NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After months of speculation, NFL Draft week is finally here. That means one more chance for NFL writers and analysts to make final predictions on who the Titans might select with the No. 2 overall pick Thursday night.
The Titans hold arguably the biggest wild card in this year’s draft with prognosticators tossing darts and opinions all over the board. Will they use the pick, or will a trade offer from one or more teams be too good to pass up?
Here’s the latest predictions from some of the analysts we’ve been following.
In a mock draft featuring ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay alternating picks, McShay has Florida State QB Jameis Winston going No. 1 overall to Tampa Bay, with Kiper then tabbing Oregon QB Marcus Mariota to Tennessee at No. 2.
"This wasn't at all a tough decision for me,” Kiper said. "Zach Mettenberger simply can't match Mariota as a talent, and even if I'm not sold on Mariota, at this slot he's a valuable trade asset that I can listen to offers on. And I'm not at all in the camp that says Mariota can't ‘fit our system.’”
McShay, meanwhile, has Mariota going off the board at No. 2 in the fifth version of his own mock draft.
“This is a tough pick to make. If the Titans don't receive a trade offer they like at this spot, I feel like they're more likely to take a player other than Mariota (USC's Leonard Williams would be a perfect fit in Ray Horton's hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive scheme). But I'll slot Mariota here in accordance with the Mel Kiper ‘no trades’ mock draft rule, with the idea that I believe a team will move up to take him at No. 2,” he said. “It makes sense for the Chargers to trade Philip Rivers for the second pick if they don't think they can retain Rivers beyond this year, especially given Rivers' experience with Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt.
“I consider the Jets another possibility, and I'm not yet ready to rule out a move up by the Eagles to take him,” McShay continued. “Chip Kelly thinks really highly of Mariota, he's a perfect fit for his system and the trio of Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow is far from a sure thing from a durability and on-field performance standpoint. I also think the Rams are a long-shot candidate to move up for Mariota.”
ESPN colleague John Clayton chimed in during his weekly mailbag.
“The Titans might take Mariota at No. 2 this year, which wouldn't be considered a reach even though he's a spread quarterback. He might be the best of the spread quarterbacks who have come into the league in recent years,” Clayton said. “The mistake would be investing too high of a pick on Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley. They are spread quarterbacks who need time to develop, which lowers their draft value.”
Four analysts from the NFL Media group offered their opinions.
Brian Baldinger strayed away from the norm and went with Florida outside linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. at No. 2.
“It'll be Fowler or Leonard Williams here over Marcus Mariota,” Baldinger said. “Fowler is the choice because he fits better in the Titans' base 3-4 scheme.”
Bucky Brooks is rolling with USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
“Williams would give Dick LeBeau the disruptive playmaker he needs to reshape the Titans’ woeful defense,” he said.
Lance Zierlein believes Mariota goes off the board at No. 2.
“Might be the right draft spot, but a different team here if the Titans find a club willing to make this jump in a trade-up,” Zierlein noted.
And Daniel Jeremiah is sticking with Mariota, after initially thinking Williams was the firm choice.
“I think Mariota will get picked here, but I'm not sure which team will be making the selection,” he said.
In other mock drafts, Barry Wilner of the Associated Press believes Mariota goes to Tennessee.
“Do the Titans also go QB, or pull the trigger on a trade with someone eager to move up to get one?” Wilner asks. “Hard to believe they see sixth-rounder Zach Mettenberger as the real deal, but they also love this crop's top defensive player, Leonard Williams.”
Eric Galko of Sporting News goes outside the box with his selection, projecting West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White at No 2.
“Leonard Williams is often projected for this spot, but after investing in two pass-rushers and having a top 5-technique already on the roster in Jurrell Casey, how much value could Williams really provide?” Galko wonders. “They have interest in top receivers, and White can make this receiver unit one of the best young ones in the AFC.”
SI.com’s Doug Farrar is buying into the Philip Rivers rumors, saying the veteran QB goes to Tennessee along with San Diego’s first-round pick (No. 17 overall) so the Chargers can get Mariota.
“This move would reunite Rivers with Titans head coach and former San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, whom Rivers credits with resuscitating his career, and would allow the Chargers to move forward with perhaps the most intriguing quarterback prospect in this draft class,” Farrar said.
And with the 17th overall pick, Farrar believes the Titans fill a need at right tackle with Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings.
“If Tennessee trades down to 17, they'll still have their pick of some very talented offensive linemen, which would appear to be the team's primary need right now,” he said. “Last year, rookie Taylor Lewan looked better and better until a high-ankle sprain ended his season five games early. So, the left side is covered, but the release of Michael Oher leaves a hole on the right edge. Clemmings would be an interesting fit here — he played defensive end his first three years at Pitt, but switched to the offensive line in 2013, and though he still needs technique work, he's got everything it takes to dominate at the next level.”
And lastly, Rob Rang at CBSSports.com is another person that believes Mariota goes off the board here.
“Whether the Titans select Mariota or trade this pick to another team (sources suggest that the Jets, Bears, Rams, Browns, Chargers and Eagles all are in play), sources throughout the league expect the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to come off the board at No. 2,” he said “The rumored Philip Rivers for Mariota deal is a legitimate possibility, I'm told, with the Chargers perhaps ranking as the favorite to land here should the pick be dealt.”