2018 NFL Draft

Finding the Fits: Schwenke could bring shove back to Tennessee

Finding the Fits: Schwenke could bring shove back to Tennessee

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Mike Munchak's rebuilt offensive line will likely have rookie center Brian Schwenke as its fulcrum. (USATSI)
Mike Munchak's rebuilt offensive line will likely have rookie center Brian Schwenke as its fulcrum. (USATSI)

This article is one of a series called Finding the Fits in which NFLDraftScout.com will review some of the more intriguing picks made during the 2013 NFL Draft. The goal of the series is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and, therefore, more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.

Tennessee Titans' best fit: OC Brian Schwenke, Cal, fourth round, No. 107 overall

Considering the playing careers of head coach Mike Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, one of the more ironic twists of the NFL last season was the shoddy play along most of the offensive line for the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans immediately addressed the concern in the offseason, awarding former Buffalo Bills standout left guard Andy Levitre a $46 million contract in the opening moments of free agency and using the No. 10 overall pick on another guard, Alabama's Chance Warmack, to play on the right side.

Former Cal center Brian Schwenke, selected in the fourth round, wasn't nearly as splashy of a pickup but he could prove just as critical an addition to the club as the two men expected to flank him.

The Titans currently list only two players -- Schwenke and undrafted free agent Eloy Atkinson (Texas El-Paso) -- as pure centers. Young holdover Fernando Velasco and journeymen Rob Turner and Chris Spencer have some starting experience in the middle but Schwenke will be given every opportunity to win the job.

He certainly demonstrated the durability, toughness, intelligence and athleticism in the Pac-12 to project as a contributor early in his NFL career.

Schwenke played in 12 of 13 games as a true freshman and emerged as a quality starter at left guard in 2010 before switching to right guard for the final four games of his sophomore season. He remained at left guard in 2011 before making the switch to center as a senior. Schwenke was so impressive in his first season in the middle that he earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl, impressing scouts there with his dependability and instincts for the position, despite his limited experience.

Tougher in Tennessee (other thoughts on the Titans' 2013 draft class):

While the interior of the offensive line was in shambles a season ago, Tennessee again received strong play from veteran tackles Michael Roos and Michael Stewart.

For most clubs, protecting the edge is the higher priority. The Titans want to run the ball with power, however, which requires stout interior blocking from the guards and center. The addition of Levitre, Schwenke and, of course, the mauling Warmack should pay immediate dividends -- and not just for Chris Johnson and the Titans' other running backs.

Like most quarterbacks, Jake Locker has traditionally struggled most when pressure is in his face. For many mobile passers like Locker, pressure off the edge can actually be a good thing. Aggressive pass rushers attempting to close for the sack often lose contain, giving athletic quarterbacks the corner to either run or, at minimum, buy time for receivers to break free.

Therefore, considering the talent in place, general manager Ruston Webster's strategy of building through the interior of the line makes sense from a schematic standpoint. Perhaps just as critical was the toughness -- physical and mental -- Levitre, Schwenke and Warmack are expected to provide the Titans.

Webster generally plays the draft close to the vest but the Titans made a rare aggressive trade up to land former Tennessee wideout Justin Hunter.

Hunter joins a receiving corps that boasts plenty of talent. The Titans were pleased with the play of first-round pick Kendall Wright, who led the team with 64 catches a season ago. Veteran Nate Washington remains a solid contributor and the team signed former Houston Texans starter Kevin Walter in free agency.

Hunter, who the Titans gave an early first-round grade to, was besieged by ill-timed drops at Tennessee, but the local product boasts the same combination of size, athleticism and upside as Kenny Britt, the Titans' talented but troubled playmaker who is entering a contract year.
Third-round cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson could also vie for early playing time. While Jason McCourty and Alterraun Verner provided solid play at cornerback a season ago, the team clearly missed long-time standout Cortland Finnegan, who signed with the St. Louis Rams.

Wreh-Wilson (6-feet-1, 195 pounds) isn't the scrapper that has made Finnegan one of the tougher draws for wide receivers, but he does possess excellent length and agility. His ability to cover receivers on the flanks could allow the Titans to move Verner inside to nickel, where his toughness and quickness will be best put to use.

-- The Titans' 2013 draft class:

1st Round -- No. 10 overall -- OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
2nd Round -- No. 34 overall -- WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
3rd Round -- No. 70 overall -- CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut
3rd Round - No. 97 overall -- OLB Zaviar Gooden, Missouri
4th Round -- No. 107 overall -- OC Brian Schwenke, Cal
5th Round -- No. 142 overall -- DE Lavar Edwards, LSU
6th Round -- No. 202 overall -- CB Khalid Wooten, Nevada
7th Round -- No. 208 overall -- S Daimion Stafford, Nebraska

-- Key Undrafted Free Agents Signed:

TE Jack Doyle, Western Kentucky
RB Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada
LB Tom Wort, Oklahoma

Read more about all of the Titans' picks here.

Read all of the Finding the Fits series here.

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