There has to be a decision made on young Jake Locker's tenure as a Tennessee Titan relatively soon. He has that fifth year contract option that all rookies were placed with during the last round of CBA negotiations. Is he the future of this franchise? While I believe that Locker will be on this roster for the 2014 season, I'm not so optimistic that he will be on the 2015 roster. Here are the reasons why.
- GM Ruston Webster is not directly tied to Locker as many would like to believe
Yes, Mr. Webster was in the room at the time that the pick was made but it was clearly Mike Reinfeldt's and Munchak's show. Therefore, he isn't tied down to Locker as one would assume. Sure, he is saying the right things in front of the press but privately, he may have some reservations about him. If he wants to replace Locker, this is the draft to do it in as the QB class is rich in depth.
- Locker's growth and development
While I think he has made some significant progression in his development, he is still on shaky ground. I would like to believe that he can shake himself off the Jason Campbell/Alex Smith career arc but he may have gone too far down that road. This journey began during his college career when he had to transition from wishbone offense to a pro style attack under now USC head coach Steve Sarkesian. The dysfunction that was this franchise in terms of offensive coordinator transactions did not help him whatsoever.
- Locker's injury history
With all that said, his medical history isn't the greatest or most ideal. The medical issues go back to his college days where he missed vast amounts of time and have continued as a pro. Granted, most love his take no prisoners playing style but it take its toll on the body eventually. The injury history is too great now to chalk it up to fluke stuff. Also, the comparisons to Matthew Stafford's ominous start to his own career don't match up to Locker.
OK, so what are the Titans options?
Tajh Boyd, Clemson QB
- Boyd could be a late round option for the Titans to think about as he had a poor outing in the Senior Bowl. He really needs a good Combine and Pro Day performance to boost his stock once more. He does need a lot of coaching, however as he's mechanically flawed and played in Chad Morriss' gimmick spread offense. The Morriss offense features a lot of sweeps and tosses along with constant motion (mainly Sammy Watkins doing the Percy Harvin thing). Boyd does have a deep ball but that portion of his game is unrefined. He's coachable and very well liked on and off the field.
David Fales, San Jose State QB
- Fales is an intriguing prospect in that he's more of a gamer type instead of a practice player. However, his lack of arm strength was glaring in Mobile. Simple out routes hung up in the air multiple times. He's a product of a much more uptempo Mike Leach style Air Raid offense. I haven't seen him take a snap under center in my studies of him.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois QB
- Garoppolo is the hot name going up the boards right now. He showed well in both the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. The ball seems to explode out of his hand and he throws it to its intended location in a hurry. What stood out to me is his footwork, while off at times (like any other rookie), is impeccable. Even with the good showings at the postseason all star games, I'm concerned if the step up in competition is too big for him. The most pro ready on this list right now.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU QB
- Mettenberger fits as a classic Whisenhunt quarterback in the sense that he's tall and has a rocket arm. The torn ACL is a concern, however as he tore it pretty late in the season but reports are that he should be ready by training camp. If he isn't healthy, the Titans can just use a "redshirt" year to bring him to full health for 2015. Mettenberger improved a lot under the guidance of LSU OC Cam Cameron, becoming more disciplined and aware in the pocket. Before Cameron's arrival, he was similar to Phillip Rivers in that you just didn't know what to expect on any given throw. His game has calmed down considerably.
What should the Titans do with the quarterback position?
As much as I would be tempted to take Garoppolo early (his stock is going in the second round) and cut ties with Locker outright, it's not the path that I would want to take. My plan would be to draft Mettenberger and keep Locker plus Tyler Wilson in the event that he isn't fully recovered from his knee injury. In this case, Locker would play the Matt Hasselbeck "veteran" placeholder role while Wilson is the backup if an injury occurs again. A fully healthy Mettenberger in 2015 would compete with Locker for the starting job should he still be on the roster given his contract option. The 2015 QB draft class is very top heavy and not as deep in prospects as the 2014 class. If Locker fails to stay healthy once again, the Titans would have a ready made starter instead of having to rely on a rookie draft pick in 2015.