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Offensive Tackles Take Center Stage at the NFL Combine, and the Titans Are Looking


INDIANAPOLIS – When Titans General Manager Ran Carthon met with reporters here earlier this week, he gushed about the NFL Draft's deepest position groups – receiver and offensive line.

On Friday, the receivers paraded through the Indianapolis Convention Center to meet with reporters at the NFL Combine.

On Saturday, it was the offensive linemen's turn.

The Titans are paying close attention to them this week, spending time with them in interviews, and watching their on-field workouts.

The top prospects, well, they're all curious about what their future holds, and where their landing spots might be.

Could it be in Tennessee, where the Titans hold the seventh overall pick? Well, the Titans are in need of a starting left tackle, and potentially a right tackle as well, and this year's class provides some great options.

"At the end of the day, I am super-confident in my ability to play right now," Penn State's Olu Fashanu said on Saturday morning. "I have been ready for this moment for a while, especially with the last couple of weeks training. I am extremely confident, and I am ready for this moment."

Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt said he's ready for the next step as well.

Here on Saturday morning, both Fashanu and Alt said they had meetings with the Titans here at the NFL Combine, and things went well.

"It's all been positive stuff," Alt of his meetings with NFL teams. "I met (with the Titans) and it was a great interview, a great meeting. I got to learn a little bit more about the organization. It was a great time."

Heading into this week, most draft analysts were in agreement on the top tackles in the draft – Alt, Fashanu, Alabama's JC Latham, and Oregon State's Taliese Fuaga.

The analysts don't necessarily agree with the order they think they'll go off the board, however. While NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah ranks Alt (9), Fuaga (11), Fashanu (12) and Latham (13), in that order, on his list of Top 50 prospects, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has a different idea.

In his most recent mock draft, in fact, Kiper has Latham going fifth overall to the Chargers, Alt going seventh to the Titans, Fashanu going 14th to the Saints and Fuaga going 18th to the Bengals.

Kiper has seven offensive tackles going in the first-round, including Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton 23rd to the Texans, Georgia's Amarius Mims 24th to the Cowboys and Arizona's Jordan Morgan 25th to the Packers.

Alt and Fashanu have been the most popular picks for the Titans in the mock drafts.

"I appreciate all that kind of stuff, mock drafts," Fuaga said on Saturday. "But at the end of the day, it is all just guessing. I just keep my head down and keep trying to work."

Jeremiah, who is watching the workout from inside Lucas Oil Stadium this week, said it's a "loaded tackle class."

"I think we'll see a bunch of starters, a bunch of day one starters out of that tackle group," Jeremiah said. "They're all really talented. When you look at that top group of guys, really I would say you're talking about Alt, Fashanu, Fuaga, Latham. I would think those are pretty unanimous, whatever order you have them, those are kind of the top four guys.

"I think that Alt … is the cleanest of the bunch. He's huge. He's long. He just keeps getting better. He doesn't get beat. … Fashanu from Penn State is massive. He has the ideal frame, ideal length. … Fuaga is a really, really clean player for me. He has played on the right side. I don't see really why you would want to move him. I think he is plug-and-play as a right tackle. He could play guard if you needed him to, but just really consistent. He has some nasty to him. … Then JC Latham from Alabama … has a lot in his body. He is huge. 330-plus pounds. He has torque and power, especially in the run game. He can anchor all day long."

Coming off a season when the Titans allowed 64 quarterback sacks, the team knows it needs to fix the offensive line, not just at tackle. The team also has jobs to be one on the inside, and it figures to add to the team this offseason at center and guard as well.

Latham said on Saturday he considers himself a right tackle, but he can play left, or anywhere on the line.

"I feel like I've been blessed to do it all, and to perform at a high level in everything that I do," Latham said. "Wherever I am needed to play, I'll adapt and get the job done. … Being physical, being aggressive, just the willingness to attack, that's the mindset that I've always had."

Heading into free agency, and the NFL Draft, rebuilding the offensive line is among the top priorities under new head coach Brian Callahan.

With a veteran offensive line coach now on board in Bill Callahan, at least some have speculated the team might not feel the need to draft a lineman right out of the gate, because Callahan has proven he can develop lineman with the best of them.

Brian Callahan didn't quash that theory or add to it.

He did make it very clear, however, the team is looking for top talent, and this draft has plenty of it at the tackle position.

"I'll say this: You can never replace elite talent," Callahan said. "You can coach guys. Coaching makes an impact. It matters. But ultimately, the better players you have, the better coach you are. And so, I will never pass up on elite talent just because I think we have a great coach. Great coaches with elite talent is special. And so, we're trying to get to that point."

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