The Tennessee Titans' draft strategy underscores how close they believe they are to competing for a Super Bowl berth.
Convinced of their depth elsewhere Chiefs Derrick Nnadi Jersey , the Titans traded up to select defensive players they had long targeted and largely ignored their offense .
They ended up with just four draft picks 鈥?the fewest of any NFL team this year and the least in franchise history.
"Some of these names we drafted are guys we talked about in February," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
Vrabel was hired in January to improve a team that went 9-7 and lost to New England in the AFC divisional round after earning its first playoff victory since January 2004 .
"I think we are a more talented roster now, and it's our job," general manager Jon Robinson said . "That's our job, to try to get as many good football players on the team as possible and let them compete for spots."
They didn't take a single offensive player until drafting Pac-12 career passing leader Luke Falk of Washington State in the sixth round with the 199th overall pick.
The Titans' defensive picks included Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans in the first round, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry in the second round and Arizona defensive back Dane Cruikshank in the fifth. The Titans traded up and gave up draft picks to get each of those three players.
That represents a huge change for a team that had taken an offensive player with its first pick every year from 2011-17.
Tennessee already had addressed its major offensive concerns in free agency with the additions of running back Dion Lewis , guard/tackle Kevin Pamphile and guard Xavier Su'a-Filo .
Evans and Landry boost the front seven, the Titans' top draft priority with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo entering the final years of their contracts and Avery Williamson having already left for the New York Jets as a free agent.
Cruikshank adds depth to the secondary for a defense that ranked 25th against the pass last season. The Titans already released veteran safety Da'Norris Searcy in March, leaving their depth thin behind All-Pro safety Kevin Byard fellow starter Johnathan Cyprien. Tennessee did sign cornerback Malcolm Butler away from New England in March.
Other things to know about the Titans' draft:
Falk expected to get taken much earlier. The former walk-on set Pac-12 records in yards passing Cowboys Leighton Vander Esch Jersey , total offense, touchdown passes, pass completions and pass attempts.
"I think just the word that came to mind would just be 'shocked,'" Falk said. "It wasn't exactly how I thought it would play out, but I'm very grateful. I'm grateful that a team in Tennessee took a chance on me and is giving me an opportunity to compete and go in there and help the football team."
Falk's two sisters are aspiring country singers who live in Nashville. Falk gives the Titans someone to groom as a possible backup to Marcus Mariota after signing veteran Blaine Gabbert in March.
The 6-foot-4 Falk went to the Titans with the 199th overall pick. That's the same pick New England used on Tom Brady back in 2000. Falk considers himself a big Brady fan.
"I just think that we kind of have the same similarities and style of play," Falk said. "We are not the most mobile guys. We do stuff in the pocket, creating throws in a small space. We are accurate. He's the best to do it and somebody I look up to and just try to model my game after. It's a huge coincidence that it is pick 199 and Tennessee took a shot on me."
Although he spent much of his college career at cornerback, Cruikshank says he could play anywhere in the secondary and that NFL teams were primarily viewing him as a safety. The Titans are listing him merely as a defensive back for now and praised Cruikshank's versatility .
"Whatever they need me to play, I'm willing to play Lawrence Taylor Giants Jersey ," Cruikshank said. "I feel like I can do it all."
PICKING FROM THE BEST
Cruikshank, who is 6-1 and 209 pounds, picked off three passes for Arizona last season. Two of his interceptions came against first-round draft picks Sam Darnold of Southern California and Josh Rosen of UCLA .
WHAT ABOUT RECEIVER?
The Titans didn't draft a single wideout and will lean heavily on a batch of young receivers to complement Rishard Matthews, who is entering his seventh NFL season. Tennessee didn't bring back Eric Decker and signed Michael Campanaro, who's more of a special teams player with 31 combined receptions in four seasons.
That leaves Corey Davis, the fifth pick overall a year ago, along with Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor. Sharpe spent last year on injured reserve, and Taylor is entering his second NFL season.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.
When Pro Football Hall of Fame voters meet the day before the Super Bowl to choose the Class of 2018, the decision to select Terrell Owens should take less time than it does to microwave a bag of popcorn.
T.O. belongs in Canton. It’s a no-brainer.
Owens is second to Jerry Rice in all-time receiving yards and third in touchdown catches behind Rice and Randy Moss Authentic Patrick Kane Jersey , a finalist in his first year of eligibility.
No. 81 was a five-time All-Pro, six-time Pro Bowl pick and of the most entertaining players of his generation.
Owens deserved first-ballot induction. Case closed. Yet, he’s been snubbed twice because voters are punishing him for his off-field and locker room ”antics” during a sensational 15-year career.
But there is no ”character clause” for the Pro Football Hall of Fame – and that’s not saying Owens should fail it.
Owens was never arrested nor suspended by the NFL. He didn’t have legal issues or drug problems.
Still, he’s been kept out because of questionable behavior and the perception he was a malcontent.
Sure, Owens often spoke his mind and sometimes got under the skin of teammates and coaches. He threw some of his quarterbacks – Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo – under a rapidly moving bus. He also defended Romo from criticism and famously cried once while doing it.
Owens should be judged for his value on the field. He made every one of the five teams he played for better. He wasn’t the perfect teammate and he was disruptive at times, but when he stepped on the field, he was exceptional and durable.
Owens only missed 12 games in his long career, plus the nine he didn’t play in 2005 after Andy Reid kicked him off the Philadelphia Eagles following a nasty feud with McNabb and a dispute with management over a new contract.
That came only several months after Owens helped McNabb have his best season Authentic Orlando Brown Jr. Jersey , then heroically returned from ankle surgery – against doctor’s orders – to play in the Super Bowl. Owens would’ve been MVP of that game against the New England Patriots if McNabb didn’t throw three interceptions in the 24-21 loss.
Anyone who covered the T.O. circus in Philadelphia and the aftermath knows Owens wasn’t solely to blame for the way things went down. McNabb was overly sensitive and didn’t like all the attention Owens received. McNabb was booed by Eagles fans at the 1999 draft and he never forgot it. The same fans embraced Owens from the second he arrived in Philadelphia after eight seasons in San Francisco. More than 20,000 people went to see his first practice of 2004 training camp at Lehigh University. That led to jealousy issues with McNabb that final escalated a year later.
After things got ugly in Philly, the locker room was divided between McNabb supporters and Owens supporters. If the mess was entirely Owens’ fault, some of the well-respected veterans who sided with him wouldn’t have done so.
But it was easier for Reid to dismiss a 32-year-old receiver who wanted more money than a 28-year-old franchise quarterback who never ruffled any feathers.
Owens ended up in Dallas and had three excellent seasons with the Cowboys before he wore out his welcome. He played one year in Buffalo and one more in Cincinnati.
Those who argue that Owens bounced around the league because teams couldn’t wait to get rid of him should consider that Rice played for three clubs, and Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton also played for five. Lofton is on the 48-member selection committee and voted for Owens last year.
This really shouldn’t be a difficult decision. It certainly doesn’t compare to the steroid dilemma Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voters face each year.
Terrell Owens is one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and earned the right to receive a gold jacket.
When he finally puts one on, getcha popcorn ready because it’ll be the most must-see induction speech ever.
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