Titans draft preview: Defensive backs

In preparation for the NFL draft (May 8-10), the Nashville Post offers a position-by-position look at the Tennessee Titans’ roster and what it might say about the team’s draft plans.

Tuesday: Offensive line. Today: Defensive backs. Thursday: Wide receivers.

DEFENSIVE BACKS
On the roster (NFL experience in parentheses):
Cornerbacks – Jason McCourty (6), Tommie Campbell (4), Coty Sensabaugh (3), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (2), Micah Pellerin (2), Khalid Wooten (1), George Baker (1); Safeties – Bernard Pollard (9), George Wilson (9), Michael Griffin (8), Daimion Stafford (2).

Last defensive backs drafted: Blidi Wreh-Wilson, third round (70th overall), 2013; Khalid Wooten, sixth round (202nd overall), 2013; Daimion Stafford, seventh round (248th overall), 2013.

Best defensive back drafted (1999-2013): Cortland Finnegan (seventh round, 2006). It is unusual for a seventh-round selection to become the best player in a team’s draft class. But in this case it wasn’t even close. Of the other nine players the Titans drafted that year, the only others who made significant contributions were Vince Young and LenDale White, but that year’s top two picks were inconsistent and eventually gone sooner than anyone expected.

Worst defensive back drafted (1999-2013): Andre Woolfolk (first round, 2003). Not every first-round pick in franchise history has panned out as hoped (see: Jones, Pacman). But Woolfolk spent four years with the team and never earned a regular role as a starter. While he was not a top 10 pick (he was the 28th overall choice) he still fell well short of expectations.

State of the position: The loss of Alterraun Verner in free agency has created some uncertainty but Jason McCourty (pictured) is a proven starter at one cornerback spot and there are two or three legitimate candidates (depending on what Tommie Campbell shows the new coaching staff) to replace Verner at the other spot. Bernard Pollard, George Wilson and Michael Griffin, provide plenty of experience at safety and their respective talents mesh nicely. There is a definite need for young depth at that spot, though.

Degree of need (1-roster is set; 10-send help now): 5

What the mocks say: Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert shows up on a numbr of mocks as the Titans’ first-round pick. He’s a solid, 6-foot, 202 pounds and offers the high-end speed the Titans have not had at cornerback since Samari Rolle and – for a brief time – Pacman Jones. A similar choice is Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

Prediction: The closest thing to a lock when the Titans draft is that they will take a cornerback. They have taken at least one each of the last 13 years. The only question is when. It has been common in recent years to make the move in the third or fourth round so maybe it’s time to move a little earlier this year, although there are plenty of middle-round prospects to be had. A dark horse first-round pick might be Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who would represent a big step toward the future.