Outside linebacker could be the Titans’ first pick

As discussed in an earlier article, the Titans need to address outside linebacker in the draft and probably need to do it early. They probably believe the same thing since they invited two projected first-round picks to Tennessee for a visit. Assuming the visits went well, the Titans are obviously hoping that one or both of them will be available at #30.
If neither is available at that time, or should the Titans select someone else instead, don’t worry. There will be nine more opportunities to draft an outside linebacker. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t shock me to see Tennessee draft one early and another one later. 
Here’s a look at some prospects.

Round One:
Brian Cushing 6’3″, 243 Southern Cal 
Very versatile. The best all-purpose linebacker in the draft — he can do it all and do it well. A rarity who can play either inside or outside in either a 4-3 or 3-4. Also filled in at defensive end in college due to injuries at that position. Best fit is projected to be as a strongside backer in a 4-3 defense. Some concern about his history of injuries. Cushing was invited to have a pre-draft visit with the Titans.
Clay Matthews 6’3″, 240 Southern Cal 
Great motor and work ethic. A walk-on as a freshman, he became a starter by his senior year and is now a first-round projection. Good bloodlines – grandfather, father and uncle (Bruce) all played in the NFL. Like his teammate Cushing, he also visited the Titans. The Houston Chronicle‘s John McClain believes the Texans may draft him at #15 overall. He’d look better in two-tone blue. 
Round Two or Three:
Marcus Freeman 6’0″, 239 Ohio State 
Should be a weakside backer. Good stopping the run and in pass coverage. Quick, athletic, fast and a good special teams player.
Round Three:
Jason Williams 6’1″, 241 Western Illinois   
Not a lot of info on this guy who was not invited to the combine. His Pro Day numbers in the 40, broad jump and vertical jump were all better than any LB did at combine. Did not run the shuttles at his Pro Day. Not just a workout warrior, stats indicate he was also productive on the field, although at the FCS, small school level.. Visited at least ten teams, including the Titans.
Round Three or Four:
Tyrone McKenzie 6’2″, 243 South Florida
Played both Sam and Mike in college. Not as good in coverage as against the run. Plays with a lot of hustle. 
Round Four or Five:
Jonathan Casillas 6’1″, 228 Wisconsin  
A very quick weakside backer. May benefit by adding a few pounds if he can do so without losing quickness.
Round Five or Six:
Nic Harris 6’2″, 234 Oklahoma 
A safety in college who switched to middle linebacker his senior season. Big hitter, good tackler, fine teams player. Had a good Senior Bowl as a weakside LB, where he should play in the NFL. Not a problem for me, Keith Bulluck was also a college safety who made the switch to Will.
Gerald McGrath 6’2″, 231 Southern Miss 
Quick, good tackler, strictly a weakside LB.

Anthony Felder 6’2″, 233 California  

Versatile, tough run defender, not as good in pass coverage. Played both inside and outside in college. Will have to prove himself to be a three-down player.
DeAndre Levy 6’2″, 236, Wisconsin 
Smart, intelligent outside backer. Physical player, good against the run. Good quickness and can also cover well.
Round Six or Seven:
Kevin Ellison 6’1, 227 Southern Cal 
Played safety in college but is projected to be converted to weakside linebacker. Solid tackler. Has a history of knee injuries. Jeff Fisher is on very good terms with Pete Carroll and his staff and will get a candid assessment on that, as well as the lowdown on every other Southern Cal player.
Robert Francois 6’2″, 244 Boston College 
Good size for the strong side and very physical. Excellent special teamer. Lots of upside. Had a good week at East-West Shrine game. 
Moise Fokou 6’1″, 233 Maryland 
Quick and athletic. A project at Will who will take some time to develop. Can contribute greatly and immediately on special teams.
Round Seven or Free Agent:
Brian Toal 6’0″, 228 Boston College 
He should be a fan favorite of whichever team gets him. He’d be one of my faves. Tough, scrappy and feisty. Played outside linebacker, fullback, was on coverage units and punt unit in college. Had serious neck and shoulder injuries.
Stephen Hodge 6’0″, 234 TCU 
Was a strong safety in college but played more like a linebacker. A safety/weakside linebacker tweener. Good tackler, good covering punts and kicks.
OK, Titans fans, what’s your opinion?

5 Responses to “Outside linebacker could be the Titans’ first pick”

  1. Morgan Says:

    I have to say that Cushing and Matthews are both great tallent LB’ers, but they do have a downside. Matthews started a facebook profile called “White Nation” back awhile ago, and guess who joined. Yep, Cushing was one of the first to join him in the “White Nation” group. Both claim it was a joke by a USC player just messing around, but it has to raise some questions to a GM. I’ve never been on facebook, its totally rediculious wanting people to know what your doing, so i dont know how serious profiles are. Both have enormous upsides with a dark downside.

  2. Andrew Strickert Says:

    I hadn’t heard about that but it’s very disturbing if it’s true.

  3. Scott Says:

    I agree that the Titans will take a LB early in the draft. If either Matthews or Cushing is still available at the end of round one, I think the Titans would consider one of them – even if there are a few top-rated receivers or CBs still on the board.
    But I am not convinced that they will limit themselves to considering outside linebackers. If a guy like Laurinaitis is still there at #30, I would expect the Titans to take him and start him at MLB this year and then, perhaps, in a year or two see if he can move to the outside to take over for Bulluck or Thorton. I know that he doesn`t have the straight line speed, but he has a great deal of quickness in short spaces (I think he had some of the best LB times in the 3 cone drill and the 20 yard shuttle at the combine) and might be able to make the transition to OLB. He was also a great college player who did everything for Ohio State on defence. It is also possible that Fisher might consider replacing the run stuffing ability of Fat Albert with an upgrade at middle linebacker, rather than by drafting a big DT.

  4. whisker Says:

    cushing reminds me of dan morgan, awsome but wont stay healthy. i like zack follett because he is an animal. also if they can draft harris or mcgrath in the 5th i will be very happy.

  5. Andrew Strickert Says:

    Thanks for your opinions, guys. I like Lauranaitis too, Scott. Whisker, I agree with you about Harris and McGrath. I’m looking forward to next weekend!

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