In the coming weeks I will do a series of posts on the Tennessee Titans and how their players stack up at each position. These Tiers are an indication of what talent level can reasonably be expected of each player for the 2013 season. Future potential and contract status are not really taken into consideration, as this is more an indication of a players talent level and expected production.
Description: Top level starter, at elite or near elite level, absolute lock to both make the team and start. Won’t face any competition for his job.
Description: Quality starter who may have some minor struggles in a given year, but overall is a good football player. Typically just outside the elite/near elite level. Should both easily make the team and start. Will be one of the key players on the team.
Description: Passable starter, can play the position and be okay, but won’t consistently play at a high level. Will be streaky throughout the season and over the course of many seasons. Depending on position would be better served as a good role player, or would be the best reserve player at a position. Should make the team, though not a lock and should face competition for a starting job.
-Walker was a good number two tight end in San Francisco and now gets a shot at the top role in Tennessee. The good news is he was one of the best blocking tight ends in the league and given the Titans run heavy offense he should bring a lot of value to the table. He may have even more value for Tennessee in this department given how they want their star running back Chris Johnson to get to the edge. Walker can set that edge by taking out defensive ends and linebackers. He can also split out wide to be a lead blocker on pitches and screens. The real question surrounding Walker though is his receiving ability. He has been among the league’s worst at dropping passes, and will now take over a role that will increase his targets 2-3 times what they were in San Francisco. Given how inaccurate Jake Locker is to begin with this doesn’t seem like a great fit to benefit either player. The Titans and Walker feel confident that it can change, but it is a big if. Another concern with Walker is his lack of height which doesn’t help make him an effective mis-match or red zone candidate. His blocking though will carry him, if he keeps that at an elite level and just shows a minor improvement in his receiving he should be fine.
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Description: Replacement level starter. This is a guy who could start in a pinch or as a long-term injury replacement but will max out as an average starter, and will probably be below average. He’s a guy who could be okay as a short term filler, but over an extended period will struggle. Depending on position could be a solid player, or would be a good back-up. Has a decent chance to make the team, and could get a look at a starting job, but nothing is set in stone for him.
-Since being drafted in the 3rd round from California in 2008, Stevens has made a name for himself as a blocking specialist. While he’s been okay when asked to fill in as a pass catching tight end from time-to-time, that really isn’t his game. Stevens though does give the Titans a lot of value given how much they are looking to run the ball this season. With inconsistencies among their fullbacks, two tight end sets are more prevalent, which should give Stevens 400-500 snaps this year.
-Thompson was an All-conference defensive end in college, but converted to tight end in his bid to make it in the NFL. After an impressive pro day the Titans took a shot on him in the 5th round of the 2012 draft. He initially showed promise in OTA’s, but got more exposed as a project the closer to the season it got. Thompson mainly was used as a special teamer and blocker, but did manage six catches on 12 targets last year. Despite not having a background in it, Thompson was a better run blocker than expected, but his real value is when it clicks for him as a receiver. He’s got a great frame and the speed and agility you’d love to see in a tight end, but the consistency isn’t there. The Titans should expect some improvement and see him being a bit more of a weapon, but he’s still probably a year or two away from really being ready to produce.
Description: Solid back-up caliber player. Shouldn’t really ever start, and would be below average in that capacity, but can be a short term injury replacement. Shouldn’t even be much of a role player depending on the position, their best value is in their reliability as a replacement. Depending on the position, should be capable of backing up multiple positions or roles to increase their value. Has a chance to make the team, but really shouldn’t be considered a starting option at all.
-Webb has bounced around the league since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011. Though he’s never made it really beyond the practice squad, Webb’s size and strength continue to intrigue teams. He’s a big physical tight end who should be a capable blocker. He faces tough competition, but could challenge for a roster spot.
-Doyle is an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky. He got a lot of playing time in his four year career and was a pretty solid receiver and decent blocker. He got a late invite to the Senior Bowl, and though he didn’t have a great week he showed a little promise. He’s an interesting developmental prospect and should have a real shot at a practice squad spot.
Description: Replacement level player. Not considered at all for a starting role, and isn’t even considered a viable back-up. Really only has a shot to make the team if injuries thin out the competition. Overall has a poor chance to make a roster, and is a player who will likely be replaced during the season.
-Barden was an undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt in 2012. He was cut during final cuts and earned a spot on the practice squad. In mid-December he was called up to the active roster and got 23 snaps in week 17. He didn’t get any targets and was primarily used as a run blocker. He was arrested for a DUI in the offseason and could be a longshot to make the team given how much competition is there.