There are three main factors that could lead to the Tennessee Titans selecting an offensive lineman when they are on the clock in a couple of weeks in the 2019 NFL Draft’s first round.
Unlike in years past, it has been difficult this year to pinpoint exactly which direction the Titans will go with their first-round pick. There are a number of positions that would make sense.
Over the next week, I will be writing a few articles like this one on the positions of need that the Titans very well could use their first round pick on.
Please note that I am not advocating for the Titans taking an offensive lineman, but rather exploring the reasons why such a decision might make sense.
Here are three of those reasons.
One final note: A major part of my pre-draft process and, in turn, this article is SportsInfo Solutions’ “The SIS Football Rookie Handbook.” You can (and should) order a copy here.
1. They have a hole at right guard.
From 2016-2018, the Titans deployed the same group of starting offensive lineman unless an injury forced them to temporarily change things up. Those five players—Taylor Lewan, Quinton Spain, Ben Jones, Josh Kline and Jack Conklin—had a tendency to be all over the place.
Lewan certainly was a staple of consistency during those seasons, notching Pro Bowl invitations in all three of them. The others, at times, struggled.
Those struggles led to the Titans making the decision this offseason to part ways with the two guards who had been fixtures of their offense for three years: Spain and Kline. Spain was not made an offer following the expiration of his contract, and Kline was released with multiple years remaining on his.
To replace Spain at left guard, the Titans reached into their checkbook and signed veteran Rodger Saffold. An All-Pro with impressive athleticism for the position, Saffold figures to be a major upgrade over Spain.
At right guard, however, the Titans still have a gaping hole. They do have a few in-house options at that spot.
There is a potential that tackle Jack Conklin moves inside to right guard, allowing Dennis Kelly to become the Titans’ starter at right tackle. The Titans could also give the starting job to veteran Kevin Pamphile, who was with the team last season.
However, neither of those options are really all that promising. The Titans are in a position where they can draft a guard in the first round to plug-and-play on the right side of their offensive line.
2. They could use an upgrade.
As a whole last season, the Titans offensive line really struggled. Conklin never looked like himself after returning from an ACL tear, Spain was benched at one point, Kline was a liability in pass protection and Jones took a step back.
The inconsistency led to the Titans’ aforementioned decision to move on from Spain and Kline, and to sign Saffold.
Even with the addition of Saffold, the Titans could still use an upgrade to their offensive line.
Because of the offensive line’s poor play last season, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was constantly under duress. Against the Ravens, he was sacked a merciless 11 times.
The running game also got off to a very slow start, something that was also due, in part, to poor play up front. Starting running back Derrick Henry did not eclipse 60 rushing yards in a single game until Week 14. Some of that was his own fault, but poor blocking was certainly a factor.
If the Titans were to draft an offensive lineman in the first round and that player turned out to be of quality, it would provide a massive boost to the entire offense. The Cowboys and Colts are good examples over the last five seasons of what a good offensive line can do for a team.
While there are certainly other needs on the team, a good addition to the Titans’ offensive line could relieve a lot of headaches in 2019.
3. There are some good fits in this year’s class.
When the Titans are on the clock at pick 19, there is a good chance that a couple of very talented offensive line prospects will be on the board. Particularly on the inside, the Titans will likely have some good talent to choose from.
A prospect that has become a darling to a lot of fans and media members alike is NC State’s Garrett Bradbury. A three-year, every-game starter at center for NC State, Bradbury would seemingly be a natural fit in the middle of the Titans offensive line.
Bradbury is a quality athlete for the position who played in a blocking scheme at NC State that’s very similar to what the Titans run.
Other players that analysts have pegged as potential fits for the Titans include Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy.
If the Titans want to upgrade the interior of their offensive line through the draft, this seems like a pretty good class to do it with.
Cover image: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today