NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans' second trade — a move up within the sixth round to select QB Zach Mettenberger in the sixth round — in as many days capped Tennessee's activity in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Mettenberger became the first offensive player selected by Tennessee on Saturday. The Titans previously selected Penn State defensive lineman DaQuan Jones (112th overall) and Wyoming cornerback Marqueston Huff (122nd overall) in the fourth round and Kentucky inside linebacker Avery Williamson (151st overall) in the fifth round.
Tennessee sent its sixth-round (186th overall) and seventh-round (228th) selections to Washington to move up eight spots for a player that many projected to go higher in the draft order and one that Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team considered drafting earlier.
"When it got to the sixth round, we felt at that point that and especially after some of the other quarterbacks had gone, that we had to make a move to get him," Whisenhunt said. "We had heard that there were some other teams that were trying to move up to get him so at that point we felt like it was a low risk and high reward type of situation."
The trade occurred a day after Tennessee moved down 12 spots (from 42nd to 54th) in the second round in a swap that included the 122nd pick from Philadelphia, who drafted former Vanderbilt star receiver Jordan Matthews at 42. The Titans were able to select University of Washington running back Bishop Sankey 54th and draft Huff with the extra pick. Sankey was the first running back off the board and created a brief run on the position by teams Friday. Tennessee opened this year's draft by selecting Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan with the 11th overall pick Thursday.
"Nice to have that one in the books," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "It was a good process and I thought went very smooth, happy with our draft and the players we have, happy with the way free agency (for undrafted players) has gone. Our guys have been working like it's the floor of the stock exchange, so that's gone extremely well. I'm very happy the job that (VP of player personnel) Lake (Dawson) and (director of college scouting) Blake (Beddingfield) and their guys did and Coach and his coaches."
The Tennessee Titans traded up in the sixth round to draft LSU QB Zach Mettenberger with the 178th overall pick. (AP Photos)
Mettenberger, 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds, is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered against Arkansas in the regular-season finale, but said "if rookie camp started in 20 minutes, I could practice with the team."
"I am very close to 100 percent," Mettenberger said. "I am full-go in practice and ready to get up there and show that knee is healthy, my back is healthy that I can make them a better team."
Titans quarterbacks coach John McNulty recently worked out Mettenberger to evaluate him. Webster attended the workout and said Mettenberger passed medical tests conducted by the Titans, and Tennessee does not draft a player who is not cleared medically.
"Heck, I saw him. I was at his workout, and that thing was pretty amazing for coming off an ACL (injury)," Webster said. "That was one of the more impressive things I've ever seen in a guy that's been hurt."
Mettenberger ranked fourth in FBS with a 171.4 passer efficiency rating as a senior in 2013 and finished his three-year career at LSU 407-of-659 passing for 5,783 yards with 35 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. He was a two-time captain and went 19-6 in 25 starts at LSU. Mettenberger said he considers his ability to take control at the line of scrimmage a strong point of his game.
"That's something, when you go into a school and talk to the coaching staff and you find out what he can handle mentally, what do they put on him, what do they allow him to do at the line of scrimmage," Beddingfield said. "With a (former) NFL offensive coordinator (Cam Cameron) they had this year, they put a little bit more on him. So that was something he was able to handle."
Whisenhunt made it clear that the Titans plan for Jake Locker to be the starting quarterback. In addition to Locker and Mettenberger, the Titans also have veteran Charlie Whitehurst and Tyler Wilson, a 2013 draft pick of Oakland, on the roster.
The Titans used their first of two fourth-round selections on Penn State DT DaQuan Jones. (AP Photos)
VERSATILITY WORD OF FOURTH ROUND:The Titans are installing a hybrid system under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton that will have elements of 3-4 and 4-3 defensive fronts and believe Jones is capable of playing multiple** techniques at positions across the defensive line.
Huff will add versatility in the secondary. The Texarkana, Texas, native began his college career at Wyoming as a nickel back, then moved into a starting cornerback role his sophomore and junior season. Huff said a shortage of safeties because of injuries during spring practice before his senior season prompted Cowboys coaches to move him to free safety, and they liked the results. Huff had 127 tackles (74 solo), six pass breakups and two interceptions in 2013.
