Should the Titans Find their New RB in the Second Round?
The Tennessee Titans are going into the 2014 offseason with several needs: offensive tackle, defensive line, linebacker, and potentially cornerback and running back. The team will likely address the defense in the first round to help create Ray Horton’s hybrid defense; however, there are still six other rounds in the draft. Many fans would like to see the team take a stud offensive tackle in the second round like Morgan Moses out of Virginia. This is not the right way to go for the Titans, as there is enough youth and inexperience at the center and right guard positions that could be disrupted by adding a rookie at the right tackle position. The team should add a strong veteran to be the bookend opposite of stellar left tackle Michael Roos.
What should the Titans do with their second round pick? Draft a running back. The top teams in the NFL have strong skill players. The Titans will lack an explosive running back if Chris Johnson is cut to save cap room, which the team should do. Cutting CJ will save the team at least $4 million in cap room, which could be used to add a few new key players to the defense.
But what if the Titans can’t draft a running back good enough? Whatever running back the Titans take in the draft will be able to produce numbers similar to CJ’s for a lot less money.
For the purpose of this investigation, I am going to examine Chris Johnson’s numbers, the rookie numbers of NFL running backs similar to the 2014 draft prospects, and the numbers of Ryan Mathews, who was Ken Whisenhunt’s running back in 2013 to give an idea of what kind of numbers a back should produce in his system.
2014 Chris Johnson: 279 attempts, 1,077 yards, 3.9 average yards per carry, 6 touchdowns, 2 fumbles (1 lost)
Eddie Lacy (Comparable to Carlos Hyde): 284 attempts, 1,178 yards, 4.1 average yards per carry, 11 touchdowns, 1 fumble (1 lost)
Rookie Steven Jackson (Comparable to Jeremy Hill): 134 attempts, 673 yards, 5.0 average yards per carry, 4 touchdowns, 1 fumble (1 lost)
Giovanni Bernard (Comparable to Bishop Sankey): 170 attempts, 695 yards, 4.1 average yards per carry, 5 touchdowns, 1 fumble (1 lost)
Rookie LeSean McCoy (Comparable to Lache Seastrunk): 155 attempts, 637 yards, 4.1 average yards per carry, 4 touchdowns, 2
fumbles (1 lost)
Rookie Ray Rice (Comparable to Tre Mason): 107 attempts, 454 yards, 4.2 average yards per carry, 0 touchdowns, 1 fumble (1 lost)
2014 Ryan Mathews: 285 attempts, 1,255 yards, 4.4 average yards per carry, 6 touchdowns, 2 fumbles (1 lost)
With the exception of Eddie Lacy, none of the rookies broke a thousand yards; however, that’s because all had under 200 yards. All of the rookies had a better average YPC number than CJ, who was the only one with a sub-4.0 result. This is a very raw and fair number, as his numbers were not inflated by large 80-yards runs. The once-homerun king had a long run of 30 yards this season. The main value of having Chris Johnson was his ability to break a run for 80 yards and a touchdown. That simply didn’t happen this season. Chris Johnson is not worth $10 million that he’s being paid for rookie-level production.
The Titans clearly need to grab a running back somewhere between the second and fourth rounds; however the team does not have a third-round pick due to trading up in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft to take receiver Justin Hunter. That means the team should take their guy in the second round.
Who should they draft? That is hard to answer because we do not know what Coach Whisenhunt wants in a running back. Ryan Mathews is a pretty standard back with pretty good numbers. CJ could possibly fulfill this role, but he’s making too much money and isn’t getting any younger, turning 29 in September. It’s apparent that CJ’s starting to lose his abilities, despite being one of the most durable backs in the league, having never missed a game in his six year career.
I would like to see the Titans take Seastrunk or Mason, as they would be big playmakers that would be fun to watch and a nice compliment to Jake Locker.
Kenneth Goit is a Titans Team Journalist for Pro Football Spot. Follow him on Twitter @KennethGoit and follow the Pro Football Spot Titans page @spot_titans. If Titans receiver Michael Preston can do it, you can too!