Who should the Titans select with the No. 1 overall pick?

With the first pick of the 2016 NFL draft locked up, Steve Palazzolo takes a look at the top prospects fits in Tennessee.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

Who should the Titans select with the No. 1 overall pick?

The playoff matchups are set, which of course means the top of the draft is locked in as well. After drafting second overall last season, the Tennessee Titans are now on the clock as months of draft speculation begins. The one bright side to Tennessee’s position is having quarterback Marcus Mariota on the roster after selecting him a year ago. The new head coach should feel comfortable with Mariota, as he showed enough in his first year that he can be the franchise QB going forward. That opens up a myriad of questions as far as which direction the Titans turn, and even with their pending offensive and defensive schemes unknown, there are only a few names at the top worth watching.

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Our top-graded edge defender for the second year in a row, Bosa is the draft’s best player, bringing an all-around ability to rush the passer and play the run.

His +43.5 pass rush grade ranked second in the nation this season, compared to a nation-leading +56.6 last year as he outplayed first round edge players such as Dante Fowler (Jacksonville Jaguars), Vic Beasley (Atlanta Falcons), Bud Dupree (Pittsburgh Steelers), and others.

Bosa was similarly dominant against the run, grading at +21.5 last season (third in nation) and leading the way at +28.5 this year. The only question with Bosa may be that of defensive scheme, but he’s best equipped to play 4-3 defensive end or kicking inside to take on guards as an interior rusher. No matter what the defense looks like for the Titans next season, Bosa is a game-changer on the defensive line and he would be a strong addition for an underrated front-7 in Tennessee that includes Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, and Brian Orakpo.

DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

Staying on the defensive line, Buckner was similarly-dominant this season, leading all interior defensive linemen with a +70.0 overall grade. Like Bosa, Buckner’s impact is twofold, whether rushing the passer (+42.2) or playing the run (+27.7).

While Bosa may be a better fit outside on a four-man line, Buckner is more of a defensive end in a 3-4, also capable of playing inside on a four-man line rushing the passer. For that reason, Tennessee’s defensive scheme may dictate that Buckner is a better fit if they stick to a similar 3-4 that they ran this season.

At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, the easy comparison for Buckner is that of Arizona Cardinals DE Calais Campbell, and it’s not far-fetched to expect similar production from the former Oregon Duck. Regardless of scheme, Buckner is capable of rushing on the outside against offensive tackles, using his length to lean on the pocket in an oversized Chandler Jones kind of way. Keep an eye on the Titans’ hire on the defensive side of the ball as a true 3-4 coach may look to a pairing of Buckner and Casey at defensive end as a perfect building block to go with Morgan and Orakpo at outside linebacker.

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

Perhaps the most common mock draft selection for the Titans is Tunsil, who fits the classic left tackle mold and may be the top offensive tackle prospect in the draft. He came on strong this season, ranking seventh among OTs at +16.4 since returning from suspension in week eight.

The problem here, and this is more of a personal one, is the lack of need for a “franchise” left tackle in the NFL these days. While offensive line play around the league has been poor, and adding any good player to the mix is a positive, the value of the left tackle is not what it once was, as the NFL continues to move their pass rushers around and right tackles face a more difficult slate of pass rushers than their left tackle brethren (and the results are similar when the QB is pressured off either edge).

So for the next five months, you’ll hear about “protecting Mariota’s blindside” and Tunsil’s perfect fit for Tennessee, whereas I’m more inclined not to overdraft a left tackle and would rather get a game-changing defensive lineman. The other factor in play? The NFL passing game is evolving to the point that a quick-hitting attack and spread running game can help mitigate weaknesses along the offensive line, so stocking up on unique skillsets at the skill position players may be a more viable strategy than ever. That’s why Tunsil’s teammate may be a wild card to be the top pick, despite flying in the face of conventional wisdom.

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

A wide receiver at the top?

It may be a stretch, especially considering how most experts scoff at wide receivers at the top of the draft, but the new NFL is more conducive to playmakers than ever. Rules changes make it easier to pass and a wide array of playmaking options can turn good quarterback play into a great passing game, and that’s the strategy the Titans should be looking to take with Mariota.

Wide receivers need to be able to either win contested downfield catches or create yards after the catch, and Treadwell has the ability to do both. He had the number eight receiving grade against Power-5 competition (+12.7) and as the bowl game showed (+2.9), a healthy Treadwell can take over the game.

He was successful this season despite coming off a major injury and he has the physicality to bring an all-around threat to any offense. So while there are better options to take with the top pick, and enough wide receiver depth to dive into the second and third rounds, surrounding Mariota with a variety of playmakers should be a priority for the Titans this offseason.

| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • ryanrauch

    Think Bosa is the best player in this draft, but Titans pass rush and run defense was surprisingly decent last season. -58.8 pass blocking grade suggest they need help on offensive line. Need weapons too. Think they’d love to trade back to take top WR on board, but unlikely any team moves up to #1 in this draft without a top signal caller. Unfortunate, but will make for exciting draft at the top.

  • Eric Leonard

    I think/hope they try to aquire more in free agency than they normally do. There are a TON of elite and above-average free agents this off-season. They should make at least two big moves in FA. O-line and defensive linemen should be their priority this draft. They’ll also need another Safety, because Griffin doesn’t believe he’ll be back. I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t address the running game ahead of the passing. They already have Kendall Wright, DGB, Justin Hunter, Harry Douglas, McBride as a decent slot guy, and of course, Delanie Walker. Mariotta isn’t a deep passer, but the receivers he has are best used for mid-range, underneath passes, and especially red zone. It won’t matter how much they improve the passing game if they neglect the running game again next season. Average running backs are a dime-a-dozen, but they need a great RB to stretch out the defense.

  • dooger2

    Moving Taylor Lewan to RT and bookending the line with Laremy Tunsil just makes so much sense. Protect Mariota first and foremost.

  • David Stinnett

    Maybe they should do something about being the offense where RB’s go to disappear

  • Malenko

    Your reasons for not drafting a LT are exactly why they should draft the Tackle. Get strong bookends on both sides. Got to find a way to slow down JJ watt. That’s why he’s the pick.

    • Johnny Cash Guzman

      The Titans should try to do everything to help Mariota. Get a tackle, WR, and RB in rounds 1-3. Maybe trade down to get extra picks to build around Mariota.

      The Titans should try to follow the lead of what my Raiders did to help Derek Carr. Carr started all 16 games as rookie but the Raiders had a worse season because of it. They pretty much knew it was going to be a lost season but they did it anyway to develop Carr.

      I sort of see that with the Titans and Mariota. They knew Mariota would struggle but they gave him the time to get experience. The experience was huge for Carr but in his 2nd year the front office also committed to building around him to give him all the help he needed. They used free agency and the draft to get O-lineman, WRs, and TEs.

      It worked out pretty well for Carr and the team. Carr made a huge jump in year 2 while he and the play makers hit some statistical milestones that had not been done in years for the Raiders. They also improved their win total from 3-13 to 7-9.

      They still have a lot of work to do but Carr now has some play makers around him that are yound and they can all grow together for years to come. The Titans should do the same for Mariota.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I like the George Allen strategy of always trading the first round pick.

  • Michael James

    I agree on all of them, but not on Buckner. I know all of you have a crush on him and he most certainly is a good player, but I would rank him in the middle of the first round, he simply isn’t overly explosive. While that isn’t really stopping him in college, I bet he won’t be as effective rushing the passer in the NFL as he is now.

    • silverflurry

      Ridiculous comment. Teams send in two-to-three players to stop Buckner and he still gets sacks. Do you watch football?

      • Michael James

        Yes, I do and I would recommend you to watch tape, too.

  • Backinmd

    One year George Allen traded is 2nd round pick for Tattoo ..The future is now ” – it worked ..

  • Steve ferrell

    TN needs to go after Thomas and mack from Cleveland, then they can draft bosa #1 and focus on the secondary. Adding Forte or elliot would be phenomenal

  • Steve ferrell

    Did I mention Hue Jackson, silly me

  • Brit

    There will a lot of teams seeking a QB that will want to trade into the top spot,

  • Tyler Ferree

    I wouldn’t take Treadwell number 1, but that is mostly due to abysmal success rates with first round wide recivers, 36% back after 5 years isn’t setting yourself up well long term when you have your pick of all the prospects.

  • Matt

    The biggest mistake would be to not draft the best available player. The team with the first overall pick generally is the team with the least amount of talent. The Titans should draft talent and sign needs. NFL contracts are mostly non-garaunteed so it makes little sense to leave the best player for someone else to take; especially on a rookie contract. Draft Bosa if you believe he is the best player and trade/cut whoever you need to for him to get playing time. There are 22 starters, not including special teams, so stock up on pro bowl caliber players anf sort the rest out later. No one expects year 1 turn around from a new head coach of the worst team in the league.

  • Frank Galovic

    Okay, the Titans have 6 OL with 3 years or less experience, 2 of which were first rounders. I wouldn’t draft any more but rather go out on the FA market and get some with 5 to 8 years experience to help the young guys. Then hire a great OL coach and separate the wheat from the chaff. The young players have terrible technique. For example, Warmack steps back when he pulls and makes no progress to where he is supposed to be going with that first step. What happens is that he usually gets to the hole just as the back is getting there and the back can’t cut through the hole. That is technique. Lewan has trouble staying with blocks as he loses his technique. Poutasi is a guard and not a tackle.

    Draft DB’s and WR’s. Their DB’s just don’t challenge receivers for the ball. The last Colts game was a great example. The incompletions were because of the QB’s. And the WR’s they currently have don’t get any separation. Why throw long when they don’t lose the coverage.

  • Justin Taylor

    I hope if Rolando McLain, Chris Ivory and several others are allowed to test FA, that the Titans make a run at them. Best thing that could happen in the draft would be to trade down (not too far) maybe to the Cowboys. Allow them to have their pick of QB, either Tunsil or Bosa would be there at 4 in that case. But there is more than one OT in this draft that could improve our OL. I agree FA has to be more aggressive this year. Ivory would be massive, McLain would give us a big boost at MLB. All a pipe dream but the potential with our draft position and FA room to leap all the way to 1st in the South is a reality. It is a smaller gap than the records show. Only time will tell if our front office is prepared to go balls to the wall, but we can hope. Also I wouldn’t dare to compare our offensive players to those of the patriots, but the offensive scheme that McDaniels has in NE plays to the few strengths we have. Their passing game is rooted around short and medium passes in which the QB gets the ball out quick (Mariotas strength) and their best receiver is also a TE. We need our WRS to run more disciplined routes, but this is why McDaniels is my pick for our new Head Coach.