Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster has a system whereby the club will have a running and rotating list of six players on their board at all times to keep themselves in ready position as the draft unfolds, beginning Thursday.
Southern Cal's Nick Perry
That strategy was used last year in drafting Jake Locker eighth overall, even when the Titans had pretty much zeroed in on the quarterback as their first priority. And it will be in play again on Thursday when the Titans pick 20th in round one.
“We had a pool of players at that point and time as well. We will do the same thing,” said Webster in his first draft as GM. “We will have a group of six players kind of lined up there how we would take them and when one of them gets taken, somebody else will come on that list and then we will just keep moving up that way. That way there is no panic in the room and probably not too much discussion.”
According to Webster, the Titans should be in good shape in the first round because they have at least 21 players on their board, which is now nearly complete, with first-round grades.
“It is not any different than any other year. We are usually between 21-22 and 25, 26, 27 right in there and that is pretty typical. That doesn’t change very much,” Webster said.
As for which one of those 20-plus players will wind up a Titan, that will be determined by the teams ahead of them. Among the names linked to Tennessee, matching its needs, are cornerbacks Dre' Kirkpatrick of Alabama and Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina.
Defensive end is also a need area, and names like Whitney Mercilus of Illinois, Nick Perry of Southern California, Melvin Ingram of South Carolina and Chandler Jones of Syracuse are possibilities to be on the board when the Titans make their first choice. There has even been some speculation that Quinton Coples of North Carolina could fall far enough for Tennessee to have a shot.
Whoever is the pick, Coach Mike Munchak says it is imperative that he be able to contribute right away.
“When you draft a player, with the 20th pick in the draft or whenever, you want to draft a guy that you have a plan for and that can come in and actually have a chance to play right away and help,” Munchak said. “You don’t want to draft a guy and then go how are we going to use this guy? He really doesn’t fit our system.”
MERCILUS DEBATE: Whitney Mercilus' numbers at Illinois were eye-popping last year – 16 sacks to be exact.
But prior to that, Mercilus wasn't even a full-time starter in his first two seasons with the Illini.
Mercilus, a player of Haitian descent who had limited exposure to football growing up, has been compared to New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul because of they share the Haitian heritage and being late-bloomers on the gridiron.
The tag of “one-year wonder” has been attached to both players. What is Webster's evaluation of Mercilus, who might be available with the 20th pick?
“You just try to watch his tape and see what traits he has. Does he have the traits that transfer to the NFL? You have to take the one year under consideration,” Webster said. “You have to look at all his plays, all his sacks, see how he got his sacks. Was it one-on-one situations, were they stunts, whatever. So you just evaluate his talent. Does he have the traits to transfer? But you take the one year under consideration.
“Everybody wants a body of work. You love the four-year starter. I love the four-year starter, but you don’t always get that. With pass rushers especially, sometimes you just have to lean toward the talent.”