Titans 2024 NFL Draft takeaways: First beef, then skill, for a quintet of impact players


The Tennessee Titans managed to add more than 700 pounds of football player with their first two picks, then throttled down on the third day — from 234-pound North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray to 194-pound Louisville cornerback Jarvis Brownlee Jr. to 188-pound Tulane receiver Jha’Quan Jackson.

And those five players? All of them are expected to matter to the Titans in the 2024 season. Four of them could start, if Titans coach Brian Callahan values a traditional slot receiver and Jackson steps forward and claims that role. That’s a long shot, but he’s the immediate favorite to be this team’s returner next season. First-round offensive tackle JC Latham, second-round defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat and Gray should start right away. Brownlee is the fourth corner of a transformed group and should be in the mix.

That’s a ton of impact in six rounds of drafting (to go with Miami linebacker James Williams, who played safety in college, at No. 242 and Michigan edge Jaylen Harrell at No. 252), and with no third-round pick to help. Here’s how GM Ran Carthon’s second draft class, his first with new head coach Brian Callahan, breaks down.

The picks

Round

Pick

Name

Position

School

1

7

JC Latham

OT

Alabama

2

38

T’Vondre Sweat

DT

Texas

4

106

Cedric Gray

LB

North Carolina

5

146

Jarvis Brownlee Jr.

CB

Louisville

6

182

Jha’Quan Jackson

WR

Tulane

7

242

James Williams

LB

Miami (Fla.)

7

252

Jaylen Harrell

Edge

Michigan

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Tennessee Titans draft JC Latham: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

Best value pick

Brownlee Jr., at No. 146. Dane Brugler, The Athletic’s draft analyst, ranked him the No. 112 prospect in the draft, giving him a grade of third/fourth round. He played three seasons at Florida State before finishing with two at Louisville, and his film is full of physical, aggressive play — dropping receivers on bumps at the line of scrimmage and harassing them downfield. That fits perfectly with the style of play Titans defensive coordinator Dennard Wilson wants to instill. Brugler compares Brownlee with Cobie Durant, and the 5-10, 194-pound Brownlee agrees with Brugler on his NFL destiny, based on his post-pick interview — he’s best as a slot corner.

This continues a complete transformation at that position. L’Jarius Sneed, Chidobe Awuzie and Brownlee joining starting slot Roger McCreary? That’s dramatic.

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Most surprising pick

Jackson at No. 182 instead of Virginia slot receiver Malik Washington. Washington as a whole was a surprise in this draft — Brugler ranked him the No. 90 prospect in the draft and gave him a third-round grade. Washington went two picks after the Titans grabbed Jackson, at No. 184 to the Miami Dolphins. So the comparisons between those two will be natural. To be clear, Jackson is a value as well, ranked No. 159 by Brugler, who calls him a “Day 1 value as a punt returner.” The college roommate of Titans running back Tyjae Sharpe and the nephew of Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed, Jackson’s key will be health — he has knee, shoulder and ankle injuries in his past.

Biggest question mark

Sweat is the easy choice here. The Titans reached for him at No. 38, per the rankings of Brugler and many others. Which is strange considering the dominance he displayed at Texas last season and the Outland Trophy in his trophy case. But the 6-4 Sweat, listed at 366 pounds, played in the 380s last season, Brugler reported. And that’s one aspect of the biggest question about him, which makes him the biggest question in this draft class: Will he be mature enough to maximize his substantial talents?

The Titans detailed the levels of homework they did on Sweat during the pre-draft process. Young people make mistakes, many of them more serious than a DWI arrest. But the fact that Sweat had one earlier this month, amid a process that amounts to one extensive and life-changing job interview, with the microscope squarely on him, has to be a concern. Jeff Simmons needs him to be great, and Sweat needs to model his game and life outside football after Simmons.

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Tennessee Titans draft T’Vondre Sweat: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

Remaining needs

The Titans still have three significant holes after the draft: safety, offensive tackle and edge. The starting safety next to Amani Hooker projects to be Elijah Molden at this point, but the Titans need someone who can challenge him – and the answer there may be signing one of the veterans who is still without a team at this point. Nicholas Petit-Frere projects to start at right tackle – or left if first-round pick JC Latham can’t successfully transition to that side – and right now that’s not a comforting projection. But Petit-Frere could be in line for a third-year jump, after a mistake-plagued second season, under offensive line coach Bill Callahan. The Titans need it to happen. Arden Key and Rashad Weaver lend decent support to pass-rushing standout Harold Landry Jr., but this team really needs another impact player there. And that just might have to wait until the next offseason. Seventh-round pick Harrell joins Caleb Murphy in the developmental depth department.

Post-draft outlook

The Titans got better this offseason, possibly much better, and the sorry state of their roster after a second straight losing season made that mandatory and likely. But before reserving a spot for Brian Callahan’s first team in the playoffs, keep in mind what the rest of the AFC South did. The Houston Texans followed up their free agency binge with Georgia cornerback Kamari Lassiter. The Jacksonville Jaguars responded to the Titans stealing away wide receiver Calvin Ridley by adding LSU big-play man Brian Thomas Jr., plus his powerful college teammate, defensive tackle Maason Smith. The Indianapolis Colts have a potentially complete receiving corps for Anthony Richardson after drafting Texas’ Adonai Mitchell, and UCLA edge Laiatu Latu bolsters their pass rush.

The Titans had more ground to make up than anyone else. They made up enough to believe a postseason shot is possible if a lot of things break their way. But they’re still projected to be grappling with the Colts for third place in the division.

(Photo of JC Latham: Kirby Lee / USA Today)





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