After what seemed like a lifetime, the Tennessee Titans’ first pick finally came in last night with the selection of Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley as the 22nd overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Following the Indianapolis Colts’ selection at No. 21, the Tennessee Titans were on the clock with nearly all of their top potential targets on the board. But Titans General Manager Jon Robinson and head coach Mike Vrabel had their guy – it was Farley.
The 6-foot-2 Farley played in 23 games in his two seasons at Virginia Tech, amassing six interceptions before opting out of the 2020 college football season.
Caleb Farley in 2019:
• Targeted 50 times
• Allowed just 18 catches (36%)
• 257 yards allowed 5.14 YPA
• 1 TD allowed, 4 INTs
• 26.8 QB rating (lower than grounding it every play)
Elite ELITE player if he can get/stay healthy. Very similar to the Jeffery Simmons pick.
— Mike Herndon (@MikeMiracles) April 30, 2021
Without the medical uncertainties that have hovered over Farley like a dark cloud throughout this draft process, many believe Farley would have been a top-10 pick and could have even been the first cornerback to be taken on Thursday night.
Caleb Farley is a top 10 talent. Compared him to Marlon Humphrey. Without injury issues, he has elite ability.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 30, 2021
However, two back surgeries since February of 2020, on top of a torn ACL in 2017, were reason enough to allow Farley to slide all the way to the Titans at No. 22.
What We Don’t Know
There is an enormous upside with Farley. But, with just about every rookie there are concerns, or in Farley’s case, unknowns.
How Farley responds when he is fully recovered remains to be seen. He underwent a discectomy in February of 2020 to remove a small part of bone in his back before going under the knife again in March of 2021 for a microdiscectomy after an issue with his S1 joint.
Back injuries are tricky. Farley is still rehabbing in hopes to return to the same player that Robinson and Vrabel so clearly fell in love with during his time at Virginia Tech. Farley is still working through some minor nerve issues, but nothing that is uncommon after such an operation.
It is still uncertain whether or not Farley will be featured out wide or inside at the nickel.
Caleb Farley looks like a great corner to me, provided his back isn't an issue. There is some risk built-in. Has a ton of confidence. Janoris Jenkins-Farley-Kristian Fulton is the CB trio now, with Fulton the likely nickel. #Titans
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) April 30, 2021
The expectation is for him to play on the outside across from Janoris Jenkins with Kristian Fulton sliding in at nickel, but Farley is versatile and can mix and match as needed.
.@Titans HC Mike Vrabel said CB Caleb Farley is used to playing "cat" coverage: "I've got this cat, you've got this cat."
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 30, 2021
What We Know
Farley will join Fulton and Jenkins in the Titans revamped secondary this Fall.
The 22-year-old is not short on confidence either. Farley comes from an aggressive Virginia Tech defensive scheme with the Titans’ first-rounder in man coverage the vast majority of the time he was on the field.
Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel are comfortable with the medical grades. The Titans’ window to win a Super Bowl is open and drafting a player that is unable to contribute this year is a road neither of them want to go down.
.@Titans GM Jon Robinson: I had an affinity for Caleb Farley. Said the team's medical staff did a lot of work on him, because the Titans liked him and was hoping they'd be in a position to pick him. The GM said he viewed Farley as a "premium player" on the board.
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) April 30, 2021
And if they believe Farley will make a full recovery and provide an impact Week 1 for the Titans, then who is to say otherwise? They drafted Jeffery Simmons with medical red flags after an ACL procedure leading up to the draft. They managed A.J. Brown well throughout last season as he was battling a knee injury significant enough to require surgery at season’s end as well.
While there were certainly front offices across the league that were skittish when it came to pulling the trigger on Farley, all indications seem to be pointing towards Farley being ready for training camp.
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
Featured image courtesy of Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports