Jim Wyatt, Senior Writer/Editor, TitansOnline.com
A pair of former NFL personnel men think Titans GM Jon Robinson could make another move in this year’s NFL Draft. Either way, they believe the Titans are in a good position.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In his first 15 months on the job, Titans general manager Jon Robinson has proven he’s not afraid to make a move.
A pair of former NFL executives believe he’ll look to keep wheeling and dealing in this year’s NFL Draft.
“Pardon the pun, but I think he should be put in jail for stealing,’’ long-time Cowboys personnel man Gil Brandt, with a chuckle, said of Robinson, referring to the GM’s successful trades since taking over. “I think he has done a marvelous job. I think what he did last year was great.
“I do think this: I think that after the success he’s had by trading down, it wouldn’t shock me to see him trade down in this particular draft. And I think this is a draft where beyond 10 and 12 in this draft, about 40 guys all look alike. And if there’s any possibility that you can move down and pick up an extra choice by moving down and still getting a player from the same plateau, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t consider doing it.”
Phil Savage, who worked in the NFL as a coach, scout and executive for 20 years, agreed with Brandt while offering praise for Robinson. Brandt and Savage made their comments during a pre-draft conference call on Wednesday afternoon for SIRIUSXM NFL Radio.
“I think Titans fans should be really pleased with what Jon has done,’’ said Savage, a former director of player personnel with the Ravens who also spent four years as general manager of the Browns. “He’s done it with a mixture of free agency, with some sort of under-the-radar signings like (center) Ben Jones last year and defensive lineman Sylvester Williams this year. He’s done it with the draft.
“But I would say keep an eye on that choice at five. Unless there is a player they are totally in love with, most likely a defensive back in my mind – I don’t think there is a wide receiver there to take at five. I would look for them to try and be on the move from that spot. … At a certain point from (picks) 10 to 50, in essence you are getting a very similar player in many ways.
“I think (the Titans) are in a position to have a strong draft at five and 18. If they stay put they are going to get two really good players. If they move down they may have an opportunity to pick up three or four really good players.”
The Titans are scheduled to make eight selections in the upcoming NFL Draft, including two picks — No.5 and No.18 — in the first round. Robinson has been clear since the beginning of the offseason he’s interested in making a move.
Robinson has made five trades since taking over last January:
• The Titans swapped fourth-round picks with the Eagles in exchange for running back DeMarco Murray, who was named a Pro Bowler in 2016 after finishing third in the NFL with 1,287 rushing yards.
• Robinson traded the No.1 pick of the draft to the Los Angeles Rams for the 15th overall pick in the draft, two second-round picks (43 and 45), and a third-rounder (76) in 2016. The Titans also received the Rams’ first-round pick (fifth overall) in 2017, along with a third-round compensatory pick (100).
• The Titans traded the 15th and the 76th overall pick, along with a second-round pick in 2017, to move up in the draft to land Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin with the eight overall pick. The Titans also received the Browns’ sixth-round pick, No. 176. Conklin was named All-Pro in his first season.
• On the third day of last year’s draft, the Titans traded with the Broncos and acquired cornerbacks LeShaun Sims (5th round, 157) and Kalan Reed (seventh round, 253rd) in exchange for the 176th pick of the draft and a sixth round pick in 2017.
• Last August, the Titans traded receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for versatile offensive lineman Dennis Kelly.
Brandt, vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1989 who now hosts “Late Hits” weeknights on SiriusXM NFL Radio, said he believes four safeties will be drafted in the first round of this year’s draft, so teams looking for a safety could get one late in the first round. Brandt said the cornerback class is loaded, which makes moving back to get a good one attractive as well.
“There’s a lot of those corners who all look very much alike,’’ Brandt said. “So whenever you can get a 2-for-1, and have two chances to win the lottery instead of one, and you get a player you think is in the same plateau, make the move.”
Savage, who as the director of college scouting and later as the director of player personnel with the Baltimore Ravens helped assemble a roster that included 12 Pro Bowlers, said the Titans will have some nice options at the receiver position.
Clemson’s Mike Williams, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Washington’s John Ross are considered the top receivers in this year’s draft class, but Savage thinks East Carolina’s Zay Jones could be special as well.
“Just looking at the roster, the depth chart of the Titans receiver group, you would think that they would probably favor a bigger power forward type of guy,” Savage said. “A player that I really like and I think could be a combination of outside and inside – he’s just a playmaker – is Zay Jones. He is probably more of a second-round type of choice.
“There are some receivers in this draft that are going to plug in as a third wide out when teams go to their 11 personnel with the three wide receivers on the field and I think they’ll be able to contribute something this year.”