Jon Robinson wasn’t looking for bodies.
The Tennessee Titans general manager wanted to get players, guys who would make the team better in 2019 and beyond. That search yielded six selections in this year’s NFL Draft, one in each of the first six rounds. Four play defense and two play offense.
“I think they’re all good football players,” Robinson said. “That’s what we set out to do. We don’t try to bring bad football players in here, or at least that’s not my goal. … I know the coaches are going to try to put the players in the best position to be successful.”
Fitting those players into the 53-man roster, if they prove worthy of a spot, means somebody is going to be squeezed out. Each newcomer is a threat to a veteran’s playing time or possibly even his roster spot.
With that in mind, here are five Titans whose situations this week are not quite as stable as they were prior to the draft:
• Tajae Sharpe, wide receiver: A fifth-round pick in 2016, he was a revelation as a rookie when he caught 41 passes for 522 yards and two touchdowns. Since then, Sharpe (pictured) has missed one full season with an injury and — more notably — the Titans have added plenty of talent at his position. They signed free agent Adam Humphries this offseason and last week selected A.J. Brown in the second round, which gives Tennessee three wide receivers taken in the first three rounds of the last three drafts. Brown follows 2017 selections Corey Davis (first round) and Taywan Taylor (third round).
• DaQuan Jones, defensive end: Jones has been a solid but unspectacular player during his five seasons with the Titans and seemed to get a measure of security last offseason when he re-signed for three years and $21 million. However, since Robinson became general manager, a number of players he has signed have failed reach the end of their deals (see: DeMarco Murray, Josh Kline and Blaine Gabbert, among others). Jones’ pact includes no guaranteed money for 2020, which is when this year’s first-round pick, Jeffery Simmons, should be back to full health.
• Kevin Pamphile, offensive line: He was a full-time starter for two seasons in Tampa Bay (2016, 2017) before he signed with the Titans last season as a backup who could fill in at any number of spots. With the recent release of Josh Kline and the decision not to re-sign Quinton Spain, Pamphile has a chance to become a starter once again in 2019 (of his 35 career starts, 25 have been at guard). He still has that chance, but the competition increased with the third-round selection of Nate Davis, a player some analysts have said could be one of the biggest success stories of this year’s draft.
• Sharif Finch, linebacker: He made the roster as an undrafted free agent last season and appeared in 15 games. Finch never looked out of place as he recorded 22 tackles with one and a half sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in limited duty. He could find himself out of a job this year, though, after the Titans used their final two draft picks on linebackers, D’Andre Walker (fifth round) and David Long (sixth round). Long, in particular, poses a challenge because he is at his best against the run and Finch primarily played in running situations in 2018.
• Daren Bates, linebacker: He is listed as a linebacker but his primary role is on special teams. And in that regard, Bates has been one of the team’s top players for the past two seasons. In fact, his 16 special teams tackles in 2018 exceed the number of tackles he has made on defense for his entire six-year career (13). He is in the final year of his contract, has no guaranteed money and — like Finch — now faces competition from two drafted linebackers (Walker and Long) who certainly will be asked to be major special teams contributors. That, combined with the fact that Marcus Mariota and Taylor Lewan are now on massive contracts, might render a special teams specialist a luxury this team cannot afford.