The Tennessee Titans have been undergoing a major roster overhaul ever since a 2-14 record in 2014 netted them the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. The team used that pick to secure its franchise quarterback, which was an important first step in getting things turned around in the Music City.
Despite having that quarterback of the future, the following season didn’t yield much better results. A 3-13 record in 2015 gave the Titans the top overall pick, and they managed to turn that into several quality starters after a trade-down with the Rams.
That transaction was crucial in speeding up the process of a rebuild. The roster now features several young pieces who were contributors to Tennessee’s playoff appearance (and victory) in 2017.
Here are Tennessee’s top five players under 25 years old.
Honorable Mentions: RB Derrick Henry (24 years old), TE Jonnu Smith (22 years old)
1. Corey Davis (23 years old)
Position: Wide Receiver
Draft History: 2017 – Round 1 (Pick No. 5)
Skinny: Davis was forced to suffer his way through a rough rookie season with Tennessee. He only managed to play in 11 of the team’s 16 regular season games, hauling in 34 catches for 375 yards in the process.
The ankle and back injuries certainly slowed down the No. 5 overall pick from last year’s draft, but he seemed to be a lot more effective in the postseason.
In the team’s two playoff games, Davis finished nine catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. Those were his only two touchdowns on the year. But they both came against the New England Patriots in the second-round of the playoffs and resulted in the team’s only two scores.
Davis needs to prove that he can stay healthy in 2018. If he can, there’s a lot to like about the 6-3, 209-pound receiver out of Western Michigan. He’s certainly shown glimpses of a guy who could emerge as Mariota’s No. 1 receiver.
2. Adoree’ Jackson (22 years old)
Draft History: 2017 – Round 1 (Pick No. 18)
Skinny: Jackson is the youngest player to make this list. However, he’s earned his way through a solid rookie campaign that saw him make an impact as a defensive back and kick returner.
Everyone expected him to be a dynamic return man, even as a rookie. He didn’t quite live up to that hype, but he did finish second in the AFC in total return yardage (868) behind Cincinnati’s Alex Erickson. The talent is certainly there for him to make a big leap in this area of his game in 2018.
The most surprising aspect of Jackson’s rookie season was his development into an impact cornerback. There were several draft pundits who thought he was a raw prospect coming out of USC and would need seasoning before becoming a starter.
That didn’t end up being the case.
The 5-11, 185-pound Jackson started all 16 games en route to posting 70 tackles, 17 pass deflections and three forced fumbles.
3. Jack Conklin (23 years old)
Position: Right Tackle
Draft History: 2016 – Round 1 (Pick No. 8)
Skinny: Conklin has shown extreme promise over the course of his first two seasons in Tennessee. He was actually Tennessee’s top-performing offensive linemen (81.8 overall grade) in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.
That’s why it was so unfortunate to see his sophomore season end with a torn ACL in the playoffs.
The hope is that he’ll be able to find his way back onto the field sometime in 2018, but his injury won’t prevent him from making our list of top Titans players under 25. He’s been way too steady since joining the team for that to even be a possibility.
The injury does cause some concern for an offensive line that will already be moving to a zone blocking scheme. That transition was already going to be difficult with misfits such as Quinton Spain and Ben Jones still in the fold.
4. Marcus Mariota (24 years old)
Draft History: 2015 – Round 1 (Pick No. 2)
Skinny: Up to this point, there’s been some ups and downs during Mariota’s time in Nashville. He hasn’t been perfectly, but there’s also no denying just how dynamic of a player he can be in the NFL.
Like we mentioned before, the offense is expected to be undergoing some major changes under new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, which should only benefit Mariota’s development. Not only will LaFleur’s presence benefit Mariota as a passer, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Oregon product more utilized in the run game as well.
Injuries have been Mariota’s biggest obstacle up to this point — he’s missed at least one game in each of his first three seasons with the team. But he’s also averaged 3,463 total yards and 22.3 touchdowns during that span as well.
Mariota is one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the NFL.
5. Kevin Byard (24 years old)
Position: Free Safety
Draft History: 2016 – Round 3 (Pick No. 64)
Skinny: Surprisingly, Byard is the second player on this list whose birthday falls on August 17th. Conklin shares the same birthday, except he’s one year younger than Byard.
Once thing Byard doesn’t have to share is the top spot on this list.
The 5-11, 212-pound safety has been outstanding ever since the Titans snagged him at No. 64 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Middle Tennessee State product even managed to land on the list of All-Pros after racking up 87 tackles, one sack and an NFL-leading eight interceptions last season.
Byard’s ability to make an impact against the run and pass game gives Tennessee’s defense a lot of flexibility on the backend. Deion Sanders may not know who Byard is yet, but Titans fans certainly do.