NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Peter King isn't ready to declare the Titans a Super Bowl contender.
But King, a long-time sports writer with Sports Illustrated and a Hall of Famer voter, thinks they could be the NFL's surprise team in 2017.
In his Monday Morning Quarterback column on SI.com, King listed the Titans No.4 in his NFL Power Rankings, behind only the Patriots, Raiders and Falcons.
"The way I look at it, every year there is a team or two or three that just comes out nowhere to shock the world," King told Titans Online. "And look, there's three or four teams that could be that team. But I really like Tennessee. I think they are going to win 10 or 11 games.
"In the past I think people said, 'This team is a walkover, let's schedule Tennessee for the homecoming game.' Now, I think people are going to say, 'Tennessee is one of the toughest games on our schedule.' I just think they're going to have better players at the most important positions, and it's been a long time since Tennessee has had that.'"
The Titans finished 9-7 in 2016, tripling their win total from the previous season. But the team missed the playoffs, losing a tiebreaker with the Texans atop the AFC South.
King said he's a big fan of quarterback Marcus Mariota, and believes he could be an MVP candidate in 2017. He's high on tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin.
"The reason I really like Tennessee is because of the meat and potatoes of this team," King said. "Who right now has a better young left and right tackle in football? I don't think anybody, including Dallas and the teams that are really celebrated on the offensive line. I think they're the best.
"And then you've got Mariota, who in my opinion is going to take his place among the top 10 or 15 quarterbacks in the game. And the Titans have a running game with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry that is going to take pressure off of him."
King said the Titans have some questions, however, starting with their first-round picks.
"Corey Davis is a great unknown," King said of the Western Michigan receiver, selected fifth overall. "I mean, the MAC receivers can be Antonio Brown or John Doe, so I can't tell you whether this guy is going to be great, but a lot of people love him. Jon Robinson obviously loved him.
"They get Logan Ryan in free agency and Adoree' Jackson in the draft. That is going to be the real big key, especially Adoree' Jackson. Nobody knows with rookies."
But he thinks the Titans have reasons to be excited on defense. He's high on defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, and outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan.
"I think the Titans have one of the more underrated rush duos in Morgan and Orakpo,'' King said. "Neither one of them is Lawrence Taylor or even Khalil Mack. But both of them, if they stay healthy, they are going to generate 20 sacks or so (between them). The big question right now is the secondary."
King rounded out his top 10 with the Steelers, Packers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Seahawks and Giants. He thinks the Titans have a great chance to win the AFC South, and win a playoff game.
And if that happens, he said Tennessee fans should be thrilled.
"I don't look at this as they are going to the Super Bowl,'' King said. "If they win the division and win a playoff game or are representative in a playoff game, that's a big step.
"Every team has a lot of ifs, but right now when I look at Tennessee, they are an intriguing team that has done a lot to solve the major issues at the major positions."
Titans veterans and rookies take the field for Day 1 of the 2017 OTAs at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn, Al Wagner, AP)