the offense more dynamic and have as many weapons as possible available once Jake Locker is ready to take over as the quarterback of the future. Matt Hasselbeck could still be the beneficiary of that in the interim.
In other words, the days of Eddie George and a cloud of dust appear to be gone from Baptist Sports Park.
It adds another receiver to a group that should return Kenny Britt from an ACL tear last year, as well as 1,000-yard receiver in Nate Washington and emerging tight end Jared Cook.
“We're very excited to make our first-round pick in Kendall Wright of Baylor. We spent a lot of time watching Kendall. We brought him in here for a visit, sent our coaches to work him out,” Ruston Webster said of his first pick as Titans general manager. “He is an exciting playmaker who can help us in a lot of ways. He'll be fun to watch, and it'll make our offense even better than it is, and we're very excited about that.”
With Britt coming off the injury that cost him most of last year, Wright also gives the Titans good insurance in the event Britt is not ready to start the season. Wright also is the second wide receiver drafted in the first round in the past four years by Tennessee, which had not selected a wide out first since Kevin Dyson in 1998 before taking Britt in 2009.
Wright, having played with the mobile Griffin, should mesh well with Locker once both are on the field together.
“His strong point is making plays after the catch and getting himself open and doing something with the ball after he catches it,” Webster said. “He is used to playing with a mobile quarterback, and they should work well together.”
Tennessee looks to be molding the offense in similar fashion to the way offensive coordinator Chris Palmer enjoyed success in previous stops such as New England under Bill Parcells and the New York Giants more recently with Eli Manning. Palmer says Wright can come in and play right away as a rookie.
“You go back and look at New England and we had Terry Glenn who caught 90 balls as a rookie. We had Kevin Johnson of Syracuse as a receiver (in Cleveland), and he caught eight touchdowns. We had Andre Johnson who had 975 yards his rookie year (in Houston),” Palmer said. “I think this system allows a rookie to come in and play early, and there's enough evidence of that in the history of our coaching to indicate that we're counting on this guy to come in and play.”
Wright himself said he compares favorably to other undersized playmakers, who have become dynamic threats at the receiver position.
“I've been compared to Steve Smith, DeSean Jackson and Santonio Holmes,” Wright said. “We're smaller receivers, and I think that's why they compare us. Steve Smith is ferocious going across the middle and making big grabs. I like playing big. I'm not a big receiver, but I like to play big.”
By selecting Wright, the Titans bypassed other need areas such as cornerback and defensive end. At end, a number of pass rushers were available including Illinois' Whitney Mercilus, Courtney Upshaw of Alabama, Chandler Jones of Syracuse (who went one pick later to New England) and Nick Perry of USC.
Guard David DeCastro and center Peter Konz were also available when the Titans picked.