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Tennessee Titans Have Multiple Draft Needs, But Not At the QB Position

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans may have a franchise quarterback locked down, but there is a long way to go before they can become playoff contenders.

When the Denver Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning made history by becoming the oldest quarterback to ever win a ring at age 39, while 26-year-old Cam Newton emerged as a particularly sore loser, showing a degree of immaturity.

But for the rest of the football world with little emotional investment in the title game, the end of SB 50 also marked the official end of the 2015 season, allowing us to turn our collective attention toward the 2016 Draft.

Due to a lower strength of schedule (.492), the 3-13 Tennessee Titans nabbed the first overall pick for the upcoming draft over the Cleveland Browns, who also finished 3-13 but had a .531 strength of schedule. 

The 2016 Draft class is no 1998 or 2012 with a Manning or Andrew Luck being fought over by teams in need of a QB, but this actually works out for the Titans. They already have a franchise starter on their roster in Marcus Mariota, who was the second overall pick in the 2015 Draft.

Mariota was sidelined for a couple of games due to injury, and was also unable to finish out several others. The rookie ended the season with a 62.2 completion percentage, 2,818 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, 38 sacks against, and a 91.5 passer rating (61.0 QBR) in 12 games. These numbers are nothing special, but stats can often be misleading, and the Heisman Trophy winner’s rookie year stats are not an exception.

First of all, Mariota, coming from the University of Oregon, played exclusively in the Ducks’ spread system. His adjustment from lining up in shotgun formation to passing from the pocket in the big leagues has been admirable. Thanks to the guidance of Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans’ head coach at the start of the season, and Mike Mularkey, who replaced Whisenhunt after the latter was fired after starting 1-6, Mariota, a mobile quarterback, has been able to assimilate to the new system and become more than adequate from the pocket. 

Although stats do not tell the whole story, Mariota could have had better numbers if he had not been sidelined for four games by knee injuries. He was unable to start in Weeks 6 and 7 after getting hit by Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, left in the second quarter in Week 15’s game due to a sprained MCL, and missed his final start of the season. 

One reason Mariota was so banged up was because of his lack of protection. He was the 9th-most sacked quarterback in the league even though he missed a substantial amount of playing time, and the Titans’ main priority in the offseason should be restructuring their offensive line. 

Ultimately, Mariota’s rookie season was highly promising despite the Titan’s final record considering the relative lack of talent that surrounded the QB. Mularkey also belives that Mariota’s future is with the Titans.

“To go through the change with the head coach, the injuries that he’s had early, to overcome multitudes of injuries (to other players)… different personnel, the offensive line to be moved around as much as it’s been,” Mularkey said. “He’s gone through what most guys won’t do for years; he’s had it in his rookie year. And like I said, he’s never flinched, he’s never said, ‘Woe is me,’ … He’s just been steady and he’s learned a lot in this one season alone.”

There is no need for the team to draft a quarterback. Instead, they should continue to support Mariota’s maturation in the NFL. To eventually become a playoff contender, Tennessee has to focus on adding pieces (plural) on both offense and defense to supplement Mariota and the players that they already have. 

Edited by Jeremy Losak, Julian Boireau.

In May 2015, Marcus Mariota had the #1 best-selling NFL jersey. Who were numbers 2 and 3?
Created 2/26/16
  1. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees
  2. Cam Newton and Calvin Johnson
  3. Eli Manning and J.J. Watt
  4. Jameis Winston and Tom Brady

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