The Tennessee Titans made an interesting selection of Tulane running back Tyjae Spears at No. 81 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. While Spears is a dynamic playmaker who was a draft crush for many, a report from NFL Media quickly stifled some of the excitement Titans fans were feeling.
Ian Rapoport reported on the NFL Network that Spears suffered two torn ACLs in his past. At the NFL Combine, tests revealed a full thickness cartilage loss, and no ACL in his knee. Additionally, Spears has arthritis. Rapoport said it's unclear how long he will be able to play in the NFL, and even openly wondered if Spears could be a "one-contract guy."
At rookie minicamp, Spears was asked several times about him reportedly not having an ACL. Each time the running back was asked, he responded saying, "I am healthy."
"I was out there," Spears said, via NFL.com. "I did everything. So, I feel perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with me. I'm healthy."
Spears was fifth in the FBS in rushing last season with 1,581 yards, and tied for the third-most rushing touchdowns with 19. In the Cotton Bowl against USC, Spears dominated with 205 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. That's 12.1 yards per carry!
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Ran Carthon were asked about Spears' medicals the night he was selected.
"Played a lot of really productive snaps. Didn't miss much time at all. Was a full participant throughout the week at the Senior Bowl," said Vrabel. "I think both of us are comfortable with where we're at with Tyjae and what his availability will be going forward. Now, that may change, but [we] feel good about where it is right now."
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Spears dominated in his final season at Tulane and impressed at the Senior Bowl, but the Titans passing over other positional needs to draft a backup running back with no ACL in the third round is puzzling to say the least. The Titans of course still have star running back Derrick Henry on roster, who has been Tennessee's offensive identity for years now. Spears can be a true dual-threat weapon out of the backfield and a change-of-pace option in the run game, but Rapoport's report is certainly worrisome.