The Tennessee Titans are doing their best to ensure quarterback Marcus Mariota has as many targets as possible.
The Titans, who waited out the second round of the NFL draft Friday night, traded up 11 spots with New England for their second wide receiver in Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor at No. 72 overall. Then they wrapped up their night selecting Florida International tight end Jonnu Smith at No. 100.
Combined with using the fifth pick overall on wide receiver Corey Davis of Western Michigan, the Titans have used three of their first four selections on pass catchers.
“Maybe expecting a monthly Omaha steak to show up on my door step or something,” general manager Jon Robinson joked when asked about being thanked by Mariota.
The Titans went into Friday night without a second-round draft pick after using that to move up and grab Jack Conklin, who became an All-Pro right tackle.
After waiting out the round, Robinson turned to the team where he got his NFL start to make his first trade of this draft. Robinson worked 12 years for the Patriots before leaving for Tampa Bay. The Titans hired Robinson as their 13th general manager in January 2016.
The Titans swapped their first pick in the third round (No. 83 overall) and their lone fourth-round selection (No. 124) to move up in the third round. They also get the Patriots’ fourth-round pick at No. 200. Tennessee still holds the 100th pick overall and 36th in the third round.
Then the Titans took a receiver in Taylor who broke his own school records as a senior last season, catching 98 passes for 1,730 yards and 17 touchdowns. He visited with the Rams, Lions, Seahawks, Eagles and Cardinals. Taylor said he was nearly speechless at being drafted by the team an hour away from where he played at Western Kentucky.
Asked about Mariota being his new quarterback, Taylor said he couldn’t put that into words either.
“To play with a guy like that, I don’t know what to say,” Taylor said. “I’m definitely speechless. It doesn’t get no better than playing with a quarterback like Marcus. He’s great, and I know I’m going to be able to come in and learn. Day One, he’s going to take me under his wing, and he’s going to expect nothing but the best from me.”
Robinson values proven production, and he got that with the first wide receiver taken in the draft in Davis. He returned for his senior year to add weight and improve his ball-catching skills, and the 6-3, 215-pound receiver caught a career-high 97 passes for 1,500 yards with 19 touchdowns.
Taylor finished as the all-time leading receiver in Football Bowl Subdivision history with 5,285 yards and will be counted on to replace Kendall Wright, the last receiver Tennessee took in the first round now with Chicago.
Mariota turned in the third-highest passer rating in franchise history at 95.6, and he threw for 3,426 yards. But the Titans ranked 25th averaging 221.3 yards per game, and a better passing attack can help stretch the field for a pair of Pro Bowlers in running back DeMarco Murray and tight end Delanie Walker.
The Titans needed another tight end after losing Anthony Fasano to Miami in free agency. The 6-3 Smith finished with 178 catches for 2,001 yards receiving for his career at FIU.
Smith was burned when a pregnant woman dumped boiling water on him in his dorm room last October. Robinson said Smith detailed what happened to the GM and will keep that conversation private. Smith said he’s looking forward to coming to Tennessee to try to win games.
“That’s not going to affect any of that,” Smith said.