Each plays a different position yet all seven members of the Tennessee Titans’ 2012 draft class have something in common.
They played four full seasons of college football. Most of them were starters for the vast majority of that time.
Analysts and experts can argue over the potential of the group, but there is no debate about its level of experience.
“It is unusual, because it isn’t an easy thing to do,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “I like those kind of guys because you get experience and you get maturity, and it takes some maturity to come to this league and handle money, handle your time and become the kind of player you need to be and reach your potential.
“I think it’s unusual that we have so many, for sure.”
Many top prospects forgo their final year of eligibility once they feel they have maximized their draft potential.
Last year, for example, three of Tennessee’s first five picks played just three years of college football. Four of the team’s last eight first-round selections could have stayed in college for one more year.
It’s not as if the Titans found a bunch of late bloomers this time around either. Six of the seven they chose last weekend started games before the end of their sophomore seasons.
The exception was fourth-round pick Coty Sensabaugh, a cornerback out of Clemson. He actually redshirted as a true freshman in 2007, then played on special teams and situational packages before he finally became a full-time starter last fall.
“He’s a guy that came on this year and really was one of those players that you go in early and take a look at and he grows on you as time goes because he is really getting his playing time, really getting into the swing of things,” Webster said.
As for the rest, though, they are going to have to adjust to starting over after having been starters for a significant amount of time.
“It says something about a player that can start four years at a big school,” Webster said. “Whether it’s Michigan, Baylor, or North Carolina, you have to be a special player to do that.
“It doesn’t always happen that way, but it’s good to get four-year starters. They have seen a lot of ball and I think it helps them when they come in the league.”
• A minimal loss: The Titans viewed the decision to trade a sixth-round pick in next year’s draft in order to get back into the seventh round this time and draft defensive end Scott Solomon out of Rice as well worth it.
The personnel staff was enamored with Solomon’s consistent work ethic and his relentless approach as a quarterback.
Plus, they do not expect to be shut out of the sixth round in 2013 when all is said and done.
“I felt like we had a good chance to have several [compensatory] picks next year due to losing some players in free agency,” Webster said. “So the thought is that we had that sixth to give and we really wanted Scott Solomon. So that was our reason for getting back in.”
Earlier in the day, the Titans gave up their seventh-round selection in a trade with Miami that allowed them to move up 10 spots and select tight end Taylor Thompson.
• More fresh faces: Former University of Tennessee quarterback Nick Stephens was among 15 rookie free agents who signed with the Titans following the draft.
Stephens started six games for the Volunteers in 2008 but transferred to Tarleton State in his native Texas following the 2009 season. An injury cut short his junior season at Tarleton (Division II) but he threw for 3,005 yards and 20 touchdowns last season as the Texans finished with five consecutive victories.
“As soon as the draft ended I was getting calls from teams and just looking for the best deal for me,” he said. “One of [the Titans’] scouts called me the other day and just said they would be in touch.
“They were the first ones to call me after the draft.”
Tennessee also signed: tight end Brandon Barden (Vanderbilt); wide receivers Devin Aguilar (Washington), Chase Deadder (Sacramento State), LaQuinton Evans (Southern) and Derrick Woods (Cincinnati); center William Vlachos (Alabama); guard Chandler Burden (Kentucky); tackle George Bias (Stephen F. Austin); defensive tackle DaJohn Harris (Southern California); linebacker Alex Watkins (Alabama); cornerback Gary Wilburn (Connecticut); safety Christian Scott (Texas) and long-snapper Beau Brinkley (Missouri).