Handing Out the Tennessee Titans 2022 Draft Grade

Top Image: Former Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks in uniform with the football
Photo Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Handing out the Tennessee Titans 2022 NFL draft grade – or any team’s, really – is a futile prospect this soon in the game. Careers have yet to be played, and we don’t even know how these prospects are going to fit into their current systems. As always, then, handing out draft grades this early in the game is a vanity project.

But, there’s a certain charm in grading a team’s gets immediately after a draft. While careers are unknown, it’s easy to form educated guesses about which direction they’ll take. Those guesses won’t always be right, but they will be good enough to form early judgments.

The Titans had one of the more interesting drafts. While commentators thought they’d draft Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green in the first, they did something far more bold — and foolish.

Titans select Treylon Burks with the 18th pick

Did the Titans select a younger, cheaper version of A.J. Brown? Probably not. But, they weren’t going to pay A.J. Brown the money he thought he could get from another team. So, they traded him to Philadelphia, who immediately gave him $100 million over the next four years.

Compare that with the Titans, who were only going to commit $16 million a year for Brown’s services. Christian Kirk may well have caused the biggest player realignment in living memory, and the Brown trade is fallout from that.

Enter Treylon Burks, who was selected with the 18th overall pick. Burks is a big receiver, weighing in at 225 pounds. The speed he shows in the open field is decent, and he was able to get separation against college defensive backs. What really stands out, however, is his hand strength, which allows him to go up and grab whatever ball he wants.

Those skills propelled him to 11th on my own big board. He’ll be a top NFL receiver, but won’t have quite the same speed or explosiveness that Brown has.

As well as the 18th pick, the Titans also got a third round pick at 101st overall, which was then flipped to the Jets.

Grade: D+

There’s no sugarcoating this; the Titans got worse in the first round of the draft. Burks is a wonderful prospect, but arrives in Nashville as an unproven WR2.

Then, the Titans ship out their 26th pick to the Jets

This was actually prudent. After getting their guy in the first round, the Titans were able to move back to 35th overall in the second round. As well as the 35th pick, they got the 69th pick, and the 163rd pick. The Jets got the 26th pick and the 101st pick.

Grade: B

Not spectacular, but good enough for them to get a position of need.

In the second round, the Titans selected Roger McCreary

Jackrabbit Jenkins became a cap casualty, and was cut after just one year with the team. Kristian Fulton was solid last year at corner, while 2021 first rounder Caleb Farley hopes to find the field this year. With only one proven corner, the Titans needed depth.

They got said depth with Roger McCreary. Although McCreary is a 5-foot-11 corner who played mostly in a cover-three scheme at Auburn, he’s got some good tools. His ability to keep strong against bigger opponents will be a plus in the NFL. When he did have the chance to play man-up on someone, he never let receivers get much separation from him.

Grade: C

It’s a perfectly fine selection, and gives you another guy you can spot start if need be. Yet, McCreary is unlikely to be a standout or steal, even if some mocks did have him as a first rounder coming into the draft.

He’s no little brother: Petit-Frere goes 69th overall

The Titans must know they drafted a lemon in 2021.

Coming into 2021, Dillon Radunz was drafted out of corn-fed power North Dakota State, and the Titans hoped he would be a starter. But, 2021 didn’t play out that way for Radunz. The tackle only appeared on offense in six out of 17 contests, and didn’t impress very much when he did get offensive snaps.

With Nicholas Petit-Frere, the Titans hope they’ve solved their right tackle issues.

Petit-Frere is a prototypical tackle at first glance. At 6-foot-5, and weighing 316 pounds, he moves very well. He has great lateral quickness and agility, and can reach block effectively. That skill especially will serve him well with the Titans’ stretch zone run they like to run, which requires a tackle to execute that block consistently.

There are holes in his game, namely how deep he sets up in pass protection. But, he would have been a 2023 first rounder had he stayed, and the Titans can afford to see out his development.

Grade: A-

Tennessee gets a tackle who can start right away for them, but also gets the benefit of a high-upside developmental prospect.

The next episode: Malik Willis is a Titan

In the biggest move for the franchise’s direction in this draft, the Titans traded up to get Malik Willis.

Ryan Tannehill will be 34 at the start of the 2022 season. With his age and a relatively streaky 2021 season playing against him, the Titans needed new blood. Tannehill will still be the starter for this season, but Willis will sit behind him and develop as his heir apparent at quarterback.

Willis was projected as a first round pick before the draft. His precipitous drop into the third round speaks more to reality, but he’s still an impressive quarterback prospect. The zip he puts on the ball is unlike anyone else in this class. Most notable though, is his running ability, which is absurd. He is unbelievable in the open field with the football, and is stout enough to take hits.

So what did NFL teams see, then, to cause his drop? His processing under pressure is not always the greatest. He can make basic passing reads, but Liberty’s simplistic offense under Hugh Freeze hurt his ability to learn more advanced passing concepts.

Grade: A

What’s not to like? The Titans are in a win-win situation with Malik Willis. Either he develops well and they got a bargain, or he isn’t the guy, and the Titans only invested a third round pick in him.

