Titans draft Dillon Radunz for right tackle, add 2 more on D

·3 min read

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, taking him 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 as a rookie before being suspended, then placed on the injured reserve/non-football injury list after being drafted to replace Jack Conklin who left in free agency.

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. General manager Jon Robinson traded the No. 85 pick to Green Bay for the 92nd overall pick where he selected Georgia inside linebacker Monty Rice and also No. 135.

They went defence for the third time in the first four picks by taking Washington cornerback Elijah Molden, son of former NFL cornerback Alex Molden, at No. 100. The Titans now will have six more selections Saturday still needing a wide receiver or two, tight end and kicker.

The focus on defence came after the Titans won the AFC South and hosted their first home playoff game since 2008 almost in spite of their defence . They had just 19 sacks last season and were dead last on third-down conversions. They ranked 28th in total yards allowed and 29th in passing yards allowed per game.

Robinson started the process in March cutting starting cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson along with safety Kenny Vaccaro. That created enough salary cap space to sign outside linebacker Bud Dupree and defensive lineman Denico Autry.

On offence , 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. Henry ran for 2,027 yards in 2020 and could have a chance to top the NFL record of 2,105 set by Eric Dickerson in 1984 with a 17th game this 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.

The 6-foot Rice played 47 games for Georgia where he had two sacks and forced three fumbles. He was All-SEC First Team in 200 as Georgia's third-leading tackler. Molden was All-Pac-12 last season and had five interceptions over his last two seasons in college.

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Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press