After being selected 10th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft, guard Chance Warmack immediately made an impact with the Tennessee Titans.
Warmack didn’t start all 16 games last season; however he played in almost every single snap. Several other 2013 draft picks, including receiver Justin Hunter and center Brian Schwenke, also made significant contributions in year one.
So how big of an impact will members of the team’s six-man draft class make this fall?
The answers will be presenting themselves in the coming weeks and months once the rookies begin practicing with the veterans. The Titans will hold a rookie orientation at Saint Thomas Sports Park beginning Friday, and the rookies will join the vets in organized team activities later this month.
But here’s a look at how I expect things to play out…
Tackle Taylor Lewan
Pick: 1st round, 11th overall
The Titans didn’t necessarily draft Lewan to be a starter as a rookie. In left tackle Michael Roos and right tackle Michael Oher, they’re already set. But Lewan has the chance to adjust their mindset.
The 6-foot-7, 309-pounder will make his presence known while competing at both left and right tackle. When he starts pushing folks around, his timeframe for playing should speed up. Right now, my money is on Roos and Oher starting in week one. But I expect to see Lewan on the field when the team goes heavy in some run situations, and I won’t be shocked if he works his way into the starting lineup at some point during the season.
Running Back Bishop Sankey
Pick: 2nd round, 54th overall
Sankey is going to make a big impact as a rookie, there’s no question in my mind about it. He’s an all-around talent who’s going to be hard to keep off the field. I’m not expecting a Chris Johnson-type rookie season (1,228 yards, 9 TDs) but look for him to be the team’s starting running back – and leading rusher — in 2014.
Just how much of an impact Sankey makes, of course, will also depend on those around him. Shonn Greene’s going to get some carries if he can stay healthy, and Dexter McCluster will be in the backfield plenty as well. But bank on Sankey being the team’s primary running back.
Defensive Lineman DaQuan Jones
Pick: 4th round, 112th overall
I’ve heard plenty of good things about Jones. He’s a big man with a load of talent. But the 6-foot-4, 322-pounder is stepping into a crowded group on the defensive line, so he’s going to have to really be impressive to get a lot of time on the field. Expect Jones to work in a rotation with the team’s defensive linemen, in several spots. He’ll line up in the nose, and on the outside as well. He’s a versatile player who’s going to do a lot of dirty work in the trenches, so his stats might not jump off the page at season’s end.
Defensive Back Marqueston Huff
Pick: 4th round, 122th overall
The Titans are going to give Huff his first opportunity at cornerback, but he’ll also work at safety as well. He’s regarded as a solid special teams player. His versatility will likely keep him on the game day roster early as a rookie, and that could give him the opportunity to eventually work his way into situational packages at some point during the season. The Titans have other reserve defensive backs, but Huff will give the team a 2-for-1 type player that’s always valuable to have active on Sundays.
Linebacker Avery Williamson
Pick: 5th round, 151th overall
Williamson’s impact as a rookie will primarily come on special teams, but he’ll get a chance to dive into the competition with some linebackers adjusting to new roles. Williamson is a thumper who’s capable of playing both inside linebacker spots in the 3-4. Right now, you can pencil in Wesley Woodyard at one of the inside linebacker spots but I’m still not sure how Moise Fokou, Colin McCarthy, Zach Brown and Zaviar Gooden will adjust to their new role. So Williamson will at least have a chance to open some eyes in a wide open competition.
Quarterback Zach Mettenbeger
Pick: 6th round, 178th overall
Look for the Titans to carry three quarterbacks in 2014, and bank on Mettenberger being the No.3 at the start of the season behind Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst. The reality is the Titans can afford to wait on Mettenberger to get more comfortable, and healthier coming off ACL surgery. The team plans to give Locker every chance to prove himself, and Whitehurst was hand-picked by Ken Whisenhunt to be the team’s No.2 quarterback. The modest signing bonus Mettenberger will receive won’t force the Titans to keep him on the roster, but he’s the favorite in the competition with Tyler Wilson, and would have to be a disaster to not stick around.