Tennessee Titans draft JC Latham: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

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Tennessee Titans draft JC Latham: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

The Tennessee Titans bolstered their offensive line in Round 1 on Thursday night by drafting Alabama offensive tackle JC Latham with the seventh pick of the 2024 NFL Draft.

A former five-star prospect from Wisconsin by way of IMG Academy, Latham was a late arrival to the offensive line in high school but a natural one, as he blossomed into his now 6-foot-5, 342-pound frame. A massive man with tremendous length (35 1/8-inch arms), Latham’s power in the run game (and in pass protection) is as good as it gets in the 2024 class.

NFL Draft 2024 tracker: Live blog, pick-by-pick grades and analysis
Big board best available: Who’s left from Dane Brugler’s Top 300?
Draft pick grades: Nick Baumgardner, Scott Dochterman rate the selections
Full draft order: Team picks for all 257 selections
“The Athletic Football Show”: Watch live reaction to the draft

A right tackle only at Alabama, Latham was a two-year starter and didn’t miss a game for the Tide from 2022 to 2023. A former basketball player, he still moves like one — with exceptional burst and agility for his size. Still just 21, Latham is still growing as a pass protector and has never played full-time on the left side.

Latham also had 18 penalties over his two years as a starter and is still working to become a consistent pass protector. He’s ready to start, but perhaps only on the right side. He could also develop into an outstanding guard.

‘The Beast’ breakdown

Latham ranked No. 13 in Dane Brugler’s Top 300 big board. Here’s what Brugler had to say about him in his annual NFL Draft guide:

“Overall, Latham needs to clean up his inconsistent (yet fixable) habits, but he offers elite play strength and functional football movements to stay square and overmatch his opponent. He is an ascending prospect with the talent to win a starting right tackle job as an NFL rookie, although some teams project him best inside at guard.”

Coaching intel

What an anonymous coach had to say about Latham in Bruce Feldman’s mock draft:

“He’s mammoth. Gets a little out of rhythm and can get himself out of position, but he moves a lot better than you’d think at that size.”

An offensive line coach on Latham in Feldman’s NFL Draft confidential:

“I think he’ll be a solid guard inside. He’s a definite gap-system guy for somebody. He’s athletic for being so massive at 350. I think he’s gotta lose some weight. This guy is just built like a guard.”

Why he’s a first-round pick

The combination of size and power is impossible to ignore here, especially in the current NFL world where running the ball is back. Tackles with power and length always get opportunities to figure it out, and Latham, a terrific athlete, is no exception.

Scott Dochterman grades the pick

Tennessee absolutely needed a tackle as part of its offensive line reconstruction, and Latham has the potential to become an anchor for a decade. But is this the right spot for him? He was a right tackle at Alabama, and the Titans have a glaring need at left tackle. If he can make that move, it’s perfect. If not, this becomes a question mark.

Perhaps the most powerful player in the draft, Latham caves in defenses when run blocking. He’s massive (6-5 1/2, 342) with an 85-inch wingspan and 35-inch arms. A second-team All-American last fall, Latham didn’t miss a game and made 27 consecutive starts at Alabama.

Grade: B

How he fits

Latham fills a glaring hole for the Titans, whether he ends up at left tackle or right tackle — and in case anyone missed it, GM Ran Carthon and coach Brian Callahan made it abundantly clear that they view him as the Titans’ next left tackle. They also acknowledged that it’s possible he could play on the right side if the switch to left tackle doesn’t take. In the short term, that’s a challenge because the Titans don’t have an obvious starter at left tackle and aren’t drafting anyone else who can plug in and do it right away. If Latham is a great tackle for many years, one side or other, this pick is validated.

Rookie impact

Latham should start right away, and it should be at left tackle barring enormous struggles with the switch during the preseason. As he pointed out in a call with reporters Thursday, he was all left tackle before getting to college and was a top-5 recruit nationally coming into Alabama. College was his first experience on the right side. If he transitions back well, the next question will be how he deals with some of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and if he can shed some of the penalties he picked up in college — 18 in the past two seasons.

Depth-chart impact

It’s certainly possible the Titans could select another tackle before the draft is over to address the right side, but for now, the most likely depth chart will have Latham at left tackle and Nicholas Petit-Frere at right tackle (the interior of Peter Skoronski at left guard, Lloyd Cushenberry at center and Daniel Brunskill at right guard is set on paper). The most likely adjustment if Latham doesn’t stick on the left is a flip-flop with Petit-Frere, who has played both.

They also could have picked …

Washington receiver Rome Odunze, Georgia tight end Brock Bowers or Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu. Fashanu, who went No. 11 to the New York Jets, played left tackle in college and was Dane Brugler’s No. 2 offensive tackle available, one spot ahead of Latham. Odunze, who went No. 9 to the Chicago Bears, has star potential at receiver, and the Titans still need a young receiver to grow with Will Levis. And Bowers (No. 13 to the Las Vegas Raiders) is a fascinating prospect who can be more than “just a tight end” in this league. Fashanu, in particular, will be compared with Latham as their careers progress. The Titans also could have traded back but were underwhelmed by the opportunities at hand.

Fast evaluation

Jim Harbaugh’s Los Angeles Chargers taking Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt at No. 5 tossed the Titans’ most widely predicted scenario out the window. Of course, mock drafts aren’t reality, and The Athletic reporter Dianna Russini posted on X that Latham was Titans offensive line coach Bill Callahan’s “favorite player in the draft.”

It’s fair to question not filling the most glaring hole on the team with a player who played that position in college. But if Latham is as special as the Titans say he is, he’ll play it in the NFL. After two seasons of futility at the position, the Titans have a gifted, physical, enthusiastic draftee as a potential answer.

(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas / USA Today)