Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 6, 2023

Afterthoughts help make up for recent draft deficiencies

Starting linebackerJack Gibbens is another undrafted success story. - Photo by Wade Payne | AP

Some of it is probably a result of poor drafts in recent years. Some of it seems to be that Mike Vrabel doesn’t mind a good underdog story.

Whatever the reason, the Titans have 13 players (including two currently on injured reserve) in various roles from starters to key backups who were undrafted, signed and developed into role players and contributors.

Some of the better success stories from the undrafted ranks from the past few years include starting nose tackle Teair Tart, starting center Aaron Brewer, starting inside linebacker Jack Gibbens, versatile receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and powerhouse punter Ryan Stonehouse.

In fact, as much of an indictment as the 2020 draft class was (only Kristian Fulton remains on the roster from the draft four years ago), the fact that three undrafteds in Tart, Brewer and NWI are still around and making sizable contributions is a bit of a saving grace.

In addition to that group, a couple of other underdog players have handled punt returns so far this year. Undrafted rookie receiver Kearis Jackson earned the job out of training camp when Kyle Philips was injured. He handled it for two games before being shelved himself with an ankle injury.

That opened the door for maybe the biggest underdog of all, Mason Kinsey. The former standout from Berry College – an NCAA Division III school in Rome, Georgia – has filled in the last two weeks after spending the majority of the last three years on the practice squad waiting for his opportunity. Kinsey has excelled, averaging 12.5 yards per punt return the last two weeks.

It hearkens back to a Vrabel mantra that it doesn’t matter how a player arrives on the roster, it just matters that they can find a way to contribute and make the most of their opportunity.

And with so many injuries the previous two years, there have been opportunities aplenty for players at numerous positions to get a chance to prove themselves.