The Tennessee Titans are simply built differently and that allows them to take different risks. They proved that in the 2020 NFL Draft with the selection of Isaiah Wilson, an offensive tackle with immense potential who carries some risk.
But why does the selection of Wilson stand out? Because if your team is built around its passing attack, then it is likely to enter the draft looking for a quarterback or blindside protector on offense followed by a pass rusher or corner on defense to counter the same.
A team picking later in the round who already has a quarterback, one of the best left tackles in the NFL, and is built entirely around a power back who pushes the football as far down opponent’s throats as it can go on every play, may have different plans. And by selecting Wilson in the late first round, the Titans showed everyone just how different their plans were.
Isaiah Wilson offers boom or bust potential in 2020
From an overall athletic profile, Isaiah Wilson doesn’t at first seem all that impressive outside of his size and explosiveness, both of which are fantastic. Wilson’s worst drill was the short shuttle, often considered the most predictive individual metrics for an offensive lineman entering the NFL.
While his speed is just alright, it’s good in the right spots (a very strong 10-yard split), but his agility is pretty awful by historical comparison to his peer group. In fact, the last offensive tackle to have a shuttle worse than 5 seconds and still be drafted in the first round was Ernest Dye way back in 1993.
The last offensive lineman to be drafted with agility that poor won’t bring back fun memories for Titans fans as it was Tennessee’s 2013 10th overall pick Chance Warmack. Wilson’s athletic profile is a far cry from Andrew Thomas, Tristan Wirfs, or Jedrick Wills, each of whom went before him in this class.
Wilson’s explosiveness brings unique value to the Titans offense
Risk aside, Wilson may be one of the most unique fits in this NFL draft class, and quite possibly the best one. Referred to by PFN’s own Tony Pauline as a “traditional right tackle who can be an overwhelming force at the point of attack,” Taylor Lewan’s presence naturally pushes Wilson into the right tackle position on the offensive line.
The Titans found success by manhandling their opponents in the run game in 2019. With a player like Wilson potentially leading the way in 2020, they look poised to do so again.
In a way, Wilson wins in a similar way to Baltimore Ravens tackle Orlando Brown, who was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019. The biggest difference is that Wilson is a far superior athlete to Brown and his risks are far less pronounced, likely a big part of why Wilson was drafted several rounds earlier.
The risks and rewards are schematic as well
Both on tape and looking at his numbers, Wilson appears to be the type of tackle much more comfortable with power than quickness. Attacking at the line gives Wilson an advantage in the run game (already his strength) because it prioritizes attacking the defender lined up across from him and initiating contact, using his length and power to muscle his opponents where he wants them.
This type of approach can also exacerbate a tackle’s problems with speedier rushers in the passing game, potentially making him susceptible to stunts or wider formations where he’d be forced to try to catch an opponent taking a less direct path to the quarterback.
In Tennessee, Wilson won’t have the pressure of being a blindside protector and I believe his immense potential could see a boost to an already dangerous rushing attack. His growing pains as a pass blocker will likely show up early, but the Titans gambling that the potential impact for Isaiah Wilson in 2020 is simply too good to pass up.