NASHVILLE – Defensive linemen like Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence have been popular first-round picks for the Titans in mock drafts, and Houston’s Ed Oliver’s name has come up as well.
Chances are, Oliver won’t be around when the Titans are on the clock at No. 19. And there’s no guarantee the previously mentioned Wilkins or Lawrence will be either.
But another defensive lineman with some question marks – Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons – might be.
And a pair of draft analysts think the Titans would have to consider picking him in the first round of the NFL Draft.
“I think there’s a good chance he’s there at 19,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said of Simmons. “And I think if you can be patient, history would look pretty kindly upon that pick because he is a top five talent.”
Simmons, who racked up 157 tackles, seven sacks, four forced fumbles and six passes defensed in three seasons at Mississippi State, began the offseason as a potential top-10 pick.
But Simmons (6-3, 301) suffered a torn ACL doing a routine drill during a workout in February and had surgery. Add the injury to some off-field concerns, and some teams might be hesitant to pick him early, causing him to slide to Tennessee, a team looking for help on the defensive line.
NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis thinks what happens with the defensive linemen early in the draft will impact how quickly Simmons comes off the board, and if he’s available.
Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams is the best of the bunch, but he’s a top-3 pick.
“Simmons makes sense to me for just about anyone, because I think he is that good,” Davis said. “But the questions: How long will you have to wait? When will he be ready? Can you afford to do so? Each team will have to decide.
“How long he’s (on the board) will depend on what goes ahead of him, and how many of those other (defensive lineman) are already gone. Because your ability to wait on someone goes up if the talent level goes up, and the available talent around him goes down. If we have that expected run on defensive linemen as I would expect, and if Simmons isn’t gobbled up as a part of that group, he may be the best prospect still sitting there.”
NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks has Simmons listed at No.5 on his list of top defensive tackles in the draft.
“The ACL tear Simmons suffered in February clearly diminishes his draft stock,” Brooks wrote. “But astute coaches will keep his disruptive game in mind and focus on how he could impact a unit when he returns from his injury.”
Jeremiah, who has the Titans talking Wilkins at No.19 in his most recent mock draft, said he’s heard some relatively positive injury news about Simmons, and his future.
What it could mean for the Titans, well, we’ll have to wait and see.
“From everything I’ve been told on the medical stuff, it sounds like if you pick him, you might be able to get him for six or seven games (in 2019),” Jeremiah said. “So it might not be a total wash. If your doctors are comfortable with it, and you thought you were going to get six, seven games with him in 2019 and have him rocking and rolling in the future, again, I think history would look pretty kindly upon that pick because he’s that talented.”