Picks over players.
That was the Tennessee Titans’ philosophy Saturday, the final day of the 2010 NFL draft. Determined not only to make their picks, but to make the most of them they dealt running back LenDale White and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson to the Seattle Seahawks in order to exchange spots in the fourth and sixth rounds.
The net result was the right to pick seven spots earlier in the fourth (104th overall instead of 111th) and nine spots sooner in the sixth (176th instead of 185th). Presumably, therefore, White – a second-round pick in 2006 – was worth the seven fourth-round spots, and Vickerson was worth less to Tennessee than those nine places in the sixth.
All of that was preceded by Thursday’s selection of Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan in the first round. Franchise officials were pleasantly surprised that Morgan was available to them with the 16th overall pick.
On Friday, the Titans used their two third-round choices on USC wide receiver/returner Damian Williams and Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran, two smallish players with super-sized college statistics.
“It’s hard to evaluate value when you’re talking about players,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Honestly, we had been talking about shopping both the players since early (Friday). I thought it worked out well. We’ll move on. We’ll replace them.”
They did not do so directly.
They used their improved fourth-round pick to take cornerback Alterraun Verner out of UCLA. The sixth-round was used to select quarterback Rusty Smith out of Florida Atlantic.
Verner was the Bruins’ all-time leader in interception returns for touchdowns and set an NCAA Division I record with an average of 27.5 yards per interception return. He picked off a total of 13 passes and had at least two in all four seasons.
“In doing our research and our studies it became apparent to us that we needed to do whatever we could to move up ahead of several teams to get (Verner),” Fisher said. “ … We were fortunate to be able to be in a position to hang on to our picks, move several players, move up and get the player that we coveted since late (Friday) night.”
With their remaining four picks the Titans took Robert Johnson, a free safety out of Utah (fifth round, 148th), Myron Rolle (sixth round, 207th), the Rhodes Scholar from Florida State who did not play football last fall, wide receiver Marc Mariani from Montana (seventh round, 222nd) and defensive tackle David Howard from Brown (seventh round, 241st).
“(The trade) gave us a chance to go get guys we wanted, and at that point in time that was the best move to do,” general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “ … When you get into that draft room, those picks become really important and moving up becomes really important. I think (White and Vickerson) those guys were productive guys for us, role players, did some nice things but I think it was time for both sides to kind of move on.”
White was reunited with his former college coach, Pete Carroll, at Seattle after he rushed for 2,349 yards and 24 touchdowns in four seasons with Tennessee.
He gained a career-high 1,110 in 2007, and the following year rushed for a career-high 15 touchdowns in addition to 773 yards. His production dipped dramatically (222 yards, two touchdowns) in 2009, when Chris Johnson became the sixth player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
Vickerson, a four-year veteran played a career-high 13 games – with two starts – for Tennessee in 2009. He joined the Titans as a member of the practice squad midway through 2007 and was elevated to the active roster after a month.
He had 75 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in 24 contests.
“They were contributors to this football team,” Fisher said. “It’s hard to evaluate value because value is strictly an opinion. … We didn’t want to give up picks … and felt like the trade was the most appropriate way to accomplish what we wanted to.”