NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans hope to make up for their first-round mistake a year ago with the selection of offensive tackle Dillon Radunz of North Dakota State with the 53rd overall pick Friday night in the NFL draft.
The Titans traded offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson in March after drafting the Georgia lineman at No. 29 overall in 2020. The lineman played only four total snaps for Tennessee as a rookie before being suspended, then placed on the injured reserve/non-football injury list after being drafted to replace Jack Conklin.
That's why the Titans tried again to fill that spot on the offensive line, hoping Radunz can replace veteran Dennis Kelly who was a salary cap casualty in March.
Radunz said he was familiar with what happened to Wilson, calling it “very unfortunate circumstances.” The new Titans tackle also is very familiar with Tennessee's three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan.
“I listen to his show all the time,” Radunz said of Lewan's “Bussin' With the Boys" podcast. "I hope to emulate what he brings to the Titans and just that aggressive style of football to that offensive line, so yeah again I hope I can go there, fit in. Super happy with this pick for me."
The defending AFC South champs opened this draft Thursday night bolstering their defence with cornerback Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech at No. 22. Tennessee also has two more selections Friday night at Nos. 85 and 100 in the third round.
The Titans already signed offensive tackle Kendall Lamm in free agency and brought back tackle Ty Sambrailo for more depth on the line.
But the 6-foot-6, 301-pound Radunz was an FCS All-American as a junior who started 16 games at left tackle. He played North Dakota State's lone game last fall, then went to California to start prepping for the Senior Bowl and the NFL draft working with former NFL linemen like Joe Staley.
Radunz said he's been working on switching his stance to play right tackle in the NFL. He believes he'll fit well in the NFL having blocked in a power-run scheme at North Dakota State and also pass blocking for Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick by San Francisco.
Having a chance to block for All Pro and AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Derrick Henry is another added attraction.
Radunz knows Lewan and the rest of the Titans' offensive line is always pushing to help Henry break the single-season rushing record. Topping Eric Dickerson's single-season mark of 2,105 set in 1984 could be possible with the NFL's first 17-game season in 2021 after Henry ran for 2,027 yards last season.
“Whatever I can do to to contribute to help him get that, he’s an awesome running back, it's going to be an awesome offensive line and just excited to contribute,” Radunz said.
Tennessee became the first team in NFL history with an offence that had at least 2,500 yards rushing and at least 3,500 net passing yards while giving up 25 or fewer sacks. The Titans did that despite losing Lewan to a torn ACL in October, and Sambrailo, his replacement, went on injured reserve in November.
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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press