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Front Page - Friday, April 22, 2022

Titans: Robinson enters draft with trail of mixed results

Titans QB Ryan Tannehill held the injury-riddled Titans together during the 2021 season but came under intense criticism for his playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. - Photo courtesy of Donald Page | Tennessee Titans

It is no secret that Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson needs a home run or two in this year’s NFL Draft, set for April 28-30 in Las Vegas.

As he prepares for his seventh draft as the Titans GM, Robinson has had his share of home run picks. But to continue the baseball analogy, as power hitters are often prone to do, he has had a number of strikeouts that have hurt the team’s development at some positions.

The Titans go into next week’s draft with a handful of need areas and others in which additional depth is needed.

Tennessee is short on wide receivers, even with the addition of Robert Woods. The Titans could use another tight end, even after signing Austin Hooper and keeping Geoff Swaim. And the offensive line … well, there are still lots of questions there.

Even a quarterback of the future has to be considered in this year’s draft, though the 2022 quarterback class is considered much weaker than those of the previous few years.

Defensively, things are more defined, but it never hurts to have extra bodies in the secondary and at inside linebacker. There have been cap cuts and free agent losses in both spots.

So how confident are the Titans that the players they need will be there and contribute? The Titans and Robinson have gotten away from drafting plug-and-play players in the first round in favor of players with high potential.

Picking in the second half of each round due to the team’s sustained success over the past few years has created some of this. A player falls because of off-field issues or injury, and Robinson has simply found the potential talent too good to pass up.

That strategy has produced one big hit in Jeffery Simmons in 2019 and a huge miss in the immature and unmotivated Isaiah Wilson in 2020. It’s hard to evaluate 2021 pick Kaleb Farley after he missed most of his rookie year with a knee injury.

The Titans’ window of opportunity is still open, but not quite as wide as the past couple of years. Derrick Henry is coming off the first significant injury of his career, and though the Titans are optimistic of a return to form, running backs – even ones with Henry’s credentials – usually don’t last as long as stars at other positions.

And quarterback Ryan Tannehill is at a crossroads. His play slipped in 2021 due to a number of factors.

With a high cap number, Tannehill needs to find his 2019-20 form this season or risk losing his roster spot the following year.

The AFC is loaded with outstanding young quarterbacks – Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow, for example – and the Colts and Broncos trading for veteran options in Matt Ryan and Russel Wilson, respectively, the Titans face a difficult path to get back to where they were last year when they entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Ryan Tannehill led the Titans to a No. 1 seed in the playoffs but threw three interceptions in the first-round loss.

That is why Robinson needs a strong 2022 draft from top to bottom – even though Tennessee has just six picks. He needs to find a couple of immediate contributors on offense – an offensive lineman to play either right tackle or left guard, depending upon which spot they want Dillon Radunz – last year’s second round pick – to claim.

Another skill player at receiver or tight end is a necessity as well.

Where the Titans go with pick No. 26 remains unsettled, of course. But what they must address and what type of impact they must get from this draft is clear.

Terry McCormick publishes TitanInsider.com and appears 2-4 p.m. weekdays on the George Plaster Show on WNSR-AM 560/95.9 FM.