NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Caleb Farley’s value to the Tennessee Titans, the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, will depend entirely on whether he’s able to hit the ground running and play in 2021.
In his first press conference with the Nashville media on Thursday, Farley was adamant that he will indeed be a contributor for the Titans during the upcoming season.
He strongly dismissed the possibility that he won’t be ready for Training Camp because of the lingering effects of a back injury that required two surgeries, boldly declaring, “I rebuke that in the name of Jesus. I’m expecting to be ready.”
He also dismissed the notion that he’ll need additional surgery on his back.
“That’s completely false,” he said.
NEEDING HELP NOW
Farley on the idea that he won’t be ready for Training Camp: “I rebuke that in the name of Jesus.” #Titans
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) April 30, 2021
It would certainly be ideal for the Titans if Farley’s self-assessment proves to be accurate.
After losing a handful of key contributors during free agency, the Titans entered the 2021 draft desperately needing to fill a handful of holes on the roster with players who can contribute immediately.
That’s why Farley’s value for the Titans will largely be defined by when he can start playing for the team.
If he’s unable to contribute for most or all of his rookie season, then the Titans will likely wind up regretting not using their first-round pick on a player who could’ve been ready to go on day one of Training Camp.
SLIDING DOWN THE DRAFT
Asked Jon Robinson if he thinks Farley will need additional surgery on his back: “Don’t think so…I’m not gonna get into the medical file.”@AllbrightNFL on Wednesday: “multiple teams” said “they’re convinced Farley needs/will need additional surgery.” #Titans
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) April 30, 2021
Unfortunately for the Titans, that outcome seems to be at least somewhat of a possibility.
A top-ten talent in the eyes of many analysts, Farley slid all the way to the Titans’ pick at No. 22 because teams were concerned about his back.
Some teams were convinced heading into the draft that an additional surgery, of which Farley seemed to shut down any potential, is on the horizon for the Virginia Tech product, according to NFL reporter Benjamin Allbright.
And, while Titans general manager Jon Robinson did say he doesn’t think Farley will need a third surgery, he wouldn’t commit to whether the 22-year-old cornerback will be available for Training Camp or the start of the 2021 season.
“We don’t put timetables or expectations on that,” Robinson said.
THE RISK AND REWARD
Robinson’s decision to draft Farley in 2021 has already drawn plenty of comparisons to his decision to draft Jeffery Simmons in 2019 after he slid down to the 19th pick because of a knee injury. There is a key difference between the two decisions, though.
Simmons’ pre-draft injury was a torn ACL. The question with Simmons was never whether he was going to recover, but rather when he would.
Farley, on the other hand, faces a legitimate question over whether he’ll ever be able to completely move past the back ailments that have plagued him as of late.
And, clearly, team doctors across the NFL disagree on the answer to that question.
What matters the most in the immediate for the Titans, though, is whether Farley will see the field in 2021.
If it doesn’t, Robinson will be wishing he had a do-over on his first-round pick for the second straight year.
The Titans’ decision to take a risk on Farley could yield major dividends. He’s a really talented player and, if his health were guaranteed, he likely would have been the first cornerback drafted instead of the third.
“He was a fun guy to evaluate on film,” Robinson said. “Extremely competitive, excellent size and speed for the position that he played.”
Titans fans should prepare themselves, however, for the possibility that the risk doesn’t pay off.
Cover image: Kirby Lee / USA Today