Why Titans chose linemen instead of trading top draft picks

Titans DT T'Vondre Sweat's prospect profile (0:48)

Check out some of the top college highlights for new Titans defensive tackle T'Vondre Sweat. (0:48)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon became a popular man when his team was on the clock with the No. 7 pick in the 2024 NFL draft.

Prospects such as wide receiver Rome Odunze and quarterback J.J. McCarthy were coveted targets by the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, respectively, and they were still on the board after the New York Giants selected Malik Nabers with the sixth pick.

"We had a ton of calls," Carthon said on the first night of the draft as he saw that Minnesota moved up to No. 10 to select McCarthy.

The Titans resisted the urge to trade down and made sure they fulfilled their need to get bigger along the offensive and defensive lines with their first two picks. That's exactly why offensive tackle J.C. Latham and defensive lineman T'Vondre Sweat are now headed to Nashville.

"We added maybe 700 pounds worth of player in two picks," coach Brian Callahan said. "It's a big man's league. And you need big people to move the line of scrimmage."

It was clear the Titans had plenty of roster holes to fill, but the team only had two picks inside the top 100 because of previous trades. Sticking and picking likely cost Tennessee an opportunity to get more selections to address those needs through the draft.

The Titans gave up their third-round pick in this year's draft as part of the deal with the Arizona Cardinals to move up in the second round and select quarterback Will Levis in 2023. That deal included the 41st and 72nd picks last year, plus a 2024 third-round selection sent to Arizona for the 33rd pick. The Titans also got last year's 81st pick, which was used to select running back Tyjae Spears.

Before Carthon arrived in 2023, Tennessee sent a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Carolina Panthers for left tackle Dennis Daley and a 2024 seventh-round pick in August 2022. The team also had dealt a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for safety Ugo Amadi and a 2024 seventh-round pick. Both Daley and Amadi were off the Titans' roster by last season.

Carthon had to make moves to recoup some of the picks that were dealt. He added a fifth- and a sixth-round pick by sending veteran safety Kevin Byard to the Eagles in October. But it looked like there was more work to be done because five of Tennessee's seven picks this year were set to be in Rounds 4 through 7.

That didn't discourage the Titans from ensuring that they got Latham, whom the team had ranked on its board just as highly as Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt. The Titans did their background research and knew the Los Angeles Chargers were leaning toward selecting Alt two picks before them.

"We knew who was going to be available to us when we picked," Carthon said. "We just let those teams know that unless it was an offer that was going to blow us away, it wasn't worth making a move."

Staying put and using a premium pick on Latham -- whom the Titans plan to switch from right tackle to left -- could be viewed as a puzzling move, especially when they could have acquired additional picks. But the Titans knew that the New York Jets were picking three spots behind them and also had interest in a tackle. Tennessee simply wasn't going to risk missing out on a chance to select Latham.

Starting with the Jets, who selected Olu Fashanu, four tackles were taken within 10 picks. In total, eight tackles went in the first round, tying the record set in 2008.

Tackles taken in Round 1:

  • No. 5 Joe Alt, Notre Dame, Chargers

  • No. 7 JC Latham, Alabama, Titans

  • No. 11 Olu Fashanu, Penn St., Jets

  • No. 14 Taliese Fuaga Oregon State, Saints

  • No. 18 Amarius Mims, Georgia, Bengals

  • No. 20 Troy Fautanu, Washington, Steelers

  • No. 25 Jordan Morgan, Arizona, Packers

  • No. 29 Tyler Guyton, Oklahoma, Cowboys

The Titans are confident that Latham can help anchor their offensive line regardless of a position switch.

"[Latham] presents all the traits that you want in a tackle, right or left, he's got the traits to do either one," Callahan said. "It's just a matter of just switching his stance and then kicking a different way."

Tennessee had another chance to acquire additional picks when it was on the board again in the second round.

"We had, what, about eight, nine calls, eight, nine offers for the pick," Carthon said.

Each of the teams scheduled to make the next three selections (the Panthers, Commanders and Packers) moved down to acquire additional picks. In total, five of the next 10 picks involved trades.

Defensive tackles were popular through the 54th pick. The Los Angeles Rams selected Braden Fiske the pick after Sweat. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Maason Smith at No. 48, followed by Kris Jenkins to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 49 and the Cleveland Browns taking Michael Hall Jr. at No. 54.

"We were fielding the calls, listening," Carthon said. "We knew with the defensive tackles that were right there, it was only a matter of time."

There was a belief that Sweat would be available later for the Titans because of a DWI arrest in early April. The team had an extensive vetting process for Sweat that included taking a trip to Texas to visit with him and his family. The group consisted of Carthon, Callahan, assistant general manager Anthony Robinson and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. It went well enough for the team to feel comfortable making the pick.

Some teams also had concerns about Sweat's weight, which hovered around 366 pounds during the pre-draft process. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. listed Sweat as his eighth-ranked defensive tackle prospect.

The Titans believed Sweat was capable of being a three-down player who can collapse the pocket from the interior and be a force against the run. Visualizing Sweat on the defensive front with team cornerstone Jeffery Simmons was something the Titans couldn't pass up.

"Set your board and let it talk to you," a team source told ESPN.

Simmons sent a text to Carthon soon after the selection to express his appreciation for adding help up front and asked for Sweat's number to reach out to him. Carthon mentioned Simmons and defensive tackle Keondre Coburn as players who can help keep Sweat on the right track in Tennessee. Coburn and Sweat were teammates at Texas.

From the outside looking in, there were doubts about each of the first two picks the Titans made. However, the Titans believe they got exactly what they needed, regardless of whatever they might have been able to add by trading back.

"The first thing that comes to mind for both of those guys is size," Robinson said. "You win the game in the trenches and both of those guys bring that element."