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Titans' Trader Jon Robinson Finds That Persistence Pays Off



NASHVILLE, Tenn. –** It will be months before we see linebacker Rashaan Evans slicing through the middle of the opposing offensive line, edge rusher Harold Landry III swooping around the end or defensive back Dane Cruikshank shadowing rival receivers.

Until then, it's Titans general manager Jon Robinson who holds the spotlight following his performance at the NFL Draft.

The fact that Robinson was active in the draft-weekend swap fest came as no surprise, as it's what we've come to expect from Trader Jon in his two-plus years at the helm of the team. He engineered five trades in 2016 (two on draft days) and tacked on five more in 2017 (four on draft days).

But whereas a number of those deals involved moving back in the draft and acquiring picks – especially the monster trade with the Rams in 2016 that gained the Titans six selections – this past weekend showcased Robinson's ability to move forward.

The Titans jumped up three spots to land Evans, 16 spots to snatch Landry and 10 more to secure Cruikshank.

Only one man's opinion here, but I suspect it's more of a challenge to move forward than to move back on draft day. It's one thing to dangle a juicy top overall position in front of salivating teams, quite another to convince those rivals to surrender their own advantageous spots higher in a round.

Robinson managed the latter feat once on Friday, once on Saturday and once on Sunday, prying better selections from the clutches of opponents even if it required the persistence of a good salesman.

The Titans' general manager was shooed off the porch many more times than he was greeted with open arms on the trade market.

"I've banged on quite a few doors this weekend," Robinson said following the draft. "Sometimes they open and peek. Sometimes they open it all the way and sometimes they don't even come to the door.

"But that's part of my job is to work the draft and to try to move around on the draft board, up and down -- more up this year, obviously – and try to get players that are going to help our football team win."

The primary reward in Robinson's moves was that the Titans got exactly who they targeted with their early selections, as opposed to hoping those players were still on the board when Tennessee picked.

In drafting Evans and Landry, the Titans secured a pair of first-round talents who should both improve a pass rush that wasn't consistent enough last year as well as better the team's pass coverage against running backs and tight ends.

In adding Cruikshank, the Titans landed what appears to be an increasingly valuable "chess-piece" player, one versatile enough to move between cornerback and safety against different-sized receivers.

It's also worth noting that the Titans not only improved themselves with their draft picks, but potentially kept talented players out of the hands of the AFC's elite rivals like New England and Pittsburgh.

A number of reports, for instance, suggested the Steelers, who sat at 28 in the first round, tried unsuccessfully to trade up for Evans.

In addition, the Titans leapfrogged New England, which had enough reported interest in Evans that Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio was asked about Tennessee moving in front of the Pats to grab the Alabama standout.

"I mean, Jon and (Titans coach Mike Vrabel) did what they thought was best for their team," Caserio told New England media. "We didn't like throw our pens against the wall and go `Oh my gosh, what just happened?' We were just ready to move on to the next pick."

In making the 16-spot leap from the 57th overall spot to nab Landry early in Round Two, the Titans again moved ahead of the Patriots, who surely must have seen plenty of Landry over the years at nearby Boston College.

"I think the primary focus is just to get (targeted players) on our team," Robinson said. "That's the main goal, to not let someone beat you to a player and get him on your football team.

"I don't think we're trying to trade and move around so that Player A doesn't go to Team A. Whatever the extra, or the lagniappe as we used to say in south Louisiana, it is what it is. We just want to get (those players) on our football team."

The only potential concern of the Titans moving up three times in the draft is that the team had to use assets in order to do so, which is why Tennessee wound up with what is believed to be the smallest draft class – four players – in franchise history.

But what Robinson is betting on is that his wheelings and dealings over the past two years – including his free-agent additions and 19 draft picks, 17 of whom are still on the roster – have fortified the Titans' roster to the point that it didn't necessarily need another huge rookie haul. not to say the team won't take a hard look at undrafted rookie free agents and the secondary free-agent market in the months ahead.

Expect more roster changes.

If we know anything by now, it's that Robinson doesn't sit still for long.

-- Reach John Glennnon at and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.

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