Titans need bigger steps from their 2020 draft class in 2021

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This couldn't have been what the Tennessee Titans expected. They drafted six rookies in 2020, headlined by No. 29 overall pick Isaiah Wilson.

The offensive tackle played just four snaps before being placed on the non-football injury list last December. The Titans traded Wilson along with a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Miami released Wilson three days later.

Any grades for the Titans' 2020 draft class will always start with how quickly their first-rounder forced himself out of the NFL. But the rest of the Titans' 2020 draft class didn't do much, either.

But at least most of them still have a chance to turn things around. Here's a look at what's ahead for each 2020 rookie who remains on the team.

CB Kristian Fulton, second-rounder

The Titans decided to revamp their secondary this offseason after the defense gave up 36 touchdowns through the air in 2020. Tennessee released cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson last month, leaving them without a returning starter.

They signed veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins to be one of the starting corners and the other job will likely be occupied by Fulton.

Fulton was projected to have a bigger role as a rookie, but a minor injury caused him to miss some time during training camp. He played in six games last season, starting two of them. He finished with an interception, a sack, a QB hit, a tackle for loss and a pass defended.

After playing in only 17.9% of Tennessee's defensive snaps in 2020, coach Mike Vrabel is counting on Fulton to take on a bigger role this season. At the very least, Fulton will have a major role in the Titans' secondary as a nickel corner.

"Kristian [Fulton], he got injured and didn’t get a chance to really compete there early on, lost a lot of valuable reps. Got to play for us a little bit there late, so this will be an important offseason for him both physically and mentally. I think that by all accounts, I think that he’s ready to do that," Vrabel said.

RB Darrynton Evans, third-rounder

Evans was selected to give Tennessee a back who could spell Derrick Henry and still offer a home-run threat out of the backfield. He showed flashes of his playmaking ability when he was on the field.

Evans' best performance came in the Titans' 46-25 Week 14 win over the Detroit Lions. Evans rushed only eight times for 30 yards and caught two passes for 27 yards in the game, but his ability to eat up chunks of yards was showcased when he caught a screen pass and raced 24 yards down the field.

"He’s a really fine player. It won’t be a drop-off when [Henry] comes out of the game," wide receiver A.J. Brown said after the Lions game. "Whenever you get the ball in his hands, he’s elusive with it. He knows what to do with it."

Evans appeared in just five games and played 32 snaps for the Titans last season. He was hampered by a hamstring injury for most of the season.

The Titans need Evans to have a bigger role on offense this season as a complementary back to Henry. He will also be relied upon to catch the ball out of the backfield, especially on third downs.

DL Larrell Murchison, fifth-rounder

Murchison appeared in four regular-season games and saw some time in the Titans' wild-card playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He played only 120 snaps on defense during the regular season and five defensive snaps in the playoffs.

Although he didn't have much impact as a rookie, the Titans seem to believe he made progress as the year went on.

"Murchison, he did some good things and he continues to improve," Titans GM Jon Robinson said.

The Titans signed former Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry to help out the front four. The team didn't bring back DaQuan Jones or Jack Crawford, so Murchison should get the opportunity to be in the defensive line rotation this season.

DB Chris Jackson, seventh-rounder

Jackson is the only other 2020 draft pick still on the roster after the team released their other 2020 seventh-rounder, former Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald, during training camp.

The second-year defensive back out of Marshall played the most (231 snaps in six games) of any Titans rookie last season. He opened the season against the Denver Broncos as the primary nickel corner.

This season, Jackson will settle into more of a reserve role with an opportunity to have an impact on special teams. The Titans didn't re-sign special teams ace Chris Milton, which leaves a void for Jackson to take on that role.

The Titans are expecting to get a contribution from last year's undrafted free agents as well.

"We got some run out of some undrafted guys -- Teair Tart, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, a lot of those guys really came in, Aaron Brewer, did some good things for us," Robinson said. "Excited about them getting that first year under their belt in a pandemic offseason and looking forward to them growing as pro players this offseason."