Fisher has high hopes for Rutgers' Britt
This is only the third time in the franchise's 50-year history to draft a wide receiver in the first round and the first since taking Kevin Dyson in 1998. The other receiver drafted was Haywood Jeffires in 1987, but he was the then-Houston Oilers' second pick in the first round.
But Tennessee needed to improve the passing game for a team that posted an NFL-best 13-3 record in 2008 despite ranking 27th in yards passing per game. A tight end and a running back were the Titans' top pass catchers last season.
"We feel like he's what we've been missing in our passing game," coach Jeff Fisher said of Britt.
Tennessee used its second-round pick helping shore up the hole left by the free agent departure of two-time All Pro Albert Haynesworth by drafting defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks of Auburn with the 62nd selection overall. The Titans have eight picks Sunday that could help them trade up looking for cornerbacks and linebackers.
The Titans returned Justin Gage, who led all their receivers with 34 catches for 651 yards and six touchdowns, and signed Nate Washington away from Pittsburgh in March. They also tried to add veteran Torry Holt before he signed with AFC South rival Jacksonville on Monday.
Tennessee was mentioned among the teams pursuing a trade with Arizona for Anquan Boldin. Fisher said they never made an offer for the Pro Bowl receiver and that Arizona did not return messages the Titans left Friday until just before the draft started Saturday. Then the Cardinals told the Titans they weren't interesting in trading the receiver.
As Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin slid to Philadelphia at No. 19, Fisher said there were talks and discussions about trading up.
In picking the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Britt, the Titans' got the Big East Conference's all-time leading receiver. Britt had 3,043 yards in just 34 games, and they love his physical play and ability to run after the catch.
How quickly Britt plays remains to be seen. Fisher said he doesn't think the receiver is far away at all.
"We feel that he's not going to have any difficulty learning the offense. He's one of the few guys at the top of that group that really handles bump and run, can release. Has been taught to release, and I think that's one of the more difficult things to teach at this level or one, if not the most, difficult thing to be able to do early," Fisher said.
"And that's what you have to be able to do to play early."
Britt was a third-team All-American in his junior season and turned his 14th 100-yard receiving game in Rutgers' bowl victory - tying the Big East Conference record first set by Larry Fitzgerald at Pittsburgh. Britt ranked second nationally in 2008, averaging 114.25 yards per game on 1,371 yards, and finished eighth with 87 catches. Both set school records.
That prompted him to leave Rutgers early, and he said he wants to have as big an impact as possible.
"I'm a big physical receiver, great hands. Wherever they throw the ball in the red zone ... that's something I'm going to work on 25 hours, seven days a week," Britt said.
This is consecutive first-round picks on offense for Tennessee, and the Titans can only hope Britt turns out as well as running back Chris Johnson who was voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. This is from a team that had used six of its prior eight first-round picks on defense, and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger joked that it was different from his first stint in the job here.
Fisher said they studied Britt closely, and that included Heimerdinger talking with ex-Denver wide receiver Rod Smith who worked with Britt three times a week in workouts in Arizona before the draft.
"I really wanted to find out from Rod what his work ethic is like plus his brains, and Rod said he handled everything good and every challenge he gave him, he worked hard," Heimerdinger said.
The Titans already signed Jovan Haye to help a defense that ranked second in the NFL for fewest points allowed in 2008.
The 6-foot-1, 306-pound Marks started 37 of 40 games at Auburn before leaving after his junior season with the departure of coach Tommy Tuberville. He had 114 tackles with 7 1/2 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback pressures. Scout Cole Proctor said Marks has quickness similar to Haynesworth while lacking the All Pro's strength.
Marks said in a conference call that Haynesworth was his idol during college.
"To be in his shoes after he leaves and try to pick up where he left behind is going to be hard work. I know I have my work cut out for me, and I'm ready for it," Marks said.