Why the Tennessee Titans Could Draft Drew Lock

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 17: Drew Lock #3 of the Missouri Tigers throws the ball during the second half of the game between the Missouri Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Missouri won the game 50-17. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 17: Drew Lock #3 of the Missouri Tigers throws the ball during the second half of the game between the Missouri Tigers and the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Missouri won the game 50-17. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images) /

While the latest pre-draft rumor regarding the Tennessee Titans and a top QB prospect is most likely unfounded, there are a few reasons why this scenario isn’t entirely implausible.

With the start of 2019 NFL Draft inching closer and closer, a flurry of rumors have already blown through Nashville. One notable tidbit was that the Tennessee Titans could select Drew Lock with the 19th pick (as mentioned by Daniel Jeremiah).

This would come as a shock to Titans fans, as many would prefer giving Marcus Mariota a final chance to prove he is a franchise QB over drafting SEC Josh Allen. It’s also reasonable (if not recommended) to treat this as a smokescreen and chalk it up to Titans GM Jon Robinson trying to throw teams off his trail.

There is always a tidal wave of nonsense that comes crashing down in the last 24 hours before the 1st pick is announced, so it’s wise not to put too much stock into these last-minute rumors. However, Titans fans may not want to completely write off the possibility.

There are a few factors that, depending on where Robinson and the Titans stand, could lead to the Titans drafting a QB.

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Robinson’s Confidence in Mariota

It’s safe to say that the majority of Titans fans are confident that Marcus still has what takes to be the franchise QB in Nashville. But while Marcus surely appreciates the backing of the fans, what really matters is what his GM thinks of him.

Can we be sure Robinson feels the same way? While he has generally spoken highly of Mariota during his tenure here, he gave a very non-committal answer in regards to Mariota’s future with the team when asked earlier in the off-season.

Remember, Robinson was part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers front office that selected Jameis Winston over Mariota. That doesn’t mean he thought little of Marcus, or was even the strongest voice in the room, but it would be easier to assume that Robinson was fully committed to Mariota if he had picked the Oregon QB over Winston.

It wouldn’t be inconceivable to think that between the injuries, inconsistent play, and upcoming price tag that Robinson has already made up his mind to move on from Mariota after 2020. Robinson already hand-picked his own coach after inheriting one from the previous regime, and he very well may want to do the same at the QB position.

Robinson Looking Ahead

Some fans may argue that drafting a QB this year would be illogical when Mariota and backup Ryan Tannehill are in place and a premier (non-QB) talent could make the Titans legitimate contenders.

This is a fair point, but if Robinson has already committed to moving on from Marcus then there would be some benefits to selecting a QB in 2019 instead of 2020. The Titans have had 3 straight 9-7 seasons and added some solid pieces in free agency, so it’s reasonable to assume that they won’t be drafting in the top 15 next season. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are attractive prospects, but if they get drafted in the top 5 it would require the Titans trading multiple early round picks to move up and select them. Not to mention other teams could be jockeying for these players (and other potential prospects) and there is no guarantee Tennessee could land the guy they want.

So, if a QB that Robinson really likes falls into the Titans lap at 19 then it might not be crazy to pull the trigger this year. The Titans wouldn’t have to cough up a bevy of picks, and the organization would have a clear direction moving forward.

Robinson could point to the Chiefs and their playoff continuity and envision the same for his team. With Mariota and Tannehill on the roster, the team could still be competitive in 2019 like the Chiefs were with Alex Smith, and in 2020 a rookie a would be fully prepared to take the reins as starter, just as Patrick Mahomes did. And, if Mariota has a stellar year like Alex Smith in 2017, then the Titans would further benefit in the form of a trade or compensatory picks.

But, like with Mariota, this all depends on Robinson and what he sees out of the QB prospects this year. If he is iffy on the available options, there is certainly no need to reach for a guy at this point in time. Adversely, if he falls in love with a prospect like Lock who happens to drop to him at 19, he might feel as if he can’t pass on him since there is no guarantee he will get a better or equal opportunity down the road.

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Cap Flexibility

Drafting a rookie QB would also give Robinson immediate financial flexibility. He could feel comfortable picking up Jack Conklin’s 5th year option and have the ability to extend players like Kevin Byard, Logan Ryan and Derrick Henry.

The 2019 Titans just missed out on the playoffs despite average QB play, so if Robinson can afford to keep that core together then Lock wouldn’t have to play lights out in his sophomore season for the team to be contenders. Robinson might even be more inclined to offer current free agents like Ndamukong Suh or Muhammad Wilkerson a contract since the need for rollover cap space won’t be as great.

Robinson could consider the past 2 playoffs and see that out of the 8 teams that made the conference championships, only 1 team was led by a QB who was in the top 14 in terms of QB cap hit that season (the Saints and Drew Brees). Teams like the L.A. Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are able to surround their young, cheap QBs with top talent, and Robinson may want to follow suit. If a team is able to save money on the most expensive (and important) position, it gives them a lot of options to splurge on other players.

Despite all these reasons, I still don’t expect the Titans to draft Lock tomorrow. I think if we look at the signings Robinson has made in the off-season and the prospects the Titans have been linked to then it seems more like Robinson is attempting to put a solid team around Mariota in his contract year. But like I said, it all comes down to Robinson and his true feelings on Marcus. If he has already made up his mind that Mariota isn’t the Titans QB past 2019, all bets are off.