NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans have been picking themselves apart since the season ended.
Sure, they won the AFC South Division title and hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2008. They also lost that wild-card matchup on their own field, well short of the AFC championship game appearance of a year before.
Then they traded away their most recent first-round draft selection after getting only three plays out of a big and promising prospect chosen to be their starting right tackle. That makes it even more crucial that they get a productive player at No. 22 overall in this year's NFL draft, which starts Thursday night in Cleveland and continues Friday and Saturday.
"We all have to be better," general manager Jon Robinson said, "and it starts with me."
Tennessee's five straight winning seasons, three of them with playoff berths, rank third among active streaks in the league, behind the Seattle Seahawks (nine) and the Kansas City Chiefs (eight), but each of those teams has two Super Bowl appearances and one title during its run. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill and All-Pro running back and reigning NFL offensive player of the year Derrick Henry under contract for three more years, Tennessee's window to chase the franchise's second Super Bowl berth is open — but for how long?
Robinson has four of his nine draft picks (22, 53, 85 and 100) in the first 100 selections thanks to the franchise's first compensatory pick since 2013. He has plenty of needs at wide receiver, cornerback, edge rusher, offensive lineman and inside linebacker.
He has made 23 trades since being hired as GM in 2016, including trading the No. 1 overall pick in 2016. He's also moved up twice in the first round, most recently in 2018 to take linebacker Rashaan Evans at No. 22.
"We've got to be better. There's one team that's going to host a parade at the end of the year. One team," Robinson said. "The other 31 are going to be frustrated and look back on ways to try to get to that game and win that game."
Last year's first-round pick quickly became a bust. Isaiah Wilson, a 6-foot-6, 350-pounder from the University of Georgia selected at No. 29 overall, was needed after left tackle Taylor Lewan tore an ACL and his replacement had a season-ending injury. The Titans suspended Wilson for a game, then placed him on the nonfootball injury list. Traded last month for a seventh-round draft pick this year, he was soon after cut by the Miami Dolphins.
Three other former first-round picks by Robinson also are gone. Wide receiver Corey Davis (2017) joined right tackle Jack Conklin (2016) in leaving for more money in free agency, signing with the New York Jets. Tennessee cut cornerback Adoree' Jackson (2017) for salary cap relief after picking up his fifth-year option last spring.
The Titans still have Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, and they signed Josh Reynolds to help replace Davis. However, they also cut oft-injured Adam Humphries, so another wide receiver is a big need for an offense that tied for second in yards per game and fourth in points this past season to keep up the pace and force defenses to respect the running game.
Henry became the first back-to-back NFL rushing champion since 2006-07 and the eighth player overall to run for at least 2,000 yards, but the Baltimore Ravens focused on slowing down Henry and won the wild-card game when Tennessee's passing was ineffective.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans cut cornerback Malcolm Butler — who tied for the team-lead with four interceptions in 2020 — safety Kenny Vaccaro and then Jackson to create cap space.
Tennessee does have Kristian Fulton, the 2020 third-round pick out of LSU, who started two of the six games he played as a rookie. The Titans also signed Janoris "Jackrabbit" Jenkins and Kevin Johnson, but a cornerback such as Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech or Greg Newsome II from Northwestern is a big need for a defense that ranked dead last this past season by allowing opponents to convert 51.8% of third downs.
The Titans signed Denico Autry and Bud Dupree to help boost a defense that managed just 19 sacks last season, third-worst overall and last in sacks per pass. Even with Dupree and Harold Landry III, quality pass rushing depth remains thin.