NASHVILLE — Heading into the offseason, the Tennessee Titans knew it would be impossible to keep most of their 20 unrestricted free agents. This month’s NFL Draft will help GM Jon Robinson replenish the roster organically.

Who Tennessee will select, however, may not abide by conventional wisdom.

The Athletic’s top NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler explained more in detail on my 104.5 The Zone radio show this week. In his latest mock, Brugler assigned Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore to the Titans with their pick at No. 22. For a team with needs at wide receiver, corner, safety, tackle and linebacker, this projection might come as a surprise.

Brugler’s explanation makes the decision far more clear.

NFL Draft boards aren’t Madden

This seems like an obvious statement, but one that warrants revisiting at this time of year.

Apr 25, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Jeffery Simmons (Mississippi State) is selected as the number nineteen overall pick to the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft in Downtown Nashville. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

“Most fans will correlate their first round pick with a top need,” said Brugler. We watch the draft every year and that’s just not how it plays out. The board doesn’t always fall that way where the top need matches the top talent. Also, a lot of GMs, they’re forward thinking. They’re not just thinking about the upcoming season and ‘OK, what’s the missing piece?'”

Year in and year out, this is the case with the draft process.

Tennessee did see Corey Davis, Adam Humphries and Kalif Raymond leave for varying reasons. That fact may not justify reaching reaching for a receiver at No. 22 if you think the value at the position is similar to what you could find at No. 53. If the fit is right and the talent is superior, NFL GMs simply look to add good football players.

But, the Titans already have plenty of defensive tackles?

Former Titans nose tackle DaQuan Jones signed a one-year deal worth $4.05 million on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport.

Robinson acquired Denico Autry on a three-year, $21.5 million contract to pair alongside Jeffery Simmons. 2020 fifth-round pick Larrell Murchison and undrafted rookie free agent Teair Tart remain on Tennessee’s roster. To add Barmore to this mix in a role where he might only see less than a third of the snaps might seem unnecessary. Good coaching, however, finds ways to incorporate superior players.

Jan 11, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones (left) celebrates with defensive lineman Christian Barmore after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Barmore had yet to become a full-time starter even at the college level. The upside remains unique.

At only 21-years old, what the natural 3-technique displayed at Alabama was the ability of a far more physically mature player. Barmore is a classic example of the raw ability both Robinson and Titans coach Mike Vrabel seek in being able to mold and develop. What the 2020 defense lacked, more than anything, was superior talent up front.

It also falls in line with Robinson’s track record. As Brugler noted, five of Tennessee’s last six draft picks in the first two rounds have been from the SEC.

Who the Titans select will remain a mystery until things get underway from Cleveland next Thursday when the NFL Draft returns live and in-person. It is important to remember that equating positional needs to players usually leads to disappointment, unwarranted or otherwise.
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