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Titans Add Speed, Athleticism in 2012 NFL Draft

Posted Apr 28, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Questing to upgrade the Titans’ roster, Ruston Webster thought it was time to move up.

Webster, who on Saturday completed his first NFL Draft as Titans general manager, made his first draft-day trade. Tennessee vaulted up 10 spots to Miami’s original 145th overall turn in the fifth round at the cost of the Titans’ original selecting positions in the fifth and seventh rounds.

He and the Titans, however, quickly reclaimed a seventh-round spot that was 16 notches ahead of where Tennessee would have picked by dealing a sixth-round slot in next year’s draft to Minnesota.

The Titans started the third and final day of the draft by tabbing Clemson cornerback Coty Sensabaugh at 115th overall in the fourth round. Tennessee capitalized on trading up in the fifth round to add Taylor Thompson, who played defensive end at Southern Methodist but entered the draft at tight end, the position at which he garnered all-state status as a prep athlete in Texas.

The Titans added Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin with the 190th pick in the sixth round and finished the selection process with Rice defensive end Scott Solomon at the 211th spot in the seventh round.

Webster and second-year Titans coach Mike Munchak said the overarching theme of this year’s draft was speed. Tennessee’s first six picks—Baylor receiver Kendall Wright, North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown, Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin, Sensabaugh, Thompson and Markelle Martin all have drawn praise for their fleet feet at their respective positions.

“I think we got a lot faster,” Munchak said. “I think (defensive coordinator) Jerry (Gray) talked about it with Brown. We know Kendall Wright and the quickness and the speed that he brings to it. (Mike) Martin is a nose tackle that runs a 4.8. The corner (Sensabaugh) is a 4.3 guy and the tight end (Thompson) runs a 4.6 or less. We definitely brought a lot of speed and a lot of guys that loved the game.”

Solomon, meanwhile, also has a 40-yard dash time under 4.8 seconds, but is more known for his strength. He bench pressed 225 pounds 40 times, and has a 421-pound power clean, 500-pound bench press and 600-pound squat to his credit.

Webster said the qualities that scouts and coaches saw in Thompson and Solomon made the trades worth it. He also said he expects that Tennessee will have compensatory picks in 2013 to make up for free agents who leave and sign elsewhere after the 2012 season.

Webster and the Titans used a sliding scale of six players that could fit with each round’s choice and subbed added players into the mix when teams ahead of the Titans took the players off the board. Webster said a couple of guys the Titans had in their mix of six were drafted earlier in the fifth round, so he wanted to make the deal.

“There were some guys, I think, without naming names, that’s the thing about picking 20, you get into that do I trade up and go get this guy that I really want or do I wait knowing we have a good pool of players there and keep the pick in the next round or whatever,” Webster said. “That’s the dilemma. I think by the time we drafted Taylor Thompson I was tired of some of that happening and we moved up.”

TENNESSEE NATIVE JOINS TITANS: Sensabaugh, who played at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tenn., said he looked forward to the opportunity to play for the team in his home state. Sensabaugh is the first Tennessee native drafted by the Titans since defensive end Jacob Ford, a native of Memphis, in 2007.

The Titans, which began in 1960 as the Houston Oilers, chose Texas natives with their first, fifth, sixth and seventh picks.

THOMPSON PLAYS THROUGH POSITION CHANGE: Thompson originally committed to Vanderbilt, but decided he wanted to go to school closer to his hometown of Prosper, Texas. SMU hired June Jones as coach after Thompson committed, and Jones incorporated a spread offense that didn’t utilize the tight end position. Thompson switched to defensive end to stay on the field and helped the Mustangs break a 25-year bowl drought in 2009 and return to bowl games the next two seasons.

Thompson thinks his time as a defensive end will only help as he goes back to the tight end post.

“Since I played defensive end for the past four years in college, I kind of have the mindset of the opponent,” Thompson said. “That’s a huge thing in football, to understand the enemy. I have that athletic side of me that I can bring to offense that I can really be an aggressive and athletic tight end to help make plays in the pass game and in the run game.”

