NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans have given quarterback Marcus Mariota a playmaking receiver by selecting Western Michigan’s Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft.
“I’m not gonna lie, I am surprised” at being selected No. 5, Davis said.
Before this year, Jason Babin was WMU’s highest draft pick at No. 27.
Davis ended his college career as the only Football Bowl Subdivision player with at least 300 catches, 5,000 yards and 50 touchdown receptions. He had an FBS record 5,285 yards receiving and had said before the draft that Mariota is his favorite NFL quarterback.
“I meant every word,” Davis said. “He’s definitely my favorite quarterback, and I’m looking forward to playing with him. (I like) just his swagger. He’s an accurate quarterback. He’s a great leader. He makes great decisions. He can use his legs.”
The concern surrounding the 6-foot-3 Davis is whether he can translate his Mid-American Conference success to the NFL.
Davis’ pre-draft process created other concerns. He didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl due to a shoulder injury and didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine or at Western Michigan’s pro day event because of ankle problem.
Davis said Thursday that he feels fine.
“I could be on the field tonight if need be,” Davis said.
The Titans still were sold enough on Davis to take him when players such as Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore were available to boost a defense that ranked 30th in the NFL against the pass last season.
The Titans haven’t used a first-round pick on a defensive player since 2010, when they took Georgia Tech defensive end/outside linebacker Derrick Morgan with the 16th overall pick.
Tennessee has been seeking more weapons for Mariota as the quarterback heads into his third season as a pro. The Titans are chasing their first playoff appearance since 2008 after going 9-7 last season, a dramatic jump from 3-13 in 2015. Davis said he knew the Titans had genuine interest in him after speaking with general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey before the draft.
The only MAC player ever drafted higher than Davis was Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher, who was taken first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. The only previous MAC player taken fifth overall was Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who went to Oakland in 2014 and is now the reigning NFL defensive player of the year.
Davis said he will use the skepticism surrounding his level of college competition as motivation.
“I know what I’m capable of doing,” Davis said. “I’m not afraid to go up against anyone, and I’m going to prove that really soon”
The Titans got a breakout season last year from Rishard Matthews but need another wide receiver after Kendall Wright signed with Chicago as a free agent. The Titans also could use a tight end to complement Pro Bowler Delanie Walker.
Davis’ record production at Western Michigan came apart because of his ability to gain big yardage after the catch.
“I feel like that’s just a matter of will and how bad you want it,” Davis said. “One of my favorite quotes is from Walter Payton, and that’s ‘Never die easy.’ I try to live that out wholeheartedly. I kind of take that attitude as I take the field and do whatever I can to get a little extra yard because every inch matters.”
Tennessee obtained the fifth pick in this draft as part of the trade that sent last year’s No. 1 overall selection to the Los Angeles Rams, who used it to take quarterback Jared Goff. The Titans also have the 18th overall pick, which gives them another opportunity to address their defensive needs.
This marks the first time in three decades that this franchise has had two first-round picks. Back in 1987, when they were still the Houston Oilers, they took Miami running back Alonzo Highsmith at No. 3 overall and North Carolina State wide receiver Haywood Jeffires at No. 20 that year.
The Titans don’t have a second-round pick, though they do have two third-round selections.
Last year, Plainwell’s Jack Conklin was drafted to the Titans at No. 8 overall.
–24 Hour News 8 contributed to this report.