NASHVILLE – The Titans have Delanie Walker, a three-time Pro Bowler who holds just about every franchise record for a tight end.
Jonnu Smith returns after showing even more promise in 2018, and tight ends MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser will look to build off momentum they generated last fall.
Still, some are convinced the Titans could take a tight end – Iowa’s Noah Fant to be more exact – in the first round of the NFL Draft, at pick 19. In fact, in the most recent mock draft roundup by Titans Online, six of the 30 mock drafts had the Titans taking Fant.
Heck, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling of MMQB listed tight end as the biggest need for the Titans in their series on draft needs for all 32 teams.
NFL Network’s Charles Davis, for the record, doesn't necessarily agree. His current pick for Tennessee is Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
But Davis concedes the tight end chatter might not be crazy talk.
“I could see it, and the reason why is Delanie is coming off an injury. And while Delanie has been in the league a while, you have that uncertainly about him being the same guy as he was before,” Davis said. “I would put my money on him being that guy because I have seen his work ethic and how he takes care of himself. So you can always see that, but you kind of have to hedge your bets a little.”
Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson is regarded the top tight end in the 2019 draft class, followed by Fant, his former teammate with the Hawkeyes. Alabama’s Irv Smith, Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger and Dawson Knox of Ole Miss round out NFL Network draft analyst Bucky Brooks’ top five.
Brooks called Fant "an explosive athlete with the size and length to create mismatches on the perimeter.
“The 6-4, 245-pounder plays like a jumbo wide receiver,” Brooks wrote, “but needs to show a little more nastiness in the running game as a blocker to be a "Y" in most offenses.”
Davis believes another good tight end could help out Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, and the offense.
“It’s the same conversations since Marcus has gotten there: How do you surround him with weapons that he can take advantage of, and will make him a better quarterback?,” Davis said. “Tight ends are a godsend for any quarterback because of the types of throws you typically make with them.
“In Tennessee, how many times did Steve McNair find Frank Wycheck?
“You can’t have enough of them,” Davis continued. “Can you imagine if Delanie comes back full speed, you draft another one, and that kid gets acclimated quickly? That could change things quickly, and it could help Mariota get to that level we are all expecting and hoping he will be.”
NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah also sees the Titans going a different direction when they’re on the clock.
When he heard 20 percent of the 30 mock drafts polled by Titans Online tabbed a tight end for the Titans, he found it interesting.
He admits he likes Fant, and he understands why the Titans are looking for more weapons on offense.
“I don’t think that would be my first choice there, but I get the standpoint that you have to be more dynamic offensively, and Fant is a really good player and it would allow you to do some things,” Jeremiah said.
“I get it from the standpoint, ‘OK, you want a receiver.’ But I think Fant is probably going to be better than the receiver options outside except for maybe (Oklahoma’s) Hollywood Brown. I would rather wait in a receiver, and tight end could be a good option there. But I think at the end of the day they end up going to the line of scrimmage, either offensive or defensive line.”