TITANS FIND VALUE IN LATE ROUNDS: Tennessee believes it did quite well in landing Markelle Martin and Solomon as late in the draft as it did.

Martin started all 37 games of his final three years at Oklahoma State, but tore his meniscus after the Senior Bowl. He had surgery on the injury, but not enough time to recover for the pre-draft combine, when many physical attributes are measured.

“In the beginning I knew I was going to drop a couple of rounds, but to drop so far, I had no idea,” he said. “As the rounds started to go by, I texted my agent and he told me it was probably because of the knee. It’s something I understand and am OK with. I’d rather it be something that can be fixed than something you can’t fix. My knee can be fixed. I can really get back to 100 percent, so I would rather slip for something like that than for some other issue.”

Martin recorded 74 tackles (55 solo) and broke up 11 passes during his senior season that the Cowboys concluded by defeating Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

Webster said the Titans debated between Martin and Solomon in the sixth round before deciding to claim the safety, and then traded into the seventh because Solomon was still available.

Solomon missed the 2010 season but returned with vengeance in 2011 to post a career-best 8.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He vowed to be “relentless” in his pursuit of quarterbacks and a roster spot.

The past three seventh-round players taken by Tennessee — Marc Mariani in 2010, and Zach Clayton and Tommie Campbell in 2011 — earned spots on the Titans’ active roster.

“I’m going to be a ball of fire in there doing everything I can to help the team out and to be a contributor in any way I can, Solomon said. “I wasn’t familiar with (the success of previous seventh rounders), but (I’m) definitely encouraged now. Hopefully my great attitude will help me get that roster spot.”

JOB INTERVIEWS: Teams are allowed a maximum of 30 visits by players in the time that leads up to the draft. Munchak said the Titans tried to capitalize on each trip by having the visitor meet with multiple departments at Baptist Sports Park.

“That’s one thing that is nice that we’ve set up is that the guys that come into this building spend time with everyone in the building from the PR department, to the front office, to the coaches, so you get a chance to get a feel for these guys other than just their athletic ability,” Munchak said. “I think that’s what is encouraging. We got some guys who love to play, some guys who bring a passion to it along with talent, or we wouldn’t have selected them. I’m really excited about the group we have, that they’re going to come in, they love to compete and they’re going to add a lot to the football team.”

IN THE DIVISION: The Texans drafted Georgia center Ben Jones (6-2, 303) with the 99th overall pick, Michigan State receiver Keshawn Martin (5-11, 192) with the 121st overall selection and Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick (6-4, 279) with the 126th pick in the fourth round. Neither Indianapolis nor Jacksonville had a slot in the fourth round.

Houston drafted Texas A&M kicker Randy Bullock (5-9, 205) with the 161st overall pick in the fifth round and Purdue tackle Nick Mondek (6-6, 304) with the 195th overall choice in the sixth round. The Texans traded their seventh round spot to the Buccaneers.

Jacksonville chose Nevada linebacker Brandon Marshall (6-1, 242) at the 142nd overall spot in the fifth round and added Florida State cornerback Mike Harris (5-10, 188) at the 176th slot in the sixth round. The Jaguars closed their draft by picking Ashland (Ohio) defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton (6-3, 323) with the 228th overall choice in the seventh round.

Indianapolis tabbed Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman (6-1, 316) with the 136th overall selection and Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard (5-10, 219) with the 170th pick in the fifth round. The Colts took Ohio receiver LaVon Brazill (5-11, 192) with the 206th pick in the sixth round.

Indianapolis added Georgia tackle Justin Anderson (6-4, 335) with the 208th pick to start the seventh round, then followed with Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugger (6-3, 248) at 214, and concluded the 2012 Draft with Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish (6-2, 219) at the 253rd and final spot, which has been nicknamed “Mr. Irrelevant,” a moniker that may fit this season since the Colts drafted QB Andrew Luck (6-4, 234) with the No. 1 pick Thursday night.

 

 

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