NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Kendall Wright from Baylor holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #20 overall by the Tennesse Titians in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Sorry that this took so long to post, but unlike the Robert Griffin III pick by the Washington Redskins, Kendall Wright to the Titans came out of basically nowhere and I had to trash basically all of the two posts I had already written. As I said last night, I expected Wright to go to the Bears or the Browns, and it seemed like things were set up perfectly for the Cleveland Browns to take him with the second pick at #22. They were rumored to be targeting a WR after taking Trent Richardson with their first pick (#3) and a Wright pick made perfect sense to set up taking Brandon Weedenearly in the second round. Tennessee threw that plan into chaos by jumping on Wright, and I think the Browns panicked somewhat and just took Weeden a round early. A strange turn of events.
At any rate, the unexpectedness of the choice does not reflect on its quality in any way. The Titans and their fans should be ecstatic with getting a player of Wright's caliber without having to move up for him. It is easy to forget that at one point in the Draft process, Wright was considered a top-15 pick and easily the second-best WR in this draft behind Justin Blackmon, and several reports said that teams actually had Wright ranked first because of his production, speed, and his ability to make plays in space. Blackmon had the prototypical size that NFL teams look for, though, so him going first was entirely logical.
The Blackmon pick in the top 10 doesn't change who Wright is, however. A playmaker from the moment he set foot on campus four years ago, Wright started from day one and spent his career rewriting the Baylor WR record book. In his final season, he led a conference that included Blackmon in receiving yards and finished second in yards per completion and touchdows. When a freshman RG3 needed a relief valve, he found Wright. When a freshman Nick Florence needed the same after Griffin got hurt the following year, he found Wright. When Griffin came back from injury as a redshirt sophomore and then established himself as the best quarterback in the land as a junior, he did so with Wright as his favorite and most consistent target. Baylor's offense relied on Wright's ability to find an open space in the defense, make the catch in the most important situations (most often on third downs), and stretch the field with his speed against the opponent's best defenders. There were times when Wright, not RG3, was the flashiest and most impressive player in an offense flush with stars.
That last point is extremely important to me when talking about who KW is. Much like Terrance Ganaway this year, I don't think Wright ever got the credit that he was due over his entire career for the role he played in Baylor's offense, but you never once heard him complain about it. Even tonight he will likely be overshadowed pretty much everywhere by his electric former teammate. But unlike the flashy, outspoken, self-centered wide receivers we have come to expect, everything I've ever heard about Wright paints him as a player that makes his statements on the field and keeps to himself off it. He is the quintessential team player, and he was always willing to do whatever it took to contribute positively, whether it was on offense or on special teams.
For a team like the Titans that has their "quarterback of the future" in Jake Locker, I like the idea of pairing him with a receiver like Wright who could be elite in the NFL sooner rather than later. Tennessee is probably looking at their roster in two or three years rather than one, meaning the logjam they now have at WR will almost certainly work itself out. Locker's life becomes a lot easier down the road when you give him a target who can line up in the slot or on the outside and can make plays in space that make your jaw drop. Tennessee already has an elite RB to establish the running game, and they might have just gotten an elite WR with the 20th pick in the Draft.
Congratulations, Tennessee, and congratulations Kendall!