Lots of questions follow Will Levis to Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With a trade-up in the second round for Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, the Titans have aimed a giant spotlight at new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and new quarterback coach and passing game coordinator Charles London.

Nov 5, 2022; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) passes before being hit by Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Isaiah McGuire (9) during the first quarter at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium.
Will Levis/ William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

Levis has a big arm, can stand in versus the blitz, can run, fits the traditional quarterback mold at nearly 6-foot-4 and 230 and has shown quality leadership skills.

But he comes into the league facing fair questions about instincts, decisions and accuracy. And I’m in the camp where decision-making and accuracy are giant attributes already baked into the quarterback cake to a high degree when a signal-caller enters the league.

Mike Vrabel talked broadly about his coaches dealing with all his players, but let's apply it to Kelly and London with Levis.

"They have to be great teachers, they have to be able to develop the players at their position, they have to be able to make a connection with them and hopefully inspire them to do their job better. They are going to put into each player as much as that player will allow us and we'll coach them as hard as they will allow us." 

While analysts see the potential upside comp as Josh Allen, a major outlier who improved dramatically in those departments as the Bills developed him after drafting him out of Wyoming, other comps have been far less flattering. They include up-and-down Carson Wentz, busted Titans' No. 8 pick in 2022 Jake Locker and the incumbent, Ryan Tannehill who is in position to start in front of Levis in 2022.

Ran Carthon was proud when I relayed that Jeff Fisher praised his ability to draw up a picture of a prospect with a comp. But the new GM fell into cliche speak when asked for a Levis comp, afraid to put any pressure on the first quarterback connected to his name. He told us Will Levis will be Will Levis. How's that for a picture? I think it's fair for people to be hoping for more than that.

The Titans burned a third-round pick on Malik Willis last year. He’s now their third quarterback, and the odds he’s on the opening-day roster considering the team typically carries two QBs callers are slim. Vrabel said Tannehill is No. 1, Willis is No. 2 and Levis is No. 3, but if that holds long there's a big problem with the pick.

Will LevisGiving up the 90th and 190th picks in the draft to take Willis 86th a year before dealing up for Levis looks bad, even if the Titans have moved on from Jon Robinson to Carthon in the interim.

The cost to move up eight spots from 41 to 33 in the second round for the Kentucky QB dipped into next year: Tennessee sent No. 41 and No. 72 in the third round plus a 2024 third-rounder to Arizona in exchange for No. 33, used for Levis, and No. 81 in the third. 

And with that pick a team with no clear second or third receiver for any QB to throw to, took third down back TyJae Spears of Tulane. They do not have a fourth-round pick with which to address the hole at receiver.

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker was the next quarterback selected after Levis, chosen 68th by the Lions in the third round.

Levis said he believes the Titans like his competitive mentality and think he has what it takes to understand and execute a game plan at a high level.

"I feel like literally every single person that I met with on their staff, top to bottom, I connected with at a really high level," he said. "I told myself I wouldn't fall in love with anybody throughout this process because I knew I really didn't have a say in the matter. But if there was one team I did, it was definitely Tennessee."

Vrabel is entering his sixth season and is inextricably tied to Levis now, at a time when Jacksonville has Trevor Lawrence, Houston drafted C.J. Stroud second and Indianapolis drafted Anthony Richardson fourth. The Titans appeared interested in moving up for Stroud, a move they simply could not pull off.

Titans didn't get played in missing out on C.J. Stroud

Whenever the Titans' rookie gets in the lineup, he will be the coach’s third starting quarterback after Marcus Mariota, who he inherited, and Ryan Tannehill, who the team traded for in Vrabel’s second season.

Levis finished his 39 games and 26 starts, two of which were at Penn State, with a .640 completion percentage. Last year, with a lesser coordinator, offensive line and weapons and dealing with a toe injury, he hit on 64.9 percent. But per PFF a quarter of his passes were targeted behind the line of scrimmage, a factor that aided the number.

"When you look at completion percentage, 65 percent in two years in the SEC, what we felt like was over 30 drops that probably would have led to closer to 70 percent completion," Vrabel said. "Every player when he comes in here is going to have a chance to improve and will have to improve. The decision-making, toughness, accuracy are things that we feel are critical with quarterbacks and we feel the three that we have here are going to be able to do that."

Former Titans scout and special contributor to this site Blake Beddingfield said Levis shows “inconsistent ball placement,” and he is hardly alone in that assessment. I saw it too in what I watched of the Wildcats.

That's an area where Kelly and London have to help him make strides or the pick could prove to be problematic because inconsistent ball placement and a low completion percentage could sink the offense Vrabel emphasizes has to include efficient passing.

I asked Levis about his accuracy and anticipation.

“Confident in it, confident in it,” he said. “Definitely have room to improve, but accuracy and decision-making I feel like are a couple of my strengths. Especially at this next level, I know that they have to be taken to the next level if I want to be successful. So I'm just looking forward to learning from the staff and the other players."

Levis said the offense he executed at Kentucky and what he expected to be asked to do in Nashville are similar.

"We were going through their formations, their concepts, their protection rules," he said of chalkboard work during time with Titans coaches. "It's a lot of carryover, it's a lot of similarities to what I've been exposed to these last couple of years. So I feel my experience there is going to help me going forward." 

Vrabel pointed out that the Kentucky team that surrounded Levis was a factor in what we saw from him.

"We can be transparent," he said. "Kentucky was a much different football team in 2021 than they were in 2022. If we protect him when he’s out there at any point, if we don’t protect him better than what it was, it’s probably going to look the same. Just like it is for any quarterback. We try to look at the really good exposures. The great performances. We try to look at them what they look like at their worst and then just try to pull the curtain and see what it looks like.

Kuharsky megaphone"There were some really impressive performances against some really good defenses in the SEC. Now there are some decisions that have to be better. You can’t put the ball in harm’s way no matter who you’re playing."

The Titans have done work to revamp a bad offensive line that was a significant issue for Tannehill.

They've done close to nothing to upgrade the weaponry for their quarterbacks, and losing Wan'Dale Robinson in the draft to the Giants was another factor that hurt Levis.

There isn't much of a pool for them to go fix that for him.


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