The Titans’ 2016 draft class is panning out to be one of the best in years. Of the first seven picks the team made, six are in a position to make an impact in 2018. First-round pick Jack Conklin has been a star at right tackle including being an All-Pro as a rookie. Second round defensive tackle Austin Johnson looks to rotate with Bennie Logan in the middle of the line. Running back Derrick Henry will take over as the lead back for Tennessee in 2018 and third round safety Kevin Byard led the league in interceptions last year. Finally, fifth rounders Tajae Sharpe and Leshaun Sims will battle to get snaps with the wide receivers and cornerbacks respectively. The one omission is the second highest selection the Titans made in the 2016 draft, Kevin Dodd. The outside linebacker from Clemson, the second pick in the second round, has underperformed in a big way since being drafted.
Dodd’s High Draft Stock
Dodd started for the Tigers his senior year, and when he got his chance he made a big impact. His 12.5 sacks tied him for fourth in the nation and pegged him as a high draft pick. Dodd was drafted 33rd overall. Future stars like Michael Thomas, Myles Jack, and Deion Jones were all still on the board. General manager Jon Robinson took a chance on the one-year starter and so far the Dodd pick has been one of the blemishes on his resume.
Lack of Production
Dodd was drafted to be the successor to former first-round picks Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan and add depth to the linebacking corps. However, in his two seasons as a pro, he has only accounted for one sack. He suffered a foot injury during his rookie season but was healthy during the 2017 season. Despite being healthy, the linebacker was inactive for seven games during the regular season. After being drafted as high as he was, fans and coaches expected him to make an impact as a pass-rusher. Dodd has accumulated the same amount of sacks as Aaron Wallace, a seventh-round pick in the same draft. Dodd had his opportunities to join the rotation, but now his spot may be filled. After the Titans drafted Harold Landry in April, his place on the roster is now in jeopardy.
What happens now?
Being 6’5″ and 280 lbs., Dodd has the ability to play both at outside linebacker and down on the line as a 3-4 defensive end. This should give him the chance to compete at multiple positions for snaps in 2018. He missed most of the offseason program to work on his own, which is somewhat surprising for a player who seems to have underperformed so much. Dodd is expected to be a full go for training camp next week. The Titans could use some depth at pass-rusher and Dodd should have the opportunity to climb into the rotation. It’s unclear where Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees plan to use Dodd, but he will have to prove himself at both positions.
If he plays outside, he will be competing with the rookie Landry along with Wallace. Down on the line, snaps seem more available. The depth behind Daquan Jones is very thin and Dodd’s frame seems to be more suitable for a defensive lineman. He worked with the defensive line during minicamp, which points to him making the switch Maybe this change will ignite the pass rusher who was dominant as a senior at Clemson.
If Dodd is healthy, this year will most likely be his last chance to prove himself. The Titans need pass rushers and Dodd has not proven he can perform at the NFL level. No matter where he plays, he must produce in his third season or he should not be back next September. When you are a second-round draft pick, teams expect you to make an impact. One sack over two seasons is unacceptable. Many will already call Dodd a bust, but he deserves one last shot. The potential is there, but production is all that matters to the Titans, a team on the verge of contention. If Kevin Dodd does not prove his worth in 2018, he should not be a Titan for much longer.
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