The last time Tennessee took a quarterback in the first round of the draft was Washington's Jake Locker in 2011. That didn't work out and Locker is out of the league. Will Marcus Mariota turn out better and can the Titans win the division in 2015?
Titans Turn Down Haul For No. 2 Pick
If you read any of my draft betting previews here at SBR last week, I recommended that you take the prop that Mariota would go No. 2 overall and that it would be to Tennessee and not to a team trading up like the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns or Philadelphia Eagles, although I know that Philly offered a boatload to the Titans to move up. In fact, the Titans reportedly turned down 2015 and 2016 first-round picks, a '15 third-round pick, quarterback Sam Bradford, defensive end Fletcher Cox, cornerback Brandon Boykin and linebacker Mychal Kendricks. That's a pretty nice offer. In fact, the Eagles then offered it to the Bucs for the No. 1 spot after the Titans said no. Eagles coach Chip Kelly denied offering any players to the Titans, only draft picks, but I tend to believe what the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.
There were reports before the draft that Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn't high on Mariota because he almost never took a snap from under center at Oregon. Plus 2014 sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger showed some promising signs as a rookie and is the big-armed pocket passer that Whisenhunt supposedly prefers. That was obviously all a smokescreen. Whisenhunt already has said he expects Mariota to start Week 1, which would be at Tampa Bay and likely against No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston. Mariota's Ducks beat Winston's Seminoles in this past season's Rose Bowl, a College Football Playoff semifinal. Tampa opened as a 3-point favorite on NFL odds.
"That's the plan. That's what we anticipate being the case," Whisenhunt said of Mariota starting. "We have to work hard and push him to try to get him prepared."
Mettenberger reportedly already has asked for a trade, which is pretty weak. The Titans GM denied that. Mettenberger would make a solid backup. He completed almost 60 percent of his passes in 2014, set a franchise rookie record with 345 passing yards against Philadelphia and posted a quarterback rating of 83.4 — second-best among the NFL's regular rookie starters. He may see the field regardless. In each of the past three seasons, the Titans have had at least two quarterbacks start at least five games. Last year three did, with Locker and Charlie Whitehurst joining Mettenberger.
AFC South Odds
I wrote about Winston's situation here at SBR and he's walking into a better one than Mariota in my opinion because the Bucs have two excellent receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Tennessee doesn't have a true No. 1, although maybe Kendall Hunter can be that guy. And with their second-round pick, the Titans took a high-risk, high-reward swing on Dorial Green-Beckham, who is an athletic freak in the mold of Randy Moss but an off-the-field problem. I do like second-year running back Bishop Sankey, the team's 2014 second-round pick out of Washington.
Everyone in the South is chasing Andrew Luck's Indianapolis Colts and that might be the case for the next decade. The Colts aren't going anywhere as long as Luck is healthy, and he has a handful of new offensive weapons to play with, including former Miami Hurricanes Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett (team's first-round pick) and running back Frank Gore. The Colts are the biggest division favorites on the board at -500 and they should be. Luck is that much better than any other QB in the division.
Houston is the +350 second favorite on NFL odds to win the South. The Texans don't know whether Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer will be their Week 1 starter or what to expect from last year's No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who is working his way back from a serious injury. The Jaguars are +2000 and Titans +2500 to win the division. Jacksonville got its franchise QB at No. 3 overall last year in Blake Bortles and most experts graded their 2015 draft very highly.
NFL Pick: Titans finish last in the South as Mariota has a lot of adjusting to do to a pro-style offense. They also lose Week 1 at Tampa, so keep that in mind when placing your NFL picks.