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Written by: Joseph Yun
The Tennessee Titans have completed two days of the 2023 NFL Draft, and boy, was it ever interesting. All Friday, Tennessee was rumored to move up to get their future signal caller, and they *spoiler alert* got one.
With the 33rd overall selection, the franchise ended the dramatic freefall of former Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who went home crestfallen after not being selected on the first night. The Titans traded up from the 41st selection at the price of two pick swaps in the second and third rounds and a 2024 third-round choice with the Cardinals. Interestingly, they were mooted to be trade partners on Day 1, with former assistant GM Monti Ossenfort heading operations in Glendale. There was some injury-related speculation about why Levis was available for Tennessee to take him in the second round.
Levis transferred to Kentucky from Penn State after losing the battle to starter Sean Clifford during the 2021 offseason. The 2021 season was the high water mark for his collegiate career as he threw for 2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He also ran for 376 yards and nine touchdowns that season. 2022 was the nadir of his time in Lexington as the Wildcats' offense suffered from major personnel losses. He was a star at the Combine, showing an improved throwing motion with a lot of velocity and efficiency. The former Kentucky signal caller tends to trust his arm talent too much, which sometimes leads to costly interceptions. His physical and play style profile resembles former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. He was a three-star recruit out of high school.
What does it mean for Tennessee?
Tennessee has a clear incumbent in Ryan Tannehill, who will likely see out his contract after the 2023 season and enter free agency. Levis will likely battle former 2022 third-round selection Malik Willis for QB2 honors in 2023 before battling for the starting job once Tannehill likely departs the franchise. It appears that Levis will redshirt and develop. As an early-round selection, he will have every opportunity to win the job outright in 2024.
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The Titans swapped the 72nd overall selection for the 81st in the aforementioned swap with the Cardinals. With that selection, they selected former Tulane star running back Tyjae Spears, a star during the offseason draft circuit. Spears broke out in 2022 as a redshirt senior, rushing for 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns with 22 receptions for 256 yards plus three touchdowns.
He was the most dominant running back at the Senior Bowl during the practices, lighting up the defense in most drills, including this nifty move to escape the linebacker. As a player, he’s an electrifying athlete with the ball in his hands and a home run threat from anywhere on the field. Features a little pop in his pads when he runs when he has to display it. He’s a willing and physical blocker despite his smaller size. The former Green Wave superstar obliterated USC for 205 yards and four touchdowns as an epic swan song. Interestingly, he doesn’t have an ACL or any cartilage in his knee after suffering two injuries in his career. It remains to be seen how long he can play on that knee but the team did not have any qualms before drafting him. His athletic and stylistic comparison is Travis Homer.
RAS and Next Gen Stats
Next Gen Stats
What does it mean for Tennessee?
Spears joins a backfield that features the terrifying physical freak, Derrick Henry. He will likely feature as the change-of-pace back that can horrify opposing defenses with his speed and lateral agility out of the backfield. He will compete with the 2022 fourth-round selection, Hassan Haskins, for the backup role behind Henry in 2023. As for the 2024 season, the future of Henry is murky, given his high salary and the demands of the position shown during the past couple of seasons.
What’s Next for Tennessee?
The Titans currently hold the 147th, 186th, and 228th selections on Day 3, barring any further trades.