Michigan back Hassan Haskins gets drafted at 131st overall

Derrick Henry going down for the Titans last year showed the weakness of the Titans’ offense. With the team acting as an 11-man battering ram, the hope is that Henry’s size and volume will wear down the defensive front seven. The Halloween injury to Henry made the Titans use dollar store versions of Derrick Henry, though. That only got them so far, and they nearly blew the top overall seed because of a sterile, impotent offense.

Hassan Haskins is not Derrick Henry. But, what he showed at Michigan proves he could be a good backup for him. The former Wolverine is massive, coming in at 6-foot-2 and weighing 228 pounds. While not the quickest guy, he has a little open field ability that should be tested out this off-season.

Grade: C+

It isn’t an impressive pick, or even really at a position of need. But, it’s an insurance pick, and that’s perfectly suitable for a day three guy.

Maryland tight end Chig Okonkwo gets drafted at 141st overall

A staple of the Titans franchise is a good pass-catching, do-it-all tight end. In an offense where two tight ends are needed, the Titans didn’t have many options after Jonnu Smith left.

Chig Okonkwo, though, is an underrated prospect. He’ll be on the field early and often for the Titans, thanks to his good combination of size and athletic ability. This former Terrapin may blossom in a Titans offense that needs downfield options for Tannehill at tight end.

Grade: B

With their third fifth-round pick, the Titans grabbed receiver Kyle Philips out of UCLA

Receiver depth is looking dire for the Titans in 2022, and Kyle Philips will have a chance to compete for the fourth wide receiver slot right away. While Philips isn’t ever going to be a starter or even a WR3, it’s a fine pick.

Grade: C

Nashville native Theo Jackson heads to Titans in the sixth round

The former Tennessee Volunteer played the nickel corner position in college, and was awarded All-SEC honors for his play. At 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds, Jackson could end up with the same role with the Titans. He could also end up as a fine gunner on special teams.

Grade: C+

With their last pick, the Titans selected Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell 219th overall

Chance Campbell is worth taking a flyer on, given his production at Ole Miss. But, given his lack of athleticism and pass coverage ability, it will be an uphill battle for him to make the 53-man roster.

Grade: C-

The Titans 2022 draft grade is?

There are four potential starters in this class, and two of them will surely start on opening day. Tennessee’s picks were for good value, and that’s boosted their grade as well.

On the downside, Tennessee didn’t get a great return for A.J. Brown, which hurts the Treylon Burks pick significantly. Burks will always carry that trade on his shoulder for as long as he’s a Titan.

Overall, though, the Titans had a solid draft. They’ll get good production from this group in the future.

Titans overall draft grade: B

Jaylen Waddle, Treylon Burks and The Myth of “The Next Deebo Samuel”

NFL analysts and coaches are looking for the next Deebo Samuel, but his unique skillset deserves some appreciation across the league.

Is Treylon Burks or Jaylen Waddle the next Deebo Samuel?

The San Francisco 49ers had one of the most prolific offenses in 2021, and Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel was one of the biggest reasons. The self-proclaimed “wide back” moved all around the field, revolutionizing a run-game that stays at the forefront of innovation.

The scheming from now-Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was brilliant. Samuel would often start outside, then motion back in, giving San Francisco not only a ball carrier, but also a numbers advantage. By lining him up at receiver, defenses would lighten the box, anticipating fewer players in the backfield.

However, Samuel would move in, adding another big body to the running game. This allowed San Francisco to out-muscle weak boxes, while also having one of the most effective zone-rushing schemes.

Deebo Samuel scores a TD against Dallas.

This success was prevalent late in the season, and it quickly became a habit. Down the stretch, Samuel saw increased snaps at running back, while also being the 49ers’ number one receiver. His ability to create in space was unmatched, but he was just as good in-between the tackles.

Reaping the Benefits of Innovation

This development changed the trajectories of several careers. Samuel is now a total offensive weapon, with the ability to line up anywhere. His value has skyrocketed, and so has his coordinator’s. Mike McDaniel, now seen as an offensive innovator, landed the job he has today, and is entering his first draft combine with Miami.

During this Combine, McDaniel will search for the next player he can maximize. Contrary to popular belief, he won’t be looking for the next Deebo Samuel.

During a combine press conference, McDaniel explained his process for finding players, and how it leads to innovation.

“Deebo wasn’t found by looking for the next Deebo.”

Mike McDaniel

This quote, through its simplicity, pushes a point many overlook.

The best coaches in the league don’t look to imitate, but rather innovate. The number one job of a coach is finding places in which their players succeed. This mindset leads to carving out roles for your best athletes, rather than fitting them to a mold.

Mike McDaniel speaks on Deebo Samuel’s role.

Before Samuel, this “Wide Back” role on the 49ers didn’t exist. Sure, they used receivers in the run game, but this extent of between-the-tackles action was never before seen. It was only after acquiring Samuel and, more importantly, understanding his skillset, that McDaniel and San Francisco were able to bring this innovation to fruition.

