NASHVILLE – Titans tight end Delanie Walker worked himself into a lather when the subject of NFL mock drafts came up last week.
Walker was irritated some "experts" had the Titans taking a tight end in the 2019 draft – the team didn't, of course.
But Walker's frustration was as much about fellow tight end Jonnu Smith as it was about his own standing with the team.
"People tend to forget about Jonnu Smith," Walker said. "He was just drafted, so it's not even me – it's him. He's going to replace me when I leave, and that's what makes me upset, that we just drafted a tight end. But that's another story…"
Walker, a three-time Pro Bowler, is expected to pick up where he left off after suffering a season-ending injury in Week One of the 2018 season.
Smith, a third-round draft pick by the Titans in the 2017 NFL, is looking to take another big step in his career this fall himself.
"There's definitely some things that I want to improve on and want to build on, but there's also some things I thought I did pretty good," Smith said while on the Titans Caravan this week. "The mindset that I've got is just about getting better. So that's the approach I am going into Year 3 with – I want to carry some of the good things from Year 2, as well as the bad things, so I can correct them and just perfect my craft.
"I want to be more polished in everything that I do. Since I have been playing football, I've never focused on one specific thing I was required to do as far as my position goes. It was always whether to run block or route running. Whatever it may be, you just have to perfect everything in your craft. So I am trying to focus on everything."
Smith caught 20 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns in 2018, including a 63-yard touchdown when he showed off his speed on a Monday Night Football grab and go in Houston. As he heads into year 3, players like Walker and fellow tight ends MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser are around him. Tight ends Cole Wick and Keith Towbridge will also be in the competition.
Smith, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the team's December 6 contest against the Jaguars, said he's spent the offseason recovering from the injury. He continues to work his way back.
"It's been a process," Smith said. "I don't know a timetable or anything like that. I am just being positive and I feel great -- I am just working.
"But I feel confident, and now that I have a few years under my belt, I am going to continue to build this confidence."
Smith said he appreciates Walker having his back. And yes, he saw those mock drafts himself.
"Delanie, I am just blessed to be around a guy like that," Smith said. "As polished as a player he is, and as good a person as he is -- I am glad I have a guy like that to look up to.
"And half of those guys that write these things and do these (mock drafts), they have never played football in their lives. So I don't worry about that. I don't play to impress any of them. That's not what we are out here for, and if it was, we probably shouldn't be here."
Rashaan Evans, Dane Cruikshank, Sharif Finch, Jonnu Smith, Corey Davis and Jayon Brown headlined Day 6 of the 2019 Academy Sports + Outdoors Titans Caravan in Nashville (Photos: Susanna Nickell)
Jurrell Casey, Rashaan Evans, Sharif Finch, Jonnu Smith and Damon Webb headlined Day 4 of the 2019 Academy Sports + Outdoors Titans Caravan in Jackson and Dickson, Tenn. (Photos: Susanna Nickel)
Marcus Mariota, Jonnu Smith and Rashaan Evans headlined Day 5 of the 2019 Academy Sports + Outdoors Titans Caravan in Nashville and Spring Hill. (Photos: Susanna Nickel, Jim Wyatt)