CSN Mock Draft, Pick 10: The Titans select ...

CSN Mock Draft, Pick 10: The Titans select ...
April 2, 2013, 9:00 am
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Sheldon Richardson set career highs with 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2012. (AP)

10. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri (6-2, 294)

The Titans are a team that resides in NFL obscurity. With no marquee players (sorry, Chris Johnson), or a top-shelf offense or defense to hang their hat on, head coach Mike Munchak's team is searching for an identity.

Tennessee has QB Jake Locker in place and some other nice pieces like LBs Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown, OTs Michael Roos and David Stewart, and the aforementioned Johnson.

Owner Bud Adams opened up his wallet this offseason, signing guard Andy Levitre from Buffalo to a big-money deal to help get their run game kick-started, as well as safety Bernard Pollard, defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill and tight end Delanie Walker. But they still lack difference-makers, both on offense and defense.

Offensively, the Titans are still searching for a wide receiver that defenses fear. Kenny Britt could be that guy (at least against the Eagles), but his ongoing off-field issues and injury woes have kept him from blossoming. Last season's first-round pick Kendall Wright is a nice player but has the looks of a possession guy. The top receiver in the draft, Cordarelle Patterson from Tennessee, is still on the board. He has everything you want physically, but with only one season of Division I experience (he spent the first two seasons at a junior college), the risk is too great. West Virginia's Tavon Austin is also an intriguing player, but he's too close to Wright in stature and skill set.

The Titans, even with the Levitre signing, are deficient on the offensive line, which could lead to them grabbing UNC guard Jonathan Cooper. But I still have an issue with drafting an interior lineman this early in the draft, and they should be able to find a good guard in the second or third round (Syracuse's Justin Pugh or Kentucky's Larry Warford).

Defensively, the Titans were ranked last in 2012, giving up 50-plus points in a game twice during the season. Like so many other teams, they could use added firepower coming off the edge to support defensive ends Kamerion Wimbley (six sacks) and Derrick Morgan (6.5 sacks). Florida State's Bjoern Werner is still on the board, but I believe he'll be selected as a 3-4 OLB. Same goes for LSU's Barkevious Mingo. No other defensive end is worthy of this selection. Inside, defensive tackles Karl Klug (3.5 sacks) and Jurrell Casey (three sacks) are solid players, but neither are going to cause a defense much angst.

And this is where the Titans are going to find the best value at this point in the draft -- Sheldon Richardson.

Richardson is arguably the top pass-rushing DT in the draft. Better than Sharrif Floyd. Better than Star Lotulelei. No interior lineman gets through gaps quicker. At 6-foot-2, 294 pounds, Richardson isn't a run-stuffer, but he can use his quick hands and feet to beat his blocker and find the ball carrier. His motor runs hot, and he is exceptional at chasing down runners.

What Richardson needs to work on is raising his pad level too quickly. At times, he'll stand up too straight off the ball and let offensive linemen get into him and blow him off the ball. If he becomes more consistent in staying low, Pro Bowl games are in his future.

While a dominant DE or No. 1 receiver would be ideal for Tennessee here, grabbing a pass rusher like Richardson will make its existing ends better and give opposing QBs less time to pick apart the defense. It may not be a pick that will give the perpetually obscure franchise a true identity, but it will at least help keep it from being known as the team with the worst defense two years in a row.

Coming Wednesday: Rob Kuestner picks for the San Diego Chargers.