NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans ended Will Levis’ wait to hear his name called Friday night, trading up eight spots with Arizona to select the Kentucky quarterback with the No. 33 pick overall Friday night in the NFL draft.
Levis left Kansas City after sitting around and never hearing his name called Thursday night. Talking to reporters via a Zoom call, Levis said where he was drafted won’t affect his work ethic. Levis had visited Tennessee and said he felt he connected with everyone he met.
“I ended up where I was meant to be, and I’m just looking forward to competing and getting started,” Levis said.
Levis flew home Friday and said he was eating after just walking through the door at home just as his name was called. Levis said he left Kansas City to make sure he got home in time for a big family gathering planned for Saturday believing he would be drafted in the first round Thursday night.
“I was ecstatic to get the call,” Levis said.
TV cameras kept going back to Levis and his family over and over through the first round as they waited at the NFL’s big draft party in Kansas City.
Three quarterbacks were taken in the first four picks, then nothing until the Titans traded up for the second pick of the second round Friday night.
“I was very proud of my family and how we composed ourselves last night and you know the cameras beaming down on us the whole time,” Levis said. “I feel like we did a great job of just taking it in stride and trusting that regardless of what happens, that it’s going to happen for a reason.”
The Titans have a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who turns 35 in July and has one year left on his contract with a salary cap hit of $36.6 million.
First-year general manager Ran Carthon started Friday night with the Titans holding the 41st pick overall in the second round and No. 72 in the third. In the GM’s first deal, the Titans flipped selections with Arizona in the third round to 81 and also will send the Cardinals their third-round pick in 2024.
Tennessee, needing help at wide receiver and tight end, used that 81st pick on Tulane running back Tyjae Spears.
He was the American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2022. He ran for 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also averaged 11.6 yards per catch and had two TDs receiving. He was the MVP of the Cotton Bowl with four TDs in a comeback win over Southern California.
This is the highest the Titans have drafted a quarterback since taking Marcus Mariota at No. 2 overall in 2015. He wound up benched for Tannehill in October 2019.
Levis certainly fits the NFL prototype for a quarterback at 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds.
He went 17-7 at Kentucky, tied for the second-most wins by a quarterback since 1993 at a university better known for basketball. Levis threw 43 touchdown passes and ran for 11 more. Levis threw for 5,233 yards and had six 300-yard passing games.
Levis said his toe feels good after being a “pain in the foot” the second half of last season. He sat out Kentucky’s final game, a 21-0 loss to Iowa in the Music City Bowl.
“My feet is something that I feel like is one of the strengths of my game,” Levis said. “To not have that, it sucks. But I mean that’s the nature of this game.”
This is the second straight draft the Titans have traded up and drafted a quarterback. Former general manager Jon Robinson, fired in December, traded up to take Malik Willis out of Liberty at No. 86 overall out of Liberty in 2022.
Willis started three of eight games played, throwing for just 276 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns. He was benched for Joshua Dobbs, who was signed Dec. 21 to try and get Tennessee into the playoffs with Tannehill sidelined by an injured right ankle.
It didn’t work. The Titans, using the most players in the NFL because of injuries for a second straight season, lost their final seven to miss a third straight AFC South title.
The Titans started their draft by taking Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski at No. 11 overall Thursday night as they continued rebuilding their offensive line after giving up 49 sacks last season. They came into this draft with only six selections and none in the fourth round.