NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Marcus Mariota was Ron Jaworski's No.1 quarterback in last year's NFL Draft, and the Titans snagged him when they went on the clock. Heading into this year's draft, the ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback said Tennessee's No.1 priority should be to protect him.
Jaworski believes the Titans should pick Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil with the top pick. On a conference call this morning, ESPN analyst Merril Hoge agreed.
"In the NFL Matchup Show (on ESPN), we will use Laremy Tunsil as one of the guys at the offensive tackle position that we believe is going to be a tremendous player, and has the skill-set that I believe to be a long-time starter in the National Football League. So when Laremy gets on the field, I am going to compare his skill-set to that of Jason Peters," Jaworski said of Tunsil, and the eight-time Pro Bowl tackle in Peters.
"You could almost put their skill-set right on top of each other when you look at tape because they do all the things that are critical. Obviously Jason Peters has done it at the NFL level (with the Bills and Eagles). Laremy Tunsil has shown at Ole Miss that he can do it.
"Clearly, when you have a quarterback like Marcus Mariota, who I believe had a very solid rookie season, you want to make sure he is protected. Yeah, there will be people who want to talk about other positions, but I am just a firm believer that when you have invested as much as you have at the quarterback position, it is paramount that you keep him healthy. And last year he did not finish the season."
Mariota broke rookie records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) in his first NFL season in 2015.
He also ran for 252 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts, including an 87-yard run for a touchdown against the Jaguars on December 6.
But Mariota missed four games with knee injuries.
"I think if you are smart, and (Titans coach) Mike Mularkey is,'' Jaworski said, "you are going to think protection first and I think Laremy Tunsil is the guy that I would project would be a guy that will fit in."
Hoge said Jaworski's thought process "makes absolutely complete sense."
The Titans are scheduled to pick first overall in this year's draft after picking second overall last year.
"I'll tell you this,'' Hoge said. "After watching Tunsil, when you look at some of the physical traits you've got to have as a tackle, and you've got to have phenomenal feet. His feet may be the most ridiculous I have seen, and I can't even think of a guy to compare him to quite honestly.
"Jaws can use Peters, but I think he is even better than Peters. When you look at how he pass blocks, it as professional style as you would like to see. … From a pass (blocking) perspective, I think the guy is phenomenal. He is aggressive, he is athletic and you watch him get to the second level, he has the capability of doing those things which are obviously very important in transitioning guys."
Offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil performs drills at Mississippi's NFL Pro Day on Monday, March 28, 2016, in Oxford, Miss. (AP Photos)