On April 30, the Tennessee Titans brass will have the chance to shape the landscape of the franchise for the next ten years. I speak, of course, of the 2015 NFL Draft, in which Tennessee owns the No. 2 overall pick. With that pick, the Titans are poised to select … drumroll please … keep drumming … a little more … NO ONE KNOWS!
The Titans lack a marquee QB which, by all accounts, is needed to win in the NFL. Rookie sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger became the starter part way through last season. He started six games before getting injured and showed some promise, completing just under 60-percent of his passes for 1,412 yards, eight touchdowns, and seven picks.
But the Titans’ record with Mettenberger at the helm left a little to be desired. They went 0-6. They also averaged just 16.5 points with Mettenberger under center and lost his last three starts by an average of 24.
This year’s draft class features two potential franchise QBs: Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon). One – likely Winston – is going to be drafted by Tampa Bay first overall. That will leave the Titans with quite the predicament: do they take the less-NFL ready Mariota in a bid to find their long-sought-after franchise pivot, or do they take can’t-miss DT prospect Leonard Williams (USC)?
Tennessee’s recent attempts at finding a marquee QB in the draft have not gone well, to say the least. The team took Vince Young with the number three pick in 2006, but the Texas product was a huge disappointment over the next few seasons.
In 2011, they took Jake Locker (Washington) with the tenth pick despite numerous critiques of his throwing accuracy. Due, in part, to injuries, Locker never developed as the Titans had hoped and he ended up retiring just two months ago instead of continuing to jeopardize his long-term health.
Will Tennessee go back to the QB well in the first round of this year’s draft (third time’s the charm?) and, if they do, will that QB be under center in Week 1?
Let’s set the odds on who will be the team’s quarterback at the start of the 2015 season:
Marcus Mariota: 5/2
It’s hard for me to think Marcus Mariota is the ideal quarterback for this team as the roster doesn’t have a dominant running game and their wide receivers are not known for their consistency. Mariota makes sense in a lot of places, but not Nashville. The Titans could still wind up drafting him as trade bait, or as a longer-term project. But even if Mariota is on the opening day roster, he’s only about 50/50 to be the Week 1 starter.
James Winston: 9/1
Winston does make sense in the offense that head coach Ken Whisenhunt wants to run, but it looks like the former Seminole will go to Tampa Bay. Not much the Titans can do there. If Tampa doesn’t take him, though, look for the Titans to snap him up in a heartbeat and for Winston to be the opening day starter.
Philip Rivers: 6/1 (via trade with the Chargers)
A lot has been said about Rivers not wanting to play in Los Angeles if the Chargers move and that’s where the rumors of a trade started. Rivers will enter the last year of his contract in 2015, and San Diego has to do something with him before he becomes a free agent and loses all value to the team.
A trade to the Titans makes sense in the mind of Ken Whisenhunt; the coach didn’t have much success developing a quarterback with the Arizona Cardinals, but he did succeed with a veteran QB running the offense.
Jay Cutler: 12/1 (via trade with the Bears)
Cutler’s situation is similar to Rivers’, but his value has dropped plenty over the last two seasons, and his cost has increased thanks to a bloated salary. Titans fans should be hoping and praying that management doesn’t take a flyer on the erstwhile Bears’ savior.
Zach Mettenberger: 5/4
Many on the Titans coaching staff think they don’t have to look for a quarterback with Mettenberger on the roster. The LSU product looked sharp in several outings before getting injured, and the Mettenberger believers (“Mettenbelievers?” No, “Believerbergers) expect continued growth in years two and three.
As David Climer of The Tennesseean wrote last week, “In short, Whisenhunt and [General Manager Ruston] Webster think they pulled the steal of the 2014 draft. Titans brass see Mettenberger as a poor team’s Tom Brady. He’s the quarterback.”
My pick: Zach Mettenberger.
(Photo credit: original: Keith Allison derivative: Diddykong1130 (Ken Whisenhunt, Zach Mettenberger) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)