Rookie quarterback Will Levis made his long-awaited NFL debut this past Sunday vs. the Falcons. The second-round pick flexed his immense upside with a few dazzling deep balls downfield, including multiple connections with veteran pass catcher DeAndre Hopkins. Was this merely a blip on the radar, or have the Titans finally found a long-term answer behind center?
Ryan Tannehill, Who? Will Levis Is The Captain Now For The Titans
Levis originally began his collegiate career as a highly heralded prospect at Penn State. After playing only sparingly in goal-line packages, the young signal-caller decided to transfer elsewhere in an effort to find more playing time. He landed in Lexington with the Kentucky Wildcats. The rest is, as they say, history.
But it wasn’t all good. Throughout the 2023 NFL Draft cycle, Levis was easily the most polarizing evaluation at quarterback. His arm talent and overall physique passed the eye test, as the Wildcat star regularly flicked footballs 50+ yards downfield on tape. Levis also used his size and deceptive speed to shred defenses on the ground.
All in all, on paper, he looked like a future first-rounder for most of the 2022 college football season. Even ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. gave Levis a sparkling top-five grade at one point. Alas, Kiper's steadfast belief in the Kentucky alum, along with Levis’ raw talent, did not catch the eye of a franchise picking on Day 1.
Levis was infamously shown several times as he continued sitting in the green room, waiting for his name to be called. I, myself, had a second-round grade on him, citing inconsistent mechanics and decision-making as the biggest red flags. Apparently, the rest of the NFL agreed, as Levis fell outside of Round 1.
But it wouldn’t take much time on Day 2 for his lifelong dream to finally come to fruition. The Tennessee Titans, a team linked to Levis with their first-round selection, was able to land him with a small trade-up from No. 41 overall to No. 33 overall. And with that, the embarrassing draft day slide met an eventful end, as Levis was shown celebrating with family.
Upon arriving in Nashville, Levis entered a three-man race at quarterback. The incumbent starter, Ryan Tannehill, assumed the QB1 mantle heading into the regular season. But 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis also occupied a spot on the depth chart, with some around the league still believing in his potential as a starter.
Will Levis Explodes With Four Touchdown Debut
With the backup role still up in the air, Tennessee was forced into making a decision when Tannehill injured his ankle, knocking him out of the Week 8 matchup vs. Atlanta. Rather than going with the more tenured Willis, head coach Mike Vrabel turned to the first-year player in Levis. And boy was that a brilliant decision.
In his first career NFL start, Levis completed 19 of his 29 attempts for 238 yards and a whopping four touchdowns through the air. Three of those scores went to the aforementioned DeAndre Hopkins, with two being 47 yards or further. Simply put, Levis made his mark early and often.
Now, the Titans face an interesting dilemma. After squeaking out a victory behind the stellar performance of Levis, could Vrabel and Co. stick with the youngster for the remainder of the campaign? Talk of selling at the deadline and kickstarting a rebuild have been prevalent; why not see what the franchise has in Levis? Is Tannehill really enough to elevate this roster to the postseason?
These are the questions that Tennessee must answer as it heads into its Week 9 battle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Vrabel was hesitant to commit to any one quarterback, but he stated after the game that Levis would assume the QB1 gig if Tannehill is unable to go. After that? It’s a big “we’ll see” from the Titans.
The Titans Would Be Foolish To Bench Levis Now. Let’s See If He Has The Goods To Be QB1 Going Forward
Conventional wisdom says this is now Will Levis’ job, at least for the rest of the 2023 season. All he ever wanted was a chance to prove himself on the highest level. With such an exciting debut, the Kentucky product has lofty expectations to live up to. Who knows? Maybe he was worth all the hype he received from Mel Kiper Jr. leading up to the draft.
The beauty of football is, we will find out sooner or later. And thanks to Tannehill’s ongoing ailment, along with Levis’ phenomenal showing, it is looking like “sooner” for the Titans.