Early draft gripe about Titans projections
During the 2016 draft, the Titans drafted Kevin Byard in the third round. After the draft, there were fun stories how defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau (and others) was impressed during the predraft interviews.
The Titans added free agent Rashad Johnson to replace Michael Griffin at free safety. The veteran from the Arizona Cardinals would “hold the fort” until a long-term replacement could be found.
Byard would get the coaches to gush some during minicamp and training camp. They really liked this kid and …if the legend that is Dick Lebeau likes a defender, generally that should suffice as reason enough for a kid to stick around.
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As the season wore on, Byard would overtake Johnson and become the Titans starting free safety. Byard started seven games. We often project “draft darling” rookies to overtake veterans by midseason. Many did so with Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray. Byard wasn’t this elite level rookie, but he followed this pattern anyway.
Many rookies are content to make the team. Once they’re comfortable, (year two or three) then they will try and make an impact. Sometime after that, hopefully, their impact was significant and they will become starters.
The special rookies, the ones that go on to have long careers, they go through this pattern in one season. They are not happy with “just starting,” but appear to be driven. They are onto their next goal whether it be statistical or making a pro bowl.
Byard has followed the pattern of the special rookie. Continuing on with this same line of thinking, Jim Wyatt wrote of Byard’s aspiration to make the pro bowl in 2017.
Within that article, Dick Lebeau was quoted as saying this:
“I think the sky is the limit on him,’’ LeBeau said. “I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on a young player, but he had a great season for a first year player and he is going to do nothing but grow.
“He has an exceptional football mind and I think that is one of his strengths. He is going to grow and he is going to be a coach on the field, there is no question about that.”
A quick google search and twitter search shows 42 sites projecting the Titans to take a free safety with their first pick in the draft.
That’s not logical and that’s not likely. I think this could be a case of people not really following the Titans closely because they have been one of the lesser teams in football.
The wow factor
I have long said that Lebeau’s greatest players were “freaks” that were part cornerback, part linebacker, and part safety. Troy Polamalu, Rod Woodson, and Carnell Lake were phenomenal Pittsburgh Steelers players. They were some of the best talents ever at the safety position.
This is the only reason the Titans would draft a safety- if Lebeau envisions another superstar after meeting with these future players. It’s downright unbelievable that Lebeau would have “discovered” two of the best safeties, nevermind three. He clearly has a knack for this.
If there is not a superstar, the Titans (see link above) are thrilled with Byard’s development. They absolutely wont be drafting a replacement for him.
What to look for
When reading these draft prediction articles, readers should look for the word “need.” It’s awfully simplistic to state that, but these authors need to consider team needs when slotting draft picks to go to certain teams. For example, one site has the Titans drafting a tackle with the fifth pick in the draft. With two of the best tackles in football, this is not happening.
I do apologize for calling out my peers on here. I think it needed to be done and they’re going to be alright with this criticism. I probably write a couple hundred blog posts praising others. Two or three negative ones is not a big deal. I am a fan of many of these sites. My hope is they’ll reconsider and readjust their projections.