The Tennessee Titans did a lot of good with their 2021 draft class including fortifying the secondary, adding a tremendous value pick to boost the pass rush and potentially adding a future right tackle to fill the void left by Isaiah Wilson.
However, General Manager Jon Robinson made a few head-scratching moves, including reaching for an inside linebacker with his first third-round pick, ignoring a large void at tight end and drafting two wide receivers that seemingly don’t mesh well with the team’s offensive identity.
“We were close a couple times (to drafting a tight end),” Robinson said. “We had some discussions yesterday, some today. We like the group that we've got, and we'll continue to evaluate players that are available here after the Draft as we start that process…But we are excited with the group that we've got back and see how those guys come in and compete and continue to evaluate the players that are available as we continue to move through the offseason.”
Although Tennessee added two receivers -- Dez Fitzpatrick, a 6-foot-2, 208-pound wideout, and Racey McMath, a speedster from LSU – and it’s hard to see either making an impact next season other than in a situational role or on special teams. Robinson also didn’t rule out the possibility of signing potential free agents either.
“We'll continue to evaluate players that are available,” Robinson said. “Players that are on the street that don't have jobs or players that do have jobs on other teams that may become available. That's part of my job. That's part of our job is to constantly evaluate the pool of players, the supply of players that you can add to your football team and then make the decisions that's best for the team.”
Here are some more thoughts on Tennessee’s draft class from Rounds 2-7:
Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Radunz was a borderline first rounder, so getting him in the middle of the second round is a win for Tennessee. He’s not only big – 6-foot-6, 301 pounds – but he’s athletic, strong and allowed zero sacks his last two years at NDSU.
In 32 career starts, Radunz won four Missouri Valley championships, three NCAA Division I national championships and was a two-time FCS All-American. He should compete with Kendall Lamm and Ty Sambrailo to be the starting right tackle and is likely the do-over Robinson wanted to redeem himself after the Isaiah Wilson debacle last year.
“That Senior Bowl exposure was really good for him to go against some of the best of the best in college football,” Robinson said. “…He's about what we're about, you know, football-wise and makeup and commitment to being a good football player. The Senior Bowl experience and week down there for him both in the practices and in the game was very positive in his favor.”
Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
Rashaan Evans’ fifth-year option has yet to be picked up and Jayon Brown effectively signed a one-year deal and isn’t guaranteed to return beyond 2021, so drafting an inside linebacker seems like a smart move. But in doing so, the Titans passed on receiver Nico Collins, defensive end Ronnie Perkins, and tight ends Tre’ McKitty and Brevin Jordan.
Rice could be a contributor on special teams and potentially compete for some marginal playing time at inside linebacker with the hope of taking over in two years if one of both Evans or Brown leaves.
“We have good confidence in Rashaan,” Robinson said. “Monty, he'll come in and compete at the inside linebacker position on special teams. To what degree he picks up the defense and understands that and learns that and earns play time, that will be determined by him and his work ethic and based on the information that we were – that I got from Georgia. Consummate worker, loves football, works hard, leader, vocal. All those things were very positive in his favor.”
Elijah Molden, CB, Washington
Molden is by far the Titans’ steal of the draft. He was a projected second rounder – even considered a first rounder by some draft experts -- and fell into Tennessee’s lap. He has great versatility playing both slot corner and safety at Washington and really broke out after his junior season when he registered 79 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 17 passes defensed, four interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Although the Titans signed cornerback Kevin Johnson who was projected to be their starting nickelback, Molden could supplant him sooner rather than later. He earned the highest coverage grade from the slot ever given out by Pro Football Focus, and he only allowed two touchdowns in four seasons with the Huskies.
"In the back of my head, I was hoping to be Titan, and I mean that sincerely," Molden said. "Even from the jump, I told my parents and my fiancée I had a feeling I'd end up a Titan, and sure enough…It's crazy it worked out the way it did. I know God has a plan for me, and I am looking forward to being in Tennessee."
Dez Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville
This pick is a perplexing one given Fitzpatrick was the 176th-ranked player and they not only took him 109thoverall, but they traded up to do so, passing on higher-ranked receivers such as Tylan Wallace, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Cornell Powell, Jaelon Darden and Shi Smith.
Robinson presumably believes Fitzpatrick could be a playmaker for the Titans after finishing his college career with 154 receptions (ninth all-time), 2,589 yards (sixth all-time) and 21 touchdowns while averaging 16.8 yards per reception at Louisville.
The problem, however, lies in the fact that he’s nearly identical to the rest of the Titans’ receiver group -- A.J. Brown (6-foot, 227 pounds), Josh Reynolds (6-foot-3, 196 pounds), and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (6-foot-2, 211 pounds). Tennessee desperately needed a slot receiver to make up for the loss of Adam Humphries and Fitzpatrick doesn’t seem to be it.
“We watched a lot on him and we like his size,” Robinson said. “We like his speed. We like his length. He's got good route running skills. He's got some things he's got to clean up. I love his toughness. I love his tenacity as a blocker. He's good in traffic catching the football.”
Rashad Weaver, Edge, Pittsburgh
Weaver could considered be another steal after being projected to go in the second or third rounds. After missing the 2019 season with an ACL tear, Weaver had a breakout 2020, registering 35 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery while being named a consensus All-American.
He had 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks the season before his ACL injury. The Titans drafted him as an outside linebacker, but Weaver could play with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end as well. His addition gives the Titans a strong pass rush option behind Harold Landry and Bud Dupree.
“He's got good length,” Robinson said. “He's got good strength in the position, you know, so much so that they even kicked him down at the Senior Bowl and you can see him play down some over the guard in there and he held his own. He's a high motor player. He's a fun player to watch. I think he's a disruptive player in both the run and the pass game, and excited for him to come in here and compete and work.”
Racey McMath, WR, LSU
McMath is another puzzling selection given his limited playing time at LSU—just 33 receptions in four years. His blazing speed is an obvious plus, but again, other receivers such as Seth Williams, Dazz Newsome and Dax Milne were still on the board and could have filled the slot receiver role.
“He is a big, fast receiver,” Robinson said. “He plays the game with toughness and a physicality component that's easy to see on film. And then his contributions in the kicking game, you know, certainly had him pushed up there for us and we had him really highly rated for what he's been able to do on special teams.”
Brady Breeze, S, Oregon
Breeze will likely be nothing more than a special team contributor, but he does add depth at safety to a team that lost Kenny Vaccaro and will be breaking in Amani Hooker as a full-time starter.
He was productive in 2019 – recording 95 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defensed – before optiong out of the 2020 season, and he was one of just eight FBS players since 2000 to have two fumble return touchdowns and a pick-6 in the same season. He also tied for the most defensive TDs (3) in the nation during 2019.
“He finds the football on special teams much like he does on defense and he's a good tackler,” Robinson said. “He was a highly rated special teams guy for us in our stacks, and we were stoked to add him there late in the sixth."
Undrafted free agents:
Chandon Herring, OL, BYU
Cole Banwart, OG, Iowa
Tory Carter, FB, LSU
Briley Moore, TE, Kansas State
Miller Forristall, TE, Alabama
NaQuan Jones, DT, Michigan State
Justus Reed, DL, Virginia Tech
Blake Haubeil, K, Ohio State
James Smith, P, Cincinnati
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