Titans WR avoidance reaches new heights

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Friday night, I crossed over to a few places I’ve not been before.

One where I feel like the Titans, a team that’s been a horrific judge of wide receiver talent for its entire time under its current moniker, actually have not just a lack of understanding for what wide receivers mean to modern NFL offenses, but almost a disdain for the position.

Oct 9, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders cornerback Rachad Wildgoose (37) breaks up a pass for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kyle Philips (18) during the first half at FedExField.
Kyle Philips/ Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

One where I believe they are OK with losing a lot of games in 2023 with at least one blatant, outright positional hole in their roster.

And most importantly, one where my faith in Mike Vrabel is dented.

Amy Adams Strunk is sitting in the draft room next to Vrabel and Ran Carthon. So are Kenneth Adams and Barclay Adams. They hire football people and let them do football work, but they too are culpable.

Strunk fired Jon Robinson for his failed roster construction and is allowing the team to move forward needing to trade up to do better than starting a fifth-rounder, Kyle Philips, Chris Moore or Nick Westbrook-Ikhine across from Treylon Burks.

Maybe there was no receiver worth pick 81 in the Titans' eyes. That was the 18th pick in the third round. If that’s the case, a trade-back seemed in order. Michael Wilson (with injury history) and Tre Tucker disappeared in the remainder of the third round, making for 14 receivers selected through the first 102 picks of the draft.

But the Titans have no fourth-rounder and don’t select again until No. 147 in the fifth.

Meanwhile, back at the original second-round pick (No. 71), the spot Titans traded up from to get quarterback Will Levis, three compelling receivers were still on the board: Jalin Hyatt went 73rd, Cedric Tillman went 74th and Josh Downs went 79th.

There was cause for hope not long ago, a big indication that Vrabel was upset about the status of the position and wanted better. Remember this gem?

But here they are, back being cavalier about the position again.

This is ESPN’s list of the next 25 receivers, with Tyler Scott at the top. The Titans took him out to dinner when they visited Cincinnati for the Bearcats' pro day. All they need to get him is a trade-up with capital they don’t have or to sit and watch for 45 picks tick by without his name being called. 

I think most people hoped they'd get someone better than him, now they won't get close to him.

I’m sure there are some other good players here. Vrabel thinks so with his plan for the position now.

So the Titans will suddenly hit on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Stevie Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Stefon Diggs or Marques Colston because picks like them happen.

Because Vrabel is encouraged by what he’s seen from Philips, the 2022 fifth-rounder, and Racey McMath, the 2021 sixth-rounder?

That’s a bit hopeful for me and it should be too hopeful for Strunk who saw A.J Brown – the one great Titans receiver draft pick since the team became the Titans -- smoke the team when it played in Philadelphia after Robinson traded him there, took that as the final straw in personnel failures and fired Robinson when the team got home.

No Vrabel and Carthon haven’t been here for the 12 receivers the franchise has drafted in the fifth round or later.

But they are part of the team’s DNA at the position of constant struggle. Collectively, in their rookie years, Philips, McMath, Tajae Sharpe, Tre McBride, Marc Mariani, Dominique Edison, Joel Filani, Jonathan Orr, Darrell Hill, Eddie Berlin, Jake Schifino and Darran Hall produced 82 catches, 973 yards and four TDs. Most of that was Sharpe in 2016 -- 41 catches for 522 yards and two scores.

After the selections were over, during the press conference and a semi-tough question about Levis, Carthon gave a little speech about wanting positivity on the biggest night of these draftees' lives. Vrabel strongly course-corrected that, saying if it's the biggest night of a guy's life, he's not going to have a very good career.

No lockstep there.

Carthon should have returned the favor for Vrabel and attempted a course correction for the coach on his response about the wide receiver plan.

He made it worse instead.

I asked: "Could you circle to the wide receiver topic; is the fifth-round miracle-pick plan the best way to get explosive at wide receiver and to give your quarterbacks dynamic receivers to go with Treylon (Burks)?

Rolling the dice, playing the board?

Is that board attached to a roulette wheel?

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