Time for the Titans to draft a running back

Sports

Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (5) carries the ball against Northern Illinois in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(WKRN) — Derrick Henry is expected to return to the Titans next season, but there are two big questions. How much will it cost? Who will back him up?

Let us talk about the latter.

With the Titans in position to save $4-million in cap space by waiving Dion Lewis almost everyone expects this move to happen. Lewis has had moments but has not shown the explosiveness he had in New England.

So, how do they replace him? This team needs cap space, which means they replace him in the draft.

The Titans need a legitimate second running back for a number of reasons. First, they can not continue to hand it to Derrick Henry 400+times a year and expect him to last. Second, what if Henry is simply not as good as he was last season. Third, Henry is not a prototype three-round back and they need a solid pass catcher with pass-blocking ability.

The question is how high do they want to invest in this position. I am all about taking the best player available, so I would rather the Titans take a running back even in round one if it was over a pass rusher who simply was not first-round value.

So, who to take and where? The draft is still over two months away and there is a lot to learn but these are some names and rounds to keep in mind.

1st Round

D’Andre Swift – Georgia
5-9, 215 Lbs.

2018 – 1049 Yards, 6.4 YPC, 10 TD’s
32 Rec. 297 Yards, 3 TD’s

2019 – 1218 Yards, 6.2 YPC, 7 TD’s
24 Rec. 216 Yards, 1 TD

Swift appears to be the only running back with a true 1st round grade.

He averaged over 6 yards per carry each of the last two years at Georgia and while he does not have dynamic receiving numbers, he has good athleticism and ball skills out of the backfield. If he is available at 29, I have no problem hearing Roger Goodell call his name.

2nd Round

Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin
5-11, 219 Lbs.

2017 – 1977 Yards, 6.6 YPC, 13 TD’s
2018 – 2194 Yards, 7.1 YPC, 16 TD’s
2019 – 2003 Yards, 6.2 YPC, 21 TD’s
26 Rec. 252 Yards, 5 TD’s

JK Dobbins – Ohio State
5-10, 217 Lbs.

2017 – 1463 Yards, 7.5 YPC, 7 TD’s
2018 – 1053 Yards, 4.5 YPC, 10 TD’s
2019 – 2003 Yards, 6.6 YPC , 21 TD’s
23 Rec. 247 Yards

Taylor put up MONSTER numbers at Wisconsin and the 900 carries he racked up in 3 years should be a concern. Be has prototype running back size and speed with the ability to be a bell-cow back. His route running has shown ability, but he has also been plagued by drops at times, so that would be something that would take careful evaluation.

Dobbins also had a very busy 3 years in the Big 10 but his 730 carries pale in comparison to Taylor’s. He is another guy with the size and speed to be a guy who totes the rock full time and has big play ability. He is viewed as a strong pass protector who is good in the screen game.

3rd Round

Zack Moss – Utah
5-10, 222 Lbs.

2017 – 1173 Yards, 5.4 YPC, 10 TD’s
2018 – 1096 Yards, 6.1 YPC, 11 TD’s
2019 – 1416 Yards, 6.0 YPC, 15 TD’s
28 Rec. 388 Yards

Cam Akers – Florida St.
5-11, 212 Lbs.

2019 – 1144 Yards, 4.9 YPC, 14 TD’s
30 Rec. 245 Yards, 4 TD’s

Moss is regarded as a real battering ram as a running back. Words like violence and contact are associated with his game. He does have third-down ability but he does not believe to have the breakaway speed of a guy like Henry or some of the players listed before him.

Akers has a reputation of being tough enough to handle pass blocking duties and while he is good in the screen game he is not called a “natural” pass catcher. Henry could be described in a similar way. He is another tenacious running with a breakaway gear in question.

With Henry back, I do not know if either of these guys is the “compliment” the Titans are looking for in round three. If they are available later, their value might be too much to pass up on.

4th Round

Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Vanderbilt
5-10, 218 Lbs.

2018 – 1244 Yards, 7.9 YPC, 12 TD’s
2019 – 1028 Yards, 5.2 YPC, 9 TD’s
28 Rec. 270 Yards, 1 TD

Clyde Edwards-Helaire – LSU
5-8, 209 Lbs.

2019 – 1414 Yards, 6.5 YPC, 16 TD’s
55 Rec. 453 Yards, 1 TD

I have always loved “the Mamba”. I thought Ke’Shawn Vaughn should have gone pro a year earlier. I think he is a physical every down back with pass-catching ability.

Edwards-Helaire is projected a little higher by some, even as high as round two. So, while I project round 4, I acknowledge I could be well off. The thing that makes him possibly worth taking a round earlier is he is the one guy who is viewed as a real, natural pass catcher.

The Titans need a running back… OK, they need a second running back. I like most of these guys, but what does Jon Robinson have in mind? We find out in two months, but we will know if it is a new starter or backup much, much sooner.

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