Revisiting Tennessee Titans’ 2011 Draft Class
Tennessee Titans 2011 Draft Class
Each year, NFL Draft pundits blindly hand out draft grades about the Tennessee Titans presuming that the college stars with the impressive resumes will fulfill their promise while the late-round selections and undrafted free agents will only be good for special teams and the practice squad. However, time and time again, draft gems are uncovered like former Titans Corltan Finnegan who went undrafted or current offensive line cornerstones Michael Roos and David Stewart who were both late-round afterthoughts. Each players entered camp with very little fan fare but quickly ascended up the depth chart and have been recognized as All-Pro.
The Titans uncovered a few draft gems in the 2010 class who exceeded expectations by outperforming their draft stock and making draft experts and pundits eat their words. Although the players selected in the first three rounds get the press conference and take the picture holding up their jersey, it’s the players drafted in the later rounds that ultimately make the difference in determining the success or the failure of the team.
Although it would be great if every draft selection became perennial Pro-Bowlers, a successful draft class should not be measured by sacks and highlight-reel catches or interceptions alone. If a player is a solid contributor on special teams or is a rotational player that gives starters a much-needed break, their contributions are also invaluable.
Several prospects from the 2011 draft class will play a key role in determining if the Titans retake their rightful place on top of the AFC Central Division. The 2011 draft class was once hailed as steals, but have they lived up to expectations so far? Have they been booms, busts or is the jury still out?
Tommie Campbell - 7th Round Pick (251) - BOOM!
Very little is often expected of players selected in the last round of the NFL Draft. Many presume that prospects selected in the later rounds may not even make the final roster.
Tommie Campbell has defied draft pundits by being a key contributor on special teams and getting occasional looks in nickel-package situations. Campbell registered his first touchdown with an 84-yard kickoff return. Since the Titans added two safeties in the offseason, it is unclear if he will be given an opportunity to contribute outside of making key plays on special teams.
Since so little is expected of seventh-round picks, his 21 career tackles in spot duty makes him a boom prospect that has exceeded expectations by making the 53-man roster and contributing on special teams.
Zach Clayton - 7th Round Pick (212) - BUST!
Zach Clayton has yet to make a solid contribution and has failed to make it past the practice squad. The Titans hoped that Clayton would duplicate the run stuffing ability that he had while at Auburn, but its quickly become evident that his production was largely due to the attention his former teammate Nick Fairley garned.
It would be considered a stretch if Clayton makes the 53-man roster this season due to the Titans free-agent acquisitions at the defensive tackle position. Since Clayton has only seen two games of live action and only registered three career tackles, it's safe to label Clayton a bust at this point.
Karl Klug - 5th Round Pick (142) - BOOM!
Karl Klug has been the epitome of inconsistency. He followed up an impressive rookie campaign where he recorded seven sacks with an uninspiring sophomore season where he only registered two sacks.
The jury is still out on Klug who has shown glimpses of being a difference maker as both a run stuffer and a pain in the neck for opposing quarterback. Many believe that Klug is poised for a breakout season. By adding much-needed depth along the defensive line via free agency, Klug should be fresher and hopefully become a dominant contributor in his third year.
Despite his inconsistency, Klug has outperformed his draft stock, registering 10.5 sacks and 27 career tackles, which makes him a boom pick. Klug possesses the talent and the ability to be a true game changer, the Titans certainly hope that he fulfills his tremendous promise.
Jamie Harper - 4th Round Pick (130) - BUST!
When the Titans selected Jamie Harper, many expected him to form a thunder-and-lightening duo with Chris Johnson. However, due to injury, inconsistency and struggles with his weight, Harper has failed to meet expectations.
Harper is the second big back that has eaten himself out of the NFL and was recently cut after the Titans chose to go in another direction in free agency by acquiring a proven bruiser in Shonn Greene.
Although it's safe to consider Harper's tenure in the Music City as a bust, it is still time for Harper to resurrect a promised career with another franchise if he finally matures and gets his weight in order.
Colin McCarthy - 4th Round Pick (109) - BOOM!
Colin McCarthy has exceeded expectations by leaps and bound following in line with the great linebacker tradition at the University of Miami. McCarthy is the unquestioned leader of the Titan defense. But due to injuries, he has been unable to stay on the field.
Currently recovering from offseason surgery on his ankle, he is poised to return as a man possessed to make significant strides if he can just stay on the field. A breakout season for McCarthy appears even more likely with the recent upgrades along the defensive line that always make life easier for middle linebackers. The more big uglies the merrier.
Jurrell Casey 3rd Round Pick (77) - BOOM!
Titans may have uncovered a gem when they selected Jurrell Casey in the third round. In his first year in the league, Casey registered 54 tackles, five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Casey duplicated this impressive stat line last season securing his place as a promising difference maker with All-Pro potential.
Casey’s two-year stat line exceeds the performances of perennial All-Pro defensive tackles like Cincinnati Bengals’ Geno Atkins, Baltimore Ravens’ Haloti Ngata and San Francisco 49ers’ Justin Smith. However, unlike his peers, Casey’s production was compromised since there were no other play makers along the Titans defensive line that gave him the opportunity to take advantage of single coverage.
Blessed with good feet and a great motor, Casey is a superb three-down linemen that makes life for opposing running backs and quarterbacks hell on earth. Although Casey is unlikely to ever register double-digit sacks, the talent is there for him to take his place as the next elite defensive linemen in the NFL and its safe to label him a boom pick.
Akeem Ayers 2nd Round Pick (39th) - BOOM!
Since being selected in the second round, Akeem Ayers has been the epitome of versatility thriving in coverage and causing havoc in the opposing teams backfield as an occasional edge rusher.
It is rare to find a linebacker who is as versatile as Ayers. Most players are only good in coverage or sacking the quarterback. Ayers is an exception because he is great in both.
His contributions have not gone unnoticed as he was listed as the next emerging talent poised to take the next step in becoming an elite player. The Titans young linebacker corp is ranked as one of the best in the league. If Ayers continues to progress, it’s scary because it appears he has only scraped the surface of his potential.
Jake Locker 1st Round Pick (8) - BUST! / INCOMPLETE?
The Titans hit home runs in the later rounds, solidifying an aging defense. But the jury is still out on the eighth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Jake Locker.
All of the players selected before Locker in the 2011 Draft have already proven themselves to be game-changers. But due to injuries and frequent struggles with accuracy, Locker has left a lot to be desired. Locker has shown glimpses of his immense potential, but he has officially run out of excuses and the time to produce is now.
The Titans have upgraded the offensive line and added to an impressive arsenal of weapons that should be a recipe of improvement. This is a make-or-break season for Locker because if he fails to produce this time, the unquestioned starter may be near his end. But until then, he gets a grade of incomplete. The Titans did not select a quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft, Locker's performance this season will determine if they are able to pass on adding a quarterback in next year's draft.