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  • The Tennessee Titans‘ draft strategy underscores how close they believe they are to competing for a Super Bowl berth.

     

    Convinced of their depth elsewhere Kenny Clark Jersey , the Titans traded up to select defensive players they had long targeted and largely ignored their offense .

    They ended up with just four draft picks – the fewest of any NFL team this year and the least in franchise history.

    ”Some of these names we drafted are guys we talked about in February,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.

    Vrabel was hired in January to improve a team that went 9-7 and lost to New England in the AFC divisional round after earning its first playoff victory since January 2004 .

    ”I think we are a more talented roster now, and it’s our job,” general manager Jon Robinson said . ”That’s our job, to try to get as many good football players on the team as possible and let them compete for spots.”

    They didn’t take a single offensive player until drafting Pac-12 career passing leader Luke Falk of Washington State in the sixth round with the 199th overall pick.

    The Titans’ defensive picks included Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans in the first round, Boston College outside linebacker Harold Landry in the second round and Arizona defensive back Dane Cruikshank in the fifth. The Titans traded up and gave up draft picks to get each of those three players.

    That represents a huge change for a team that had taken an offensive player with its first pick every year from 2011-17.

    Tennessee already had addressed its major offensive concerns in free agency with the additions of running back Dion Lewis , guard/tackle Kevin Pamphile and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo .

    Evans and Landry boost the front seven, the Titans’ top draft priority with Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo entering the final years of their contracts and Avery Williamson having already left for the New York Jets as a free agent.

    Cruikshank adds depth to the secondary for a defense that ranked 25th against the pass last season. The Titans already released veteran safety Da’Norris Searcy in March, leaving their depth thin behind All-Pro safety Kevin Byard fellow starter Johnathan Cyprien. Tennessee did sign cornerback Malcolm Butler away from New England in March.

    Other things to know about the Titans’ draft:

    LONG WAIT

    Falk expected to get taken much earlier. The former walk-on set Pac-12 records in yards passing, total offense, touchdown passes, pass completions and pass attempts.

    ”I think just the word that came to mind would just be `shocked,”’ Falk said. ”It wasn’t exactly how I thought it would play out Braydon Coburn Jersey , but I’m very grateful. I’m grateful that a team in Tennessee took a chance on me and is giving me an opportunity to compete and go in there and help the football team.”

    Falk’s two sisters are aspiring country singers who live in Nashville. Falk gives the Titans someone to groom as a possible backup to Marcus Mariota after signing veteran Blaine Gabbert in March.

    MAGIC NUMBER

    The 6-foot-4 Falk went to the Titans with the 199th overall pick. That’s the same pick New England used on Tom Brady back in 2000. Falk considers himself a big Brady fan.

    ”I just think that we kind of have the same similarities and style of play,” Falk said. ”We are not the most mobile guys. We do stuff in the pocket, creating throws in a small space. We are accurate. He’s the best to do it and somebody I look up to and just try to model my game after. It’s a huge coincidence that it is pick 199 and Tennessee took a shot on me.”

    VERSATILE CRUIKSHANK

    Although he spent much of his college career at cornerback, Cruikshank says he could play anywhere in the secondary and that NFL teams were primarily viewing him as a safety. The Titans are listing him merely as a defensive back for now and praised Cruikshank’s versatility .

    ”Whatever they need me to play, I’m willing to play,” Cruikshank said. ”I feel like I can do it all.”

    PICKING FROM THE BEST

    Cruikshank, who is 6-1 and 209 pounds, picked off three passes for Arizona last season. Two of his interceptions came against first-round draft picks Sam Darnold of Southern California and Josh Rosen of UCLA .

    WHAT ABOUT RECEIVER?

    The Titans didn’t draft a single wideout and will lean heavily on a batch of young receivers to complement Rishard Matthews, who is entering his seventh NFL season. Tennessee didn’t bring back Eric Decker and signed Michael Campanaro, who’s more of a special teams player with 31 combined receptions in four seasons.

