NASHVILLE, Tenn. The long and winding road that is the due diligence in determining NFL Draft worthiness has entered another stage.
The first and foremost is the ongoing analysis of the players resume i.e., what he did on the college football field last fall. Thats followed by assessment at all-star games in January, like the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine in February and now Pro Days at the prospects schools.
Individual workouts are also being staged by teams, followed by a return to the film room, where Titans general manager Ruston Webster and head coach Mike Munchak agree the players NFL potential good, bad or indifferent is most revealed.
The most weight is on their film, said Webster, who spent two days earlier this week at LSUs Pro Day and individual player meetings. How they played during the year is the most important thing. Everything else is just a piece of the puzzle.
A former No. 1 draft pick of the then-Houston Oilers (now Titans) in 1982, a Hall of Fame guard, heralded offensive line coach and now third-year head coach, all with the same franchise, Munchak has been involved in talent assessment at various levels for decades.
He feels what a player shows by performance on the field is the trump card.
No. 1 is when you finish with the body of work, you see its on tape and how they played during the season, because that is their resume, Munchak said. People look at (the all-star games) in January, and then all of a sudden you get caught up in the Combine and the numbers, and that kind of excites you.
And then you forget and go, Whoa, lets go ahead and watch the tape and ask, does this guy really run like that on tape? When he has the equipment on, is he still that fast? Does he play that hard?
Munchak recalls the process leading up to drafting Titans standout left tackle Michael Roos in the second round in 2005 out of Eastern Washington. Munchak saw Roos in various settings, starting with film work, followed by a week watching him prepare and play at the Senior Bowl, and finally followed by a trip to Washington to spend time up close and personal in his home setting.
"It was fun to watch Michael Roos play in the Senior Bowl, Munchak said, because you got to see him against other good defensive lineman and go, Oh yeah, he can do what I thought he could do even against the good ones.
Meeting them is more of getting an idea of what they are all about. Is he a fit for our team? Is he a fit for Nashville? Is he the kind of guy we want to have on our team? Thats just another part of it that youre hoping works.
Thats where the Titans are now in NFL Draft preparations. And because of unprecedented aggressiveness that netted 10 players through free agency, the NFL Draft set April 25-27 in New York City has become less need-specific than it was deemed at the end of the disappointing 6-10 season of 2012.
It basically give us the flexibility to select the best player available, if we want to do that, said Webster of the draft picks still available when the Titans pick No. 10 overall and then eight more times in rounds two through seven. "We are not held hostage to one position or another. We still have some needs to fill. But free agency allows us to take a player at a different position than we might have before that.
Topping the Titans free agency shopping list was former Bills guard Andy Levitre, considered the best free agent at his position by many. Also becoming Titans via free agency were quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (formerly with the Bills), safeties Bernard Pollard (Ravens) and George Wilson (Bills), running back Shonn Greene (Jets), defensive tackle Sammie Hill (Lions), tight end Delanie Walker (49ers), guard Rob Turner (Rams), defensive end Ropati Pitoitua (Chiefs) and linebacker Moise Fokou (Colts).
In all, the Titans committed a combined 104 million in salary to the 10 signees.
We really had a group of five or six guys we were going to target and try to get, Webster said. We didnt know we would get them all. Basically, things just fell the way we wanted it to.
Webster feels there were several compelling components as to why the Titans were so successful in free agency beyond just the willingness and ability to spend money all the way to within 6-7 million of the teams 2013 salary cap.
Being the first to the party on most of them helped us close some of the deals, he said. Nashville is really a plus for us. People want to live here. A lot of players in the NFL are from the South. It is a destination where people like to play. And we were aggressive, instead of sitting back and letting the market come to us.
The Titans were unable to negotiate a new deal for tight end Jared Cook before the start of free agency or re-sign him afterward. He eventually was signed by the Rams. Former Titans defensive tackle SenDerrick Marks is still unsigned.