The Titans add size, speed as they use 5 of 7 NFL draft picks to boost their defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ran Carthon went all offense in his first draft as the Tennessee Titans general manager a year ago.

This time around, five of the Titans' seven NFL draft picks came on defense with Carthon letting the draft board dictate the selections.

“We kind of figured the front end of the draft would probably be heavy offense, and then the back half will be heavy defense and that’s kind of how it went for us,” Carthon said Saturday night.

The Titans had only three selections in the first 106 picks. But they saw six of the seven players drafted in action at the Senior Bowl.

They took a big step in shoring up the offensive line at No. 7 overall with JC Latham of Alabama, who will work at left tackle under line guru Bill Callahan. The Titans later took wide receiver and returner Jha'Quan Jackson out of Tulane in the sixth round at No. 182.

Tennessee then turned to defense, taking defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat of Texas at No. 38 overall, North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray at No. 106, Louisville cornerback Jarvis Brownlee Jr., Miami linebacker James Williams and Michigan edge rusher Jaylen Harrell at No. 252.

Carthon said he joked with first-year head coach Brian Callahan that now it's time for him to get busy. The Titans are working to rebound from back-to-back losing seasons after consecutive AFC South titles.

"It’s time for the ball to take place, and so we’re really excited about that part,” Carthon said.


Fixing a line that gave up 64 sacks in 2023 has been a major priority for Tennessee. The Titans' biggest move came by getting Bill Callahan from Cleveland to coach the offensive line for his son. They also signed center Lloyd Cushenberry III and a couple of others in free agency.

The Titans took Alabama's JC Latham and will start him out at left tackle — a position where four different players started last season for Tennessee. He joins Peter Skoronski, the 11th pick overall in 2023, on a revamped left side of the line.


Getting bigger was a priority, and the Titans did just that. Latham is a big man at 6-foot-6 and 342 pounds with 11-inch hands. The Titans might have the biggest first two picks for any team with defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat of Texas at 6-4 and 366 pounds.

Callahan said they added possibly 700 pounds' worth of players in two picks.

“It’s a big man’s league, and you need big people to move the line of scrimmage,” Callahan said.

Linebacker Cedric Gray, the 106th pick overall in the fourth round, said he's looking forward to roaming to tackle with Sweat taking up so much space in front of him.


Sweat's first visit with an NFL team after his arrest for driving while intoxicated was with Tennessee. The Titans did extra work to learn about the 38th pick overall — their only selection on the draft's second night.

Carthon, Callahan, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and assistant GM Anthony Robinson went to Sweat's home in Huntsville, Texas. They met with Sweat, his mother, brother and grandfather and having tough conversations.

“Taking that trip to spend time with him and his family is what made us comfortable making this pick,” Carthon said.


The newest Titans have some interesting connections. Latham's cousins include Kevon Looney of the NBA's Golden State Warriors and former NBA player Nick Young, and Pro Football Hall of Fame pass rusher Deacon Jones is a relative on Latham's mother's side of the family.

A couple of others will find familiar faces in the Titans' locker room. Sweat comes in with a former Texas Longhorns teammate on the roster after the Titans signed defensive lineman Keondre Coburn late last season.

Running back Tyjae Spears, a third-round pick out of Tulane last year, was with wide receiver and punt returner Jha-Quan Jackson when the Titans drafted his former roommate in the sixth round at No. 182 overall.

Jackson also is a nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed who left the watch party before the Titans called. Or as Jackson said, “He had to go because he’s a Hall of Famer. So he’s got to be in a lot of places at the right time.”

Harrell's father, James, also played eight seasons in the NFL.