    That leaves Corey Davis, the fifth pick overall a year ago, along with Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor. Sharpe spent last year on injured reserve, and Taylor is entering his second NFL season.

    AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker contributed to this report.

    From George Mikan to Kobe Bryant Marshal Yanda Jersey , superstars have been the Lakers‘ lifeblood for decades.

    LeBron James is already the biggest star of his generation, and he followed a familiar path to Los Angeles‘ bright lights when he decided to sign with the Lakers as a free agent.

    It’s no coincidence that this glamorous, 16-time champion franchise has consistently attracted already great players with outsized ambition. The 33-year-old James has taken on the challenge that Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal all accepted near the primes of their careers.

    Becoming a basketball superstar is one thing, and nobody is bigger than James after 15 prolific NBA seasons and three championships. Succeeding with the Lakers is something different, according to many of the men who have worn this gold jersey.

    Just ask Bryant, who won two Olympic gold medals as James’ teammate while spending his entire 20-year career with the Lakers.

    ”The NBA does better when the Lakers are at their highest potential,” Bryant, who retired in 2016, told Fox Sports Radio on Monday. ”And for the city of LA, it’s important for us to have that star power. Jerry (West) was here. Elgin Baylor was here. Wilt was here. Magic was here. Cap (Abdul-Jabbar) was here. Shaq, myself, and now let’s carry it forward again. You’ve got LeBron here now. It’s his turn now. Hopefully he can – which he will – take this franchise back to prominence.”

    Given the Golden State Warriors‘ addition of DeMarcus Cousins to what was already a ludicrously loaded roster Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Jersey , a championship seems logically out of reach for anybody else in the NBA. James already was aware of the upstate challenge he’ll face after losing three of the last four NBA Finals to the Warriors in Cleveland.

    And with innumerable variables still to be settled before the regular season, it’s impossible to predict what James will be able to accomplish with a revamped Lakers roster.

    But at least the worst half-decade in franchise history should become a bad memory for Lakers fans, who seethed through five irrelevant seasons highlighted mostly by Bryant’s retirement tour. The Lakers’ 35 victories last year were their best performance during five years without a postseason game for a team that had never missed the playoffs more than two seasons in a row.

    After James announced his decision to join the Lakers on a four-year, $153.3 million deal Sunday, the Lakers’ jersey sales skyrocketed and prices spiked on the secondary ticket market. Fans gathered among the statues in Star Plaza outside Staples Center, tossing chalk into the air in a simulation of James’ famed gesture.

    Los Angeles also made a flurry of complementary moves as Johnson attempted to assemble an immediate playoff contender on the wreckage of five playoff-free years.

    Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson are joining along with James. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is staying, along with – for now – the young core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.

    Julius Randle, Isaiah Thomas and several others are out. The Lakers will build around James, and they’ll continue to attempt to land Kawhi Leonard or another superstar to team up with him over the next year.

    With Randle’s departure, the Lakers will have no players left on their roster who played with Bryant in his final game in 2016. The Lakers are steaming toward a new future Sylvester Williams Jersey , with little tying them to the lamentable recent past.

    But with the signing of a free-agent superstar, the Lakers already have followed through on the most important part of the plan set forth 16 months ago by Magic Johnson when he took over the club’s basketball operations. Although he spent his entire career with LA, Magic knows the magnitude of the Lakers’ lure.

    Chamberlain made this move in 1968, with the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player requesting a trade from Philadelphia to join Baylor and West.

    Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1975 after requesting a trade from Milwaukee to a cosmopolitan city, and he went on to become the NBA’s career scoring leader during 14 seasons with the Lakers.

    O’Neal went west as a free agent in 1996, embracing the advantages of living in Hollywood while moonlighting as an actor and rapper.

    James is arguably bigger than them all, a multi-media star with a legitimate entertainment production company already churning out content for the likes of NBC, the History Channel and Starz.

    When James suits up for the season opener, six of the top eight scorers in NBA history will be Lakers.

    ”This is a special place,” Johnson said recently. ”We know what’s special about this franchise. The people we choose to come here are going to know that, too.”

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