Webster said Huff will begin his pro career working with cornerbacks.
The Titans used their second fourth-round pick (122 overall) on Wyoming DB Marqueston Huff. (AP Photos)
"I'm excited to get both of these young men, I think the one common thing, as Blake (Beddingfield) I'm sure will attest to, is versatility," Whisenhunt said. "They can fit a couple of roles for us, which we feel like is an important piece and they're going to get an opportunity to see where they really fit in."
Of Jones, Beddingfield said: "He's always had a good work ethic, but once he shed a few pounds, you saw the versatility," Beddingfield said. "He played the five, he played the zero, he played the three (technique), he lined up all across the board."
Of Huff, Beddingfield said: "He went to the Senior Bowl and played a little corner and safety, so he's got the versatility like coach said to play either spot. Special teams is also another trait, he's got great height, weight, speed, an instinctive type player."
LONG-TIME FAN: Williamson, who is believed to be the first player from Milan, Tenn., ever drafted said he is excited to play for the team located about two hours from his hometown.
"I was a Titans fan and I love Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Jevon Kearse so I was always watching the Titans when I was growing up," Williamson said. "It's amazing to think that I am going to be playing for them. It's surreal."
Webster said the Titans considered drafting Williamson in the fourth and were pleased he was still available in the fifth.
"He was somebody that we had targeted and brought in for a visit," Webster said. "We wanted to get a Milan Bulldog in here and see if some of those winning ways could rub off."
ANOTHER LOCAL ADDED AT RUNNING BACK: Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews, who went 29-0 as a quarterback at Fort Campbell High School, said via Twitter that he is joining the Titans as an undrafted free agent.
Andrews led the nation in all-purpose yardage with 3,161 in 2012 and 2,619 in 2013. The combined 5,770 all-purpose yards set an NCAA record for a two-year span. He had 1,730 rushing yards as a senior after setting a school record of 1,728 the previous season.
Webster confirmed that Andrews agreed to sign with the Titans. Agreements with other undrafted rookies were in negotiations.
"He is a good football player. I saw him play this year," Webster said. "He has size. He runs tough, he has got good vision. He has got very good hands. So, I like him. We are very excited about having him."
ROOKIES' FIRST WEEK: With the exception of Sankey, who will be finishing school work because the University of Washington is on a quarterly calendar, draft picks are scheduled to arrive in Nashville Sunday and begin Monday morning with an orientation followed by an afternoon workout with strength and conditioning coach Steve Watterson.
Whisenhunt said the rookies will meet with coaches and with player development staff in addition to workouts that will lead to next weekend's minicamp. The rookies will then join veterans May 19 for a week of the second phase of the team's offseason workout program that allows coaches to work with position groups but no team periods.
IN THE AFC SOUTH:Houston started 2014 NFL Draft by selecting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick Thursday and ended the process by choosing Memphis free safety Lonnie Ballentine from the 256th spot. Here's a recap of picks by Tennessee's AFC South rivals:
Houston: Clowney (Round 1, 1st overall); UCLA G Xavier Su'a-Filo (2, 33rd); Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III (3, 83rd); Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage (4, 135th); Alabama DE Jeoffrey Pagan (6, 177th); LSU RB Alfred Blue (6, 181st); Auburn FB Jay Prosch (6, 211th); Vanderbilt CB Andre Hal (7, 216th); Ballentine (7, 256th)
Indianapolis: Ohio State T Jack Mewhort (2, 59th); Mississippi WR Donte Moncrief (3, 90th); Ball State DE Jonathan Newsome (5, 166th); Western Kentucky ILB Andrew Jackson (6, 203rd); Georgia State T Ulrick John (7, 232nd)
Jacksonville: Central Florida QB Blake Bortles (1, 3rd); USC WR Marqise Lee (2, 39th); Penn State WR Allen Robinson (2, 61st); Miami G Brandon Linder (3, 93rd); Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin (4, 114th); Florida State ILB Telvin Smith (5, 144th); Arkansas DE Chris Smith (5, 159th); Virginia C Luke Bowanko (6, 205th); Central Florida RB Storm Johnson (7, 222nd)