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Draft Notebook: Titans Surprise Analysts on Day 2

Posted Apr 27, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans went offense-offense with their first two picks of the NFL Draft for only the second time since 1987, long before the franchise moved from Houston.

The Titans drafted Chance Warmack Thursday with the 10th overall pick like many versions of draft forecasts predicted they would. The next move the team made, however, surprised analysts and revved up fans across the state.

Titans general manager Ruston Webster negotiated a trade with San Francisco GM Trent Baalke to move up six spots from 40th to 34th in the second round. When the trade was announced, the television coverage teams thought the Titans would target a defensive player but the team instead made the trade specifically to draft former Tennessee Volunteers receiver Justin Hunter because they had given Hunter such a high grade and were somewhat surprised he made it to the second round.

“I feel good about it,” Webster said. “Had it been close, we might have gone defense. But it wasn’t close.

“I feel good about the third round and fourth round,” Webster continued during one of several news conferences Friday that followed the selection of Hunter but preceded the third round. “We have two picks in the third round. I think those middle rounds can be good to us that way.”

The only other time the franchise has drafted offensive players with its first two picks as the Titans occurred in 2006 when it selected QB Vince Young third overall and RB LenDale White in the second round with the 45th pick after trading with Philadelphia to move down six spots.

DEFENSIVE DUO: Shortly after Webster said he felt good about the two picks in the third the Titans used both picks on defensive players.

Tennessee increased its size at the cornerback position by selecting Blidi Wreh-Wilson out of Connecticut with the 70th overall pick and added speed at linebacker by drafting Zaviar Gooden out of Missouri with the 97th pick.

Wreh-Wilson played one season of high school football but started 40 of 45 games he played for the Huskies. He’s a little more than 6 feet tall and about 195 pounds. He’s gained about 30 pounds since that one year of high school football.

The Titans believe Wreh-Wilson will be big enough to play “press” man-to-man coverage and be physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage, which is fine with Wreh-Wilson.

“(Press coverage) was something that we practiced a lot,” Wreh-Wilson said. “As the season went on we got into more and more zone, but in practice and in the offseason we spent a lot of time working on our press mechanics and how to be technicians at the line of scrimmage. I feel like going into a more press scheme is something that I like to do. I like to play close to people and press the line forward.”

Titans assistant secondary coach Steve Brown Wreh-Wilson will be able to play man or zone defense from his experience at UConn.

“The thing I liked about him is that when the ball was in the air, he has long arms, he’s athletic, he can make adjustments on the ball,” Brown said. “I’m really excited about this guy. I think he is a guy that has a lot of upside.”

Brown said he thinks Wreh-Wilson will bring a similar approach to the one that’s helped 2009 sixth-round pick Jason McCourty emerge as a starter and a captain. There were also quick comparisons between Gooden and another Titan: speedy linebacker Zach Brown, who was selected by the Titans in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Gooden has similar speed and converted from safety to linebacker. He still moves fluidly in coverage and kept his speed while adding weight and strength. Gooden was fourth among linebackers with 27 repetitions of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine in February.

“I played running back and safety coming out of high school and I went to Missouri as a safety. I have only been playing linebacker for three years. They moved me to the ‘Will’ (weakside linebacker) position my redshirt sophomore year and I started that year and led the team in tackles that year in my first year starting at linebacker.”

Webster, Titans coach Mike Munchak and linebackers coach Chet Parlavecchio each said how important it is to find linebackers with speed that can play with physicality on defense and to help special teams.

“You just got an explosive player that can do a lot of things for you on special teams,” Parlavecchio said. “The youth of our football team and the depth of our football team at linebackers just got a lot better.”

FEELING SINCERE: After spending Thursday night in New York, Warmack arrived in Nashville Friday a couple of weeks after making his official visit to Baptist Sports Park.

Webster said “it seemed like an old friend was back,” when Warmack walked through the door and sat in the same chair he did during his visit, and Warmack said he felt like he was “coming home.”

“They’ve welcomed me with open arms, and I’m just happy to be here,” the Atlanta native who played at Alabama said.

In one of the more memorable images of the draft so far Warmack wrapped his arms around NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the stage of Radio City Music Hall. Warmack said it wasn’t for show.

“Well, I actually had a chance to meet him before the draft and we talked for a while,” Warmack said. “He is a great guy. It was the first time meeting him, and I feel like I have known him for a long time. That hug was real, and I was happy to see him with the 10th pick … I was so happy I couldn’t hear anything.”

FASHION STATEMENT: Warmack was asked about his habit of rolling up his jersey so it appears to be half a shirt and exposes his stomach. Some fans have imitated the style and called it “Warmacking.” He laughed and said he appreciated the support, even if he doesn’t continue it in NFL games.

“Well I am going to answer that question right now about the shirt; I probably won’t be able to do it in the NFL — maybe in a commercial or something,” Warmack said. “It’s all about being comfortable for me. I wasn’t really trying to get any attention or separate myself. It was hot, obviously, I wasn’t comfortable, so I rolled my jersey up. I just went with it because I was getting it done that way.”

SPECIAL GUESTS: Keith Bulluck, the former Titans linebacker who was selected in the first round with the 30th pick in 2000, guest-announced the selection of Hunter.

Army Master Sgt. John Reed is scheduled to announce Tennessee’s fourth-round pick Saturday.

 

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