With all due respect to Tom Petty, the waiting was the hardest part.
Once the time finally arrived for the Tennessee Titans to make their first-round selection Thursday, the decision was easy. With the 20th overall selection they took Kendall Wright, a wide receiver out of Baylor who started more than 80 percent of the games over a four-year career and averaged nearly 128 yards per game receiving as a senior.
“It was an easy decision, yeah,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “… Kendall was at the top of the list when it came time to pick. So it was an easy decision. … He is an exciting playmaker who can help us in a lot of ways and will be fun to watch.”
The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Texas native was the preferred target of Heisman Trophy winner and second overall selection Robert Griffin III for the majority of his college career.
Wright led Baylor with 50 receptions as a freshman and raised his total every season until he topped out at 108 in 2011. His receiving yards also improved every year to 1,663 as a senior. He had 16 touchdowns through his first three seasons and added 14 last fall, when he also averaged 15.4 yards per catch.
“We made each other as good as we were,” Wright said. “I didn’t make him; he didn’t make me — we made each other. And we have the Baylor team. It was a total team effort.”
He finished as Baylor’s all-time leader in receptions (302), receiving yards (4,004) and touchdown receptions (30). He set another mark with 4,479 all-purpose yards, which included some on punt returns, kickoff returns and rushing.
“Speed, quickness, hands, run-after-catch — all of these are qualities you can’t help but be impressed by regardless of what you see in a 40-yard dash,” scout John Salge said. “… You turn the film on on Kendall Wright and you see a very explosive player, both vertically and laterally.”
He ran an announced 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, a time that raised eyebrows among some. According to at least one report, though, some scouts clocked him at 4.49 seconds. At his pro day, the high school track star (he was a state champion in the long jump and triple jump) ran 4.46 seconds.
The Titans also worked him out at both their training facility and at Baylor in the weeks preceding the draft.
They eventually saw enough to make him the fourth offensive player — and second wide receiver — drafted in the first round over the last five years. The others were running back Chris Johnson (2008), wide receiver Kenny Britt (2009) and quarterback Jake Locker (2011).
“When you are looking for guys to help you win, this is the type of guy that jumps to the top of the list,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… He is a guy that is going to help this team win football games.
“… Obviously, we expect him to be able to help us right away.”
In selecting Wright (the third wide receiver drafted), the Titans opted not to select a defensive end, considered their most significant area of need, or a cornerback or safety. Three of the six picks that followed were defensive ends and the seventh was a safety.
“We were considering a lot of different positions so it wasn’t like we were focusing on, ‘OK, we just have to take a receiver,’ ” Webster said. “… It was more about the fact that we really liked Kendall Wright.”
That took any consternation away from the decision.
It did not, however, help Wright, who referred to the draft process as “just crazy” and said he had no clue where he eventually might land.
“I felt like coming into this thing if I wasn’t drafted in the first round or second round or third round or wherever I was drafted, I feel like with my work ethic and my ability I can make any team,” he said. “… I knew coming into the draft I had to stay positive and nobody knew where they were going to be drafted except Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck.
“I was just staying positive.”
Now the Titans need him to stay productive. No one says that is going to be easy.