TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has made it clear: Protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota is the fastest way to turn this franchise around. So the Titans selected offensive tackle Jack Conklin of Michigan State with the eighth pick overall after trading up with Cleveland.READ MORE: Here Is The Top 'Should I...' Question Googled In Michigan In 2021, AT&T Reports
The Titans made the trade and the pick in Thursday night’s NFL draft, two weeks after trading the No. 1 pick overall to the Los Angeles Rams.
Tennessee gave up the 15th and the 76th overall pick, along with a second-round pick in 2017. The Titans also received a sixth-round pick in this draft.
This is the third time in the past four drafts that Tennessee has taken an offensive lineman with its top draft pick. The Titans drafted right guard Chance Warmack with the 10th overall pick in 2013 and left tackle Taylor Lewan at No. 11 in 2014.
Conklin brings size at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds. He started 35 games at left tackle and three at right tackle.
Tennessee gave up the most sacks (54) in the NFL in Mariota’s rookie season, and the quarterback missed a total of four games after spraining each knee.
Mariota, the No. 2 pick overall a year ago, set a flurry of team records as a rookie quarterback with 230 completions, 370 attempts, 2,818 yards passing and 19 touchdowns. His 91.5 passer rating as a rookie that ranked third all-time in franchise history behind only Steve McNair’s co-MVP season in 2003 (100.4) and Hall of Famer Warren Moon’s 1990 season (96.8).
The rookie was even better on the road with a 105.2 passer rating that ranked fourth in the NFL, and he had 10 TDs with only one interception away from home.
But Mariota started only 12 games last season, missing two games apiece as he sprained each knee when hit in the pocket. The Titans gave up a league-worst 54 sacks, which prompted Robinson to sign Houston center Ben Ford in free agency trying to anchor the offensive line.READ MORE: GM Secures Tax Abatement For Proposed $1.3B Orion Assembly Plant Investment
This draft marks the latest stage for the Titans’ new general manager, who was hired in January to fix a franchise that has gone just 5-27 combined over the past two seasons. Tennessee has had one winning season since the franchise’s last playoff berth in 2008.
Robinson also traded for running back DeMarco Murray, the 2014 NFL rushing leader, in a move with Philadelphia that cost him a move of only 13 spots in the fourth round. He has signed nine free agents working to revamp the roster and build around quarterback Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 pick out of Oregon a year ago.
Mike Mularkey finished off a 3-13 season last year after being promoted Nov. 3 when Ken Whisenhunt was fired.
Mularkey was given the job after a short search in January, and he has made it very clear he wants to run the ball much better in 2016 to help Mariota out. The Titans ranked 25th in rushing last season averaging 92.8 yards per game, and their lone 100-yard rushing game since the end of the 2013 season came Dec. 6 when Mariota needed an 87-yard touchdown run to reach 112 yards.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://www.twitter.com/teresamwalkerMORE NEWS: Chief White Says 'There's Reason To Believe' Remains Found In Detroit Belong to Missing Mother Latima Warren
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