NASHVILLE, Tenn-The Tennessee Titans addressed their two biggest concerns by selecting Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis and Southern California cornerback Adoree’ Jackson in the first round of the NFL draft.
Tennessee chose Davis with the fifth overall pick and selected Jackson at No. 18. The Titans wanted to give quarterback Marcus Mariota additional weapons while also boosting their secondary after ranking 30th in the NFL in pass defense last season.
Davis ended his college career as the only Football Bowl Subdivision player with at least 300 catches, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown receptions. He had an FBS record 5,285 yards receiving and had said before the draft that Mariota is his favorite NFL quarterback.
“I meant every word,” Davis said Thursday night. “He’s definitely my favorite quarterback, and I’m looking forward to playing with him. (I like) just his swagger. He’s an accurate quarterback. He’s a great leader. He makes great decisions. He can use his legs.”
The concern surrounding the 6-foot-3 Davis 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 after he was selected that he feels fine.
“I could be on the field tonight if need be,” Davis said.
The Titans still were sold enough on Davis to take him when players such as Alabma defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore were available to boost a defense that struggled against the pass last year.
Tennessee has been seeking more weapons for Mariota as the quarterback heads into his third season as a pro. The Titans are chasing their first playoff appearance since 2008 after going 9-7 last season, a dramatic jump from 3-13 in 2015.
Davis said he knew the Titans had genuine interest in him after speaking with general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey before the draft.
The only MAC player ever drafted higher than Davis was Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who was taken first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. The only previous MAC player taken fifth overall was Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who went to Oakland in 2014 and is now the reigning NFL defensive player of the year.
Davis said he will use the skepticism surrounding his level of college competition as motivation.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” Davis said. “I’m not afraid to go up against anyone, and I’m going to prove that really soon”
The Titans got a breakout season last year from Rishard Matthews but need another wide receiver after Kendall Wright signed with Chicago as a free agent.
Davis’ record production at Western Michigan came apart because of his ability to gain big yardage after the 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.”
Tennessee 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.
he Titans aided their secondary later in the first round by taking the versatile Jackson, who won the Jim Thorpe Award last season as the nation’s top college defensive back. Jackson also played wide receiver at USC and ended his college career with four touchdowns on punt returns and four more on kickoff returns. His eight combined touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns tied an NCAA record.
The Titans lost their most experienced cornerback earlier this month when they released three-time captain Jason McCourty, though they did sign Logan Ryan away from New England in March. Jackson becomes the first defensive player to get taken by the Titans in the first round since Derrick Morgan, the 16th overall pick in 2010.
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 don’t have a second-round pick, though they do have two third-round selections.