Approximately one year ago I found myself urging the Titans to hedge their bets at the QB position. Jake Locker was going into the final year of his deal and still hadn't proven himself as a franchise QB. I was obviously quite pleased when the Titans nabbed Zach Mettenberger in the sixth round, who I thought was one of the best QBs in the draft.
This year the Titans face a similar decision and yet I find myself urging them to make the opposite choice. Mettenberger isn't in a contract year and the job security of the front office and staff is in question. Below I will try to breakdown the advantages and disadvantages of the possible options.
Place Your Bet on Mett
With this choice, the TItans are in position to land one of the best defensive players in the draft. The thought of putting Leonard Williams beside Jurrell Casey is amazing. Maybe they give Ray Horton a new pass-rushing toy with Randy Gregory or Dante Fowler. Regardless, this option gives the team who they deem to be the best defensive player - and perhaps the best player overall - in the draft.
Let's say Tennessee selects Leonard Williams with their choice. With the second round pick you're now free to again take the "best player available" approach. Corner, receiver, tackle, linebacker...the Titans will have a chance to grab another starter with this pick. I think if you bypass a QB early in the draft it'll allow the Titans to fill several other major needs, and they certainly do have a ton of them. A lot of this then depends on how big of a need you think QB really is for this team.
The downside to this option is obvious. If they gamble on Mett and he ends up playing terrible or gets hurt, this team has no chance to win games. Ken Whisenhunt and Ruston Webster will be fired and this team is likely in position with a top 3 or 5 pick to select a QB with a new regime. Basically the Titans will be right in the back same position minus the two guys who helped drive us into this mess.
Gamble on Winston or Mariota
Now with the second pick the Titans select...whoever the Bucs don't. If you believe the latest reports, its Mariota that is available to the Titans. Its no secret that he is my preferred option out of this QB class. Maybe its because I've watched a lot of Canadian football that I love dual-threat QBs so much, and Mariota is one of the best to come out of college in that respect. He's also shown an ability to throw the ball with accuracy all over the field. Winston has gotten his fair share of publicity on MCM as well and similarly has demonstrated that he can play at a high level.
The benefit (hope?) here is that whoever you select can drastically change your W-L record this season and going forward. I'm just not sure that is the case. The question becomes if they are an upgrade over Mettenberger and then if yes, how much? Mariota certainly has questions that will only be answered once we see him in an NFL offense. Can he throw into tight windows? Play under center? Hang in the pocket long enough before escaping?
You have to strongly believe you've greatly upgraded the QB position since you're leaving Williams or Gregory on the board. Is there more pressure to select a defensive player in the second round then, too?
My Ideal Plan
I think the best move for this franchise is to provide Mettenberger with a decent defense and as much talent around him as possible. That starts with drafting the best defensive player second overall and then filling a second major need with the second round choice. If you want the middle ground between the two options provided, there's always the opportunity to draft a QB in the mid- to late-rounds. Garrett Grayson intrigues me, but overall I think this draft is short on long-term options at the position. The best route in my mind is still to build around Zach Mettenberger and spend the rest of the resources aggressively changing the roster.