NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans general manager Ruston Webster reiterated Tuesday that Tennessee is likely to draft a running back this week, but who and when remain up in the air.
Webster joined new Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt for a pre-draft press conference and said he feels what the team accomplished in free agency will keep the club's hand from being forced during the annual three-day selection of prospects that begins with the first round at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, and the fourth through seventh rounds are planned for Saturday.
"I think we did a nice job of filling needs, to take some pressure off, in free agency, which was our goal and what we tried to do. That's probably why it's a little harder to project what we're going to do," Webster said. "Running back-wise, I think I've been pretty open about saying that's something we have to look into taking at some point. I would probably go there, but there are plenty of places where we could take a player that would help us, take a player that would have a chance to start at some point. We feel good about where we are, roster-wise, but there are still areas for improvement."
The Titans signed versatile and quick-footed Dexter McCluster during free agency, have 2013 free agent-signee Shonn Greene returning, re-signed Jackie Battle and Leon Washington and released 2008 first-round pick Chris Johnson this offseason.
Webster said "there's quality throughout the middle rounds" at the position and outlined attributes that the Titans will look for in a running back.
"He has to have vision. He has to have toughness," Webster said. "We like versatility in our guy. That's probably going to fit best into Ken's offense, a player with some versatility. That's the way we're looking at it."
This will be Webster's third draft as Titans general manager and his first with Whisenhunt, who was offensive coordinator with San Diego in 2013 after being head coach of Arizona from 2007-12.
Whisenhunt said the involvement level increases as a head coach beyond when he's been an offensive coordinator because he's evaluating offensive and defensive players, but said his background as a player and coach won't make him more likely to lobby for more offensive players.
"It really doesn't matter to me, offensively or defensively. You have areas that you feel like you want a chance to improve your team in and whether that's offensively or defensively if you put a lot of work in, like Ruston and his scouts have done, like our coaches have done, you have a good sense of those players," Whisenhunt said. "If they're available, you're going to take the player that you think best helps your team. I think that's the way in teams that I've been around, that's the way in my discussions with Ruston and we believe a lot alike."
PICK 6: The Titans are scheduled to make six selections, with one pick in the first (11th overall pick), second (42nd), fourth (112th), fifth (151st), sixth (186th) and seventh rounds (228th). The Titans traded their 2014 third-round pick as part of the deal that helped them land Justin Hunter with the second pick (34th overall) of the second round a year ago.
If nothing changes, it would be the fewest number of players selected by Tennessee since 2003 when the Titans dealt three picks to the Patriots to move up in the fifth (Donnie Nickey) and seventh rounds (Todd Williams). Webster has no regrets for trading to select Hunter but would like more selections this year.
"I'd like to have more. Like anybody in my position, you'd like to have more picks," Webster said. "We'll see what happens, but if not we'll make the most of the six."
When asked about the possibility of trading down to gain additional picks, Webster said, "That really depends on who's there when we pick and if teams want to move up for those guys. Really that's something that will happen more on the clock."
FIRST-ROUND GRADES:Webster said the Titans have "about 26 or 27" players that received first-round grades, but that doesn't mean one or more of those wouldn't be available after the first 32 selections are announced.
"There's always that chance, because everyone has different ideas of who those guys are," Webster said. "Whether it's top 10 picks or first-rounders, just because we have that grade on them doesn't necessarily mean that they won't go in the second round. Sometimes that happens, not very often, but sometimes it does."
As for the 11th spot, Webster said there should be ample options. "I think there will be a fairly broad range (of players to choose)," Webster said. "Most positions will be available at that point."