AFC South: Michael Johnson

No team in the AFC South has needs that align with the strengths of the draft any better than the Tennessee Titans.

Mike Munchak’s team needs help on the interior line, off the edge in the pass rush and at strong safety. Those positions are widely rated as strengths in the draft that will unfold at the end of April.

If the Titans can address at least one of those spots in free agency, they’ll buy themselves a little additional freedom in the draft to take the best player available instead of focusing on filling the biggest needs.

Mike Mayock of the NFL Network talked extensively with other media this week in a pre-combine conference call, and he simply raved about the draft’s top two guards -- Chance Warmack out of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper out of North Carolina.

“That's what (the Titans) need,” Mayock said. “To be honest with you, there are two beautiful players sitting there. I mean, Chance Warmack from Alabama is the best football player I saw on tape this year. And Jonathan Cooper from North Carolina is just a tiny notch behind him. As a matter of fact, Cooper's probably a better athlete.

“So if either of those players are on the board at 10, I'd jump all over them. I (couldn’t) care less about whether or not that's a position of value or not. Remember especially this year, if I had to list a top eight or 10 players, they'd probably be offensive linemen or defensive linemen. I'm not seeing some of those impact guys in some of the skill positions.”

I think it could boil down to two big questions for the Titans:
  • How big is the gap between those two guards and the next best guy -- probably Kentucky’s Larry Warford -- compared to the gap between the sort of defense lineman they can get at No. 10 and the one that could be left for them in the second round?
  • Munchak is a Pro Football Hall of Fame guard with another Hall of Fame lineman, Bruce Matthews, as his offensive line coach. They've said they intend to rebuild the line. Do they believe they need to do it with a player the caliber of Warmack or Cooper?

If the Titans are able to add a veteran like guard Andy Levitre or a defensive end like Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson it could change the Titans' needs and alter their draft strategy in a big way.

Of course if they wanted to add Levitre and Warmack, Chris Johnson and Jake Locker would probably feel OK with that.

Talk the mock, walk the mock

February, 28, 2009
2/28/09
10:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

New mock drafts are in from Todd McShay, Rob Rang, CollegeFootballNews.com and Steve Silverman.

A brief break from free agency for a scan of the selections:

Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 8

McShay: Receiver Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Rang: Tackle Michael Oher, Mississippi
CFN: Oher
Silverman: Oher

Houston Texans, No. 15

McShay: Quarterback Matt Sanchez, USC
Rang: Defensive end Brian Orakpo, Texas
CFN: Defensive end Tyson Jackson, LSU
Silverman: Cornerback Vontae Davis, Illinois

Indianapolis Colts, No. 27

McShay: Receiver Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
Rang: Defensive tackle Evander Hood, Missouri
CFN: Nicks
Silverman: Cornerback D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt

Tennessee Titans, No. 30

McShay: Defensive end Robert Ayers, Tennessee
Rang: Defensive end Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
CFN: Davis
Silverman: Defensive tackle Peria Jerry, Mississippi

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

A pre-combine rundown of what mock drafters have the teams of the AFC South doing.

Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 8

Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia.
Wes Bunting, National Football Post: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Chad Reuter, NFLDraftScout.com: Monroe

My thoughts: The early consensus is there will be a left tackle worth the pick for the Jaguars to insert in place of the disappointing Khalif Barnes, a free agent who won't be brought back. But if they don't love who's left, they could look to defensive tackle or corner.

Houston Texans, No. 15

Prisco: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Bunting: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
Rang: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Reuter: Cushing

My thoughts: Cushing could be a bigger and more durable outside linebacker, but Davis and Johnson would do more to fill needs. A pass rusher to work opposite Mario Williams is one of them, and Johnson could be the guy. And corner will become an even bigger need if the Texans are unable to re-sign Dunta Robinson.

Indianapolis Colts, No. 27

Prisco: Peira Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
Bunting: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Rang: Harvin
Reuter: Jerry

My thoughts: If Jerry is as good as people are saying, I don't know that he'll be on the board here. Is Harvin the crisp route runner and quick learner the Colts require? While defensive tackle and wide receiver are the clear needs, in a best-player-available scenario they could go virtually anywhere position-wise.

Tennessee Titans, No. 30

Prisco: James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
Bunting: Jerry
Rang: Johnson
Reuter: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest

My thoughts: Unless they see Laurinaitis as an outside guy, the Titans won't spend even a low first-round pick on a middle linebacker as it's a situational role for them. Smith may make sense as an heir to Nick Harper in 2010. Jerry probably won't last this long and if they lose Albert Haynesworth it doesn't mean they have to have a tackle -- they drafted Jason Jones last year.

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