McDaniel and the rest of the league’s best offensive minds will utilize the Combine to envision how players can change them and their schemes, not the other way around. Rather than envisioning how a prospect fits their scheme, they will envision how the player can revolutionize their offenses.

Jaylen Waddle

Upon Mike McDaniel’s arrival in Miami, many were looking at how receiver Jaylen Waddle can be “the next Deebo”. His skill set is relatively similar. Both move very well in open space and are dangerous threats in the RAC game. However, that’s about where the comparisons end.

It takes a compact, muscular athlete to run between the tackles, and that’s exactly what Samuel is. Coming in at six feet tall and 216 pounds, he weighs 33 more pounds than Jaylen Waddle — who has his advantages as well.

Waddle, although not as bulky, is significantly faster than Samuel, and moves more with elusiveness — which is exactly what intrigues McDaniel. There is a role that McDaniel sees for Waddle, and it’s clear through his interviews that he’s excited to utilize his explosive skill set. It’s also clear, however, that it won’t involve nearly as much running between the tackles.

Jaylen Waddle catches a deep pass from Tua Tagovailoa.

Treylon Burks

As far as the Combine is concerned, fans and media alike have seen Deebo-like traits in receiver Treylon Burks. Coming out of Arkansas, Burks definitely shares some traits with the All-Pro. Both play big and don’t have trouble breaking tackles. However, Burks is built more like an X receiver. Standing at 6’3″ and 225 pounds, it’s clear that their body types aren’t identical.

Treylon Burks has a unique skillset.

Burks is regarded as the closest thing to Deebo in the draft, yet the differences are still significant — which is exactly why it’s unfair to both players. Although it didn’t seem this way at first, Deebo Samuel is a generational talent, and has a unique skill set that no players have matched. Burks, on the other hand, has just as much individuality in his skill set and body type. They may look quite similar on paper, but their strengths and weaknesses don’t line up perfectly.

The Bottom Line on The Deebo Samuel Role

It would simply be lazy for someone to try to force Burks or Waddle into the Deebo Samuel role. That role was created for a specific player who is among the most unique in the NFL, which is why it works so well.

Samuel’s ability, when combined with the innovation of McDaniel and Shanahan, is a perfect storm for San Francisco, which brings us to the main point.

The best coaches, although taking some from others, pride themselves on innovation. It’s all about finding the next big thing, and that’s exactly what San Francisco did.

Just like the zone-read or the air-raid, the “wide back” will catch fire across the NFL. While others will attempt to copy it, the innovators will be working hard to find another wrinkle, which separates them from the rest. Defenses are working hard to stop new trends, so it becomes pertinent to find something they haven’t seen before.

“It’s more solving problems in different ways and having different tools and abilities to do so.”

Mike McDaniel

Mike McDaniel has equated constructing an offensive gameplan to solving problems, and it shows in his innovation.

Critical thinking brings out the best in top-end offensive minds, and McDaniel came across a gold mine with Samuel. It will be exciting to see what he does next in Miami. How he uses Jaylen Waddle will be on everyone’s mind, as will how Treylon Burks is used with his new team.

However, it’s clear that Deebo Samuel can never be duplicated, and it’s important to recognize and appreciate his greatness.

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Summer Scouting: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Treylon Burks of the Arkansas Razorbacks is one of the many wide receivers getting hyped up as a first round guy. He possesses not only excellent athleticism but size as well. Arkansas has him listed at 6-foot-3, 225-pounds and he certainly looks the part. Most guys with his build are often viewed as an “X” or “Z” receiver, someone who can win at the line-of-scrimmage as well as down the field. However, this is not the role that Burks plays for the Razorbacks. He is oftentimes lined up in the slot (the “Y” receiver position) and is asked to win in space and use the space created by the offense to make plays with the ball in his hands. Due to this fact, his route tree is limited and he holds more of a gadget-type role within the offense. For him to be in that “WR1” conversation (like he has been talked about early on in the process), he will need to show the ability to win outside against press coverage, as well as expanding his route tree.

Pros:

  • Maintains speed through breaks.
  • Can be used creatively, been used in the backfield, on jet sweeps and such.
  • Stops on a dime.
  • RAC, requisite speed and can make people miss.
  • Contested catches, making snags over the middle.
  • Vertical Threat
  • Fluid mover for his size.
  • Not afraid to do the dirty work as a blocker.
  • Settles in soft spots of zone coverage, QB’s best friend.
  • Consistent hands, doesn’t have many drops on his tape.

Cons:

  • Very small route tree, simple routes as well.
  • Getting off contact, lets DBs hang too close, doesn’t hand fight much.
  • Doesn’t run routes with speed variance.
  • Lacks nuance and creativity in his routes.
  • Uses his body to help reel in catches.
  • Operates primarily on the slot, not very many reps v. press coverage.

2021 Season Statistics:

51 receptions, 820 receiving yards, 16.1 yards per reception, 7 touchdowns, 15 rushing attempts, and 75 yards in 9 games played

Preliminary Round Grade:

7.00 – Second Round Grade