Titans' Fuzzy First-Round Forecast a Sign of Progress

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** When the Titans took the podium to make their first-round draft pick in 2015, there was little doubt they would take Marcus Mariota.

Jake Locker had tumbled from his starter's role by that point and Zach Mettenberger didn't look like the answer either, leaving a struggling Titans team desperate for a quarterback to shape the franchise around.

A similar saga played out in 2016 when the Titans – after making a blockbuster deal – found themselves with the eighth overall pick of the draft. They really couldn't have passed on right tackle Jack Conklin at that point, following a season in which the team was forced to start the likes of Jeremiah Poutasi and Jamon Meredith on Mariota's flank.

Even last year, it was easy to make the argument that immediate need played a significant role in the Titans' drafting of Corey Davis with the fifth overall selection.

The status of the Titans' passing attack at the time (25th in the league), the lack of a number-one wide-out and the impending departure of Kendall Wright combined to make wide receiver the logical choice.

All of which brings us to this year, in which the fearless forecasters are having a devil of a time pinning down the direction the Titans will go with the 25th overall pick – if the team even remains at that spot.

That air of uncertainty over the first-round selection – not just over a specific name, but over a position – has to be a good thing if you're a Titans fan.

It's an illustration of the progress the franchise has made over the past few years that the Titans don't have neon-light glaring needs going into tonight's first round. Teams can truly adhere much more to the ideal of picking the best player available when there's not a gaping roster hole staring them in the face.

“What we wanted to try to do was go into the draft with what we thought was a pretty deep roster,” Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. “I think we've got good depth now. We've got good competition at all the position groups.”

Does that mean the Titans aren't in need of bolstering the roster after last year's trip to the playoffs, one that included the team's first postseason win since 2004?

Not at all.

It certainly wouldn't be a surprise, for instance, to see the Titans go after an edge rusher with their first pick. Some of the names the pundits are throwing out there include Boston College's Harold Landry, Ohio State's Sam Hubbard and LSU's Arden Key.

But it's not as if the Titans *must *pick an edge rusher in the first round. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan combined for 14.5 sacks last season, so the team is hardly devoid of talent at the position.

Along the same lines, it wouldn't be a complete shock to see the Titans grab a tight end with their first pick. Various draft gurus have listed South Carolina's Hayden Hurst and South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert as players worthy of first-round consideration at that position.

But again, with Delanie Walker returning after four seasons of 60-plus catches, it's not as if the Titans must make tight end the priority with their first-round selection.

You get the idea by now.

The Titans could just as easily go with an inside linebacker, an interior offensive lineman or a safety in the first round tonight, but the world won't come to an end if they choose to go in a different direction.

Truth be told, there's a good chance this year's first-round pick won't even need to be a “plug-and-play” rookie right away, something that hasn't happened here since Taylor Lewan was chosen in 2014, when the Titans already had a starting left tackle in Michael Roos.

Again, that's not a bad thing, simply another illustration of the roster depth the Titans have gradually built over the last few years.

Keep in mind, too, that players chosen beyond the first round make impacts as well.

The Titans, for example, knew they needed a safety going into the 2016 draft. But they made four other selections before choosing Kevin Byard in the third round. He finished tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions last year, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors.

In other words, the Titans are likely to address a handful of different positions over the next three days.

The fact they won't feel compelled to fill an overwhelming need right away is a positive progress report.

— Reach John Glennon at @glennonsports.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.

TitansOnline.com looks back at some of the team's #1 draft picks over the years. (AP Photos)

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