The Tennessee Titans headed into the draft needing to find more offensive help for quarterback Marcus Mariota while also boosting a defense that ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass last season.
With two first-round draft picks for the first time in three decades, the Titans addressed those concerns by selecting Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick and versatile Southern California cornerback Adoree’ Jackson at No. 18.
“We wanted playmakers — and we think we got two really good playmakers,” general manager Jon Robinson said.
Davis and Jackson were two of college football’s most productive performers last season.
Davis set a Football Bowl Subdivision record with 5,285 career yards receiving. Jackson won the 2016 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and also tied an NCAA career record with eight combined touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns.
“Both Adoree’ and Corey, they’re very competitive players,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “They’re all football. They like it. They love football. When they go home, it’s still going to be football.”
Tennessee has been seeking more help for Mariota as the Titans chase their first playoff berth since 2008. The Titans got a breakout season last year from Rishard Matthews but need more wideouts.
Davis believes he can fit right in. He said before the draft that Mariota is his favorite NFL quarterback.
The concern surrounding the 6-foot-3 receiver is whether he can translate his Mid-American Conference success to the NFL.
Davis’ pre-draft process created other concerns. He didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl due to a shoulder injury and didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine or at Western Michigan’s pro day event because of an ankle problem.
Davis said he now feels fine.
“I could be on the field tonight if need be,” Davis said.
Davis is the only FBS player ever to have at least 300 catches, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown receptions. Much of that production came from his ability to gain big yardage after each catch.
“I feel like that’s just a matter of will and how bad you want it,” Davis said. “One of my favorite quotes is from Walter Payton, and that’s ‘Never die easy.’ I try to live that out wholeheartedly. I kind of take that attitude as I take the field and do whatever I can to get a little extra yard because every inch matters.”
The Titans obtained the fifth pick in this draft as part of the trade that sent last year’s No. 1 overall selection to the Los Angeles Rams, who used it to take quarterback Jared Goff.
Later in the first round, the Titans boosted their defense and special teams by adding Jackson.
The Titans lost their most experienced cornerback earlier this month when they released Jason McCourty, though they did sign Logan Ryan away from New England in March. Jackson, who is 5-10, becomes the first defensive player to get taken by the Titans in the first round since Derrick Morgan in 2010.
“I’m just thankful and blessed to be in this position,” Jackson said.
He was an all-around performer at USC who helped out at receiver and was arguably the nation’s most explosive kick returner.
Mularkey said Jackson’s versatility brings “added value” and could tempt the Titans to use him on offense occasionally. The Titans also expect to utilize Jackson as a return man.
“Certainly we’ll factor in when we’re putting a game plan together his ability to do special things with the ball,” Mularkey said.
The last time this franchise had two first-round picks was back in 1987, when the Houston Oilers took Miami running back Alonzo Highsmith at No. 3 overall and North Carolina State wide receiver Haywood Jeffires at No. 20.
The Titans still could use a second tight end to complement Pro Bowler Delanie Walker after losing Anthony Fasano to the Miami Dolphins.
Tennessee also may want to add a pass rusher. Team officials said earlier this week that Kevin Dodd, a second-round pick last season, still is feeling pain from the foot that bothered him much of his rookie season and required another surgery. He finished his rookie season on injured reserve.
The Titans don’t have a second-round pick after giving that up as part of a trade last year to get the No. 8 pick that was used on offensive tackle Jack Conklin, who made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. The Titans do have two third-round selections.