To their surprise, and most of the draft world, Levis was available at the conclusion of Day 1. When the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t take Levis with the first pick of the second round, Tennessee made an aggressive move to shoot up eight spots from No. 41 to select him.
“He was a player that was highly ranked on our board,” Titans general manager Ran Carthon. “It’s a value thing. Happy that we were able to move up to get a player like Will.”
At 6-foot-4, 229 pounds, Levis’ size and big arm helped cement him as the No. 4 overall prospect on ESPN senior draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s draft board.
As for the Titans quarterback room, things get a bit interesting. The room already consists of incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill and 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis, whom Tennessee also traded up to select. Titans coach Mike Vrabel provided an overview of what the quarterback hierarchy will look like entering OTAs.
“Ryan will be the starting quarterback [when the Titans started OTAs after the draft],” Vrabel said. “Malik will be the backup. Will will be the third quarterback, and what I’ve told them is whatever happens after that will be up to the players.”
QB1: Ryan Tannehill
Questions regarding Tannehill’s status with the team arose because of his high cap number and the arrival of first-year general manager Carthon.
Carthon said at the team’s pre-draft news conference that he spoke with Tannehill back in February to let him know “exactly where he stood with the organization.”
“I appreciate it being clarified,” Tannehill said. “But nothing’s given to you in this league, and I’ve seen that over my, now, 12 years here in the NFL. Things can change quickly.”
The Titans have established a winning tradition with Tannehill who led the team to three consecutive AFC South division titles in four seasons. Things seemed to really be trending up for the Titans after their 2019 run to the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
That deep run was followed by consecutive home losses in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2020 and 2021.
After earning the top seed in the AFC and earning a first-round bye, the Titans were one and done in the playoffs after Tannehill threw three interceptions in the 2021 divisional loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. That seemed to get the ball rolling toward the future; Tennessee selected Willis in the draft a few months later.
However, Tannehill remained as the starter in 2022 before an ankle injury kept him out of five games — including a pivotal stretch to conclude the season where the Titans fell short of making the playoffs.
The Titans went 6-6 with Tannehill as their starter but were 1-4 in games he did not play. Tannehill finished last season with 2,536 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions.
With two voidable years remaining on his contract, this season will likely be the last dance for the soon-to-be 35-year-old who has led the Titans to a 36-19 regular-season record since taking over as the starter in Week 6 of the 2019 season.
QB2: Malik Willis
Willis was always intended to be a developmental player for the Titans. He was supposed to watch and learn under Tannehill and eventually compete for the starting spot.
In the meantime, Willis beat out Logan Woodside for the backup spot last season. The developmental process was derailed when Willis was pressed into a starting role for three games last season and finished with a 1-2 record.
Willis attempted 49 passes, 25 of which were completed for 234 yards and no touchdowns. He also threw three interceptions.
Tennessee signed veteran Joshua Dobbs and installed him as the starter over Willis for the remaining two games after being with the team for a little over a week, including the season-ending clash with the Jacksonville Jaguars with the AFC South division title and the playoffs on the line.
The outcome resulted in the Titans missing the playoffs for the second time under Vrabel — who took over in Tennessee in 2018. Having Willis lose his spot to Dobbs is proof that more development was needed.
“This is a process that’s going to take some time,” former Titans quarterback coach turned passing game analyst Pat O’Hara said of Willis in January. “Sometimes you can’t take the elevator. You gotta take the stairs.”
QB3: Will Levis
Even if he opens up as the No. 3 quarterback, landing with the Titans is an ideal match for Levis.
Levis’ best season at Kentucky was in 2021 when he passed for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns. Then offensive coordinator Liam Coen’s offense offered Levis 353 play-action pass attempts of which he completed 139 passes (39.4%).
Under Vrabel, the Titans have 2,361 total play-action pass attempts, which is the third-highest over that span behind only the Ravens (29.9%) and Rams (30.8%). Although some veterans have said the scheme is different under new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, expect to see a continuation of the play-action passing game.
That bodes well for Levis, whose 39.4% play-action rate in 2021 ranked 39th out of 123 FBS players with at least 50 play-action attempts that season. The Titans believe his experience and success in college will transfer well to what he’ll be asked to do in Tennessee.
“Their formations, their concepts, their protection rules, it’s a lot of carryover, a lot of similarities as to what I’ve been exposed to these last couple of years,” Levis said.
The AFC South will have three highly drafted rookie quarterbacks with Levis, C.J. Stroud (No. 2 overall) to the Houston Texans and Anthony Richardson (No. 4) to the Indianapolis Colts. Of the three, Levis, at 24, is the oldest (Stroud is 21 and Richardson 20) and will likely have the longest wait to become the starter.
Levis will get his first crack at executing Kelly’s offense when the Titans hold rookie minicamp Saturday.
How drafting Will Levis will affect the Titans QB room – ESPN – Tennessee Titans Blog