- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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There are several reasons for the Tennessee Titans not to draft a quarterback at No. 11 or even after a trade down in the first round:
The top guys don’t look to be sure things, and the Titans are only three years removed from over-drafting Jake Locker eighth overall.
The Titans, and GM Ruston Webster in particular, feel Locker is deserving of one big final shot at proving he can be a quality NFL starter and want to facilitate that chance. A highly drafted quarterback wouldn’t help in that.
A first-round quarterback would be expected to start, if not from the beginning, somewhere along the way during the season. A team shouldn’t avoid a pick because of the questions it will bring. But if Tennessee drafts a quarterback first, the major theme from the outside all season will be about which quarterback plays.
As those top quarterback prospects come with question marks and/or holes, taking one would mean passing on a better player at another position.
Though every team and situation is different, the AFC South rival Jaguars had a new regime in place last season. GM Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley sort of received a redshirt year in their first season, because in a lot of ways the clock doesn’t start ticking on guys in those posts until they choose their quarterback.
The Titans have provided no indication that they will spend their top pick on a quarterback, but they have offered no real indication of anything. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean allows for the possibility of a trade down and the choice of Derek Carr. Subsequently, I’ve also heard that Webster is a giant fan of Carr.
“He’s a very bright quarterback,” Webster said Tuesday. “He’s played in multiple systems. He’s had to learn systems and learn them quickly, got a good arm, got a quick release and is pretty good at throwing the ball on time and is pretty accurate.”
While the Titans are loyal and patient and committed with regard to Locker, they also aren’t operating with blinders on.
They know he remains a question mark, they know he tends to get hurt, they must know Charlie Whitehurst isn’t equipped to carry the team to success if asked to start for a long stretch.
Setting Carr aside, we don’t know how they feel about Teddy Bridgewater, who could be there at No. 11. We also don’t know how they rate Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles, and they could have a crack at one or more of those guys.
When Webster fielded a question about Bortles on Tuesday, he brightened up in a way that I read to mean, I can speak freely about this guy because he’s someone who is not in our range.
“You know what I like about Bortles, is he’s big, he’s got a strong arm and he’s consistently brought his team from behind,” Webster said. “Last year, I think in multiple games, the Louisville game being one, they were down and he brought his team back. That’s something that we always look for, and sometimes you don’t get that with a quarterback if their team is so good they’re usually ahead so they don’t have to do it, but in his case, that’s been something that he’s done really well.”
If they draft a first-round quarterback, I’ll expect him to start, quickly, and mark the end of Locker's tenure as the guy.
It’s one thing to draft a kid and have him sit for a while behind a veteran -- the Titans had success with that when Locker sat behind Matt Hasselbeck.
Whitehurst doesn’t provide the same veteran quality. Young quarterbacks get plugged in and play all around the league now.
I still think the Titans wait and draft a quarterback. Ideally he would arrive before the end of the third round, and ideally the Titans would make a deal that would get them more than the two picks they currently have in that span.
Quarterbacks drafted later than that who pan out in a big way are exceedingly rare. Maybe Mettenberger or Murray slides some as they are coming off ACL injuries.
A first-round quarterback will surprise me, and many others who follow the team closely.