By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Titans addressed primary defensive needs during last week’s NFL draft, which was held in Nashville. They chose a defensive lineman with their
first pick, the 19th overall. Then they drafted defensive help with picks four through six, while adding some offensive depth with their second and third picks.
However the bulk of the attention and scrutiny is coming regarding their first selection, former Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons. At six feet, four inchdes and 301 pounds, there are no questions regarding his size.
But there are multiple questions regarding his past and present status. A video surfaced on ESPN and elsewhere showing the 2016 incident in which Simmons repeatedly punched a woman, even when she was on the ground. The background behind this involved Simmons’ sister, mother, and her deceased children.
But bottom line was and is Simmons has been shown on video hitting a woman. He has since repeatedly apologized for that incident, and Titans’ majority owner Amy Adams Strunk publicly supported Simmons during a press conference last week, saying he’s shown he’s deserving of another chance and has a spotless record since that time.
The other troubling aspect concerns an ACL injury Simmons suffered while training in February. He’s going to miss at minimum a large portion of his rookie season, if not the entire year. But Titans management, and particularly head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson both insisted that he was too good a talent to pass on at 19, and that they anticipate he will eventually become a starter next to current star Jurrell Casey.
Their second pick was former Ole Miss wide receiver A.J. Brown. He ended his career as Ole Miss’s career leader in pass receptions and it’s hoped that he’ll add both depth and speed to a receiving corps that didn’t exactly bowl anyone over last season. Brown can play either outside or in the slot, and considering the Titans were 29th last year in passing yards per game, he will get every chance to contribute immediately.
The Titans offensive line also didn’t have a particularly great year, especially at guard. Their third pick, former Charlotte offensive lineman Nate Davis, will
get an early shot at starting, especially since Josh Kline and Quinton Spain aren’t returning. The fourth choice, former Iowa safety Amani Hooker’s forte is defending against tight ends, something that’s been a Titans’ weakness for many years. They traded up five spots to get him.
The last two selections were linebackers. The fifth choice was former Georgia outside linebacker D’Andre Walker, who slipped to the fifth round in somewhat of a surprise.
Their final choice, former West Virginia inside linebacker David Long isn’t expected to contribute immediately, but is viewed as depth behind Wesley Woodyard abd Rashaan Evans.
The three-day draft event set both attendance and viewing records. In total across Nielsen-measured channels, all NFL Draft telecasts combined to reach more than 47.5 million viewers over the three-day event, a five percent increased from last year. It also attracted more than 600,000 fans to various venues across Nashville.