Titans Offseason Preview Part 4: The Draft

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Just three weeks separate the last college pro day and the off-season's main event –  the 2015 NFL Draft, set to begin on April 30 from the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago.

The college all-star games, NFL Scouting Combine and pro days all lead up to this point, helping to provide information that enables teams to make informed selections on draft day.

The Tennessee Titans traded up in the sixth round to draft LSU QB Zach Mettenberger with the 178th overall pick. (AP Photos)

As of now the Titans own seven draft picks, six of their own as well as the Patriots' sixth-round pick acquired in the Akeem Ayers trade. Tennessee will be without a seventh-round selection, having sent theirs to New England in the deal.

Because the Titans lost the tie breaker with Tampa Bay for the first overall pick (both teams finished 2-14 but the Bucs had the easier strength of schedule), Tennessee is rewarded with the first pick in the even rounds – two, four and six.

Between Director of College Scouting Blake Beddingfield, Tennessee's eight scouts and VP of Pro Personnel Lake Dawson -- all the way up to General Manager Ruston Webster -- the three weeks leading up to the draft will be about sifting through a mountain of information.

Each scout will pitch players they believe would be difference-makers for the Titans. They will also explain why certain players aren't a good fit. All the while, Webster will be constructing his draft board with rankings at each position.

The draft is one of the NFL's marquee annual events and carries extra excitement for the Titans in 2015 holding the second overall pick.

"There's no question," said Beddingfield. "I've been through drafts when we pick 30th and you're watching 29 good players come off the board until you get an opportunity. This year we're going to see one. That's exciting to sit there and not have to rule anyone out. We get to evaluate every player and feel like we could get anyone since we don't know who Tampa is going to pick first."

Scouts will fall in love with players. That shouldn't come as a surprise given how much tape they've watched and time they've spent with everyone in their area. Every scout wants to see a player tear it up in Titans two-tone blue and be able to say, "That was my guy."

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That makes Webster's job an enormous task – the ability to balance the needs of the team with the caliber of the player. Is it more important to fill a hole on the roster or get the player you think is more talented, despite the need at the position? What is the deciding factor when two members of your staff are passionate about different players they believe are the best option at a given point in the draft?

Those are the million dollar questions.

"That's where the general manager makes his money because he has to decipher all that information," said Beddingfield. "The scouts are trying to sell their players. That's where Ruston has to go through all the players and ultimately decide on who we're going to select."

To help in the process, the Titans are allowed to conduct 30 final player interviews from the team's complex at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Similar to pro days, the goal is to get any final piece of information or to answer any remaining questions that might help them during the draft.

There is no overstating the draft's importance for each of the NFL's 32 clubs.

"The draft can be a franchise changer," Beddingfield said. "You can get a player that changes the look of your team and that's the expectation when you're drafting so high. No matter how deep a draft is the expectations are still the same."

Beddingfield recalled his favorite draft of all-time, one that possibly features the best top five picks ever.

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"There are drafts in history like 1989 – you have Troy Aikman go one, Tony Mandarich go two, Barry Sanders go three, Derrick Thomas go four and Deion Sanders go five," he ran down the list and couldn't help but crack a smile. "That's four Hall of Famers in the first five picks. That's what you dream about as a scout."

With a high draft pick comes plenty of pressure. Drafting a key contributor isn't good enough in the top five. With the second overall pick, the expectation is to get a franchise player.

No one wants to be in the situation of the Green Bay Packers, who drafted second that year and missed on Sanders, Thomas and "Primetime."

Beddingfield was candid when asked if carrying a burden comes with selecting #2 overall.

"Absolutely," he said. "I'm sure the Packers graded Mandarich as a Hall of Fame type player or at least a perennial Pro Bowl type player. You look at some of those things and they completely change a franchise's history.

"Not every draft has four potential Hall of Famers, but you still look at this draft and think, 'We're going to get a great player out of this.'"

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