Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, December 1, 2023

Levis at QB gives Titans roster options

The Titans have had more than their share of bad luck with draft picks over the past four years.

All the misses on picks like Isaiah Wilson, Caleb Farley and Dillon Radunz in the top of the draft have been well-chronicled, as well as the lack of contributions from middle- and late-round choices.

But one of the keys to turning around a struggling franchise is to be able to hit on draft picks, especially at premium positions like quarterback, left tackle and edge rusher and be able to build a team while those players are still on their first contract.

That’s one of the major reasons the Titans are counting on Will Levis becoming a franchise quarterback. With a quarterback on a rookie deal and $100 million in cap space, the major rebuild can take place much quicker than normal, the way it did for downtrodden teams like Cincinnati and Buffalo.

That said, could the Titans get lucky enough to fix another problem over the second half of this season and really set themselves up for success?

Rookie sixth-round pick Jaelyn Duncan more than held his own in his first start at left tackle. The former Maryland standout did not give up a sack in his first start as the fourth left tackle the Titans have used this season.

“I think it went pretty good,” Duncan says after his first start. “Of course, there’s a lot of room for improvement. I gave up a couple of pressures. But it’s a game, and you’re going to make a mistake, but I think it went pretty good.

“I feel like if I can continue to do what I’m doing and if I continue to work hard, I can be a starter. So that’s what I’m working toward.”

Granted, success protecting the quarterback against the Carolina Panthers is an extremely low bar. But if Duncan could progress from there and show enough to hold the position beyond just a seven-game trial this season, it would open up some huge possibilities for the Titans in next spring’s draft.

Early predictions say the 2024 draft class is deep at tackle, and the Titans could easily find a plug-and-play guy there with a draft pick that could be in the top 10 or 12 selections.

But on the off chance that Duncan pans out and earns the Titans’ trust, it would remove a huge need going forward and allow the team to add much-needed help at receiver, tight end or cornerback early in the draft.

Yes, it’s a long shot, and the Titans certainly haven’t had much break their way in recent drafts. But remember: It’s possible new Titans general manager Ran Carthon learned a couple of things while he was in the San Francisco 49ers’ front office.

The Niners are the best in the league at unearthing successful players with late-round picks. Their franchise quarterback, Brock Purdy, was the last pick in the draft, and tight end George Kittle was a fifth-round pick who turned into a star. Former University of Tennessee receiver Juwan Jennings has carved out a nice career in San Fran as a seventh-round pick.

So, while it is a long shot for Duncan to show enough to solve the Titans’ left tackle problems as a late-round rookie, it’s not out of the question. And the Titans are overdue for some good draft luck.