NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans like players with a chip on their shoulders, and the franchise trying to end an eight-year playoff drought stocked up with people with something to prove in the NFL draft.
Tennessee’s first three offensive selections played at the only college that wanted them coming out of high school, including wide receiver Corey Davis of Western Michigan — the fifth overall pick.
To general manager Jon Robinson, that translates to a proven passion for football and competitiveness as the Titans try to build on a 9-7 record in 2016.
“That kind of speaks to what this football team is about, toughness and competitiveness,” Robinson said. “That’s a testament to those guys for what they were, maybe overlooked, or whatever you want to call it. They found a way to be productive and maximize their opportunity.”
Giving coach Mike Mularkey and quarterback Marcus Mariota more passing targets was the top focus, and the Titans opted for six offensive players out of nine draft picks. Tennessee ranked third in the NFL running the ball last season but only 25th in passing.
Some things to know about the Titans after Robinson’s second draft as GM:
SURE TO START
At 6-foot-3, Davis is a big target who will help open the field for Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray. The Titans have veteran Rishard Matthews coming off a career season, and Tajae Sharpe started 10 games as a rookie. But Davis comes in as Football Bowl Subdivision’s all-time leading receiver with 5,285 yards, and being the fifth pick overall — the first wide receiver taken in the draft — ensures the chance to play immediately.
The Titans have an open cornerback spot after releasing veteran Jason McCourty on April 17 and need someone to start opposite veteran Logan Ryan, a free agent signed from New England. Adoree Jackson, the 18th selection overall out of Southern California, has speed and six career interceptions as the 2016 Jim Thorpe winner for best defensive back. His biggest competition likely will be LeShaun Sims, a fifth-round pick a year ago, who started two games as a rookie.
Tennessee had to have a wide receiver and cornerback, and Robinson wasted no time filling those holes with his first two selections. He bolstered depth on defense with UCLA linebacker Jayon Brown in the fifth round and TCU outside linebacker Josh Carraway with the first of three picks in the seventh. Guard Corey Levin from Chattanooga at No. 217 overall in the sixth round and seventh-round pick Villanova tackle Brad Seaton add depth on the offensive line.
STILL NEED HELP
The Tennessee secondary was victimized time and again in 2016 as the Titans ranked 30th against the pass. They signed Ryan, cornerback Demontre Hurst and safety Johnathan Cyprien in free agency. But in a draft considered very deep in cornerbacks, Jackson was the only cornerback the Titans selected.
HOW DOES THIS GUY FIT
Mularkey has a bunch of gadget plays stored away. Jackson’s speed and versatility makes him a candidate for the coach’s exotic smashmouth offense in addition to returning punts and playing cornerback. Jackson scored two touchdowns last season playing wide receiver. “Certainly, we’ll factor in when we’re putting a game plan together his ability to do special things with the ball,” Mularkey said.