The question lighting up all Titans forums an group chats all boil down to 1 thing, the age old question: to go after a QB to develop or to try to “win now” with the current roster? First time GM Ran Carthon comes from the 49ers, who have consistently found a lot of value in the later rounds in the past few years. The Titans have found value later in the draft at an above average level in the past as well. In the past 5 years the Titans have managed to draft Nate Davis, Amani Hooker, David Long, Elijah Molden, Rashad Weaver, Monty Rice, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Chig Okonkwo, and Kyle Phillips.
Ran Carthon’s has been the Director of Personnel Player Personnel for the 49ers since 2021, which is a small sample size, but it looks promising so far. In round 3 or later he was able to get Talanoa Hufanga, Elijah Mitchell, Spencer Buford, and Brock Purdy in just two drafts. That’s a very good track record; it is fair to point out that John Lynch was the GM of the 49ers though, not Ran, so we don’t know exactly what role he played in drafting these guys.
The Titans picks throughout the first 2 days are as follows:
- Round 1 Pick 11
- Round 2 Pick 41
- Round 3 Pick 72
Based on the Mike Vrabel’s stated beliefs and Ran Carthon’s track record, here’s who I think Titans will draft in the first 2 days of the NFL Draft.
2023 Tennessee Titans Mock Draft: “QB or not QB?”
Round 1 Pick 11: Paris Johnson Jr OT from OSU
Mike Vrabel, with added influence, goes immediately to his Alma Mater to help with the Titans with their biggest issue, offensive line. At 6’6 and weighing 310lbs, Paris is built for NFL offensive lines already, with experience at OSU starting at RG as a sophomore, earning a 2nd All Big-Ten before moving to his natural position at LT, where he was an All American last season.
As a player, he’s got quick feet, long arms, and has shown an ability to finish blocks consistently. My biggest concern is his tendency to get grabby on the edge, which will likely lead to a transition period early in the NFL, but this is a good OT prospect for a OT needy team, after missing on Isaiah Wilson, letting Dennis Kelly (Tim Kelly’s brother) walk in free agency, and now cutting Taylor Lewan, it is time for this franchise to invest in the trenches.
Teaming up NPF and Paris Johnson together again is also a nice added bonus, as the Titans begin to stockpile resources to develop the QB of their future, whether that is Malik Willis, Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or someone else entirely this time next year, while still giving Tannehill and Derrick Henry a chance to push for a playoff spot, with an immediate upgrade at OT from Dennis Daley, who is the single worst offensive linemen I’ve ever seen in a NFL game.
Round 2 Pick 41: Darnell Washington TE from UGA
Measuring in at 6 foot 6 5/8 inches, weighing in at 264lbs, compared to Rob Gronkowski’s combine: 6’6 1/4, 264lbs and running a 4.68. Darnell at first glance, looks like an oversized blocking TE that might transition to OL as some have suggested. To me, that would be the largest waste in athleticism since Johnny Manziel or De’Anthony Thomas.
Washington was clocked in at running a 4.64, the 4th fastest by any TE weighing 260lbs+ in the past 20 years. Out of all TEs in the 2023 Combine he was 6th in the 40, also tied for the 2nd fastest 10yd split, which, in my opinion is more important than the 40 because of the frequency of a TE accelerating for 10 yards is much more common than running 40 yards uninterrupted. He also had the fastest 20 yard shuttle, at 4.08, despite being the heaviest TE competing.
I could write an entire article on just Darnell and how he can revolutionize the Titans offense, but I’ll speak to the obvious problem, Chig Okonkwo just finished his rookie season, and looks like a possibility to be a top 10 TE by the end of next season.
I love Chig, and I am a strong believer that he will have a successful, and productive future in the NFL, but he’s not a good blocker, and drafting Darnell to fill that role instead of Geoff Swaim, can help make the Titans a more multiple offense without sacrificing run blocking ability, and allow Okonkwo to do more of what he’s good at, running routes.
If you have doubts about Darnell’s blocking, you can look at him on a blocking sled vs other TEs at the combine. Watch this clip and tell me it doesn’t remind you of prime Gronk, I dare you. Titans go get a top 10 athlete early Day 2 in this mock, as we move into Round 3.
Round 3 Pick 72: Atonio Mafi OG from UCLA
When I mention Mafi, I feel like a cult leader, trying to convince others of his ability and tape. A quick summary, Atonio was a 3 star DT when he committed to UCLA, as a sophomore he had 28 tackles, 4 TFLs, and a sack. Then he moved to OL, and in watching his tape, it shows in his ability to pull and his violence at the point of contact against defenders.
Pushing Mafi down on draft boards is his short arms, but in watching him play, the only comparison I can come up with is if a Sawed off shotgun played on the OL, he loves ramming into people, pancaking them, and brings joy in moving people where they don’t want to go. Great tape and great effort is an easy selection in the 3rd round, but I have a real belief he will continue to rise up draft boards, and could potentially be taken top 50, I would sign off on this in the 2nd round for Tennessee.
That wraps up the first 2 days of picks for the Titans, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see them move to acquire another pick or two, as they have many issues to fix and a brand new GM. If the Titans manage to get Paris Johnson Jr, Darnell Washington, an Antonio Mafi, then you can pencil me in for drafting Derrick henry 1st overall in every fantasy league this season. This would be a very exciting start to a new Titans era here under Ran Carthon, and I’m excited to see how he does in his first draft.