The Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams pulled off a massive, nine-pick trade on Thursday morning.
The trade got the Rams the No. 1 pick for the 2016 draft, while netting the Titans seven total picks, including four in the first three rounds of this year’s draft.
The trade, which Sports Illustrated’s Peter King called “one of the biggest draft trades in NFL history,” also may have changed the Titans’ outlook for the better.
The Titans have a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, and made some big moves this offseason, most notably trading for running back DeMarco Murray to help strengthen what was a 3-13 team last year. The No. 1 pick could have netted them a superstar. Instead of landing one big-time player, the Titans could bolster their depth with six picks in the top 76 this April.
The Titans own the next two drafts. Tennessee now has six picks in the top 76 of the 2016 draft — numbers 15, 33, 43, 45, 64 and 76. With many evaluators saying the meat of this draft is between 20 and 70, Tennessee, depending on its board, could draft six players this year whom Robinson would consider starting-calibre. And the Titans set themselves up nicely for 2017 — they’re the only team right now with two picks in the first round next year.
With holes all over the team, particularly on defence, the Titans swapped the chance to land a superstar to draft six potential starters.
The Titans may not hit on all of those picks. Furthermore, players develop at different rates — a rookie they draft this year may not be ready to start, or be effective, until three years from now.
But this is the type of forward-thinking move that can change a franchise’s fortunes, the football equivalent of the Philadelphia 76ers’ “Process.” Acquire as many assets as possible, nail the draft, and bolster a roster with young, talented players.
The Titans already have the most important position nailed with Mariota at quarterback. Over the next two drafts, they could make significant progress in putting a competitive team around him.