The first round of the NFL draft in 2020 was absolutely packed with talent. One of the most impressive years for wide receiver talent in a long time. Offensive linemen growing on trees, and a whole host of fresh young quarterbacks. However, there’s one team that appear to have totally bodged their first round pick, somehow… Roll up Tennessee…
Filling a Gap
The Titans did some great work in the off season, and managed to wrap up both quarterback Ryan Tannehill, on a four year deal worth over $115,000,000, and franchise tagged Derrick Henry, the signature of their offence, (he’d eventually sign on a four year, $50,000,000 deal of his own.) This business did however mean that there needed to be a fall guy. The fall guy was Jack Conklin. One of the best right tackles in the league, and the Titans had to let him walk in free agency, to allow the cap space to sign Tannehill and Derrick Henry.
Conklin spent four seasons with the Titans, helping Derrick Henry ignite his career and build a run game that would turn out to be the identity of Tennessee’s offence.
So allowing him to leave meant the Titans now had a gap on the offensive line…
BUT, they did resign back up right tackle Dennis Kelly, on a just about starter contract, making it appear that they believed in Kelly’s ability to take over from the departing Conklin. Kelly, at 6 foot 8 320 pounds, had been with the Titans for four seasons, so knows the system and the play calls etc.
So heading into the draft it looked as though the Titans had patched over the hole at right tackle, and with 2019 pick Nate Davis, veteran centre Ben Jones, long time LA Ram Roger Saffold, and left tackle Taylor Lewan, they appeared to have their line sorted.
It looked like the Titans were one of those teams at the back of the first round who could pick whoever they wanted and just add some talent to assist them in bettering their previous seasons finish in the AFC Championship game.
General manager Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel held the 29th pick in the first round, and would have plenty of time to watch the night unfold before making their selection.
Now it’s important to note the absolutely fantastic job that Mike Vrabel has done with his team since he arrived in Tennessee. I love the hands on approach, the respect his team has for him, and his knowledge for the game. However, this pick is a bit of a smudge on their off season.
Still on the board when the Titans turn on the clock came around included:
A whole host of wide receivers to give the Titans additional support in the passing game, something they could use when teams pay too much attention to Derrick Henry. The likes of, Michael Pittman, Tee Higgins, Laviska Shenault, Chase Claypool, KJ Hamler, Denzel Mims…
Also a handful of edge rush talent and nose tackles to assist the Titans in pressuring opposing team quarterbacks. Ross Blacklock, Marlon Davidson out of Auburn, Raekwon Davis from Alabama etc.
Or even a third safety, a position on the team I’d argue they lack depth. Pro bowl safety Kevin Byard and ex Saint Kenny Vaccaro is a good pair of safeties to have on your defence, but I can’t help feeling like the addition of Antoine Winfield Jr, Jeremy Chinn or Grant Delpit really would have given that Titans D a little more firepower and aggression.
What they actually ended up doing, was drafting offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson out of Georgia. At the time, it was considered somewhat of a reach, given that there was quite the drop off after the big four tackles went off the board. The 2020 draft was touted as one of the best for offensive tackles in a long time, hosting elite talent in Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills and the scarily sized Mekhi Becton. Austin Jackson out of USC would be considered just outside of that top four, so yes, this draft held serious weight (no pun intended), in tackle talent.
The trouble is, that it was also well known there was quite the drop off after those five line men came off the board. Considering Austin Jackson was the last of the five picked, and he came off the board to the Miami Dolphins at 18, the Titans were some way off securing one for themselves.
It was reported here, that the Titans had not been shy about trying to trade down in the draft and accumulate more picks, which is not uncommon for a team that’s not necessarily in desperate need for anything particular. More picks means more potential to hit on a percentage of them and accumulate more able bodies to help push the run for the big game in early February. Due to other trades including that of Ryan Tannehill etc, the Titans were left with 7 picks in the draft, however 3 of those were 7th rounders, meaning a few long shots…
Clearly, and evidently, the Titans failed to find a trade partner and ended up stuck at 29, and judging by the pick, i’m going to go out on a limb and say they seemed under prepared to be there.
Georgia is well known for recruiting and building powerful offensive linemen. Andrew Thomas, taken fourth overall was also a product of Georgia’s powerful line, as was Solomon Kindley, drafted by the Dolphins in round 4. They’ve always been strong in the run game, producing running backs such as Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.
However, it was widely considered that the Titans reached here on a player they didn’t need to take so early. Wilson has great size, he’s 6 foot 6 and 350 pounds, but scouts worried about his technique, hands and awareness. You can read his pre draft grading here. These concerns came before the season even started to unfold… it gets worse. A lot worse.
Wilson’s career so far…
Well, he hasn’t played a meaningful snap. At all. We’re in week 14 and he hasn’t seen the field, except for one extra point attempt, where he got ran over, and three kneel downs in victory formation.
Not exactly the production you want from your first round draft pick while you watch the likes of Chase Claypool, Jeremy Chinn and Raekwon Davis put in great performances on a regular basis.
But for Wilson, he’s not shown himself in a strong light, at all. And here’s the list of reasons why. In chronological order…
Before even signing his rookie contract Wilson was placed on the reserve/COVID list, and okay, we can let that slide as it’s happened to what feels like everybody at some point. That was the first time. He then signed his rookie deal in early August.
A couple of weeks later he was spotted at an event at a local university, which he received a trespassing warning from local police, and apparently tried to evade them by ALMOST jumping over a second story balcony. The gathering at the university violated team rules surrounding COVID and he placed on the reserve/COVID list a second time in early September, shortly after he was caught.
On September 12th, here’s the worst part, Wilson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, being more than 10x over the limit, and reportedly caught doing donuts at an intersection… Christ.
The Titans then issued a statement:
“We are aware of the situation,”… “This is not conduct that is indicative of the character of our football team and we are working through details on how to proceed.”
And THEN, prior to week 13, the Titans announced that they were suspending Wilson for violating team rules. A week after he made his debut, in those three kneeling snaps, he found himself out of action yet again. Quite the rookie year for the young Georgia talent, for all the wrong reasons.
Mega yikes on what was already quite the reach in the draft. No?!
So at this point it seems that this is clearly the worst pick of the first round, in my humblest of opinions. We still don’t know what the plan of action is with Jordan Love in Green Bay, or why they took him instead of getting some help for A Rod, but at least he turns up to practice and hasn’t been caught donutting anywhere lately.
Wilsons commitment to being an NFL athlete and the $11,500,000 contract he signed with the Titans is questionable to say the least. We’ve heard more about his off field nonsense than we have anything remotely football related. He’s currently leaving the Titans organisation with egg on their faces for reaching for him and wasting a first round pick, in a draft where they didn’t have all that many meaningful picks in the first place.
Just think of what might have been. I mean we can all look back now and say they should have picked this guy or that guy, and of course we had no idea at the time how these players would turn out. But one can’t help but wonder how a Tennessee offence with Chase Claypool in it might look.
Let’s hope young Isaiah Wilson straightens himself out, or the Titans will find themselves in a tough spot trying to trade him, or swallowing a cap hit releasing him to free up the roster spot he seems to be wasting as of right now.
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