Titans Post-Draft Composition Projection: They’re Not Better, But They’re Definitely More Interesting

One thing about the 2022 Tennessee Titans and their draft that no one talks about is how much it improved their preseason game prospects.

Malik Willis gets at least a half game in four games? It looks compelling to watch. Keep that in mind, Titans fans, before you put your subscriptions on the low-cost secondary market. The events of the last few days haven’t quite turned them into tractor-pull obstructed-view seats.

They have lost some punch though. The days following Thursday’s resounding trade of star receiver AJ Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles were always going to be filled with rationalizations and whispers about why the Titans had no choice. I mean, AJ was asking too much and interrupting the discussions and wanting to hang out, and come on, guys, what was Jon Robinson supposed to do? Let’s turn ‘mad at management and legitimately wanting to get paid’ into ‘locker room issues’ and call it a wise move, shall we? The Patriot Way, just with Ryan Tannehill quarterback!

The days following this trade were never going to bring anything that would make post-draft Titans better on paper than pre-draft Titans. Willis’ draft, which surprisingly dropped to No. 86, in tandem with the Brown trade/Treylon Burks selection, turned this into the first “looking ahead” offseason in three years. It’s never an easy sell, and Titans fans can be forgiven for rejecting it.

But Robinson added some great prospects over the weekend to a side that should still be good. If you have tickets, you will witness a potentially excellent defense, Derrick Henry and a few new offensive weapons – perhaps including Willis in some creative cameos. Plus, you get two games from Willis as a quarterback in the preseason. And endless opportunities to boo Tannehill and shout for Willis to quarterback in real games much sooner than he should be.

If you’re still entering your modest asking price on StubHub, at least pause for a moment to read this expected starting lineup after the draft:

Offense

• Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill
• To come back: Derrick Henry
• Tight end: austin hooper
• Receiver: Treylon Burk
• Receiver: Robert Woods
• Receiver: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
• Left tackle: Taylor Lewan
• Left Guard: Aaron Brewer
• Center: Ben Jones
• Right guard: Nate Davis
• Right tackle: Dillon Radunz

Analysis: Tannehill is playing in 2022 to keep his job in 2023, and there can be no comfort in not having Brown on the other end of his passes. He’s also not sure Woods is ready for the start of the season. Hooper and fourth-round pick Chig Okonkwo need to make him feel the Titans juice better in tight end position. Fifth-round pick Kyle Phillips could be a handy addition to the slot. Fourth-round pick Hassan Haskins is Henry’s insurance, but if and when he steps onto the court, opponents won’t appreciate tackling him either.

Tannehill’s biggest non-Brown complaint would have to be the offensive line, which hasn’t added an inside player and is unstable at left guard and right tackle. Brewer is the guess left guard here on Jamarco Jones, although that could be Radunz. But did the Titans draft Nicholas Petit-Frère in the third round to plug him right in as the starting right tackle? This spot should be a Radunz/Petit-Frère competition. If these points are not dealt with forcefully, some of the attacking problems of last season could reappear. Another veteran up front worth looking into. And Willis must be a redshirt quarterback who is spending this season preparing for a job run in 2023.

Defense

• Defensive end: Denico Autry
• Defensive tackle: Jeffrey Simmons
• Outside Linebacker: Bud Dupree
• Outside linebacker: Harold Landry
• Inside Linebacker: Zach Cunningham
• Inside Linebacker: David Long Jr.
• Cornerback: Christian Fulton
• Cornerback: Caleb Farley
• Cornerback: Elie Molden
• Security: Kevin Byard
• Security: Amani Hooker

Analysis: If you want a formation with another defensive lineman, make it Naquan Jones or Teair Tart up there. The Titans are deep and talented all over the place, and if Dupree is enjoying a prep offseason as opposed to ACL rehab, the passing rush could be special. Add Rashad Weaver to that and don’t overlook him as a factor. Farley is listed as a starter, but that’s not for sure, and Roger McCreary’s second-round pick, while surprising at the time given the Titans’ offensive needs, could be a real boost.

Sixth-round pick Chance Campbell could be a good fourth inside linebacker after Monty Rice, and sixth-round pick Theo Jackson could be a steal out of Tennessee. The Nashville native and longtime Titans fan was the Vols’ best defensive player in 2021 and should have the opportunity to fill the vacant role of Dane Cruikshank — tight stalker in men’s coverage — in 2022. That defense, at the less, should be worth the price of a ticket.

(Photo by Treylon Burks: Butch Dill/USA Today)

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